Nathanael had so many special birthday celebrations this year - one with Grandpa and Grandma, one with Opa and Oma, and one on his actual birthday in Boston at Legoland and with the Cioffis! Here are my favorite photos from all the celebrations.
Happy Birthday, son! We love celebrating you and the gift of God that you are!
It amazes us each year how much you grow and mature. This year has been no exception! Some things have not changed though. You are still an incredibly active, animated, loud, exuberant, passionate, talkative, sensitive, inquisitive kid who loves people, loves God, loves stories, and loves the outdoors. Legos and trains and cars are still at the top of your toy list, with puzzles, games, and drawing now joining your list of favorites, and you continue to enjoy singing and making up songs. (You've begun making up your own songs to sing to Jesus when you're on the toilet or first thing in the morning after you wake up!) Chapter books have been a huge hit this year; we are amazed at how long you can sit still, and we enjoy watching your face animate as you imagine the stories you are hearing. You enjoy making up stories with as many random toys pulled together as possible when you play. You love to explore nature, and you and Dad have gone hiking quite a few times this past year, just the two of you together. You've also really taken to bike-riding and have gone on many rides with Dad or with the entire family.
It's been fun watching your understanding of friendship increase this year. You have really made some great friends in Kindergarten and through church, and it's been quite difficult for you to be away from them while we're in the States for a few months. You like to try and write them notes sometimes, having us spell out words you want to write. We love that you have a "Friendship book" which all of your closest friends in Vienna have signed, complete with pictures and favorites and photos. What a special gift for these months away from them! Your Kindergarten class even made a video for you and emailed it to us to tell you Happy Birthday! You are a loved kid, Nathanael. You are a good friend.
One of your greatest evident growths spiritually has been your heart for your friends. You often ask us when we meet new people if they know God. Sometimes you even ask them! You love praying for your friends every morning and sometimes you like to simply talk to us about how much you want your friends to know Jesus. You even chose to gift one of your best friends with a Bible in German this last year for his birthday, and you often ask with concern if we think he is reading it and learning about Jesus. When we hosted Syrian refugees in the fall, you were concerned not only about their physical needs but about their hearts as well. You seem to know in part that the most important thing in life is our relationship with God. We pray this understanding will only grow and deepen each year of your life.
Included in your love of friends and your heart for people to know Jesus is your sister. You pray for her each morning as well. You say that she is your best friend on weekends and sometimes on other days as well! She began Kindergarten with you this last summer, and you were so proud of her and helpful as she learned and adjusted. You are a caring, kind, protective, sweet brother (most of the time). And the amount of laughter that the two of you share is amazing! Your joy in life is contagious, and we love how it has rubbed off on your sister. Eva recently began asking "why" a ton, and we laughed when you finally answered her saying "just because, Eva!"
In the Fall, you were able to visit your future elementary school, and you interviewed in January and were accepted to begin in September! You loved the bilingual aspect, but you were a bit concerned at first that they didn't speak your third language (Turkish)! During our summer trip to Turkey last year, you were picking up quite a bit more Turkish, counting from one to ten, speaking pleasantries with the waiters and hotel staff, and you often ordered simit for us at our neighborhood bakery in Vienna. We love that you are showing great interest in the Turkish people and language, something that you know is dear to our hearts as well. You have only blossomed more in terms of your comfort in German, and Kindergarten has also brought with it some maturity in your social skills as a leader, learning more about being inclusive and considerate with others when leading.
This year has been a year of many big adjustments. You love predictability, so we weren't sure how you'd handle it all, but you have really shown your ability to adapt and be flexible when truly needed. We've talked often about the things we like and don't like about new situations, and you seem to be processing the changes quite well. In addition to the trans-atlantic travels and lots of extra special time with both sets of grandparents and your aunt and uncle here in the States, we made it to London twice last year to visit your new cousin and his parents. We love having having family with us on the European continent!
As we enter another year of your life, we know it will have it's share of difficulties and struggles in addition to the exciting pieces, but we trust that God will continue to teach you how to navigate life in such a way that honors him, that shows others love, and that is about living in the abundant life only found in Jesus.
We love you immensely, Nathanael. Happy Birthday, sweet boy!