Thanksgiving this year.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

“The worst illness of our time is that so many people have to suffer from never being loved.” - Princess Diana

We spent Thanksgiving morning in our sunlit living room, watching our kids read and play and destroy the house. I'd mentioned to Shawn, "We don't really have any Thanksgiving traditions yet, do we?" He agreed, and we somewhat aimlessly headed to our favorite park to take a walk. On our way there, we stopped at the Starbucks drive thru and decided we could get Any Drink We Want. I ordered a decaf coconut milk chestnut praline latte, Shawn got a PSL, and the kids had apple juice boxes. As we pulled up to the window and waited for our grand total, the cashier said, "The gentleman in front of you just paid for your order. Happy Thanksgiving!" It made me want to cry. What a generous, random act of kindness from a complete stranger on a holiday that should be full of just that. We paid for the car behind us and our first Thanksgiving tradition was born. How kind of the Lord.

Later in the day, Liam and I took a special trip to the hospital where I work. Earlier in the week, I had cared for one patient on our floor for several days in a row who's been hospitalized for weeks. He's a pleasant man, and we spent the week talking about Thanksgiving traditions and favorite foods. He mentioned that his favorite dish was to carve out the inside of a sugar pumpkin, fill it with stuffing, then bake it. Personal-sized stuffing-filled sugar pumpkins for all! I also knew from conversations with him that he'd be alone on Thanksgiving. There would be no family and no friends to visit him this year. He seemed nonchalant about it all, but the thought just wouldn't leave me. To me, it doesn't matter if you're the cruelest curmudgeon that ever breathed air... no one should be alone on Thanksgiving.

So I told Liam about my friend at the hospital and we decided to make a visit. Liam made him a card and filled it with every sticker he could find. And I found a little sugar pumpkin.

As Liam walked into the patient's room - a tiny pumpkin in one arm, a handmade card dangling from the other - he looked up shyly and said, "Happy Fanksgiving, sir. I hope you have a great day."

The man was visibly moved. A smile enraptured his face as he held up the card with scraggly writing and said, "You know? I think this might be my favorite Thanksgiving ever."

My heart sang. I felt such a mixture of pride over this brave, beautiful little boy combined with deep sadness when I put myself in the patient's shoes. The one where a mostly bed-bound, mostly alone man orders a tray from a hospital kitchen on what's supposed to be a family- and food-stuffed holiday.

I don't share this story to boast about what we did. I share it because it humbles me. Because I can picture myself in that bed, sick and alone, and I hope that someone might take notice.

As Liam and I got in the car, he was quiet. I asked him, "Do you know why we care about people who are alone?"
"No, why?"
"Because those are the people Jesus calls the poor in spirit: those who are discouraged or sad or alone. And those are the people Jesus loves, and He asks us to love and help them, too."

I remember watching Princess Diana from afar as a little girl and noticing how, in so much of the charity work she invested in, she brought along her two little boys. They visited AIDS clinics and gave hugs. Held knobby hands of lepers. Cuddled children whose limbs had been ravaged by land mines. It would have been so much easier to stay home - in a palace, mind you - and remain untouched by such flagrant suffering. Instead, she chose to step out and has left such a legacy of kindness, for her children and for the world.

When Liam finally answered from the backseat, he only had a few words: "Can we go back tomorrow?"

I hope that your Thanksgiving was marked with a simple act of kindness, either given or received. And I hope this holiday season is marked by even more of the same.

Happy birthday, Liam Worth!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Happy fourth birthday, my sweet boy!
I've had way too many favorite moments this year to recount, but one stands out in my mind.

You'd been participating in a weekly sports camp at the YMCA, and following instructions within a large group of four-year-olds wasn't exactly your strong suit. You loved when you actually got to play with a soccer ball, but drills? Nah. You'd rather run laps around the other kids or roll around on the floor.

So on the final day of camp, all the families gathered around to watch as each child received a special award. I cringed a little at the thought... what award would you be getting? Most energy? Most distracted? I felt guilty for signing you up too early for this. You just didn't seem ready.

A few awards in, they called your name. "Liam Newby, will you please come up?"

You stepped onto the podium as Lanie followed closely behind and stepped up next to you.

"Liam gets the 'Best Bro Award' because he's such a caring big brother and always wants to include his little sister. Way to go, Liam!"

Tears filled my eyes as you beamed, holding your certificate with one hand and throwing your other arm proudly around Lanie. As your mom, I loved that others recognized one of my very favorite things about you. Something that matters more to me than how well you perform on the sports field. You truly care for and champion others - especially that feisty sister of yours - and my heart swelled at the mention of it.

On your birthday - October 27 - we got to celebrate you. We also celebrated God's faithfulness to us over this past year. As you've neared four years old, you've hit such a sweet spot. You're one smart cookie: you're able to sound out words, memorize your weekly Bible verse with ease, and ask inquisitive questions with surprisingly rich vocabulary. The other day, when I told you the mail hadn't come yet, you responded, "Well, that's unfortunate." Sometimes I call you The Professor because you become so engrossed in one topic and will spend an entire day talking about it. Some days it's bull sharks. Other days it's spoilers. You teach me so much.

You adore your family and love nothing more than for us to all be at home, together. The other night, I asked you to come up with a word that described each of us. You said Mommy was "good," Lanie was "silly," Daddy was "brave," and Liam was "fast." I love that you love us. You tell me often how beautiful I look, and Lanie too. I don't take it for granted for a second that you'd rather be with me on a date to Target than just about anywhere in the world. Stay my best friend forever?

Since day one, I've seen a fiery passion in you that I just adore. Some days, it's pretty challenging. But you're becoming easier to reason with (most times), and less prone to tantrums. When you get excited about something, you get really excited. You love a good dance party in the living room or a sprint around the "loop park" near our house.

You aren't afraid to just be you. You're obsessed with the movie Cars, so much so that you've given all of your closest family and friends "Cars" names. I'm Dinoco, Daddy is Ramone, and Lanie is Chick Hicks. You are, of course, Lightning McQueen. I made you a Lightning McQueen cape with #95 on the back in gold glitter letters and I caught you sleeping in it one time, you love it that much. You wear it out and about and ask members of the public to only call you Lightning, please.

Sweet Liam, I'm beginning to see a tenderness toward your sin and it blesses me. A year ago, if I corrected you, you'd often keep doing exactly what I'd just asked you to stop doing. Now, you often say, "Oh! I'm sorry Mommy," and stop doing whatever it is. I'm seeing Jesus work in your heart, from the deep questions you ask during our nightly Bible time to the way you care for Lanie. I pray this is the year that you begin to know Jesus as the Savior of your soul.

Happy birthday, Liam Worth!

You are my treasure.

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