28 March 2013

Updating ! What's up with these kids of ours: Brendan

Ok, I'm gonna start off right up front and tell you that I'm totally biased and cannot think objectively about this boy. He's a good one and I'm so excited for the doors God is opening in his life and the future he has before him.

God has done a really good job raising this kid, many times in spite of his parents. And although I'm so totally not objective, I KNOW I'm not the only one who thinks that. I've been told too many times, now, for it to be a total fluke.

On June 6, 2013, Lord willing, he'll receive his high school diploma and then be headed off into a brave new-to-him world. Just a few days after graduation, our family boards a plane to Scotland for about a week of vacation. Then we climb back on a plane, hop back over to the American side of that big water, sleep a bit and do bunches of laundry before squeezing into a van (that we've yet to purchase) to drive cross country for our niece's wedding. We hope to visit the Grand Canyon on our way out there!

After that? Hopefully our schedule will relax as we meander our way back to Michigan, trying to stop and visit a few sites along the way and also enjoying our time together as a family.

Lots of folks have asked about Brendan's plans for next year. He has been accepted at Messiah College, Toccoa Falls and Michigan State University. He is proceeding with plans to attend Messiah, study Environmental Science and then see where God leads from there.  It doesn't seem like that many years since Tim and I were making our own plans to begin our university studies. Hardly seems long enough that our son now is... but as we talk and listen to him, it calms our hearts to know that he is ready, even when he fears that he's not.

The rest of us? Well, I'm beginning to see that it just might be a harder transition on the family as a whole than it is on Brendan himself. He recently was gone for a week, spending time and doing all sorts of neat activities with his classmates. Before he came back, Jonathan was badgering us incessantly as to when he'd return, Elsie Mae was in tears asking for him and Rebekah was posting on Facebook about how he was no longer permitted to leave for college. His presence around our family is never taken for granted - and not just because he dumps the trash and takes out the compost.

Brendan is one of those steady, reliable kids. He's patient (most of the time) with his siblings, he's obedient (most of the time... except when he decides to work on his time table instead of the family's) doing what he's been asked to do and doing it well, he's calm and self-disciplined (except for when he's got a new computer game or he's screaming like a girl to make the rest of us laugh); he just tends to be consistently consistent.

He's not afraid of hard work - even if it isn't in the top 5 on his favorite list. He's great to jump right in when there's a job to be done- particularly when he knows it is his responsibility, and complete it in a timely manner and with a positive attitude. That's the case even when there's something else he'd rather do.

He has an air of maturity about him that not many 17 year old guys have. Talking with him, even when I think he's full of hot air, I'm still almost always impressed with his thoughtful reasoning, carefully chosen words and most-of-the-time humility. As I told one of my friends the other day, it really isn't scary to think about him heading off to school next year because I know he is ready and I believe he wants to follow the Lord, do right and be the best he can be. Thus, it makes it easy to celebrate this milestone with him. It doesn't, however, make it any easier to imagine next year without having to chase him out of the bathroom so we can make it to school on time most mornings. I'm going to miss him. A lot.

One of the things I love most about Brendan is his smile. (I also love that his favorite color is green, just as it is mine, but that is a really superficial and inconsequential thing to love about someone!) Most of the time, when you look at this guy, he looks happy... content... at peace... calm... or even bemused by something known only to him. I love that he finds his siblings entertaining and fun to be around. I wasn't that kind of older sibling when I was his age, so I'm thinking he picked up that characteristic from his dad. We often joke and say that Brendan inherited the best traits of each of us: he has my drive to be the best he can be without being so competitive; he has his daddy's skills with people and gentle spirit, generally without becoming complacent.

He's a mostly good student; my only complaint is that he likes to procrastinate and put things off until the last minute, barely pulling through when the pressure is on. He's convinced he works better that way and I have little space to discuss this issue and encourage him to do differently for I often do the same myself. I love that he loves to learn and that he is a self-motivated, probably forever student. That's why he's taught himself some Irish, how to play the recorder and several different types of folk flutes, lots about archery and falconry and is an aficionado of all things about the medieval British Isles. 

He's enjoyed volunteering at a local orphanage for the last many years as we've been in Niger... in fact, I think he's been going since he was old enough to start accompanying the group that goes every week. He seems to thoroughly enjoy the kids and they seem to appreciate him as well. I love to hear him rattling away in French with them. I know the leaders of that group depend on his French skills to communicate with the folks at the orphanage.

I also know he hasn't enjoyed teaching Sunday School at our church nearly as much - not that he didn't like the kids. He clearly felt the weight of the responsibility to teach others about Jesus, and he wanted to do the best he could. He impressed me week after week with the efforts he put into preparation. Our pastor's wife was very appreciative of his consistent faithfulness and continual effort to make sure each one of those kids had the opportunity to hear about Jesus and His love for them.

Sahel Academy has changed a lot in the years that Brendan has been a student. In the pictures below, you can see most of his graduating class: a few students are not present and a few others have moved away since that photo was taken, but his class represents students from several different home countries, cultures, backgrounds and religions. It has been neat to see them come together as a class this year and work through some really huge hurdles. They've had to fight together to make their senior year something special and they have succeeded. Brendan genuinely cares about and appreciated each one of this great group of kids.

