Today you turn nineteen years old and I can hardly believe it at all. I don't remember much about the day you were born except that I was at Gann and Papaw's while Mom was at the hospital. Actually, I'm trying to remember my first memory of you--they seem to jump straight from the baby pictures of you to when you were three or four. Remember when you cut your own bangs? I remember you used to crawl under the recliner part of the couch. And then the time we put on a play of Jack and the Beanstalk. I think one of my favorites will always be when we would lay on the living room floor with our hands and feet in the air, screaming and pretending to be the two kids in Jurassic Park when the dinosaur tries to eat them. We were so weird :) It seems not much has changed.
Nineteen years, and Josh, all I can say is that I am proud to be your sister and that I love you dearly. I think about you all the time over here, how you would love riding the metro and probably hate all the walking. I think you'd like the mountains, though, and I would take you. It has been seven or eight years now since we've lived together, even in the same city, and I suspect we'd be better at it now. But whether we ever will again, I don't know.
But there is something I know. Even if it is from across the globe, I will hear good news about your life. You have survived nineteen whole years--and I think in your case this word survive really applies--and the ones coming will be full to spilling over with hope and promise. You know how much God loves you and how much I do and it seems I can't write you without talking about it, but I want to tell you a little about who you were named after.
Joshua David. Joshua led the Israelites after Moses died. God said to Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you... Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua, meaning, 'to deliver/be liberated' or 'to be victorious.' You see?
And David. There's so much with him. When he was young he was anointed to be king, God said he would become king of Israel. And I don't know exactly how long it took, but he didn't actually become king until he was thirty. And in the meantime crazy King Saul tries to kill him and he ends up fleeing into the wilderness and living in caves. And oh goodness, there's so much more about when he does become king, what happens then. But you see that sometimes God's promises feel impossible, more like wishful thinking than something true, that sometimes a lot of junk has to happen first--but the promise is good, God is faithful. And he will be with you wherever you go.
It's finally Spring here in Bucuresti. It's been pretending to be and then changing its mind for a few months now, but it seems to really be here this time. I even got a little sunburned in the park today. Everyone is out and about on bikes these days, and I realized today just how many memories I have of us on bikes.
Remember in the mountains when you crashed down that gravel road? You couldn't have been more than four--your legs all tangled up in the bike. And then in Richlands when we'd ride down to that bridge and it turns out we were playing in snake nests, cotton mouths. Some metaphor. We never knew. And then Rumley Rd.--flying down the hills, to the gas station, down the path to the river. Just wild little kids running loose.
You know what I remember though? Despite everything and even in the midst of very different memories, this is the way I remember it: the two of us running barefoot across a field, night settling into the trees. Two thick-skinned kids laughing because it was good to be alive in that moment, shouting in the dark, the whole of heaven filling up above us. We made it good, Josh. And we will.
This is something I think about a lot, but if I could change how everything was for you, I would. You are teaching me in your letters, though. You look forward so easily, so much less prone than I am to holding on and thinking through things over and over again. You have taught me about letting go, forgiveness not seeing the object because perhaps it is not forever turned toward it. It's for this, among many other reasons, that I am so proud of you. And full of hope about what's already being worked in you, what's next.
Happy birthday, buddy.