On Tuesday you will celebrate your 9th birthday and I'm so excited to be spending it with you. This is the third time we've been able to celebrate your birthday together and, while this one won't be as elaborate as the first one we had together (you remember, the ninja turtle party for which I scanned Pinterest for weeks before), it is no less precious for me.
You see, Son, with every one of your birthdays I marvel again at your miraculous life. You didn't have the easiest start in life, and the next four and a half years were probably even more difficult for you. I have a hard time even letting myself think about some of the things you endured during that time. But, endure you did. And along the way you developed a determination and resiliency that I envy. Because of your hearing and language issues, things don't come as easily for you as they do for others. But you never make excuses; you just work harder and use your other senses more. I watch you as you keenly observe the world around you in an attempt to make sense of it, and I'm amazed every time you master a new skill just by watching others ahead of you.
Your determination still manifests itself as defiance a lot, and that's a struggle I imagine we will battle for the rest of our lives, but you are learning to channel it better. Just this weekend you told me you want to act more like a big boy and make better choices. I pray that is the case because, frankly, our battles wear me out sometimes. But I never want you to lose that determination completely. I just pray you learn to use it more productively.
God has big plans for you, Trae. I know you remember your early years in ways you can't express yet. But someday you will have the words to talk about how those years shaped you into the person you are now and will be in the future. I pray your experiences will never make you bitter but will, instead, make you appreciate each opportunity you are given. Not because your dad and I "rescued" you from anything (PLEASE don't ever give us that credit), but because God himself had His hand on you from the beginning. Your story could have gone many different directions, and I will never understand why you had to travel the road you did, but I am so grateful you are ours at this point in your story.
On this day every year I also think about the mother who gave you life. Although I will never understand the reasons why she made some of the decisions she made, I will be eternally grateful to her for your life. I don't doubt her love for you and I hope you don't either. She simply didn't know the best way to keep you safe. I am sure at some point you may want to reconnect with her in some way and I pray our relationship is such that I am not threatened by that, but instead am secure enough to help you in any way I can.
My greatest wish for you this year is that you will continue to discover all the ways God loves you. You are just beginning to grasp the message of salvation and I pray costantly that your dad and I can adequately convey that message to you. It would be the greatest privilege of our lives to lead you and your brother to an authentic relationship with Christ. But, as I said before, words aren't necessarily your strong suit. So we are trying our best to SHOW you the gospel through our lives. And we fail constantly, but I pray you see enough of us depending on Him that you want that for your own life. Because, in the end, that is the key to it all. He is what sees us through the moments when our different backgrounds clash with yours. When your behaviors are more than I can handle and I respond in a way that isn't helpful or glorifying to Him in any way, His mercies are what allow us to start over the next morning. And He is enough to overcome my failings and yours.
I am so proud of everything you've accomplished this year. Your reading has improved, you are understanding math more (even those tricky word problems), and you are becoming a leader in your classroom. You had a good baseball season and your golf coaches were amazed at your natural abilities. You are athletic and funny and you are a loving, caring big brother (when you're not trying to tear Will's head off). So, here's to 9 years old. May it be filled with chicken on a bone, vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, and more blessings than you can imagine.