Last Sunday we celebrated the 13th birthday of Jairus Donovan Kent, our first born and on this earth, only son.
It was a marvelous, glorious day.
It was his actual birth-day, as of 4:34am on Sunday the 30th. I had decided a few months ago that I wanted to do something really special.
Last year we were invited to a birthday party for the son of good friends. He was also turning 13. It was quite a large affair, with many friends and family. There were lots of beautiful decorations with a medieval/knights sort of theme, which I thought was quite appropriate for the occasion. There was a guest/scrapbook out for everyone to look through and sign with messages of encouragement. It was fun to see pictures of the young man, as we've only become friends in the past year or so, and not watched him grow up as many there had.
The thing that touched me the most was a brief time during the party where my friend and her husband had asked some church elders and senior family members to come say a blessing over their son. It was a really beautiful, meaningful time and I just loved it. I decided to be a copycat. ;-)
To start, I sent out snailmail invitations just slightly more than a month in advance. Any sooner, and I was afraid people would forget; any later and I worried they would already have plans. And I chose real, paper invitations because people are so apt to ignore Facebook and email notifications. After much consideration, I decided to limit the guest list to only family for a few reasons. A) Our house couldn't handle much more--I have a large family. B) Growing up, my moms family (2 brothers, a sister and all children involved) met monthly to celebrate birthdays. Thems fond memories and I wanted to have one of those again.
So I used the online planner from Staples and personalized one of their invitation templates with Jairus' picture and sent it off to be printed. I ordered about 60 copies and got them sent out quickly. We had a good response and in the end, probably about 85-90% positive rsvp's. I was pleased.
I decided to make it straight-forward and low fuss: 3-5pm would be the timing, with simple finger foods to snack on (veggies with dip, fruit tray, hummus and pita chips) and 3 home-made cakes which would hopefully be enough to feed everyone. I was expecting around 50 people. (Note: I don't do home-made to impress anyone, I do it because generally I'm not fond of store-bought cakes. :-) )
I started cleaning the house an impressive 5 days before the party and marveled at how much less stressed I was by the weekend when only a few jobs remained. By Sunday afternoon, everything was sparkling and ready to receive our guests. The kids were beyond excited to see their family and especially, cousins. My one oversight was...of all things.....Jairus' birthday gift. We'd intended to get him a digital camera but a few days before his birthday, he spotted an archery set in Canadian Tire and was highly excited. He took an archery class at camp last year, and since my husband also learned it at the same camp as a child, we decided it would be a good present. However, I forgot to pick it up the day before, so a quick stop on the way home from church, aided by bags to cover the gift on its' way out of the store, solved the problem.
I had purchased the perfect little scrapbook. It said 'Family' in lovely stitching on the front of the handsome brown leather cover, and each page had room for one photo and a few lines for signing. My plan was to take a picture of each family as they arrived, print it immediately and have them sign the page with their photo above. It didn't quite work out, as the printer gave us problems. Instead, I had everyone sign a page, and printed up their pictures the next day when I had time to fiddle with the printer. I filled the rest of the book with pictures from the day, which my uncles wife was gracious enough to take and leave with me before they left.
It was a beautiful, sunny day, which I was so grateful for, as it gave family the option of gathering out around the porch swing, which many did. We had plenty of food, plenty of cake and it was clear that many were happy to spend the afternoon catching up with family not often seen. I had our ancestry.ca family trees displayed on the TV and tried to encourage people to look through it and add information that was missing or mistaken. I pulled out the two large scrapbooks I made for Jairus; one detailing his first 2 months of life in hospital, and the second the remainder of his first year. I was pleased to see them being passed around and enjoyed.
[Great]Grandma 'Hutchie', Nana (my mom), Sherri with shy cousin Donovan.
My brother and his wife, all the way from Parry Sound.
Verity with cousin Samuel
Cousin Jacquie's hubby Michael, standing with my Uncle Tom
Jacquie and her daughters, and her mom, my great aunt Wilma
My sister Lauren, standing with my dad's twin brother Dave. Uncle Dave had a liver transplant just a few months ago.
