27 Years with Joey

Today my Joey turns 27. I want to talk about him, not just to honor him but to encourage parents who may be struggling with discouragement over where your kids may be currently. I hope your faith will grow as you read this motherly tribute.

I think he was born smiling. What a sweet and pleasant baby he was — which was a special blessing because soon after his birth, his 20-month-old brother started throwing tantrums and biting me.  Gratefully, Jesse’s tantrums ended and Joey’s sweet, happy nature continued.

Joey has been a well-suited middle child. As the 4th of seven, he was often chosen to ask Mom if they could do things the sibs weren’t sure would be approved. (They claim I said ‘yes’ to Joey more often than not. Maybe I did. Who could resist that smile?) He was usually the peacemaker, and the first to ask forgiveness after sibling arguments. He loved sports from the start and enjoyed the advantage of being the little guy who played up 2 years so he and Jesse could be on the same team. (He would want me to include that he became quite the basketball player as a result.)

He never went through the “I don’t want my mom to hug me when my friends are around” stage. Or at least he never showed it. And when Benny had to be gone overnight I would hear my teenaged son getting the couch in the family room ready for bed so Mom wouldn’t be downstairs in my room alone through the night.

Somewhere along the way he became a gifted writer who uses both sentiment and humor to bless others. I have been the recipient of both his playful (and exaggerated, I might add) mocking and his heartfelt honor. I can’t express how much his words — and his counsel — have meant to me, especially during really tough times. Like the time at McDonald’s when I met him and a sibling or two to help me deal with some heart wrenching fears about someone I deeply love. His love for truth and discerning application of it, is a gift that has been forged through good times and bad.

All families go through hard times; we are no exception. At points along the way with each of our children, I’ve battled anxiety.  Some kids, including a couple of ours, make their issues obvious through scary rebellion and outbursts of sin. Others are so compliant and sweet you don’t always know what is brewing in their hearts.  That was Joey. During one season in particular I worried that as a pastor’s son, Joey had given into the common pressure to please people rather than do the difficult heart work to please God. I didn’t consistently trust that God was at work…especially when the work wasn’t being done my way in my time.

And grace won. Like it always does.

As a now grown up man, he opens up his life to us and others in humbling ways. Like last week at our Community Group when he acknowledged his need for God’s help to overcome self-sufficiency and grow as the spiritual leader in his home. And you know what’s amazing? When he reads this he will be glad I included some of the not-so-great things about him; especially so any parents who read this will be reminded that God is faithfully at work in our children’s lives even during seasons when it’s not clear enough for our weak eyes to see.

How can a parent thank a son for being so fiercely loyal?  For being patient with flawed and sinful parents who made mistakes, big and small?  For persevering through common temptations and struggles and sins with uncommon humility and trust in a sovereign God? For being such a hard working provider and devoted family man?  While the gratitude is primarily reserved for a faithful God…this mother is also saying thanks to her son.

And there’s no way I can thank him for giving me another daughter and a precious granddaughter!  That little blonde, blue-eyed cutie makes my heart squeeze like it did when her daddy was toddling around getting into everything. Little Amelia Grace will someday (sooner than he realizes) be in her mid-twenties. I pray she will follow in Daddy’s footsteps and rise up to bless her Mommy like he has his. And I pray God gives her a man like Daddy.

Happy Birthday, Son.  I love you.