Next month our eldest son James will graduate from Newman International Academy (a faith-based charter high school in Texas), which will include credits earned this senior year abroad at Rain Forest International School in Yaounde, Cameroon. He has accepted a full-tuition award at UT (the University of Texas at Austin) to begin his studies in higher mathematics – a passion of his for several years now. We are your typical bursting-with-pride parents of the Class of 2020.
And yet, there is nothing typical about this. Given COVID-19, we may never sit in the stands to celebrate the diploma itself, but if we have the opportunity, I will be the bawling one in the back hiding behind sunglasses. James’ arrival in this world is a story of redemption and restoration (for another post), so it is fitting that his journey continued the theme. I will be the one to cry for my own loss of sharing daily life with him, but more than that I will cry tears of joy and gratitude for all that God has done to raise James over 18 moves in 5 countries.
Through the years of blogging, many of you have read along with our health journey taking care of James. I count it an immense, unspeakable privilege to be James’ Mom, but to say it was simple, easy or straightforward would be lying. I’m sure most parents feel in hindsight that parenting was more challenging and rewarding than they expected. With the added complexities of parenting through special needs, giftedness and traveling on mission across cultures and languages, it was different than most. The hardest, best task I’ve ever attempted.
Any parent of a smarty-pants kid understands the pressure and strain to help them run free with their gifts balanced with slowing them down long enough to bring all the tools they need into adulthood. Developing a strong work ethic in a kid who doesn’t have to work hard in school can be a challenge. Somewhere in the middle it occurred to us that all the eternal things we wanted to instill in our son were not found in academics. What mattered most to us was the character of the man we were raising. With fear and trembling, step by step, the Lord has walked this road with us and developed an amazing godly young man in James.
He was inquisitive, bright and friendly early on, loving his little friends in our Cameroonian village. He spoke in 2-3 different languages at different points. He was adding and subtracting numbers about the time he began speaking. He wanted to give away his shoes at age 6 to a Kenyan boy who was barefoot at church. And for several years after the above picture was taken, we lost him to regression. He was struggling behind a foggy veil of illness. He had a long list of labels, each one leading us to new doctors and therapists. God took us back to our home in Congo, a place without any specialists or therapists, one of the most sickly places on earth (ebola? malaria?) and there He healed James. An unlikely restoration. On the GAPS healing protocol for 18 months, our inquisitive, friendly son re-emerged.
And his healing continued over the next couple years. The kid who once was told he could not catch a ball with two hands, was playing on the high school baseball team and catching fly balls. The kid who once was told he may not live independently, went off to summer camp and a college internship. The kid who refused to be touched, asked for hugs. The kid who had no relationship with his siblings developed a strong leadership and care for them (not everyday!). The kid with the photographic memory of Old Testament books, began to seek a personal relationship with God and found peace he desperately needed.
It is no coincidence that 22 is my favorite number, that James was born in 2002, that he graduates in 2020 as a person who loves numbers. So celebrate with us, all you friends and family far and wide! James graduates high school a year early with a 4.2 GPA, 7 AP classes and 1 college class under his belt, National Merit Commended Scholar, a Duke TiP Scholar, with a 35 ACT score, a perfect 800 on his SAT Math II, Top 5% of his class, after winning Chess Championships and many math/science competitions, with a full-tuition award to an amazing university…
But weep tears of gratitude with us too, in worship that God has worked redemption and restoration in James’ heart, soul and body, preparing him for good works to come!
God still moves mountains.
God still accomplishes the impossible.
He still sets the captives free.
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” -Psalm 139:9-10 NIV