Becoming a Great Man…Happy Birthday, Nate

There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great. – G.K. Chesterton

 

15 years. (and in the following pic, his friend is doing thumbs down because it was just before we moved away.

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In so many ways, it seems that our Nate should be older. He carries himself as an older teen. He has a confidence and independence that is eager to be let loose…he is the first of our kids to pursue a job, completely on his own. And now I hear from his bosses how his work ethic is great and his attitude fantastic.

 

And yet, I turn around and can see that little boy so full of life. He has always felt things deeply.

 

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Now he is maturing before our eyes. The mischievous youngster who was always pulling pranks and coming up with new adventures is becoming the young man who is planning trips to Europe and college in New York.

 

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There are things about our Nate that have not changed, and that’s why the quote on the top is in bold…when you know Nate, you are impacted by being in relationship with him.

 

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He will challenge you. He will question why you think the way you do, or why you judge a person a certain way…and he will also know how to make you laugh and how to make you know you are loved. He is intentional and wise in his relationships.

 

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This boy, who always had the biggest laugh and the craziest stories, can read people better than most. He can tell if you are down, and he can tell when he is pushing buttons…sometimes just to continue pushing them. But he still has the biggest laugh, and he can completely delight in the antics of our cats or something silly on the internet.

 

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He loves life. He is all in. 

 

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Except when he is sleeping. Well, then he is all in to the sleeping and impossible to wake. He does everything with gusto.

 

He has plans, plans for making films and telling stories through them. He has places he wants to see, and he is learning the languages of those places so he can experience and see them to the best of his ability.

 

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15 years. The changes over the last few have been remarkable. He now is almost…maybe right at…as tall as his dad. He is lanky and strong and can stick his feet behind his head when he likes.

 

 

Nate is Nate. He is all these things combined to make this unique 15 year old who can bring delight and laughter and curiosity, and make you aware that life is grand and it is good to be alive.

 

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He has the possibility, and the ability to make those around him feel great. That is a special quality. I can’t wait to see how that character grows in the coming years. The awkwardness of the early teens is leaving, and the confidence and maturity of nearing adulthood is beginning to appear.

 

15 great years. More to come. More adventures. More mysteries. More making of movies and telling of stories. More laughter. More discovering what delights. More of life. Thankful that he will bring us all along for the ride.

 

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Happy Birthday, my Nate.

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It’s not wasted time…

I really don’t have time to sit and just read, to sit and doodle in my bullet journal. 


I don’t have time to read just for pleasure…even if I come across things like this from Madeleine L’Engle:

If I am to be constant in loving and honoring my mother I must not lose sight of ‘ousia’. It’s a good word; it’s my new word. Last summer my word was ‘ontology’: the word about being. This summer I need to go a step further, to ‘ousia’, the essence of being, to that which is really real….


…I learn slowly, and always the hard way. Trying to be what I am not, and cannot be, is not only arrogant, it is stupid…


And This…


“I’m much more use to family and friends when I’m not physically and spiritually depleted than when I spend my energies as though they were unlimited. They are not. The time at the typewriter (!) and the time at the brook refresh me and put me into a more workable perspective.”


I have been attempting to write this blog post for about two weeks. 
I think.

I’ve actually lost track of time a bit…the last few weeks have just been a flurry of activity. I had pictured homeschool life as one of tranquility, with morning lessons on the couch, possibly with a fire in the fireplace. Children blissfully passing our book around and reading allowed, to the rapt attention of their siblings.

Ok, maybe I never went quite that far. But I really did think that it would be a peaceful existence. There would be less demands than a “regular” school life. Last year we put our house on the market in December and moved in January. That was not conducive to peaceful schooling. This year, I am just deeply aware of the errands and the busyness. 

My homeschool life feels a bit more like holding on to the tail of the tiger and hoping he doesn’t catch me. It has been chaotic and unpredictable. One child is working 15+ hours a week, but he doesn’t drive. One child has twice weekly soccer practices, while another has as many or more hockey practices. I have physical therapy appointments at least twice a week trying to manage a new onslaught of headaches. Annoying. Then there are Tutorials and church and …. 

I caught a friend the other day as we walked in to Tutorial for our younger kids and gave her a hard time for not responding to a text. She confessed to just being overwhelmed. And we connected in that moment…we all are feeling it a bit.

Life is busy. 

I have a tendency to think…”next week, I’ll find the rhythm. Next week I will be more organized and more on top of things.” Before I know it, next week has come and gone and looked a lot like last week. 

