You are the answer to countless prayers. I've told you over and over that I wanted a baby for ten years after your brother, Stephen, was born. I've told you that two babies died in my belly between 1996 and '99; Dad and I thought we wouldn't have another child. We wanted four children from the time we were married.
For eight years I asked God to please take away the desire if He didn't want to bless me with a baby. He didn't take away my desire, but he changed it a little. He gave us the desire to adopt a baby girl from China. Dad and I prayed, sought counsel, looked at our finances, interviewed other couples who had adopted, and--after two more years-- it seemed perfectly clear that adoption would be God's way of giving us a fourth child.
You have heard me say this so many times: the very day I was going to mail away our application to China was the very day I found we were expecting you. Our excitement was beyond words, our joy more than overflowing. Dad put his hand on the doorknob as he left for work the next day, turned back to me and said (shaking his head and smiling), "I just don't understand God." I replied, "That's because God is God." From that moment I knew we would name you Joel (or, if you were a girl, Joelle). Your name means "the Lord is God."
I asked God to please let you live. Losing babies made me so sad my heart would be sick for months. But I also knew that He had comforted me and sustained me and taught me that nothing--even the death of children--could separate me from His love. He had taught me that children are a gift, not a right, and they are His reward, not ours. If they were His reward, then He could watch over them in heaven or on earth. I just asked again and again, "Please, dear Lord, please let me give birth to him, to hold him, to nurse him, to have him at least a little while on earth. It would mean so much to me, but if You don't, I will still love you and still bless your Name." I held onto the promise of Joel 3:18.
I asked God, knowing that He wants us to ask, and that He loves to give us good gifts, "Would you make him a musician and an evangelist?" The first time I felt you move in my belly was during an upbeat worship song at church. When you were six months old, you loved to "play" a harmonica. You've dabbled at my piano and banged on Stephen's drums and strummed Dad's guitars. Those expressions of music give me faith that God has also heard my prayer to make you an evangelist.
Even though I was sick every day for many months before you came along, and even though I had a high risk pregnancy, and even though I ruptured all my pelvic ligaments giving birth to you, and even though I had to stay in bed for five weeks, unable to walk more than a few steps after you were born, unable to do much besides cuddle and feed you, I never stopped thanking God for you. Your cheeks, white and soft as whipped cream, your delicate fingers, your intelligent, playful eyes, your sing-songy voice even when you cried--were precious parts of a wonderful gift.
How fast seven years have gone--way faster than the years spent waiting for you. I so love to snuggle you (and when it's snowing, you call it "snowgling"). I love your quick wit and funny jokes. I love your hearty laugh.
I admire your artistic ability. When you were three years old, you used white chalk on black paper and drew a picture of Darth Vader I was sure had been done by a teenager. That same year you were really into Batman and one day took black construction paper and--without even drawing an outline or tracing something--you cut out a nearly perfect bat . Your great-great-grandfather Nickel used to cut and carve animal figures from paper and tin without a template. When I saw this talent had been passed down to you, all I could say was, "Wow, God. Wow! What do you have in mind for this child's amazing gift of art?"
The way you sit and build for hours with Legos and draw superheroes in action reminds me so much of your Pappaw's engineering skills. Drawing and building seem effortless to him. How precious that you have his talent, his blue eyes, his sense of humor. Pappaw and your dad are my two favorite men; Ben got Dad's name in the middle, and I wanted to honor Pappaw by giving you his name in the middle.
Thank you for being so thoughtful, so sweet, so quick to repent when you've confessed your sin. Thank you for making me laugh over and over. Thank you for all the art you've blessed us with,
and for your tender prayers.
I hope you have a very happy birthday today and enjoy your party tomorrow.
I love you very, very much and thank God for letting me have you for these past seven years.