(I know, I know. I said it would be “Dispatches” today. But I lied. It’s my nephew’s second birthday. So you’re getting the letter I’ll be giving to him!)
Today is your second birthday! What a wild and crazy year it’s been. You’ve experienced so much this year. You learned to crawl and walk. You started jabbering, though I’m still waiting to hear you say my name. You like to play basketball, listen to music, and chase the dogs. You’ve turned from a baby into a little man. You’re so much fun and you’ve brought so much joy (and exhaustion) into our lives. I can’t imagine what life would be like without you.
It’s also hard to believe that you’re already two years old. It just seems like yesterday that your mom and dad told me they were expecting you. I remember so much about the day you were born. You were born on a Wednesday right around 7 p.m. Your mom had been in labor all day long and people were patiently (and impatiently, on my part) awaiting your arrival. I kept calling your daddy, Grammy, and PawPaw for the latest news. Finally, just as choir rehearsal was about to start at my church in Nashville, your grammy called me. You were here! I asked a bunch of questions and smiled a lot. Your Grammy learned how to take and send pictures on her phone and sent me some of you. She may have even sent her first ever text. I walked back into the choir room for rehearsal and was jokingly reprimanded for being late. But then I announced your birth and people you’ll probably never know cheered that you had been born.
Understand that and let it sink in over the years. You aren’t a mistake, unwanted, or insignificant. You are a gift from God, and in the moments after you were born we were smart enough to acknowledge that. There will be moments in your life when you feel anything but wanted and most certainly you’ll doubt if you matter to no one. But you do. You matter. Not because of anything you’ve done or ever will do, but because you are God’s creation. You matter to Him.
And you matter to me.
I bought you a CD this year as part of your birthday gift, and I hope that you’ll like it. I hope that you sing the silly songs and dance and play. But I also hope that someday the words of the lullabies at the end will sink in. I pray that you will know that you are the treasure Jesus came to earth to retrieve. That you are the sheep who got lost He came to save. Someday, and I’m praying for that day even now, you’ll realize how much God loves you and understand that you need His love and salvation. Someday, you’ll recognize that the gospel is true and for and about you. And you’ll face a decision: to say yes to Jesus or to choose your own way for the rest of your life. Choose Jesus. Walk in His ways. Love the Word. Apply it to your life. Love God and love your neighbor. Grow to be a man of God like I’ve watched your daddy become.
And when you make wrong choices, know that you can always come home to God—and me (and your mommy, daddy, Grammy, and PawPaw). God’s love (and ours) isn’t based on what you do, but who you are and it doesn’t fade away when you make a bad choice. When you are the prodigal son (Luke 15)—and there will be days and seasons when you likely will be—remember who you are, who God has said you are. And come home. The consequences of bad choices don’t disappear, but love, joy, and forgiveness you find at home with God (and with us) will enable you to deal with them.
I’ve watched you grow and develop this year, and sometimes, it was like meeting someone new every time I came home to Bernie. You have become quite the personality this year, full of laughter and “come ‘eres,” fake tears, temper tantrums, and big smiles. You’re not perfect and there are already things like anger and temper that I see you may have to fight for the rest of your life. You’re not perfect, but you never will be on this earth. Let God have control of all things, because He can and will redeem them all.
This year, we probably won’t have as big of a celebration as we did last year. You might not even remember what happens this weekend when you get older. But I hope and pray that at least some part of you understands and remembers that you were loved. Dearly loved. There are people who care about your well-being, worry about your future, and pray for you, Eli. You have people in this world who celebrate your birth. We’re happy you’re here. We love you. We always will. Don’t let the world beat the truth that you are loved and that you matter out of you. The world will try, but you don’t have to give in.
Have a happy birthday, Little Man. You amaze me and I think it’s a great honor that I get to be your aunt.