Written by contributor Julia West

Every mother has felt that familiar tug in her heart. Usually around birthdays, but also in the briefest moments: when our baby takes that first tedious step, when we have to move up to the next toddler size onesie, when we realize he doesn’t need our help on the playground, as we plan their first night away from us, when we help her pull her first tooth or we hear him make a mature contribution to an adult conversation.  All of those milestones bring about a tug-of-war in our hearts: partly overjoyed to see them grow, happy to celebrate and broadcast their new skills and abilities. But there is another part that holds back and whispers, “Wait, slow down, time. I’m not ready to move on.” 

A mama heart has such enormous capacity. How else could we look forward to the next phase and what we will witness in our children as the months go by, but also long for time to just pause so we can hold on to the sweetness of the stage we’re in? 

In these moments, when I’m caught in the middle of trying to decide if I hope more to go backward or forward, my mind always ends up back at the same comforting thought. The thought that takes the burden of that decision off my shoulders. The thought that the pace of time was set by the One source of wisdom and goodness. It’s not wrong. 

When the Lord set the planet in motion and with it, all the markers of day and night, summer and winter, He did it with intention and purpose. He set the hours in the day and days in a year. He determined then the amount of time my baby would be in my belly, in my arms, crawling at my feet, walking on his own and when he would be ready to leave my home for his own. You see, He sees the end in the beginning and in His perfect provision, allowed these limits on our time. 

He knows that in each phase of motherhood, there are unique challenges and benefits. Then, when we move on to the next phase, we exchange some of the benefits for new ones, some of the challenges for new ones. In the newborn stage, we get so much of that sweet, precious skin-to-skin. More than at any other time, we are literally all wrapped up in our baby.  But, we are also so tender physically and emotionally, so in need of rest and service, unable to give much more than our baby takes. So after a few weeks, we lose the constant contact, but we gain some strength, we can look up and out a bit more. We may lose the baby’s endless sleepy snuggles but gain his eye contact and grins and giggles. It’s a trade off but with unique gifts on each side. The same is true for the days when your babies are small enough to carry. It’s so sweet to keep them close, but when they are big enough to walk beside you, it sure makes getting out of the car at the grocery store a lot easier. It’s such a joy to hear a baby babble, but it is such a gift to have to talk with your older child about music and books and art and their Creator. It’s wonderful to see a baby fit a peg into a hole, but also incredible to witness their thought processes as they become critical thinkers, problem solvers, faithful believers. 

But, how do we deal with the ache of letting go of the minutes as they rush by? Fear of moving on and doubt that what’s ahead could be worth moving on, can easily steal the joy in the present. I’ve come to believe that the antidotes to fear and worry are gratitude and trust.

We have to change the language in our heads. More than thinking time is a thief, we have to know it’s a gift. We can take captive the thoughts of scarcity and replace them with acknowledging the Creator who graciously gave us all the minutes we have. We can pause and enjoy and record what makes our current season special so that we can keep a piece of it once it passes. I’ve been trying to remember to do this: write down what our days typically look like, places we go, people we see, phrases my kids use, things we laugh at, hard or heavy conversations we have… All things that may not be seen easily in photos but that words can remind me of down the road. We can even pray and ask the Lord to sear a memory into our minds so that it stays sharp and clear.  Afterall, if He’s the one who created these moments, surely He can give that gift, as well. 

So, believing mama, when you find yourself in a tug-of-war moment, wrestling with holding on and letting go, let your heart be at peace. The burden of time passing is not yours to bear. It was divinely determined by One who is working all things together for the good of His children. Fill your heart with gratitude and trust that as sweet as the present may be, there is still more goodness to come.