Saturday, January 22, 2011

Birthday Celebrations ... and Unconditional Love

Today is Duane’s 28th birthday, and I’ve been thinking about his birthday celebrations over the years.  Our family always celebrated our boys' birthdays with parties every year.

When he was little, we had birthday parties at home and had his little friends come to play and enjoy cake and ice cream. Just look at those adorable faces!

When he got older, we gathered all the friends at a place like “Fun & Games” in Honesdale to eat pizza, play miniature golf and all the other games of skill and luck that kids enjoy. That’s where his 13th birthday party was.  Looks like this was an all-guy party.  Check out that hat Duane is wearing!

By the time we were celebrating his 16th birthday, his favorite place to eat was Red Lobster, so that’s where we decided to go that year.

Duane always loved “pushing the envelope.” You know, he liked to explore his boundaries and see just how far he could go. He was very creative in the ways he did it. That should have never surprised me; after all, he was just born naturally creative!

I don’t remember how old he was when he started wanting to wear black nail polish. I thought that was just horrible. Evil. Nasty. Yuck. Demonic, even! (I’ve come a long way, Baby! I even wear it on occasion myself.) I would forbid him to leave the house “like that,” and he would obediently remove it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he borrowed some from a friend after he got away from the house, though.

He wanted to die his hair pink. I said No, but I let him go blonde. In fact, I was probably the one who colored it for him. I actually liked the way it looked.

He wanted body piercings. He wasn’t the first of our sons to want his ears pierced, and I had come to the point where I realized this was just the fashion, so that was okay. But when he expressed the desire to have his tongue pierced, I said something like, “Over my dead body!” His father’s reaction would probably have been even more expressive.

So, his 16th birthday came and we went to celebrate at Red Lobster. Mike and I were sitting on one side of the table, and Duane (now blonde) and his friend were on the other side. At some point about mid-way through the meal, Duane was talking, and I noticed something shiny in the middle of his tongue. I was furious! But what could I do?? There we were, enjoying a lobster dinner, celebrating his birthday. I couldn’t very well throw a “Mama hissy fit!” But I think I did utter something like, “What is that on your tongue?” through my teeth, while maintaining a look of civility on my face. I’m not sure how the rest of dinner went, or how long it took me to cool off, but I don’t think it was too long. After all, when a two or three-year-old is willfully disobedient, you can spank their butt or give them time out, but when the child is 16 and working, making his own money, what are you supposed to do? By that age, you have taught them just about all you can teach them; by the age of seven, their personalities and wills are pretty much shaped. As they have grown older, you have been giving them more and more responsibility, hopefully getting them ready to go on their own, and Duane was close to that point by the time he was 16. I might have grounded him from doing something, but he would always do his very best to talk me out of it, sometimes successfully.

No matter what our kids did that was against our rules or wishes, and despite the fact that we had to try to administer age-appropriate discipline, we always loved them unconditionally. When the discipline was over, we would continue to do our utmost to meet their needs, and their wants too. There was nothing they could have done wrong that would have made us love them less. And there was no way they could have performed to make us love them more.  We were not perfect parents; we made mistakes.  So I don’t know if we always did a good job of letting them know how much we loved them, but we did.

God is our Heavenly Father, and He is perfect.  Although He disciplines us when we “push the envelope,” or downright break the rules, His love is unconditional. Sometimes we have the idea that God is angry and is just watching for us to do something wrong. Some people think that His discipline includes giving us sickness or causing bad things to happen. God is love, and love does not do that. If Mike and I had the ability, would we have caused something bad to happen to our sons when they disobeyed? Of course not!

If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?  Matthew 7:9-11, The Message

God’s discipline often consists simply of allowing us to reap the consequences of our actions. For instance, God says we are to love people. If we are trying to follow Him, we will have a guilty conscience when we’ve been unkind to someone. Then we have to apologize, and that hurts our pride. He says we are to obey the laws of the land. So, we might get a speeding ticket when our lead foot gets the best of us. We have to pay the fine and there goes some money that could have been spent on something we wanted. He wants us to take care of our bodies, and bad food choices can result in poor health. We learn by our mistakes and grow in maturity and obedience, just as our children did.

But no matter what we do or don’t do, God loves us outrageously, extravagantly, unconditionally, and that will never change.

How would our lives change if we really believed that?

God told them, "I've never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!”
Jeremiah 31:3, The Message

I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead,
angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low,
thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Romans 8:39, The Message


  1. Absolutely wonderful Sis!!! Very touching and very teaching in that we who are forgiven must follow in our Father's footsteps with unconditional love. You outdid yourself this time. May I suggest that these blogs of your memories of Duane someday are transferred into a devotional book? Happy Birthday Duane, your Momma just gave you an awesome birthday gift! Love you always. Until then, Aunt Sally

  2. Beautifully said and shared, Donna! Happy Birthday Duane! You were a gift to us all! And thank you for sharing that gift, Donna...much love, Sue and Dennis

  3. This I love,made me laugh,but mostly made me feel and remember the mom Duane always knew he could count on and her beautiful faith that makes her such a joy to know,and her son such a delight to have in my life. Happy Birthday Duane and really nice work Donna,not only in being the mom of a wonderful person,but in keeping all our eyes on the beauty you have inside you.

  4. SOOO timely for me, Donna, as I try my best to help guide my daughter, now a mom herself, through the difficult teenage years of her own son.
    Our Jordan, who will be seventeen in two months, is certainly "pushing the envelope" in every respect, and since there's no dad present in the house, I find myself on my knees often, interceding on my daughter's behalf!
    It's always good to hear another's perspective, especially a Godly one - your blog has timeless appeal, Donna - I'm sure Duane would like that!!!