HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY, Nathan! (Above Hollywood at night!)
Twenty-one years ago this week, I was happily anticipating my third child, already named, Nathan John. His name meant, blessed and gracious gift of God. And so Nathan has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. God has used him almost as much as anything else in my life to show me His goodness, His ways and His blessings. I just didn't know that he was the tool that God wanted to use to s-t-r-e-t-c-h me so much. Nate has been truly a gift from God, because through him I learned things and understood truth-- things I would never have seen.
Nate has always been dancing, singing, laughing, bigger than life. When others would walk on the sidewalk, Nate would be wandering, running, climbing, up and down the curb, but never in just a straight line--that was not a part of his make-up. He heard the music of a different piper and drummer. He was not ever going to fit into the box--it was not the way He was made--a little like his mother.
With his antics and strong opinions and darling ways, some people would say, "This boy needs a stronger hand. You need to spank him more."
Harshness never won the day with this child. But, I remembered that he was God's gracious gift to us and so we would pray. I noticed that when I would sit him next to me in my comfy overstuffed chair, by himself, he would talk and talk and talk--at 3 years old he could talk for 45 minutes almost without stopping if I asked him questions--even then he had a lot to say. Oh, I figured out, he is an extravert and needs to have alone, talk time so he can express his heart.
If he was agitated or upset, if I put my arm around his shoulders and touched him or tickle or scratch his back or got down on his level and was gentle and loving, he would settle down and respond to my instruction and love. God used this gracious gift to show me that harshness and over-bearing correction was not the way to a child's heart.
In a speech class, with my two older kids when he was 8, I was expecting my two older to shine, because they were older. But, Nate was already committed to being a hero, started dreaming of being superman in his life time, and when he gave a speech on Audi Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War II, he blew all of the adults away. "You have a performer on your hands. He was the most believable child who spoke the whole night!"
(But, how could I have known then that he would become an actor in Hollywood--how does not prepare for that in a conservative-Christian world view?)
And so I tucked these things away in my heart. Out of the box from the beginning, I had to rethink my parenting paradigms and ways. I didn't know that he was extremely ADHD for some years--I was just trying to figure out his puzzle. (My mother said, "He is just like you were as a little girl--active, busy, opinionated, always with friends, and you used to lay down on the floor and have screaming fits--you were probably ADHD and we just didn't know it.")
He questioned everything--and so I learned to see things from his eyes--he was bright and intelligent and helped me to see the world in a less-American, middle of the road, Evangelical eyes, and open my heart to see as Jesus sees--especially in his high school years.
Nate accepted and loved all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. A heart as good as gold, always seeing through the hypocrisy of people, he called us to have integrity in our hearts and lives. He taught me not to care what others thought of me, but to say, what is the real truth in this situation. We threw all the formulas out the door and learned to live by faith.
He is a pied-piper of sorts and gathers people around him. And so, we learned to broaden our horizons and love those who were also outside of our comfort zone. We had a house full of all sorts of teens in all sorts of phases--because they were Nate's friends and he would bring them all to our home. And we learned to love them all. What a blessing we would have missed!
And these were the years we discovered that Obsessive-Compulsive--in an extreme form--was another mysterious and wonderful way Nate was designed by God. And, so I was to find that it was what had plagued me most of my life, when I had him tested, I was answering yes to all the questions. And then found that 3 of my 4 children were also obsessive-compulsive off the chart. It helped to make more sense of our challenging lives.
His faith in God grew stronger and stronger over the years as he would overcome many very difficult obstacles in his life.(car accident totaling his car, jobs, peer pressure and some rejection; health, and more.)
Now, I see, that many of his trials and challenges and difficulties were because God was building him and strengthening him and testing him to become a warrior for Christ. How can you ever become a general if you are not first faithful as a private. And God knew he was taking Nate to more difficult arenas where he would already have to know what standing strong in a difficult world would be?
But the midst, he prayed and prayed for God to open doors. So after 2 years after graduation, of faithfulness and integrity in his life, he expected that God would open an arena for him, because of his belief that God would respond, we needed to support his dreams. He was invited to attend a national talent competition, Clay and I decided to honor his faith and pursue it, as he had been faithful, pursued God, held his morals and shown strength.
And so we went and he won the singer-songwriter competition and a scholarship to the New York Film academy. New York? Are you kidding me, Lord?--that is where you want me to send my son? Do you really inhabit New York City, Lord? That was just not my plan.
After much prayer and difficulty, we all found him a beautiful, affordable apartment in Harlem--Harlem of all places--is it safe? Isn't that where all the gangs are? West Side Story and all of that? Riots?Will you take care of him?
And so, leaving him with his two amazing Christian roommates, Clay and I returned home and that year, I learned so much more about real prayer and real faith as I spent hours on my knees through fears and missing him. Though challenged in so many ways in his faith and moral life, Nate came out faithful, strong and flourishing. Whew! Made it.
Now you want to move where? Hollywood? Are you kidding? And so my circle, by God's directing, was broadened again. North Hollywood to be exact! Found 2 Christian roommates, again.
Believing God wants to use him to be a light in a dark world, Nate is pounding the sidewalk every week for jobs, calling everyone he knows for opportunities, looking for His God to open doors in an arena where light needs to be spread around.
Found a great church and new friends, and somehow, by the skin of his teeth, hard work, diligence and by God's abundant grace--he is paying bills one month at a time, by being an extra in tv and movies. And his mom is still on her knees, praying every day, many times a day-following, by faith, this interesting, gracious gift of God.
And so, I honor you, wonderful Nate, as living up to your name--a true and gracious gift from God! You are my hero, my delight and I love you, you are the best! :)