Dishes take awhile to get cleaned, and the laundry will forever be my nemesis. 

The kids are helping more, and that is good.

But there is a feeling of inadequacy that sneaks in on me, and I have a feeling it sneaks in on a lot of us. We see the good our friends put out there…they look put together and cheerful, and the anxiety that is just under the surface for us begins to come more forward. Our failures that morning are more glaring.

So…my answer is to go and drink good coffee, listen to good music, and doodle in my bullet journal. Pretending it is all put together with a nice flourish? Nah…but the sanity that comes to me in these few hours a week bring a peace to my chaos. 

The above quote from L’Engle comes from her book The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, which is her final journey with her mom and their experience of Alzheimer’s / Dementia. This is one of my favorite books, part of the Crosswicks Journals. Find them and read them. 
Preferably over coffee and with time taken away from demanding things.

We have to find who we are called to be, and we have to find a way to be comfortable in our skins and in our callings. And right now my calling includes laundry and dirty dishes and driving all around town in unpredicatable schedules.  Right now my calling is being the daughter of a mother who no longer remembers, or even is able to use language. Right now my ousia is being that daughter from a distance, and that is difficult…but it is also being a mother myself, and that is surprisingly a blessing. 

It is a blessing when I protect that core of ousia. These coffee breaks are not frivolous. They are life-sustaining. They are moments my brain is allowed to work the way it did before homeschool…and it informs how I homeschool. These moments give the space to feel what it is to be the daughter of a mother who no longer remembers, and to value all the more the memories I hold dear. They allow the space to write about those memories, maybe in a protest for the memories Mom no longer can share. 

That is part of this. The pace of life is frantic, and that does not leave room for truly being, and for remembering. There is a discipline to remembering. There is a discipline to just being. And when we make space to read those who are living well, we read things like this:


“My memory of Mother, which is the fullest memory of anybody living, is only fragmentary. I would like to believe that the creator I call God still remembers all of my mother, knows and cares for the ousia of her, and is still teaching her, and helping her to grow into the self he created her to be, her integrated, whole, redeemed self.”


If you are feeling fragmented and frantic and out of sorts today, know this…so am I. So are a lot of us. So take a breath, and remember that we do not walk this life in some demand for perfection on our own skills. We walk this life in an experience of growing and knowing in the care of a Creator who knows who we are. He knows who he is forming us to be, and how it all works together. 

So relax. Be prepared, and live with the best ability…but in the freedom that God is involved in all of it. That we have a core of identity we operate from well. Be still and know…know who God is and know who you are in Him. Take a breath. Doodle a bullet journal. Read something that truly speaks to you and makes your brain come to life. 

Then go wash those dishes with a bit more twinkle in your eye and joy in spirit.  And maybe invite that friend out for coffee who seems the most overwhelmed…and remind them of all of this as well.  (And while we are all trying not to be perfectionists…note that I misspelled September in my glorious Bullet Journal above!)

Mark the Time….

I sat in our Homeschool Tutorial’s walk-through the other night and was surprised at the catch in my throat as they announced the seniors. We have been talking about Zach’s senior year for some time, commenting on how amazed we are it is finally here. We have talked about all that needs to happen this year, all the details and all the good things. We have talked and talked and talked.

 

 

And then the headmaster began announcing the seniors by name and we all applauded and cheered as they stood. Zach is always last, alphabetically. Each student standing and being applauded sank in a little more…all of his friends. And then my boy. How is my boy a senior?!

 

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I was going to spend today trying to write some hints and advice about homeschool. I have some friends who are entering the “upper years” and thought I might have something to share.

 
And then I found this picture, and well…I decided to switch gears and just focus on this boy for today.

 

 

I have not done our “school pic” for this year, and I am realizing I have not been incredibly faithful in those through the years. But I do have a few.

 

 

They mark the time. They mark the growth. And when I see them they make me stop and look at that little man. The first born. The one who has born the brunt of our stumblings as parents, and has taught us so much.

 

 

We had no idea then what our school journey would look like on that first day of kindergarten. We were so excited about school uniforms and new backpacks!

 

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Not every start of the school year was glorious.

 

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There were so many high moments, though. Zach attended a small Christian school from Kindergarten through 5th grade. He had some great friends, and learned so much. Looking back it feels like a lifetime ago, as we enter our sixth year of homeschool…these pictures of little boys in uniforms!

 

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These just make me smile. The life that was happening, and the boys they were becoming. The character that was being formed.

 

And Zach leading the pack.

