Happy birthday Arlington Amos Pilgrim!
Beautiful boy, your Mum says that from the first moment she saw you she knew you looked like your Dad. Now sorry son, there is not a lot I can do about that! People tell me regularly you look like me, so let’s assume [particularly on your birthday] that they are being generous and kind and they are telling both of us we are very good-looking lads! Well as it is – I think you are such a cute kid and so maybe those who say you look like me have got it wrong!
Looks aside, as you grow, I do hope and pray that you will feel thankful for some of the key qualities and values that we seek to model to you on a day to day basis, despite our flaws. I hope you grow to see that for your Mum and I serving others in Jesus’ name is central to life. I hope and pray that whatever you do in the future and wherever life takes you, we will have deposited a serving legacy in you. Every day – often in small ways – we have the incredible privilege of seeking to enhance the lives of others – physically, emotionally and spiritually. I pray you will celebrate that privilege each day.
But today, on your day, your birthday, as I give thanks to God for you, I have been pondering the amazing difference you make in my life.
Wow, beautiful boy, it’s hard to believe that today you turn eight. I will never forget your entry into the world on 31 May 2011. We had been primed by doctors to expect the worst and yet we kept praying for you, our beautiful little boy. The birthing suite was full of medical professionals, all waiting for you to join us. Your mum was brave and strong. Inside, I was an emotionally stretched, but I tried to put on a brave face. And then suddenly there was your face.
You were here and breathing. That was a great start! There would be a number of challenges to come, but here was our miracle boy. How blessed we felt – how blessed we feel eight years on!
[One day we will talk more about this emotional rollercoaster and as I write today my heart and prayers go out to those who haven’t experienced the same outcome as we have; who live with the heartache of losing a child or who face bigger care challenges on a day to day basis.]
Today, with so much to be thankful for, I’m celebrating the difference you make in our lives and more so, what you as a little kid continue to teach me, a “big kid”, about life, priorities and perspective.
No, you are not perfect – just like me – and you have your growth edges that we need to keep working on – but little boy, thank you for the difference you make to my life each and every day.
I’ve jotted down many things this week, but for now, on your 8th birthday, let me say thank you for these eight everyday life lessons you keep teaching me; the result of who you are and how you embrace life. As I played with my list, I ended up with these eight T’s.
Yes, as many know you didn’t talk for almost three years after you were born. There was speculation you may never talk. We embraced your happy and sad grunts and we learned sign language. And then one day, out of the blue, you spoke!
And yes, we certainly got what we prayed for – because you love to talk [a chip of the old block I guess].
I am thankful that every day you remind me of the power and importance of ordinary conversation. You love a chat. You love to tell stories. Your curiosity is inspiring and we all know we will get quizzed on the latest geographical or scientific fact that you have picked up in the library. We all now know the fastest animal on the earth, the peregrine falcon, can reach the speed of 322kph and we are never short on Richmond Tigers’ stats.
We live in a busy world. We are stretched for time. We live with information overload. Yet so many live with isolation and loneliness. In such a world we can never lose sight of the power of talk – of everyday conversations, of validating the personal stories of others, of finding the time to hear from each other, of remaining open and curious and learning from each other.
I know the time will come when my little boy won’t want to hold hands with his Dad, but I am happy to make it last as long as he wants. To be honest, sometimes it can be tricky, but Arli seems to be oblivious. I can be carrying multiple shopping bags in both hands or be juggling my backpack and holding Ada, but Arli still finds a way to cling on tight. He’s a committed hand holder.
Yes, thank you for the simple, but powerful reminder every day of the gift of touch. You grab my hand and without even knowing it you bring perspective to my life – I am reminded of things that matter; of things I should cherish and never take for granted.
Closely aligned with your love for touch, thank you for how you also remind me of the gift of togetherness; of the treasured gift of authentic community.
The bathtub is one of most therapeutic spaces in my life. I love a good bath and I celebrate how you have taken this ordinary space to create a beautiful rhythm to practice togetherness. “Dad are we going to have a bath?” is a common question in our house. [And you make me smile when I see the look on your face as you make space for your little sister to squeeze in as well. Togetherness wins over selfishness and comfort!]
