Today's a significant day for me because it's Devon's 22 birthday. Devon is my oldest son. Today I'm thinking about how much I love him, and how grateful I am to God that He blessed me with Devon for a son.
I've messed up more times than I care to think about, both as a person, and as a mother. But here I have this absolutely incredible son - it is truly a testament to the grace, mercy, and greatness of God.
I want to tell you about some of the things God has taught me through Devon:
That our relationship with God is real and it's good to share about it with others so they can come to know Jesus too.
I believe that faith is one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to our children. I know that some acquaintances of mine would disagree, that they see raising your child in church as pushing religion on them. But I think it's giving your children a great big step up, if they choose to accept it. Devon never doubted that God was real, because from the time he was born he was hearing about the wonderful creator of the universe. But I distinctly remember the change in Devon after the night he realized that he had to act upon the truth that God loved him and sent Jesus to die on the cross in his place, that he personally had to ask Jesus into his heart as his savior and to make him the Lord of his life and choose to live following after him. Even though Devon was only 6 years old at the time, I can still remember him coming home from a program called AWANAs at church excited about the fact that God loved him and had saved him from hell. Right away Devon started telling all the other kids in the neighborhood about Jesus and how He loved them too and that they could accept Jesus into their hearts too. Even though he was so young, he understood that the good news of Jesus is meant to be shared.
That love doesn't keep score of the sins of others and when your friend messes up, you still love him and do not talk about his mistakes or misdeeds.
I didn't have a lot of money when my sons were little so we never did the Birthdays at Chuckie Cheese's or bounce-a-lots at our home; but we did have simple little birthday parties. The year Devon turned 9 he became a "big boy" so his party could include a sleep over where they enjoyed pizza and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. There was one young man who was a friend of Devon's from both school and the YMCA where Devon went for summer programs while I worked. I noticed that this young man lived with his grandmother who obviously loved him dearly, but alluded to difficulties with him at school. Once, when I questioned Devon about what it was that this young man did to have so much trouble at school, Devon looked grave and sad and said "I don't want to talk about it". Devon showed me that when you love someone, you don't want to go around broadcasting their problems.
That if you really want something, you do what it takes to obtain it, even if it's inconvenient and difficult.
From the beginning of High School there were three things Devon wanted - to participate in the PACE program at Poly High in Long Beach California, to be actively involved in Jr ROTC at Poly, and to go to U.S.M.A. West Point after he completed high school. Because he was accepted into PACE, it was fine with the school that we technically lived out of district, but there was not a school bus to the area where we lived. Because of my job schedule, I was not able to take Devon to school and only rarely was able to pick him up following his school day. So Devon took the public bus, including transfers, to and from school every day - a trip that lasted a bit over an hour in each direction. PACE is an extremely demanding academic program that requires a lot of work. Some days Devon would leave for school around 6:30AM and not get home until around 6:30PM because he had Jr ROTC things he was doing after school (typically drill team practice). He'd be so exhausted that he'd eat dinner and go to bed by 7PM. But he'd set his alarm for 2AM so he could get up and do his homework and be prepared for school that day. He pushed and pushed and pushed to obtain the appointment of our local congress woman when he was applying to West Point. After being blown off numerous times, when he received an acceptance letter from West Point pending his congressional appointment, he was finally able to obtain a meeting via one of her assistants and, when she saw that he was already accepted but still required someone to appoint him, he finally got the appointment. All along he did what it took to reach his goals, he kept pushing himself, and it is to his credit that on May 22 of this year he will be graduating from U.S.M.A. West Point. When people ask me if I'm proud, I tell them that I respect him. It seems to me that being proud would somehow indicate that I had something to do with all of this; but it is Devon who did what it took to achieve what he wanted.
That God always provides.
Since I managed to mess up big time when it came to significant relationships with the men in my life, Devon did not have a father who was actively involved in his life. But God brought him not one, but two, incredible men with hearts after God's own, who invested into Devon. They were Mr. Welty and First Sargent.
Mr. Welty was a man's man, a guy who used power tools and who let the boys in his life learn to use them too. Mr. Welty once told me, that outside of the Bible and books that the pastor highly recommended, that he didn't read, that he didn't like reading. Mr. Welty was a plumber, he's been married for more than 40 years and still grows and cuts his wife roses and puts them in the hand vase that is displaying the ASL "I love you" sign, he owns a lovely home, and is an incredible role model. He sincerely loved and cared about Devon, spent time with him. I'll never forget when Mr. Welty asked Devon about his plans for after high school and Devon told him about how he wanted to go to West Point. Mr. Welty said what a great goal that was but what was his back up plan; to which Devon only blankly looked at him, West Point was all that Devon wanted. The day that we were BBQing and hanging out with Mr. Welty and his family and friends in his backyard, and Devon told him that he was going to go to West Point, Mr. Welty was as happy as I'd been upon hearing the news; he'd literally danced about the back yard. He posted the good news in every written communication that our church had.
First Sargent was Devon's high school Jr ROTC instructor. Poly High is in a bad part of Long Beach California, what some might call the ghetto. Many of the young people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods are faced with making the choice of if they will affiliate with the local gangs. Quite a few of the young people who participated in Jr ROTC were those who were trying to stay out of gangs, or who had messed up and now they had to be involved with Jr ROTC as part of their court requirements. First Sargent loved these young people, he and his wife spent hours and hours with them. He especially invested in Devon and taught him how to lead, how to make life work on a practical level, how to be a man of his word. First Sargent helped Devon dream dreams for his future.
That you've got to do first things first.
Just the other day Devon emailed me and mentioned that life was hectic and busy. But that, prior to morning formation, he always takes time to read the Bible some and reflect a bit.
So, today, on Devon's Birthday I want to thank God for the wonderful son He's given me and all He's taught me through Devon.
What about you, what are some of the things God's taught you through either your own, or someone else's children that are in your life?
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