Like every family, we’ve got a pretty strong morning routine at our house. Mom has it all down to a science. Like a well-trained corporate time management guru, she has meticulously timed and planned every event that has to take place in the morning. It’s a tightly wound piece of work my wife has constructed, and some would probably call it excessive…but it’s necessary because we have Nathan.
Nathan is 6 years old. That’s an amazing statement, considering the way his life began. Nathan was born to a girl who was already trying to raise two other boys on her own. Like so many young women, motherhood wasn’t something she had planned for: it simply ‘happened’, and then it happened again, and now…yep, once more. No dad was in the picture, and no one, including his mom, could say with any certainty who dad might be. She was simply struggling to survive, getting help from her mom and getting ready for her third child. The truth is, this isn’t an unfamiliar story at all. But, like every other story, this one’s a bit different.
This pregnant mother of two had Lupus. I learned that Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. She had Chronic Lupus, meaning her symptoms had been around for quite a while. It attacked her kidneys with a vengeance. Still, she wanted to raise her two boys and hoped to raise this child to come.
Nathan arrived in the same way that Nathan does everything: in a big hurry. He was born 3 ½ months premature. He weighed 1lb, 10oz. He was born with chronic lung disease, cerebral palsy, hernias, two holes in his heart and a few other ‘syndromes’ that cause no trouble, are impossible to pronounce and require no medical attention. He is deaf in one ear (his right), and needs a hearing aid in his left. As a baby, he required oxygen 24/7. He had two ports on either side of his chest: one for drainage and I can’t remember for certain what the other was for. The scars are still there. The care that he required would wear out many mature couples, let alone a single mom raising two boys. After trying to handle one night of a heart monitor screaming, oxygen sensors beeping and her own physical limitations being tested, reality made Nathan’s mom rethink things really hard. She made an amazingly mature decision for someone her age and when Nathan was 6 months old, still in the hospital, she decided to place her third son for adoption. For Nathan’s sake, this proved to be the right decision. Last year, his mother died from complications due to kidney failure.
Nathan underwent 3 surgeries to correct problems once we adopted him. He has problems with fine motor skills. He rushes everywhere and falls fairly often due to balance issues. He’s strong willed and stubborn, spends a LOT of time in time-out and is constantly being reminded, “If you do what you’re told, things will go well with you!” Nothing comes very easily for Nathan. From climbing up onto my bed to snuggle to getting food to his mouth without spilling any, he struggles with things most 6 year olds have mastered. He is amazingly bright and extremely sensitive to others…and he is the happiest person I’ve ever met. Blonde hair, blue eyes and a smile that never fails to melt the coldest heart: that’s Nathan. Yes, I’m his dad and you bet I’m biased. That doesn’t discount the fact that this is one truly, remarkably and eternally happy boy. Let me tell you something that might help you understand.
One of the routines in the morning is for Nathan to climb into my bed once mom has awoken the princess (my daughter). Nate wakes up and to keep him out of trouble until breakfast, he comes and snuggles with dad. Sleep is impossible once Nathan is awake, but it doesn’t keep me from trying. I’ll lay there, quiet, still, trying to convince him that dad is sawing logs, but he’s nonplussed. That little arm wraps around my neck and then a tiny mouth presses against my ear and whispers, “You need some cuddle?” I always need some cuddle.
He gets as close as he can and we cuddle and talk and giggle. He tickles me, I tickle him and we just delight in being there. And nearly every morning he says, “Dad, this is gonna be the best day EVER!” And he means it. He forgets all the time-outs of yesterday, the skinned knees, bumps and bruises. All those frustrations of not being able to do something easily disappear, replaced by endless possibilities and wonderful chances for…whatever. That’s the most amazing thing to me: there are no preconceived notions, no daily planners or schedules for Nathan. It’s simply being in the midst of love that he confesses his heart. Today is gonna be the best day EVER. How? He doesn’t know. Why? There’s really only one reason for that kind of optimism. Love.
Perfect love casts out all fear. Remember 1 Corinthians 13? Pay close attention to one verse in particular in that chapter: ‘It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always preservers. Love never fails.” Six years old, considered developmentally delayed and behind, Nathan grasps what I still have trouble remembering. God’s mercies are new every morning. I am loved with a love that surpasses understanding, beyond my ability to measure or comprehend. Yesterday is over, the night always becomes morning and joy is mine because He loves me.
Oh, daddy God in heaven…teach me to embrace Your love, Your mercy, Your grace and goodness in a way that makes me truly believe that EVERY day is gonna be the best day EVER. Teach me to be like Nathan.