Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sleepless Nights...Sundust Mornings

My baby is going to turn 13 years old in less than one month. How can this be?

Last night, he came into our bedroom and announced that, for his birthday, he wanted to invite the entire middle school over to our house for a party! I laughed sarcastically and said, "Yeah, right." When he kept campaigning, I gave him the standard, parental put-off answer--"We'll see."

But, a little part of me wants to do it! 13 is BIG.

A little part of me wants to celebrate BIG...not just his birthday, but the fact that he and I have made it to 13! (I never had any doubts about his calm, cool, collected daddy.)

You see, for the first 10 1/2 months of Jackson's life, he didn't sleep. Oh, he may have slept for 2 hours at a time, but then he would wake up in a three-alarm scream. There is nothing quite like getting woken up at 12 a.m, 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. by a screaming baby for 10 1/2 months straight...then getting up and going to work the next day.

I still remember the first time he slept through the night. I rolled over after a full night's sleep, saw that the clock said 6:05 a.m., and jumped out of bed screaming, " Keven, wake up! Something's wrong with Jackson! I think he's dead!"

I went running into his room, threw open the door and, half afraid of what I was going to find, looked down in his crib and saw him there...sleeping...curled up under his blanket...sucking on his paci.

I don't know what I was most thankful for--the fact that he was alive or the fact that we had actually slept through the night.

Keven just made some gutteral, disgusted noise, turned around and went back to bed for the last 30 minutes of blissful, noiseless sleep.

I actually had time to go down to the kitchen, put on a pot of coffee, eat a bowl of cereal and heat up a bottle before Jackson blasted the first scream. It was a lovely sound!

Jackson was one of the most beautiful toddlers I've ever seen. He had this head-full of strawberry blonde hair, peaches-and-cream skin, gorgeous hazel eyes with eyelashes that touched his cheeks when his eyes were closed.

But, in the words of Buzz Lightyear, "He (was) not a happy child." His Aunt Karen once described it perfectly--"It's like his nerve endings are on top of his skin." Everything made him cry...loud.

Without a doubt, Year 3 was the hardest. I've actually been known to measure my life by whether it happened "when Jackson was 3." (For those of you who think I'm exaggerating, just ask anyone who stuck by us during that year. To all of those who did--you know who you are--Thank You!!!)

But...I will always owe Jackson a little extra debt of gratitude. You see, he was the one who brought me to my knees. He was the one who taught me that I needed something more...Someone More...than just my own best efforts.

Don't get me wrong--we loved him....But, I remember praying this prayer many times, "Please, God, give me something to adore about him."

Shortly after we had turned the corner of that very hard third year, he was sitting at the kitchen table eating Goldfish while I was sweeping. The sun was shining through the sliding glass door.

Pointing to where I had just been sweeping, he said...with this enchanted look on his face..."Look, mommy, sundust." Well, I looked at where he was pointing, and he was right. The sunlight had turned that plain old, annoying housedirt into "sundust."

But, I never would have noticed without my Jackson.

I walked over and sat down with him until all the sundust had settled. Then, I looked into those beautiful little eyes and said, "I adore you."

I still do.

Don't get me wrong. We still have our moments...probably always will. For many years, I thought this was because we were so different until a wise, dear friend pointed out to me all the ways we are alike. (Thank you, Aunt Sandy.)

For years, I've been praying for Jackson and for his big brother the last words Luke writes about Jesus' growing-up years--that they "would grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men." (Eugene Peterson translates that verse this way: "And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.")

Three nights ago, at his school's sports banquet, Jackson was awarded the school's top honor--the Heart of the Lion award. When they called his name, his face beamed. And, as he was walking up to accept his award, I had a flashback to that "sundust morning."

As I watched that beaming young man walk to the podium...with the picture of that beautiful, Goldfish-eating toddler still in my heart...the Holy Spirit nudged me a little and reminded me that God has definitely heard my prayers.

"May God himself,
the God who makes everything holy and whole,
make you holy and whole,
put you together—spirit, soul and body—
and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.
The One who called you is completely dependable.
If he said it, he'll do it!
....The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you!"
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24,28, The Message)

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