 

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The reality of this being his last year of education under our roof is settling in.

 

When Zach was just a baby our pastor talked one Sunday about parenthood and shared his experiences. One thing stuck with us more than any other. He said he was weary of hearing parents constantly talk of dreading the teen years. He challenged us to speak with hope and excitement about the teen years, about our children growing and becoming their own identities and people.

 
Speaking with expectation that we would enjoy and delight in every phase.

 

 

And we have. We have loved seeing the people they are becoming, and relating on new levels with our children. It has truly been delightful.

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But we need these moments to pause. These milestones to look back and remember the tenderness and innocence. To remember the foundation that has been placed to bring them to this moment.

 

The brink of adulthood. Whew. The time really does pass in the blink of an eye. This seems like an apt time for one of the most used quotations on this blog…

 

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” 

-Buechner

 

I am hoping, praying….watching. Waiting to see that the seeds we have planted in this boy continue to bear fruit. The seeds of faith and of hope, of compassion, of determination. I am watching and always wondering if we have done enough.

 

Ready for a heavy quotation? This time Chesterton…

 

“Every education teaches a philosophy; if not by dogma then by suggestion, by implication, by atmosphere. Every part of that education has a connection with every other part. If it does not all combine to convey some general view of life, it is not an education at all.”

 

Whether homeschool or private or public or some mix…we have these souls in our care for such a short time. The clock is ticking more loudly this morning for me. I am more aware that this will be a year of saying “the last time to…”.  The danger is to try and tick off all the checklist and cram in all the information.

 

I think…and we’ll see how it plays out…that it is more about living with wonder and pointing out how mysterious and amazing this world is. It is about constantly pointing to and reminding of the God who has created and who continues to participate in this amazing creation.

 

I think it is about reminding these in our care to be aware. To listen to their lives, as Buechner says.

 

One more year we have. One more year to pour in to this young man all the truth we can. Not just through our words. Through how he is loved, and how we live. One more year to live our faith before him. One more year for all the connections to begin to make sense and become more of a whole than a bunch of lessons.

 

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Whew. I still need to write the tips and ideas about homeschool this year. I still need to finish my bullet journal. I still need to do the last few details of registrations and tutorial requirements…but first I need to pause. To remember, and then to act with expectation and delight as we begin this next phase.

 

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Hopefully this will stick (one more Chesterton, I can’t resist!):

 

“What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world.” 

 

Join the club…and wave.

I am driving my husband’s Jeep today. One of my favorite things about driving the Jeep is the wave…each Jeep heading my way causes me to prepare. Hands on the wheel. Fingers ready. Glancing to see if the driver is looking…and Jeep wave!

Woohoo! Most of the time, the other drive waves, or at least does that hip-cool one-or-two-finger raised kind of wave.

I am in the club

Actually, a friend who has a coffee shop is having a Jeep rally today and I wish I could be there. Literally hundreds of folks showing up just because they all have Jeeps. To wave and acknowledge they are all in the club.

It got me thinking, though. What if we could recognize something in the folks we see through the day, what if we could see we are in a club of a different sort?

That weary looking woman you just passed on the interstate…she is coming back from visiting a parent in the nursing home. She is heartbroken because she can no longer care for them at home. The other person dealing with a diagnosis of cancer or some other illness. The parent who is dealing with a seriously sick child…what if you could see at a glance they had something in common with you. And you could give them a quick wave, a quick raise of your fingers to acknowledge you are in it too, that you understand.

Or maybe not even so dramatic. Maybe just that mom in the grocery line with the not-so-healthy food who is just worn out and could not come up with a meal plan for the night and is doing her best, but feeling overwhelmed. Yep, I think all of us moms could wave to her at some point.

Or maybe the young man who is about to enter college and wondering how he will measure up and if he is ready. Anyone waving to him? Or the young girl who is hoping she is pretty enough and smart enough. Yep, we can go on and on and on in the list, and there are countless ways we can relate.

Here’s the thing. We are all broken. We are all insecure. We are all overwhelmed and a bit fearful at times, just as we are all confident and joyful and filled with wonder at other times. We are all in this club of being human. How great would it be, though, if in that moment when things look a little fearsome if someone caught your eye and waved.



I see you. I relate. I’m overwhelmed too…but hang in there. There’s hope. 




Maybe it is a little bit of this….not just acting as though all is well. 

