You. My firstborn. You are eighteen years old today.
I am stunned, bewildered, and perplexed. I am proud, grateful, and hopeful. I am pensive, reflective and introspective. Just choose an adjective. Any adjective. I am all of the adjectives and all of the synonyms for all of the adjectives about this day.
Because this day is, of course, about you. And you changed everything. At 5:25 am on Tuesday, October 6, 1998 you made everything in the whole wide world different than it was at 5:24 am on Tuesday, October 6, 1998. Most especially me.
This is what I always do on this day. I go backwards. I lament that we can't turn back time. I study our photos closely to look for a glimpse of the young man who towers over me now in that newborn baby's face. I study me closely to see if I recognize that young, naive girl who had been given a tiny, little person not only to raise up, but to help raise her up, too.
But suddenly, I was more because of you. More of everything.
I was more important. I was more hopeful. I was more grateful.
And at the exact same time, I felt more scared, more unworthy and more inadequate than I ever have in my life.
What I didn't know then is something that I learned day in and day out as I watched you grow and is something that I am absolutely certain of today.
God gives us exactly the child we are meant to have. He gives us the child who will teach us things we need to know. Basically, the Lord appears to know what He's doing.
God gifted me a child who would teach an anxious, people-pleasing, rule-following, play-it-safe girl to try to be better than that and braver than that. He sent me a child who has always felt completely comfortable in his own skin. He sent me a child who knows who he is and whose he is. He sent me a child who can (and has many times) walked into a room full of strangers without a thought. He sent me a child who is kind and compassionate. Who is assured and confident. Who is driven and purposeful. I am frequently awed at your willingness to jump at any opportunity that comes your way. You always think "yes" first. You always believe you can do anything your heart desires. You are so very different than me in that way. This is how I know for a fact that you are wonderfully and marvelously made by your Creator. Your mama had nothing whatsoever to do with those amazing parts of you.
Your life is stretched out before you, Joe. An open book of possibilities. A story to be written by both you and God - the two of you only.
Because I know this of you, Joe. You have growing to do. You have learning to do. You have maturing to do. But there is wisdom you have at the age of 18 that I didn't have until I was 40. That I might not fully have even now. And I know you will reach out your hands and take hold of the plans God has for you with your eyes wide open and with your heart and your mind focused on Him and who He has made you to be.
I know this because I trust that the God who sent you to me and stayed with us all of these eighteen years is the same God that will send you out into the world. And He will not leave you. You will be brave because He made you that way. And I think perhaps I will be braver because He sent you specifically to me to help me become brave, too.
Happy Birthday, Joe. Keep looking up. Your future is blindingly bright.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who created a good work in you will perfect it until the time of Christ Jesus. - Philippians 1:6