Jack’s First Birthday Letter.

My precious Jack Elliot,

What a fun, crazy, and stretching year it has been. As you have grown physically and developmentally, your mommy and daddy have grown spiritually, emotionally and relationally. God has used you as a part of our growth. When I think back to a year ago, the day you were born, I realize how far God has brought our family. That day was exciting and horrific all at the same time. I was isolated in a city that still felt very new to us. All of that emotion spilled out on the day you were born. Before they even broke my water to induce labor, the dramatic failed IV attempts had me crying for home. As labor progressed my longing for the familiar intensified. I realize now that all of that pain and fear was worth the joy that was coming. The very instant you made your entrance into the world my physical pain subsided and I was overcome with deeply satisfying joy. In the weeks to come God also took my emotional pain of isolation and gave me a deeply satisfying joy in Him, the mission He called us to, and the new community He began to bless us with following your birth. The joy you have brought to our family is a true gift. I’m so thankful for the blessing of you, little boy.

You are social. You just adore being around people. One of my favorite memories of your social personality on full display was Christmas Eve. As is our Malawi tradition, we celebrated Christmas Eve at Malawi Children’s Mission with all of the students. I had you wrapped around my chest facing out so you could see everything. You proceeded to wave hi to every single student who came up to you for over an hour. It was precious. You were so excited to be there in a room full of hundreds of wonderful kids and your joyful excitement showed. Even as a newborn you loved going to our church’s monthly church-wide prayer meeting and getting passed around for snuggles. I pray God continues to grow your social gifting into a tool that makes you bold and winsome as you share Christ with the world.

You are funny. You know exactly when to laugh, even if we aren’t laughing. Often we do something, not intending to be funny, but your little slapstick sense of humor finds it hilarious. We have a sweet recent video of Daddy sprinkling water in your face and you die laughing. You’ve also been known to laugh pretty hard after you hit one of us in the head with something or if one of your sisters spills something. Your hilarious sense of humor brings joy to us and those around you.

You are motivated. You may be behind in your gross motor development, but that does not mean you aren’t determined to get there. Often times at your PT appointment, you are self-motivated to do the work and we don’t even have to motivate you with a toy. You want to be involved and included, and you love being active. You are strong and determined, which is a true gift. I pray that God directs your determination to build strong character and exalt the name of Jesus.

You like music, food and your sisters. You LOVE music, and have for several months. You instantly respond by bouncing, wiggling, clapping and sometimes even “singing”. Some of your favorites are Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, A Joyful Heart and Baby Shark. Your love of music has grown into a love of Barney, because you love the music in Barney. You also love food. From the moment we started giving you solids, you had a clear favorite, peanut butter and banana. Since then your palette has expanded and there is very little you won’t eat. In fact, you often eat more than your sisters at any given meal. Speaking of your sisters, you adore them. You think they hung the moon and want to do everything they do. You follow them around the house, play with their toys, and sometimes even let them snuggle you. I pray God continues to draw you three together and strengthen a lifelong deep relationship.

You dislike teeth, being told no, and not being able to do all you’d like to physically. Your Daddy and I have concluded that you are more dramatic about new teeth than either of your sisters. You get cranky, sleep less, and need only mommy more. Speaking of mommy, you really hate when mommy tells you no. You want to explore everything and don’t like me killing your vibes. The other thing that hampers your adventures is your slight gross motor delay. You are doing such a great job and get stronger every day, but what you can’t do often makes you angry. It will be exciting to see you reach those milestones and achieve goals.

I’ve already shared a few of my favorite memories from this year, like Christmas Eve, all your laughter and love of music, but I have another special, yet completely ordinary and mundane, memory I want to always remember. One morning you were having a rough day. I don’t remember what caused you to be exhausted, but you had hit your limit. You had been pretty much inconsolable for a while, but as soon as I picked you up, cradled you in my arms and sat down to nurse you you let out a precious little sigh and said “mama’. In that moment my heart melted, and I cradled you closer never wanting to forget your baby days. It was an unbeatable moment that made me cherish the gift of your life and ask God to help me not take one moment for granted.

My scripture to pray for you this year is all of Proverbs 3. In this chapter Solomon implores his son to cling to wisdom, avoid being enamored with self, and surrender himself fully to the Lord. I pray you cling to the Lord, let him change your heart, follow Him and Him alone, and show others the incredible love of Christ. I cannot wait to see what God does through you as you pursue Him.

Jack Elliot, I love you. You are an incredible joy. The laughter, love and snuggles you bring to our home are truly a gift. I love you because you are mine. Nothing will ever change that. God loves you, He made you special, and I cannot wait to see what He does in and through you. Thank you, God, for making me his mommy.

With all my heart,