Before I became a mother, I knew that I wanted sons. The picture I held in my mind always revolved around me sitting on an overstuffed sofa with a little boy on each side of me, clamoring to get a closer look at the oversized copy of Goodnight Moon I held on my lap. Sometimes, it included two cute little mop tops sitting on the kitchen counter while the mixer whipped together our latest batch of chocolate chip cookies. And, of course, I had visions of bunk beds and dinosaur-shaped pillows and army guys strewn on the floor and me, standing in the doorway in the dark sighing long deep sighs as I listened to my little men breathe.
I got that. Times two, actually. And it's been all that I dreamed of ... and more.
But back before I knew that God had not two, but four boys planned for me, I had Jo. And then, of course, I gave birth to Atticus.
Atticus. From the moment this little man emerged, quiet and contemplative from my womb, he has been everything you could want in a son. Sweet. Charming. Funny. Painfully intelligent. Kind. Loyal. Just.
And so darn cute it makes me cry, even now.
Atticus was a long, slim little package that grew longer and slimmer as the months wore on. Today, he's almost comically tall for his age, but his weight hovers in the 40% percentile. He's quite graceful for an 11 year-old, and has never been one to drop his entire weight on the couch (unlike others in this house), or lose awareness of his lanky limbs. Atticus is, if anything, extremely self-conscious. And more than a little concerned with hygiene, if you must know. Daily showers are his thing.
His wit and wisdom are something of legend in our family. By the age of three, he was using words like, "ominous" and "inconsiderate" in routine conversation. At four, he became exasperated with a well-meaning fellow passenger who tried to give him a kiddie version of how an airplane stays aloft.
"You don't know about lift and thrust, do you?" Atticus asked, before proceeding to outline the underpinnings of jet engines to his astonished row-mate. To this day, I'm not sure how much the man appreciated being schooled by a 4 year-old.
Today, Atticus' main passions are robotics and filmmaking. Neither floats my personal boat, but I am learning (by default) more than I ever wanted to know about the wonders of silicon, the merits of making a humanoid appear real but not too real, the importance of lighting, and why PCs are the superior programming tool. I refuse to believe the last bit, but am willing to give him the rest. It's Atticus, after all. He's probably right.
I've been very open on this blog about the struggles Atticus has had with Sensory Processing, as well as anxiety. I've had my share of guilt and doubt and worry over they years as I've watched my brave son face his giants. But God has been faithful. At age 11, Atticus is learning some hard-won but powerful lifelong lessons from swimming in the waters I would never have chosen for him. Chief among them is this: God can be trusted.
God can be trusted. It is no small thing to step back and hold your hands palm up and say these words. At nearly 37, I still grapple with this fact far too often. To know that Atticus is weighing it now, so long before adulthood, gives me hope that his path with Christ will be real, genuine, and life-altering.
In less than a month, Atticus will strike out on his very first mission trip with his dad. Our goal as parents has been to send our children on international mission trips as soon as they seem ready. We desire for their hearts to be molded not just by what they hear, but by what they see, what they taste, what they smell. Not everyone has the luxury of sending their pre-teens to Mexico, Bangladesh, or Hong Kong. Mr. Blandings and I realize that we are imminently blessed to have so many open doors through which our children can travel with us. And yes, it is a blessing. A child who returns from the outskirts of Tijuana with blisters on her hands and the taste of a destitute single mom's tortillas on her tongue has encountered a Jesus she will never forget. Maybe, just maybe, Mr. Blandings and I will raise children who don't fall into the stereotype of second generation Christianity (see this blog post for a beautiful definition). There's no guarantee, of course. But oh, how desperately we desire this.
Atticus is ready to take the plunge. He is headed to Nepal in November, by way of South Korea. On his to-do list for the stop-over is a visit to the DMZ, which tells you a little bit about this boy's curiosity and character, right? His task, once he arrives in Kathmandu, is to use his vast (and somewhat startlingly developed, might I add) video skills to create individual movies of all the children at the orphanage, and all the church planters at the Bible school. Once home, he'll take his raw footage and put together bits for the children's sponsors and for fundraising purposes. He's thrilled that he's found a way to use one of his God-given talents to build up the family ministry and, most importantly, to impact the Kingdom. As his parents, we're grateful to the Lord that He stepped in to open our son's heart and eyes to the power that even a young boy can have when it comes to spreading the Gospel.
My vision of havingcountries where Maoist strikes shut down the cities for days on end. But you know, it never included a boy who would rather program a robot than make cookies, either. God has given my family an amazing opportunity to serve--and eventually to live--in a country where He is largely unknown. He has given us hearts for those who have yet to hear His word. And He can be trusted. So I send Atticus off knowing that this trip will imprint upon his young soul truths about his Creator that can be revealed no other way.
What an outrageously beautiful gift.