For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans to prosper and not harm you, to give you a hope and a future’ (Jer. 29:11).

This morning, without any real fanfare or hype, I–though terribly under-dressed in pjs worn for the last two days, a ball cap pulled down tight–handed you your birth certificate just prior to your leaving for MEPS (military entrance processing station), where you’ll sign an oath to serve your country.

“I need it for the military processing,” you’d said.

And who was I to argue? So I retrieved it from the safety deposit box where I’ve kept important papers for the last twenty-plus years and handed it to you with a gentle reminder. “Don’t lose this, dear. They’re very difficult to replace.”

And as I laid it into your now large man hands, I saw those words again — Naval Hospital, San Diego, CA.

And I thought to myself, Yep. That’s where it all began. 

Because that’s where I first met you, more than nineteen years ago. I walked into the room where your birth mom was sitting up in her hospital bed holding you. Where you were swaddled so securely, being fed a bottle. Where your then one-and-a-half year old brother met you, too, for the first time. Two boys by two different women, given to this girl–your shared momma who’s married to your shared daddy, who–at that time–made up your immediate family because of the miracle of adoption. Just. Like.That.

And so overwhelmed by you was I, I completely forgot where I parked my rental car in the big hospital parking garage. Didn’t even remember what kind of car it was, only the color–and so the kind security guard took me all around the parking deck while I pushed the lock button on the key fob in my attempt to locate my bluish-gray vehicle. (I’m sure he wondered if I was really fit to be a mom.)

And then, for those 24-hours or so, we lost you–because your birth mom loved you so much she just didn’t know if she could let you go. How could I blame her? So I waited and wailed and waited some more–holding onto the promise I thought I heard the Lord whisper as I laid you down in your little car seat in Michelle’s living room, beside your suitcase and diaper bag.

Trust Me. Like Abraham, lay him down. Trust Me with your Isaac. Yes, with Jacob.

And so I tried, feeble though my attempts were. And I waited and wailed some more, pleading, “Please, God–bring him back.”

And when Michelle handed you to me the next day and never looked back on the decision that cost her flesh and blood, I knew you’d never be mine. Not really.

You were God’s–right from the start. And so, from the get-go, I had to loosen my grip, though I’ve tried to clench my fists and take you back too may times to count. Somehow, by grace, God’s enabled me to look down at them and see instead an opportunity to pray–fold those balled-up hands and turn “Gimme-God” prayers into “I’m grateful, God…” prayers.

Because I am grateful…

That you were an easy sleeper from almost the beginning, unlike your brother who never seemed to need rest.

That you were a silly, smiley baby–with your pacifier tricks up your sleeve and your ticklish palms, not to mention your love for the phrase “prim and proper”–which made you belly-laugh, which, in turn, made us belly-laugh.

For your love of nature–for walks and the zoo and, later, for catching fish and frogs, even when you squeezed them too tight and made your momma fret that their eyes might bug out.

Yes, even grateful…

That you weren’t easy to potty-train because, even though the process made me crazy sometimes, I learned to say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” when I was too quick to punish rather than apply grace.

That you suffered ADHD, because we learned to be patient in the (home)school of suffering–battling through those math and reading and writing lessons that never seemed to quit.

That you were often quick to confess misdeeds–vomiting them out in your great need for freedom from the weight of them.

And that, as you got older, you sometimes lied to keep us from knowing about misdeeds, because–out of that–we learned to pray the hard prayer, that you’d get caught… that you would be sick in your sin… that confession would be a relief compared to the weight of wrong-doing.

And Son, sometimes I failed to pray for you as I should, and that’s my confession–because, in all honesty, sometimes I worried more than I worshipped, failing to trust the One who loves you most, who loves you best.

But for it all, I’m grateful.

Because for all those sleepless nights and cries in the dark when I just didn’t see how I could accomplish the long list of things I hoped and desired for you (which always feels so much bigger in the dark of night), I learned that I was right–I couldn’t accomplish one single thing on that list.

Not I. But God.

Because He holds you.

He has a plan for you.

He has always had a plan for you.

And He has only allowed me and your dad to help–imperfect as our help has been much of the time–because again, you’ve never been ours anyway. You’ve always been and will always only be God’s.

Please forgive us for how we’ve failed you. When I yelled instead of praised. When I saw the negative rather than focused on the positive. When we bailed you out instead of allowing you to suffer natural consequences. When we covered up rather than exposing things to the light of the Son–to allow Him to heal and restore the brokenness that perhaps we even helped create.

We’re proud of you, dear.

As I handed you your birth certificate this morning–with my morning breath mixed with coffee, in two-day old pjs and messy hair under a hat–you hugged me hard, and I just knew you were grateful for me, your momma.

I felt it in your embrace. I saw it in your smile.

And any imperfection fell away in that moment–that moment you looked at me and told me with your eyes, “You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful to me.”

Though that’s small potatoes in the grand scheme of life, it does mean the world to me. Because, as any mother will tell you, we live with our failures and our imperfections. We pray they didn’t hinder our children beyond repair, though we sometimes fear they have. And just because I’m the momma doesn’t mean I’m never the scared child. Truth is, I still crawl often to Abba’s throne of grace–asking that He make right my wrongs. That He’ll bring purpose from any pain I’ve played a part in creating. And that He’ll make beauty from any brokenness I’ve brought about.

And your smile today, Jacob, was like Jesus’ on me–a reminder that He can take everything and work it together for good, because you and I love Him and have been called according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28).

And that’s enough.

Yes, that’s always, always enough.

Blessings today and tomorrow as you travel to and participate at MEPS in Charlotte, NC. Your dream to join the U.S. Navy, I believe, comes from God first, and we see how He’s bringing it almost full circle.

I may not be with you in body, but I am always–ALWAYS–with you in spirit.

And I know who holds the beautiful plans for your life–which began long before a birth certificate.

Yes–God’s got MEPS:  M-ore E-xtraordinary P-lans, S-on. And I couldn’t be more excited to see what they are.

And once again, I’m letting you go–giving you back to God.

And I crawl to His throne of grace and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful daughter.”