He reads about like he breathes - and the genre changes depending on his mood. But his favorites tend to be historical fiction or fantasy. In fact, it is hard to imagine him without a book (or three or five) in hand. He loves the fact that the school librarian has him preread new books to determine their appropriateness and rating. I think she appreciates his voracious reading habits and his level-headed evaluations of the different tomes he reads.

He adores games of strategy: chess, card games like spades and rook, Risk, Diplomacy, etc. Even as I type, he's in the midst of a game out in the living room with some of his buddies from school. He does have a hard time saying no - to others as well as to himself. When something seem like it would be fun, he'll try and figure out a way to squeeze it into his life, even if there are earlier obligations, better priorities or more appropriate ways to spend his time.

Brendan loves to be outside, mucking around down by the river, climbing trees, harassing the animals, playing softball or volleyball, canoeing, sliding down enormous sand dunes or just sitting around a campfire talking and enjoying the amazing stars. He finds our cats amusing; entertained by their cat-likeness and unique personalities. He makes a pretty mean dog food (just ask Butterscotch and Beethoven) and a pretty awesome beef stroganoff (just ask the two legged members of his family). His pie crusts are phenomenal and perhaps even more remarkable? He can bake bread, without any help from his mom or Nadia!


He takes his responsibility as a role model and a big brother seriously. He wants to be a good friend. He sometimes talks about his struggles to remain a friend to those who've moved away or to those he's left behind when he's moved: it is so much easier for him to live in the moment with the people who are right there. They say that is often a characteristic of TCKs. I know that is one area where he hopes to see himself improve... to learn how to keep investing in at least a few of those friends, even if they aren't right there and able to hang out as often.

He's a talker, debater, discusser... I know because we've spent many a late night engaged in those sorts of conversations. He isn't afraid to ask hard questions and he wants to know why people tick... why they do and think the way they do. He, himself, has strong opinions, usually well founded and well developed, regarding what is right and what is wrong and he isn't afraid to defend his position. Yet he shows remarkable sensitivity and maturity in so doing. He is equally passionate about his need to do so graciously and respectfully, trying not to needlessly offend or hurt another person by careless or insensitive words in the process.

There are so many things I appreciate about this guy. Perhaps one of the things I love the most is how willing he is to accept and include people who challenge him... even who frighten him a little... with their differing ideas. He is fiercely loyal - continually encouraging me by his example to think the best of people and to continue thinking the best until I find out beyond any shadow of a doubt that something less than the best is the truth. Even then, he remains lovingly loyal to his friends, while attempting to not compromise what he knows to be right for the sake of that friendship. He's not only willing to ask some hard questions of himself, he's willing to gently ask the hard questions of the people he loves and cares for. He is always reminding me to examine my motives.

It really is pretty cool to gaze across the room and watch this boy that was once a babe in my arms and know that he's becoming a young man of God, worthy of my admiration, respect and confidence. I don't think he's perfect. In fact, I know he's going to make mistakes and probably blow it pretty majorly at times. But I do trust the One he has asked to be the Master of his life to walk with him and his parents (and eventually his other significant others) through those difficult moments... and that the man who emerges on the other side will be even more like his Lord...

Some ideas of how you can pray for wonderful young man ~ 
  1. Pray he makes wise decisions regarding time investments and priorities over the next several months and as he transitions into college. And don't stop praying after the worst of that transition is behind him... My most challenging years at school were my 2nd and 3rd...
  2. Pray that he learns to embrace the strengths of what makes him TCK-unique while seeing the weaknesses and tendencies that impede his forward progress. He wants to understand himself. Pray that God gives him that knowledge.
  3. Pray for diligence and focus this last marking period as he finishes up two on line courses, applies for scholarships and financial aid, and prepares to graduate.
  4. Pray that our trip to Scotland will be as much fun for him as he hopes it will be - that it really will be an amazing opportunity and a dream come true.
  5. Pray that he is able to sustain those important friendships as he leaves the African continent, and that he is able to renew special ones he's already established back in the States.
  6. Pray for godly influences in his life: other men and women, wiser and older who can come alongside his daddy and mama and help him truly grow into a mighty but humble servant of God, followers of Jesus who model for him what it means to live in the freedom of grace and to truly love others the way that God would have him to love.
  7. Pray for guidance, wisdom and liberty to talk and share his heart with us, his parents, as he continues to make life-impacting decisions and transitions into a new and exciting season of his life. We want to continually know better our precious gift from God. We want to disciple him well...


  1. I've loved reading your reflections on your kids, Richelle. Each one so special and unique! You really do have an amazing bunch...I'm glad I got to know the older ones a little bit better through volleyball. Praying for each of you as you make this transition!

    1. Thanks for those prayers, Beth! Linda Kelley has been an amazing 2nd grade teacher this year at Sahel - but I'll always be sad Jonathan couldn't have also been in your class!

  2. I would have loved to have had him! Can't believe I really didn't teach a one of your children...only Jonathan for writing. :) I was also going to say that I didn't realize Brendan was considering Toccoa Falls College or I would have talked it up. ;)

    1. the only negatives as far as Toccoa - no environmental science major, which is what he wants to study... and a bit far from michigan. however, we do have lots of friends in that area, so i wouldn't have fussed to much about the drive. :-) if we'd stayed this next year (we thought about it) you would have had elsie mae. :-)


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