I told a friend yesterday that I will probably sob with every single tap of the keyboard typing his 18th and final birthday blog. And, I was right. Because, the very moment I cracked open my laptop, tears began pouring. Like, I am typing this from my grave, because, I can’t even believe this is real life.
But, I also can believe it. I’ve been living it, right? Every single second for 18 perfect years.
It doesn’t mean every day has been easy. But, let’s face it, MOST days have been. Like for real easy. Kris and I almost every day look at John Henry and say, “He’s such a good kid.” I remember when he was a toddler, and we would take him to restaurants. People would come up to us and compliment us on how well behaved he was. We felt like we had this parenting thing IN THE BAG. Then, Anna was born, and we just tried to corral her in the vicinity of our dining table. And, I don’t even think Jett saw the inside of the restaurant until he was like 3, because, there was no way in hell we could corral him in the restaurant itself. Kris and I learned quickly that we, indeed, did NOT have this parenting thing in the bag.
I also remember my dad volunteering to travel on an airplane alone with John Henry from Oklahoma City to Atlanta. John was barely a year old. My dad will tell you what an easy flight it was. I don’t know why he never volunteered to travel alone with Anna and Jett, but I will say that once we moved back to Georgia, he would take them to Roses on occasion. Maybe, he felt like that was comparable. I don’t know.
What I do know is that every day raising John has been an absolute joy and gift.
Man, what a gift.
John Henry, the day the doctor put you in my arms, love filled my entire being. It was the kind of love that healed. The kind that makes the crooked paths straight. The kind that reminds you that HOPE IS ALIVE.
You are that kind of love. A salve for those who are down. A light for those who can’t find their way. An encourager and help for friends who need to know they have someone in their corner. As a matter of fact, one of your good friend’s mom told me once how her son said, “You can always depend on John.” Man, bud. What a statement we should all aspire to have said about us. The minute someone you know needs a friend, you drop everything for them. To that I say, you will always be surrounded by people who will drop everything for you. And, even when you are alone, God will always lean in so close to you, because you have leaned in so close to those He loves. Paul wrote about Timothy in Philippians 2:20 how no one else was like him and took a genuine interest in others. There aren’t a lot of people like this in the world. But, you are certainly one.
You not only take a genuine interest in others, you serve others. You see a need and you seek out a way to meet it. You see someone walk in with their arms full, you take their load in a matter of seconds. You see that someone needs a place to sit, you give up your own. When your teachers or leaders at school need something, you do all you can to make that thing happen. Not because you need the brownie points. But because, you care. Because, you’re a team player. And, you will move heaven and earth to make even the smallest things and needs happen. Sometimes, I have thought that some of the things you do is a lot of work for some thing or event. But, you always remember why you’re doing it. You’ve taught me that sometimes, we just need to remind ourselves of why we do the things we do. Even when they are a lot of work. Bob Goff writes in his book, Dream Big, “Tasks aren’t always merely tasks. They can be stepping stones.”
Every task and extra effort hasn’t been merely tasks. They’ve been stepping stones, John. Each stone leading to something bigger and better. These are lessons that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Because, Goff also says, “Large and seemingly impossible ambitions are going to require equally large sacrifices.” You don’t have to worry for one moment if the future you dream about is possible. You’ve been laying those stepping stones your entire life. And, I, along with all of those who love you, get to watch it all unfold. We get to cheer you on. We get to rejoice in all that you accomplish. And, you better believe that when times are hard, we will be there to lift you back up so you can keep laying more stones.
John Henry, I could write millions of words about all of the wonderful things you do and just simply who you are. It has been my greatest honor and joy getting to lead worship on that stage with you. I look over at you and Anna, and I think, “How is this real life?” How did I get so dang blessed? You have been committed to worship. Committed to His house. Committed to God. Committed to your educators, your school and those who have mentored you. Committed to your friends. Committed to your family. I can’t put into words how you honor me. I can’t. But, I can tell you one thing…..every time you say, “Momma,” I’m ready to cash app you money. (Just kidding, Kris. KIDDING.) Sort of kidding.
I’m going to soak up this 18th year, your SENIOR year, with every single ounce of my being. I hope you know how proud you make us every single day. And, I hope you know how much we ALL love and adore you.
Thanks for always protecting your sister.
For helping us keep up with your brother.
For loving all of us so well.
I can still see your tiny little self crying as I left you in your 1st grade classroom. You came to the door with the biggest tears rolling down your cheeks and wanted to go with me. I’m pretty sure it will be me this time standing at the door with tears rolling down my cheeks as I watch you drive away to college and into adulthood. Let me know if you want me to come with you, ok?
Happy 18th Birthday, John Henry Landreth.
I love you 3000,
2 responses to “Welcome to Adulthood, JH.”
Your blog is one that I still read so often; I’ve been following since your children were little, and back when Twitter was a “new” thing. So, maybe 10 or 12 years now? I love your mother’s heart and hearing the story of each of your children through your beautiful words. My husband and I became Foster Parents this year to an older teen guy, and he also just turned 18. We’ve been in his life since he was 13, and he is soon leaving for the Marines. After 7 months of living with us I’m also all tears. I hear your heart and I can just imagine how you will be feeling with this new season of your son heading off to college. I pray God’s gift of peace will be with you all. Also, I am a reading Goff’s “Dream Big” book, too, and just love it!