Bless the Lord, Oh my soul,
Oh my soul, worship His Holy name.
Sing like never before, Oh my soul,
I’ll worship Your Holy name.
The sun comes up; it’s a new day dawning.
It’s time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
-10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman
My dearest Patton, that’s the song that was playing in a Baptist church in Mississippi on August 3, 2013. I was playing the role of the hysterical Matron of Honor quite nicely and was inconsolable despite the efforts of your grandfather and the two wedding coordinators. (You’ll soon gather that your aunt can be somewhat of an emotional roller coaster.) In those few minutes were it was just your grandfather and me standing in the church foyer with your mom, I could not stop crying. While she is older than me, (always remind her of that), I have always felt like the elder sister, and I could not believe she was old enough to walk down the aisle and get married. It was such a monumental milestone in her life, and any milestone that involves your mom leads to your crazy aunt’s emotional showcases. It sounds silly, but maybe you’ll understand one day with your own siblings. At any rate, I finally managed to quench the tears as I began my descent down the aisle, reached my spot, turned, and watched as Megan McKenzie traversed a church aisle where two would become one and where Megan McKenzie would start a new chapter as Megan Malley. I will never forget the joy of that day and that moment.
My dearest Patton, I am writing about this day and particular song because it has played a monumental part in my journey and relationship with you, even before you were born, even before I knew your name. My dearest Patton, the timing of your creation and arrival was perfect and God-breathed, but it was a timing that was not initially our own, one that we had to learn to patiently wait for, and one that we ceaselessly covered in prayers. The last three years, Jesus has been teaching me more about Himself, largely in waiting and praying for you; you see, my dearest Patton, you have already pointed your Aunt Shelby more towards Him. You are such a blessing, and you don’t even know it yet. Don’t worry, I will remind you.
I honestly could not recall and tell you the first time it was laid upon my heart, but one day, I heard the song again. I heard the song that guided your mom down the aisle, and in that moment, I knew it was a call to pray for you, and God’s plan and timing for you, each time I heard it. Waiting for you and being patient in that journey was not always an easy one; it was filled with tears, frustrations cried out in prayers, questioning, and wishing upon wishes that I could change circumstances far outside of my control. Yet, in the words of the song, Jesus reminded me that your mom had not traversed that church aisle alone. She was led by her Father, and not just her earthly father. Her walk down that aisle was guided and orchestrated by her Father, a good, good Father that loved her and had great plans for her life. Her walk down that church aisle was in His timing and for the glorification of His love for the Church. I could not walk that aisle with her. I had to walk before her and wait for her moment. Yet, she did not walk that church aisle alone; He had guided her into that new chapter of her life.
Likewise, in this journey towards meeting you, Jesus was speaking to me, through the song, that she was again being led by her Father and was not traversing that path alone. Her journey to meeting you was being guided and orchestrated by her Father, a good, good Father that loved her (and you) and had great plans for both of your lives. Her walk towards you would be in His timing and for the glorification of His kingdom. Most importantly, He was showing me that I could not walk the aisle with her; I could not change her circumstances. I had to reach my position where I would turn and wait on Him by trusting in His plan and resting in the truth that He was guiding her towards you.
Therefore, over the last couple of years, almost every time I heard that song, I would stop and immediately pray for you, for your arrival, and the insanely beautiful gift and blessing you would be in our lives. Whether I was sitting in a church pew as others sang around me or driving alone in my car on the way to work, each time I heard this special song, I prayed for you and leaned more into Him with each conversation. Through this season of life, I earnestly tried to practice and accept, “Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.”
My dearest Patton, I will never forget standing in my kitchen the night your mom and dad called to tell us that they were expecting you. Your uncle smiled and yelled congratulations in excitement. A rarity in your aunt’s life occurred; I couldn’t speak. I just stood there, tears streaming down my face, thanking God for 10,000 Reasons, for the gift of you. I continued to pray for you. I prayed that you would be healthy, for the plans that God had for your life, that you would seek and pursue Jesus and discover His love at an early age, that you would be a man among men, and mostly thanked Jesus for the invaluable blessing you would be in our lives and all that you would teach us.
Nine months went by quickly, and before we knew it, it was the few weeks leading up to your arrival. I was determined to be there the day you were born, to see you, hold you, and look into the eyes of one of the most cherished answered prayers and moldings from Christ in my twenty-six years of life so far. Obviously, a baby’s arrival is not perfectly scheduled, and I could not get to Mississippi until the end of the week. Again, I prayed and prayed that you would not come until Friday at the earliest. I absolutely, positively could not miss the day you were born. Thankfully, you and God collaborated and were patient with your crazy Texas aunt. You came that following Monday, and I loved you even more for that.
My dearest Patton, I will never in a million lifetimes forget the first moment I saw you. The doors to the Labor & Delivery Unit swung open, and your dad was standing there, beaming down at you in his arms. I was already crying before I even took one step towards you. Despite the battle wounds you obtained from your rather chaotic arrival, you were so incredibly beautiful. They took you back to the nursery, and standing behind the glass, I watched as they weighed you, as they checked your heartbeat, as they assessed your health. Someone asked me what it felt like to be an aunt; again, a rarity in my life, I couldn’t speak. I just stood there, resting against the glass, with tears streaming down my face, thanking God for 10,000 Reasons, for the gift of you. Yet, my dearest Patton, nothing could prepare me for the next moment.
Finally, after one to two hours that felt like an eternity, they wheeled you back to your room, and after your parents and your grandparents got to hold you, they put you into my arms. It was your first true bath experience as the tears became floodgates, and I Elle-Woods-cried over you. (I apologize for that.) You completely captivated my heart in a second’s time; if you have this effect on all girls, we are going to have some serious heartache in the future. On a serious note, my dearest Patton, I cannot adequately describe in words how much I instantaneously loved you in that moment. In that moment, you were the personification and manifestation of, “Sing like never before, Oh my soul, I’ll worship Your Holy Name.” You were more than a beautiful baby boy; you were more than a nephew. You were an irreplaceable gift from God, a pure display of His goodness, grace, and love, an answered prayer. You were what He was guiding down the aisle all along, and looking down at your sweet face and into your eyes for the first time was one of the most real and closest moments of looking into the heart of Jesus.
Therefore, my dearest Patton, I hope you know how truly much your aunt loves you. Aside from your rock star parents and grandparents, I will always be one of your biggest fans, and most likely the guaranteed family member crying at every milestone event of your life. (Just talk to your mom about this one day; she’ll empathize with you.) I know I will not be a perfect aunt, and I will make mistakes. However, I promise you, I will always, always continue to pray for you—pray that you will be healthy, for the plans that God has for your life, that you seek and pursue Jesus and discover His love at an early age, that you be a man among men, and most of all thank Jesus for the invaluable blessing you are in our lives and all that you will teach us. Thank you for how you have already deepened my faith and helped me love and trust our Father more.
Thank you Jesus for the gift of this baby, for hearing our prayers, for walking the aisles of life with us, for guiding our loved ones down paths that we can’t traverse with them, for using journeys and chapters of our lives to shape us and teach us to proclaim, “Let me be singing when the evening comes”, for moments in our lives that lead us to “sing like never before”, for the beauty and joy found in answered prayers, and for your perfect timing and your perfect ways. Friends, I pray that there is an area of your life where you are fervently praying, where you are dependently leaning into Jesus and learning more of Him, where He is revealing His love and sovereignty to you, for there is nothing quite like the joyous moment where His glory is revealed, where 10,000 Reasons come alive.
My dearest Patton, you are such a blessing, and you don’t even know it yet.
Don’t worry, I will remind you.