Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Friday, November 9, 2012

A 16th birthday

October completely zipped by me.  With birthdays, cookie making, and fall sports, I think I missed most of the rest of the month's happenings.  It is partly my fault as I seemed to be especially good at producing October birthdays; 3 of our 7 children celebrate their birthdays during October.  Two of the three children have birthdays on the exact same day as well - four years apart.  And there's also my mom, brother, and me who have birthdays in this month.

We also have this birthday tradition in our family of only having birthday parties every four years.  For the most part it helps to cut down on planning, cost, and excess "stuff."  However, when the three October birthday children are all four years apart in age, that means that my little plan kind of backfires.  Within one week, we celebrated 8 years old, 12 years old, and that all-important 16.  We had a cake decorating party, an outdoor games party, and a dodgeball party.  And (maybe more importantly to each of the kdis) in just seven short days, one child moved out of the car seat, another moved to shotgun and the third (take a deep breath) moved to the driver's seat.

The downside to all of these wonderful birthdays was that their very presence meant that I didn't have time to blog and acknowledge them here.  I love each of my children and enjoy writing about them, particularly blessing them on their birthdays.  Sorry, kids, better luck next year.

But I will take some time to rewind and catch up.  I'm actually going to start with the last of the three October birthdays, Jesse.  Just this week we finally celebrated his 16 year old rite of passage celebration.  As some of you may know and remember, we celebrate several milestones in a more meaningful way than just your typical birthday party.  At age 13 we have a weekend away, at age 16 we have a night of blessing, and at high school graduation there will be another occasion to pass the torch.

In short, at age 16, the child is surrounded by same-sex mentors and leaders, people who have had influence in that child's life in some way.  A few of these adults know the child on a deeper level while others don't know them as well.  However, all of the adults come prepared to speak encouragement and blessing to the child on the occasion of turning 16.  They also speak to Christian manhood (or womanhood, we just haven't had a 16 year old female in the family yet) and help to usher the child from childhood to manhood.  I can't speak from personal experience because I'm not invited, and so far my only role has been as preparer of the food, but from the feedback that comes from the three generations related to me, I can't wait to celebrate this with my daughter in a year and a half.

I also enjoy reading what each person has written down for the birthday child.  Here are some of the words Jesse received that special night:

"As you have turned 16, that magical time when new opportunities and new responsibilities begin to shape not only our schedules, but our attitudes and values,  you are encouraged to step up to be a man, but I'll take it a step further.  Step up and be the man of God that He created you to be, a man after God's heart.  A man with a heart like King David.  He wasn't perfect, but his heart always ended up seeking God and His will above his own."

"I like looking at the meaning of people's names.  Jesse was an interesting name to research, because I found several different meanings, depending on the source.  It was interpreted as 'God's gift' by some, and 'God exists' by others.  I like the latter one, in the sense that it implies your entire life is meant to testify to the existence and the presence of almighty God.  What a life goal, to live out your name!  Oh, one final source, a site devoted to Hebrew names suggested that Jesse, during at least one period of history, may also have been used colloquially to mean 'The Man' like our current expression 'you da man'.  How fitting for you tonight, as we celebrate you - 'the man' - becoming a man."

"Based on my beliefs, Jesse, you have been a man for quite some time.  You have a maturity that unfortunately is hard to find in people your age.  You feel great content in your gifts and abilities that God has given you...You have that aura about you that people naturally gravitate towards, because they know that it is people like you in whom they can instill their trust and friendship.  You do not delight in material possessions, but instead you would much rather invest time and effort in developing relationships with others...I do encourage you...to seek in discovering and perfecting the wonderful abilities that God has given you.  Rejoice in and embrace the friendships you have made and the relationships that are still yet to come.  And above all else, continue to serve and love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  As Colossians 3:23 - 24 says, 'Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.'"

"One thing I have learned, even when I'm not sure of God's exact direction for me, is that there is no excuse for straying from God's will: He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8  Praying that you always seek God's guidance as you act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

"You have been given a gift of joy.  You bring joy to people's lives, you have sincerity that draws people towards you.  I pray that you follow the paths God has for you.  You are a man of God.  You have followers.  You are a leader.  You will inspire.  You will be a supporter.  You will perform.  God also brought this to me for you to know:  The path will be difficult, but you will endure.  The presure will be stressful, but you will endure.  You will feel overwhelmed and lost at times, but He will set your paths straight."

"You have demonstrated thus far your desire to follow JESUS and to WALK in HIS ways.  My prayer for you is that you will continue to follow JESUS daily and be led by the powerful WORD of GOD, the BIBLE.  We may read books, but the WORD of GOD is our 'initial point', the fixed reference point.  John Wesley read widely, but he always referred to himself as 'a man of one book'.  nothing can compare to the BOOK of BOOKS, the WORD of GOD.  We are on the right path when we allow the BIBLE to be our guide in all of life and continue to follow this passage in 1 Timothy 4:12, which says, 'Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers (and I would add non-believers also) in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.'"

"God has given you an awesome personality and so many gifts.  I have loved seeing you exercise and grow in the gifts that you have been given.  1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) says, 'Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.'  Jesse, I encourage you to continue to find ways to grow in your gifts and use them for the kingdom of God.  Your outgoing and fun personality has impacted many people already and will continue to bring joy and laughter to those around you.  Never apologize for being you!  God has made you uniquely and with an incredible purpose.  You have a gentle heart for others, especially for those younger than you.  I believe that God is going to continually use your personality to impact all kinds of people."

Be blessed, Jesse, as you grow more and more into the man that God has intended for you to be.


Jesse, surrounded by two men who love him dearly, "PopPop" whose name is Jesse's middle name and Dad.

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