Allowing a little of our struggle to leak through sometimes. I’m reading Hannah Coulter from Wendell Berry right now and this caught me today, as she talked about people answering “fine” when they are asked how they are in a community walking through grief during the war…

There is always some shame and fear in this, I think, shame for the terrible selfishness and loneliness of grief, and fear of the difference between your grief and anybody else’s. But this is a kind of courtesy too and a kind of honesty, an unwillingness to act as if loss and grief and suffering are extraordinary. And there is something else: an honoring of the solitude in which the grief you have to bear will have to be borne. Should you fall on your neighbor’s shoulder and weep in the midst of work?  Should you go to the store with tears on your face? No. You are fine. 




 (Here’s the key part…pay attention…)

And yet the comfort somehow gets passed around: a few words that are never forgotten, a note in the mail, a look, a touch, a pat, a hug, a kind of waiting with, a kind of standing by, to the end. Once in a while we hear it sung out in a hymn, when every throat seems suddenly widened with love and a common longing:

In the sweet by and by,

We shall meet on that beautiful shore.”


Loss and grief and suffering are not extraordinary, but that does not mean they are an easy burden. We do often bear them in solitude, but how deep is the consolation when a hand of understanding is placed on your shoulder? I have had moments when the floodgates are open and tears come flowing just because someone asked a question.

There is so much burden around us these days. There is joy, and I like to focus more on the joy. I post lots of pictures of my kids smiling and laughing and enjoying life on Instagram…and it is not fake. We enjoy life. But there is burden and there is grief. And there are days that someone simply waving from a Jeep can make me feel more human and less alone.

Tomorrow most of us will fellowship somewhere with other believers. Look around. Catch someone’s eye. Wave. Remind them that they are not alone, that we are in this club of life together and that we all bear griefs and sufferings and burdens in solitude, but that comfort can get passed around. We don’t even have to know the details.  Maybe when we are a little more honest that the burdens are there, we can sing with a little more longing for the day all the burdens will be lifted. 

Be Braver Than You Think You Can Be

I haven’t written in a very long time.

 

Birthday posts, yes. Delighting in the growth month by month and year by year of the kids, the somehow slow and yet lightning-fast passing of time around here. Marking their imprint on our lives. I love writing those posts.

 

I do not write about politics, mostly because there are so many folks who are filling that space and I think that conversation happens better over a cup of coffee for me.

 

Mostly what I have written about in the articles here on this blog has been the journey with Mom. The experience of watching a loved one slip before our eyes from a vibrant and dynamic, brilliant human being to someone who no longer knows us and ultimately no longer knows anything really.  That is not a fun documentation…and for the last few years it has been more of a pause than a documentation.

 

We have been on this journey now for almost ten years I would guess. In the beginning there were lots of questions from friends and lots to share. There were lots of changes.

 

“Does she remember you?”

 

“Does she know where she is?”

 

“Does she know your Dad?”

 

There were markers, things we could distinguish and know we still had some touch with mom. Now, those markers are gone. She sits in her chair lost in a world we simply can’t know and she has been there for a couple years. She has not known us for quite some time. I asked the kids the other day when they thought she last had known them and my 14 year old said he wasn’t sure she had ever known him.

 

That was hard to hear.

 

She has never known Maddie in a way that touched her…I remember pulling up when Maddie was three weeks old and going to hand her to Mom. Mom immediately handed her to Dad. She didn’t want to hold her, wanting instead to hold her notebook. That was a drastic change.

 

A marker, you could say.

 

She always, always loved babies. And especially her grandbabies. For her not to hold her grandbaby was a bit shocking. But she didn’t know her, and that notebook at that moment held her thoughts for her and was far more important. It was where she tried to hold on to reality. I can’t even imagine how important that notebook was.

 

So, now, the questions don’t come very often because the answer is the same. She hasn’t known me for years. There is not a question to ask about that any more. She can’t speak…she says words, but they don’t make any sense. So, no question for friends to ask there. The conversation becomes more stilted and the blog posts become a bit repetitive.

Maybe.

 
So, what is there to write about? 

 

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Her eyes still twinkle when someone sits down. She still smiles. And she seems to enjoy dessert still. She hums sometimes and she seems to enjoy being outside. She responds sometimes to the conversations around her by perking up a bit. She seems to be aware.

 

She still draws people around her, even without being able to know them.

 

She is still here. 

 

In some way. Even though she cannot remember, she causes us to remember and she still is present in our family. She still is the matriarch and she still reminds us of all that she has been.

 

I was drawn back to this blog because I had just visited and been with Mom, but also because I’ve had probably seven conversations over the last month with people who are beginning this journey. Their parents are slipping.

