Time is so difficult to understand.

We accept it so easily because it rules our life from day one. Over a short time we turn from a wriggling, naked, completely helpless newborn just seeing sunlight for the first time into a walking, talking toddler capable of having a bad attitude. When I think of the earth rotating in the heavens with us little humans running around governed by time, it seems weird to me. Time is weird. I know God does not operate according to time like we do, but then how on earth does he operate if not by time? We cannot fully understand.
Time can be exciting, and time can hurt. There are times I remember so vividly it is like a movie playing out before my eyes. And there are times that are fuzzy to me where I am grasping to remember, and years’ worth of time that I don’t remember at all. Something random like a certain smell might bring up a memory from the past that I had completely forgotten. The smell of sunscreen immediately brings me back to water parks every summer as a child. Pine reminds me of our yearly summer Oregon trips into the woods. Clint’s winter jackets in storage still smell like he did when we were engaged, and it brings back the feelings of thrill when he wasn’t totally mine yet and he was literally, truly, totally the only thing I ever thought about. A song reminds me of a car ride with my parents when I was five. It is all so strange.

As a mother, time is giving and taking away before my eyes every minute. The excitement of a baby’s first smile, claps of joy and squeals of delight when they first walk. When they try to talk and the words come out funny. You grow attached to the cute, wrong way they say something, until one day they don’t say it wrong anymore, and you realize time just stole from you, and your heart hurts from it a little. You look back at a picture from a year before, and it stings to see how little they were without you realizing it.

You think, “my life will be easier when they are older.” And you just can’t wait until they get there. Then suddenly, time makes them older and you are mad at time for doing that because all you want is to go back and touch them, hear them, hold them, and enjoy them completely in their littleness. Time passes and brings us things we have been wishing for, futures we have dreamed of, moments in life we desired. But, every new thing means an old thing has been taken away. And the clock keeps ticking.

Time binds us all. I think back in time to moments of hurt and pain and ugliness. I remember joys and beautiful days, minutes, or hours. We are all going through time, experiencing different things, different souls, different bodies, different brains. None of us are the same, which is incredible in itself, but we are all in the same amount of time. I wonder what time will become when we are with God and no longer bound by it?

These feelings came up when I saw this photo of nine-month-old Summer and me. She was tinier, chubbier, more of a baby. I didn’t realize that in just a few months she wouldn’t be so tiny anymore. That there would be moments, like the other photo taken only a few nights ago, when I see glimpses of what she will look like as a woman. In a few brief months she has changed, I have changed, my other children have changed, and I truly cannot pause or slow it down no matter how much I want to. And I do! It hurts my heart to see the change. Foolish me, I should have clung more tightly to those times nine months ago!

For all the times I didn’t cherish my babies, I wish I could go back and change. I wish I could go back and tell myself in the middle of the night when I was in tears trying to calm a fussing toddler for the fourth hour straight, when I felt such deep exhaustion I would cry, that soon this baby wouldn’t be a baby and I would hardly remember what it was like when they were. I wish I could tell my nineteen-year-old self with a growing baby in my belly that my life would change course the moment he was born, and to hold tighter to being a newlywed with so few responsibilities. I wish I could go back to hours and weeks of struggling with a child I was sure was sent down from heaven to test me as a human that it is not worth the feelings of anger and frustration. That with love, things will be better in time. Love takes you through the hard times better than anger does. The more I choose love in the moments when my heart wants to choose hurt, the more love is returned to me over time.

So I guess my goal for this year is to love the moments more. To know better that the moments are fleeting and will never return. To take more joy in the moments instead of taking more joy in hindsight. At the same time, to not fear so much the hard times I know are coming, because time will take those away too, for which I am glad. Time takes the struggles away but it also takes the moments of beauty. It creates more struggle and more beauty as it goes on, but we can never rewind and return. In 2018 I want to move more slowly against time in my own heart, love more selflessly, open my eyes more, and give of myself more to the four beautiful people in my little family. The times of regret in the past are not the times I gave and loved the most; they are the times I was selfish and not showing love, the times I felt angry or hurt. The times when all I could think about was what I wanted, what I felt, what I thought. None of those times were worth it.

I know I will feel angry and hurt and selfish again in my life. I am human. I can’t always control when I feel selfish, angry, or hurt, but I absolutely have full control over how I react to those feelings.

So, 2018 isn’t about striving to be perfect, because all of us fall short of the glory of God. It’s about loving deeply through the imperfect. If only we all could see our babies and our spouses for the precious gifts they are every moment, every second in time. That is what I want this year. I don’t know if that is a fully attainable goal, but I know it is a fully worthy one.