Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My First

There's something about a first born.

I hope my not-first-borns don't take offense at that.

It's not that first borns are loved more or anything like that. It's just that they were first.

The first soul God gave me (and Lou) to parent.

We talk about "firsts" in our world. Our first kiss. First dance. First time to drive solo. First tooth. First word. First steps. First holiday without a loved one. First blog posts.

My first born

We recognize that there's something significant about a first thing or first time. I can't really define what that something is, and sometimes I wonder if we put too much emphasis on the "firsts." But it seems undeniable that there is some kind of non tangible but very real "first" hump that you traverse as you encounter the daily affairs that make up a life. To meet and go through the firsts of life, what does it take? Courage? Wonder? Faith? Hope? A mix of all those...and more?

I've been pondering this the past few days because July 24 is my first born's birthday. Our Luke Vaughan, will be 24 on the 24th.

On his birthday, I always think of this note we received from my Aunt Margie. You can see when she wrote it. Two months after Luke was born. My birthday, 1989. It's to Luke, but what a gift it was/is to us. I wonder now if he's ever even read it.

For those of you who have cursive issues, I'll type out what the note says.

Dear Luke,
    We were so thrilled to hear about your arrival. You are pretty special you know to have such wonderful parents. We have watched your mom grow up since she came into this world and believe me she is the greatest. We haven't been around your Dad too much, but we hear he is too. 
     You are also pretty special because you are your mom and dad's first born. The love that surrounds you is almost unbelievable. Just remember as you grow up - I'm loved. I'm loved. I'm loved.  And then someday when have your first born you will realize just how special you are. 

Lots & Lots of Love

Marge & Bill

Great Aunt & Uncle

Luke. My first born. The anticipation of a birthday makes you think about your history and your future with your child. So, today (July 23rd), with the "pre-birthday pondering pump already primed," I was struck anew when I heard a line in the Epilogue from "Les Miserable" today. I've heard that song multiple times, but I've never really heard this particular part before. Jean Valjean is dying. One of the things he says to the child (Cosette) he has raised in his last words is that he was "a man who only learned to love when you were in his keeping."

When I heard that, it was like my soul said, "That's it." That's part of the gift of your first born. They are the first note in the symphony of really learning to love.

I am a woman who only began to learn to love when Luke was born into our keeping.

I confess, that at Luke's birth, I didn't realize I needed to learn to love. I loved Lou, my family, my friends, and they loved me back. We had this beautiful give and take thing going on. Then this new life came into my world knowing everything about the "take" part of love and nothing about the "give" part of love.  He demanded to eat by crying furiously. When I did what he wanted and fed him, he spit up on me. Then he pooped. And pooped. And pooped some more. And I cooed, smiled and sang to him while I wiped it all up. And I hugged him close and kissed his face afterwards like I was eternally gratefully for the stinky experience I'd just had.

I didn't realize it then, but those experiences with a completely dependent newborn - who can't give back to you in any way, they only take - were my first lessons in learning what unconditional love really is and really looks like. And having that unconditional love and expressing that unconditional love wasn't even hard!  I loved that baby. How beautiful and merciful of God to begin lessons in unconditional love in a baby. Oh, I definitely had my moments of near terror when I realized there wasn't any going back on this taking complete care and raising another human being thing - a "what have we really gotten ourselves into?" kind of fleeting thought. They didn't last because I loved that boy. I was willing to do what was best for him in the long run no matter what his response to me was.

24 years, 6 kids later, I'm still learning. The intensity of the lessons have waxed and waned (are waxing and waning) over the years with each child contributing in their own unique way to my "education." I am eternally grateful for each of them. And, I am eternally grateful God started my lessons with Luke. He is a gift from God.

With him being 24, he is no longer, technically, "in my keeping." He's on his own. He's a man.

A man - my first born - who I love dearly and will always keep close to my heart.

I love this picture of Luke and me

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Don't Settle

I attended a beautiful wedding over July 4th weekend.

Hannah's University of Arkansas/study abroad roommate, Megan Dunham, said "I do" to fellow Razorback, Alex Nunn. Lou and I have hosted them in our home, and dined with them in Europe, so we know them pretty well. My eyes filled with tears as Megan began to walk down the aisle.

So young. So in love. So much promise, and adventure, and fun ahead. Also ahead? Hard times, tears, and sadness. You can't know them all now. You shouldn't know them all now.

The wedding is the day we seriously vow and seriously celebrate the amazing covenant instituted by God so we're not alone for whatever is ahead.

It is a good thing. A very good thing.

At the reception, we talked about all kinds of things. I heard some things I expected to hear.

It was such a beautiful wedding.

Alex and Megan are so well matched.

They are perfect for each other.

But I also heard something that pleasantly surprised me.

My oldest, Luke, had flown in from California to attend. He was sitting next to my 17 year old, Elizabeth. He put his arm around her, hugging her and said, "Elizabeth, don't settle. Find a boy that will treat you like Alex treats Megan."

Here was an older brother loving on his sister. In just a few words, he let her know how much her cared and how much he wanted the absolute best for her.

I think she'll hear those words at all the right times. Words from an older brother carry weight.

As I've reflected on that brotherly advice, I remembered some words I heard Andy Stanley say in his series, The New Rules for Love, Sex & Dating. (I highly recommend those talks!) They take the important "don't settle" component and add to it the equally important component, "do become." It goes like this:

"Become the person that the person you're looking for is looking for."

You have to say that to yourself a couple of times. At least, I did.

Isn't it great? It covers a lot of bases.

This is my prayer for my kiddos as they are either in the potential marrying stage or fast approaching it.  
Lord, let them become the person the person they're looking for is looking for.

To end, I'll quote Luke again and share a few pictures. The day of the wedding he tweeted this:

Weddings are awesome

Yes, they are. They combine the best of seriousness and celebration.

Thanks, Alex and Megan, for letting us share in yours! Many, many blessings!

Very yummy, fun food served at the reception!

Representing the Harris Clan.
Missing David (working at Kanakuk as a counselor)
Missing Lou and Faith (on a medical mission trip in El Salvador)

The beautiful bride and her handsome groom

Me and my oldest

Elizabeth and Mary Grace rockin' the photo booth!