It's hard for me to even say the words. My little boy, that sweet little 7 pound, 2 ounce baby boy is now a man. A real live adult. We did it. We made it.
I say that only in part jest. There were days I wasn't sure we'd make it. There were days that I prayed it would get here faster. But mostly there were days when just the thought of my boy being all grown up brought the sting of tears to my eyes and a burning in the pit of my stomach.
At 3 weeks old, your projectile vomiting landed us in the radiology department, drinking barium from a baby bottle. I still smile at how you vomited all of it back on that nurse who was so rude.
At 3 years old, I nearly died of humiliation as you dropped your pants in the Merle Norman store, announcing "do you see this? It is full of pee! I go now!" and proceeded to pee all over a fake tree in the store. When questioned, your only response was "Papa let me pee on trees!". Yes, son... but you were hiking in the woods!
At 4, you knew the entire digestive system, and you told it to everyone we met. Everyone. You also knew countless species of spiders and read everything you could get your hands on about them. And don't even get me started on your Star Wars or dinosaur obsessions.
In kindergarten, on the first day of school, you were asked to write your name on your paper. But instead of writing "B-R-Y-A-N" like you'd been able to do for two years, you wrote "B-O-R-I-N-G" to announce to your teacher that you were gonna need more than this.
I believe it was the 3rd grade that brought about your obsession for WW2. You researched everything you could- looking at websites we allowed and books in the kid's department of Barnes & Noble, and finally all of that knowledge culminated in your writing a book about Hitler and his cruelty. Imagine my shock as you leaped off the school bus one afternoon waving that book in the air and shouting, "Momma, you gotta see this! I wrote a book about Hitler! It's awesome!". And imagine the shock of our Jewish neighbor as he could see that you designed the cover of that book with a gigantic symbol of the nazi rule, oblivious to the meaning behind it.
There were many MANY days when Jeff and I yelled to each other in the house, not out of anger, but because you were playing your drums. But your passion was infectious, and I couldn't hardly say "no" to your desire to work on your double bass pedal for "just five more minutes".
How many nights did we spend together curled up on a hospital bed at UK Children's during your 6th grade year? There's no telling how many flushes we did together of your tube, how many dressing changes, how many trips back and forth to the doc. How many times did I hear you say "I'm tired of hurting" or "Why is this happening to me?" and want so badly to answer, but the truth was that I was asking the same questions myself.
All of those days when I picked you up from school in high school, knowing that something wasn't quite right, but you refused to talk about it? I don't know if you can imagine how many of those days I prayed all the way home that I'd know what to say and when to say it, just so that you knew we loved you and were there when you were ready to talk. How many of those days did I wish I worked longer and didn't have to pick you up because you were surly and rude and just plain mean? OH, but today... I'd do it all again with a different attitude because I see that the days are long, but the years do fly by.
We watched and prayed and disciplined while you struggled through drugs and alcohol. We did the hard things, pulling you out of school to homeschool so that we had more control of what you were into, even when you didn't want us to do it. We made the hard decision to send you away shortly until you could understand better our rules, and although we knew it was the right decision, I don't think my heart had ever been so crushed as the moment that the door shut and you were gone.
But with those hard decisions came great joy because we also got to watch you develop the understanding that it was because of our love that we gave discipline. And we watched you begin to come back to life- literally and spiritually. We watched and loved and supported as you began to ask the hard questions of God and to wrestle out the emotions of doubt and fear. We watched as you exchanged drugs and alcohol for peace in Him and a love for yourself that we hadn't seen in a long time. I'm not sure I can ever explain the pride that I feel in seeing how you've overcome those things.
Last year, we sat and cried with you and held you as you poured out your heart and the thoughts of suicide you were having. I nearly melted with pride as you made the decision to get help. But that pride didn't even come close to the pride and joy I felt a year later when I watched you write out your own story for everyone to see on Facebook and bare yourself in order to help others in the same place. Men do that, Bryan. And it was in that moment that I saw that my little boy was no longer a little boy. You were- you ARE- a man.
I'm proud of who you are. There isn't one thing that you've done or said that I'm ashamed of. Sure, there are lessons you've learned the hard way, and I wish you'd have learned them differently. But you've learned and are still learning, and for that I'm grateful. I love who you've become. I love your wit, that dry and quick sense of humor that keeps me on my toes (especially when it comes in text during a meeting!). I love your passion for justice that causes you to speak out when you see others being hurt. I love that you are unique and have NEVER desired to be exactly like anyone else.
My prayer today is that your dad and I have done our part the right way. God gave us a tremendous blessing and privilege and responsibility to be able to raise you. We've tried to honor Him in every step. I've screwed up, I know. A lot. But in my heart, I've always just wanted to do what was best, not for me but for you and God's plans for you. And now it's your turn to take the wheel, so to speak. It's your turn to do something with all we've taught.
I believe in you. I believe that you will do great things. I believe that you have within you all that is needed to change the world. I believe you were made for such a time as this- to take on the world and make it a better place. God has given you talents and skills unique to only you. My prayer is that you never waste them.
Since the first day of your 6th grade year, I've prayed this prayer for you. Every. Single. Day. I pray it still.
"My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us." (Ephesians 3:14-21, the Message)