Yes, in all of life’s ordinary moments – a cafe visit, bike ride, the footy and walk to the park, you remind me Arli that life is better together! You once told me that you were my “wingman” and I am so glad to have you by my side.
When it comes to time, I am thankful that you challenge me every day about the importance of finding quality time for relationships that matter. I know I haven’t arrived and like many other adults reading this post I know I have more work to do in getting the balance right in the hectic world we live in. So sorry, for when it doesn’t seem right.
Yes, it’s simple in your mind – you need quality time with your Dad! It’s messier for me as I seek to keep all the balls in the air [sometimes too many], but thank you for your honesty and whether you see it or not, for keeping me accountable. That’s a good thing Arli. It is so good spending time with you.
OK, it’s time for a reality check! I’ve already said that you are not perfect and you’re in good company there. So, I do need to keep the T for Tantrum on my list. Like all of us – little and big kids – you have your own unique style in how to throw “a wobbly” when you’re not happy. And your Mum and I need to still keep learning as parents to help you navigate these times – with the right balance of correction and grace.
So, what I am thankful for? I am thankful your tantrums don’t tend to last long and you’re quick to bounce back. But more than that, I am reminded in your moments of weakness that we are all flawed human beings. I am reminded of my own weaknesses; the areas in my life that still need attention and change. I am reminded of the importance of growing in self and others’ awareness; of being a more emotionally intelligent person, husband and father.
And when you mess up, I am reminded you are a work in progress. And thank God so am I. Thank God he hasn’t given up on me! I see again my need to co-operate with God’s patient, transforming work in my life. I am thankful God is with me in all seasons of life, as I want to be with you.
Arli, thank you that you are a tender-hearted boy. Yes, you are a boy – at the stage of life where things like farts and burps, pranks, practical jokes and wrestling are all cherished things. But I am so thankful that have a soft, loving and caring heart. I pray you will never lose that. I am thankful you “see” others. I am thankful you have a heart that seeks justice. I am thankful you pray for people in need.
Yes, you are at an age where you are torn between a yearning to be seen as “cool”, while grappling with the reality that at times, others push you to the margins. As you work your way through this and continue to grow, I hope and pray your tender-heart continues to grow. Never lose sight of others, never lose sight of those in harder places, allow God to use your loving and caring heart my boy!
Yesterday I wrote a post about the importance of resilience and Arli you so often come to mind when I think about this vital life quality. I admire your tenacity and determination for life, even during tough days.
Despite physical challenges you threw yourself into Little Athletics, often running last, but mostly with a smile on your face. You love playing with the Mustangs and I love your heart for the team, knowing you are not the best player. I love your thirst to learn, your desire to get in and give new things a go!
Yes, you are eight and some things are still hard to get your head around. But thank you for modelling tenacity and living with a spirit of optimism. Major reconstruction surgery on your feet approaches, but I love that you can see the “up-side” – that you can look forward to wheelchair rides!
I trust as we journey together in life we can encourage each other to continue to see life through a perspective lens, growing in resilience, seeing opportunities rather than challenge and holding to hope and faith. Celebrate your uniqueness and hold fast to tenacious living.
Each day, in the little and the large of life, I am mindful you trust me. What a beautiful privilege; yet a daunting responsibility. Sorry for when I mess up and let you and the family down, but your trust and the way you innocently and sincerely model that motivates me to want to be a better Dad, a better husband, a better person – someone you can respect and always trust in.
As I look at you, in so many ordinary moments in life, I am so, so thankful for you. I am privileged to be your Dad. I am privileged to have such a wonderful tribe! As I celebrate my love for you today, I am reminded of the beauty and joy of a father-child relationship. I am reminded of a loving Father God who loves me as his child; who is always there for me and never lets go of me!
I love you Arlington Amos. I yearn to be the best Dad I can. I will give it my best, but at times I will fail. At times I will need you – as you already have – to forgive me and see my frailties.
And as you do, I pray you will never lose sight of a God who loves you, who champions you as one he so beautifully and wonderfully made, who will never leave you, who has great dreams for your life and who privileges each of us with the capacity to enter into our beautiful, but broken world and make a unique difference in the lives of others.
Keep making your mark wingman! Happy birthday. xxx