All the kids mesmerized by Jairus' slideshow
For a number of days before the party, I worked on a powerpoint presentation. Any other 13 year old would likely have made a big presence known. He'd have told his stories and reminded everyone of his antics growing up, his triumphs and successes. Because Jairus isn't really able to do that, I decided to make a voice for him.
Once everyone had arrived, we gathered in the main room and reflected on the life of Jairus.
Jairus Birthday Slideshow from Leslie Kent on Vimeo.
The first song was the same one I sang at Jairus' dedication.
After the video, my dad, James, and his dad had prepared words of blessing and prayer. They stood with their hands on Jairus' shoulders, in front of all our family and spoke of the challenges he has faced, this momentous occasion of his 13th birthday, and their faith in what God alone can--and will accomplish through Jairus. Here is what my father said:
The Blessing of JairusToday is a special day for Jairus as we gather together to say happy 13th birthday. It hardlyseems possible that 13 years ago James, Leslie and Marie spent the night at McMaster waitingand waiting for Jairus to arrive. Meanwhile, I was at home all nice and cozy in bed whenMarie called somewhere after 5 am to inform me that I was now a papa since Jairus hadarrived. Then I remember seeing him with a bunch of tubes in his tiny little body – but thatstart to his life hasn’t stopped him from growing into this young man we have here before ustoday.Jairus you are no longer a little boy, not a pre-teen – you are a young man. Many timesin life we wonder why things happen. We may question why did God and does God allowJairus to have certain challenges in his life while others do not? Jairus, scripture tells usthat before the foundation of the earth, God Almighty planned for your life and planned foryou to be a man. Psalm 139 says that He created your inmost being. He knit you together inyour mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. All the days ordained for youwere written by God even before you were born. Today we are recognizing publicly whatGod has done in you. Your nana and I are thankful and joyful that God has given you to ourfamily as a gift. You have a great ability to make lots of people smile and laugh. You are awonderful grandson. We love you and bless you with the promises of God. You are His andhave been set apart from the world for his Holy purposes. I bless you with God’s everlastinglove, wisdom, peace, and joy.We pray that God will provide you with all the resources you need to overcome the spiritual,physical and emotional challenges you face as you grow and develop your faith and trust inHim.Numbers 6:24: Here just as God commanded Moses to have Aaron say to the people of Israel,I say to you Jairus: The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine uponyou and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you His peace.Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that bythe power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Amen!
As they finished, I had a cake ready with 13 lit candles. I walked the length of the kitchen and living room, past family filling nearly every square foot, and we sang. There's nothing like a family that can sing together. I carried the cake up to Jairus and his face was beaming. And I remembered how difficult it used to be for him to blow out candles. He took a great breath, and snuffed them out in three tries.
Then came the gifts. Such generous family! If anyone had asked, I had advised gift cards, because Jairus loves to carry around cards of all kinds. He got gifts cards plus much more!
My father in law, making a point to his sister and her husband, Anne and Don
We were so tickled when he finished, and my mom suggested he stand up and thank everyone. He jumped to his feet and in a big voice that everyone heard, did just that.
The whole afternoon was really wonderful, and I loved how so much of our family came out to be a part of Jairus' celebration. The kids were really tickled to meet 'cousins they didn't even know'!
The last few years, as Jairus has drawn closer to adolescence, I've worried. I'm a mom, of course I've worried. As his speech development stagnated....as his academics faltered...as I began to realize that our home might always be Jairus' home, I've worried. And I've asked God, what is your plan for him? And this is where that pesky trust comes in.
9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned,this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”The second song in the slideshow was not just chosen because it's a current house fav, that gets us all singing and dancing around the joint. I realized that it said exactly what I'm hoping and trusting in for my son.
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
I know it's never really been mine
So do with it whatever You like
I don't know what Your plan is
But I know it's good, yeah
I wanna tell You now that I believe in
I wanna tell You now that I believe in
In You, so do what You do, oh
I'm an empty page
I'm an open book
Write Your story on my heart
Come on and make Your mark
Author of my hope
Maker of the stars
Let me be Your work of art
Won't You write Your story on my heart?