 

And that is terrifying.

 

Let it be.

 

It should terrify us, and it should break our hearts and it should make us mourn. Let it. Weep. Find the space and the time and the ability to mourn in these early stages, in the middle stages, and in all the stages to mourn.

 

But hear this….it is a long journey. You cannot mourn the entire time. You will exhaust yourself. Find those moments to mourn, and then continue on.

 

Find things you can laugh about, because there will be plenty.

 

Like the time Mom hid all my bras while I was in the shower preparing for a lunch with a pastor. She was quite good at hiding things!!

 

Find things you can tell them, again and again and again and again. It will be frustrating that they ask the same question…but eventually they will not ask any more. Hang in there.

 

Find things that you can remember for them. Tell them stories and keep telling them. Love them well. Let them see you and hear you and feel you while they know even a hint of who you are. You are telling yourself those stories again and again, and that is worthwhile.

 

“We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.”  -Madeleine L’Engle

 

This is no easy journey. I guess that is the main thing I came back to these pages to say…to my friends who are on the start of the journey, and even friends well in to the experience of watching our parents slip away from us.

This is not easy.

It is piercingly painful.

There is a sadness that will settle upon you as you are aware of the brokenness of our world, right next to you.

Here is the hope, though:  there is grace in this, as there is grace in all of life. God will meet you in surprising ways and you will be more than you thought you could be. You will serve your parent or your spouse or your grandparent in ways you didn’t think you could. Those of us experiencing this from a distance…it is different. Maybe that is a post for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven years of glitter, messiness and delight!

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Seven.

 

There are less glimpses of the toddling little girl who brought giggles to her brothers, and more glimpses of a young girl full of wit and enthusiasm. You are changing before our eyes.

 

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You were the surprise we never knew we needed. God knew. He knew we needed a little more drama, a little more laughter. He knew we needed someone in the mix of the household who delights in pink and is able to switch between ninja moves and ballerina moves seamlessly.

 

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God knew we needed on in the house who insists on snuggles and hugs. Insists. And one who hugs tightly and fiercely.

 

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You, my dear, have made us slow down at just the right moments. Slow down to hear your stories. Slow down to look at something that catches your eye. Slow down to read a book. Slow down to snuggle.

 

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You have also taught us to delight more. To laugh with abandon and to embrace being ridiculously silly. You have brought light and laughter into what we thought was already a home filled with laughter and joy…you showed us how much more there could be.

 

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You are growing up, though. Like I said…right before our eyes.

 

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Indulge us, though, as we relish seven years littered with glitter and fairies, with made-up stories and snuggles. Indulge us as we hold on to the littlest of the family and are not too eager for her to grow beyond childhood.

 

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Keep being silly and keeping your brothers guessing.

 

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Keep feeling everything deeply. Cry when you need to. Shout when something makes you angry. Laugh ferociously when something delights you.

 

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Skin your knees. Get muddy. Make some messes. We need you to keep us from being too uptight.

 

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Happy Seventh, Birthday dear girl.

 

 

We are so thankful for you!!!

 

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Let’s make this next year the best yet!!!!

 

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Seventeen.

17.

 

Seventeen.

 

Amazing how seventeen years can go by in the blink of an eye. You brought us into parenthood, and now we are on the brink of seeing you enter manhood. Thankful for this one more year of not-quite on your own, this one more year of you at home and still a kid.

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You have lived in five different houses now (if we count that condo in Kentucky), and two countries.

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You have played countless hours of hockey, only after a short stint with gymnastics. You have learned to love music and books, movies and the stars.

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And food. That too.

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You have learned to seek God and wrestle with who He is and what it means to follow Him.

 

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Consistently you have been a calm presence in our life. There has always been a maturity and ease about you, and a humor that comes at just the right moment.

 

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Now that you are more man than boy, we could not be more proud.

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We have loved every minute of watching you grow, of coming to this point.

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You are strong, so intelligent, mature and at ease with being you. What a great moment in your life. So much is open to you in the coming months, and we know it means greater independence for you and our time to step back and allow you the space to step out. We are still your biggest fans. We love watching the hockey, we love hearing about what inspires you. We love seeing you grow.

 

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Every stage has been awesome. Can’t wait to see this next unfold…

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I have to throw a Buechner quotation in, just for good measure:

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us.”

 

Enjoy this last year of “childhood”. We know you are going to do wonderful and good things in the coming year…there is so much yet to see and do in your life. We love you!

 

 

Happy 17!

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