Well.  One thing’s for certain: your twelfth year of life will go down as one of the more eventful years of your life thus far.  One year ago today, we were all still reeling from our move to Malawi just a week and change earlier.  We didn’t know what the year would look like.  We didn’t know how you guys would adjust.  You didn’t have one single friend here, and it was only your second day of school in Africa for crying out loud.  I remember wandering around every last grocery store here scoping out ingredients to carry out your only two birthday requests: stromboli and dirt cake.  I didn’t know how to cook here, but I’LL TELL YOU WHAT. Nothing’s gonna put fire under the tail of a culture-shocked mama like a desire to make her equally-culture-shocked son’s first birthday overseas special.  And it was.  Ish.

But this year, Carson.  THIS YEAR.  As you spend the afternoon with your crew of ride-or-die buddies… as you eat the dirt cake that’s not drenched in the tears of your mother who just couldn’t figure out how in the ever loving world TO COOK IN AFRICA (okay, maybe a bit dramatic but JUST A BIT)… as you go about your day with so much more of a sense of belonging than a sense of “where the heck AM I?”… I think we can all agree that we have way more to celebrate than just a birthday. 

Moving to Malawi, you- of all the kids- worried me the most.  Everyone warned us that an international move for a kid your age could be touch and go.  Some insinuated that it was irresponsible.  However you- of all the kids- have also come to surprise me the most through it all.  Because I’ve watched you thrive.  And, yes, I’ve also watched you have bad days and sometimes talk back to teachers and annoy the mess out of your sisters… BUT HELLO MIDDLE SCHOOL.  Some things span all cultures.  But mostly?  You’ve run with it.  Your friendships are strong.  Your passions run deep.  And your faith is growing in all kinds of ways. 

You’ve been super consistent in naming school as your favorite part of living here in Malawi which is zero surprise to me.  It’s given you a soft place to land and a whole slew of other kinda-awkward middle school boys to wander around and talk about Minecraft with.  When not talking about, thinking about, reading about, watching apparently SO VERY FUNNY YouTube videos about video games, you can be found doing dangerous stunts on your bike.  Or (dangerously) climbing things you probably shouldn’t climb.  Or playing with your Rubik’s Cube or Legos to give your poor mother a break from all of the danger and fear.

Hands down, my favorite thing about you these days are your prayers.  They are tender and raw and shout of a growing understanding of the faithfulness of your God.  Because you have seen some things this year.  You’ve walked through some hard.  And some really awesome. And everything in between.  And all of this- every bit of the good and bad- has given you a newfound ability to see and to KNOW that Jesus stays the same.  His goodness is not limited to the good days, and his love for you does not hang on our area code. If you take anything away from this past year, Carson, I pray that you’d remember that He’s got your back. He is for you. And this. does. not. change.

It’s a privilege to be your mom, Carson. Oh yeah. And sorry again for saying you “stunk like a middle school boy” yesterday. Come to find out, it wasn’t you. It was the goats outside. See? Africa’s tricky for me sometimes too.

Happy birthday, Carson!!