Then and now

Y’all may remember last month when I wished my husband and son a happy birthday by posting a picture of them on my son’s birth day fifteen years ago? They’re so handsome and the picture of my husband holding our newborn son so sweet it’s worth posting again…

And now:

At the time, I did not post a picture of myself from fifteen years ago. However, I’ve been waxing nostalgic these days and as a result I thought I’d post a fifteen year old shot of myself, for laughs if nothing else. Here’s me and my firstborn, him nineteen months old and only days from losing his only son status:

I look at this picture of us and several things come to mind. One, I look so young! This is something I forget because in my mind’s eye I remain a perpetual 27 years old. Only a glance in the mirror or a comparison of photographs fifteen years apart remind me I am not as young as I once was. I am also struck by how little my number one son is! Today, at 6’3″ he towers over us all; there in that picture he is sitting in my lap! And what a cutie! Is there anything cuter than a little boy in a sailor outfit? I wish y’all could hear his husky toddler voice. Sigh. This nostalgia, it’s killing me.

Upon reflection, I too am glad that the winds of fashion have swayed me from my obvious affection for bright red lipstick. In fact, they have swayed to the point that I am more often than not out and about with little or no makeup on, much less lipstick, something I am trying to rectify, at least when my husband has the camera out.

In short, snapshots like this remind me that I am not what I was. Things change over the course of fifteen years, and not just in terms of lipstick choice. Just a few days ago, some girlfriends and I were chatting about being moms and how quickly time flies. Most of the moms were young, caught in that seemingly endless stage of toddlers and preschoolers. In contrast, one friend’s daughter is a senior in high school and she understands this strange wave of nostalgia tinged with a hint of grief that hits those of us whose children are close to leaving home. As she confessed her sadness and her dread of her daughter going off to school, another friend voiced the sentiment I shared for years, back when my kids were the ages hers are: the certainty that I would welcome not only the rapid passage of time but also the quick conclusion of my mothering duties. Yeah, well, did I mention how things change?

Several years ago I met regularly with three other moms for prayer. During the course of our meeting together, one mom’s firstborn graduated from high school and left home for college. She mourned. I sat in judgment. My kids were toddlers, babies, and I was full of the sort of self righteous confidence that accompanies the naive. I faulted her for grieving over her son so. I could not understand it so I judged it. Me, who had no idea of the heartache and regret to come, so certain that motherhood was merely a matter of doing this and not that, arrogantly censured my friend for something I would be guilty of myself in a few short years.

I am not the mother I thought I would be.

My son is a year and a half away from leaving home and already my heart is so heavy I can hardly bear to think about it. It isn’t some twisted form of parental idolatry as some may suggest–at least I don’t think it is. It is a stage difficult to describe. I am so proud of him, of all my boys. I am amazed by the grace of the Lord that has made me, us, what we are. His grace to us was not without effect! Neither me nor my husband can claim any sorts of credit. Surely we ought to have messed our kids up royally by now. Their resilience is unquestionably evidence of the grace of a good God. I am grateful. I am also sad by how quickly they grew up and how little I cherished their babyhoods and toddlerhoods and how much I wished it all would pass, sooner rather than later. I know all that I should have been and wasn’t, all I ought to have done and didn’t, and I grieve. I want to protest that I didn’t know it would be this way, that it would go so quickly, that those stages I feared would last forever didn’t.

Of course, I did know. Other women, older and wiser than I, would warn me but I didn’t listen. If I did listen, I didn’t believe them. As a result, here I am, in this weird stage of pride and gratitude, sadness and nostalgia.

So, yeah, it’s another blog post of lament, the first of many no doubt, another confession that I did not number my days and gain a heart of wisdom. I pray the Lord would grant me an eternal perspective, to help me see what truly matters, and not just in terms of parenting. May my time here, in this place, in this stage, count for eternity! May I be found faithful to proclaim the gospel–as I love and serve my kids and husband, as I take care of our home, as I go to the grocery store and sit in car line. May I proclaim Jesus, glorifying Him in all things, until His return or He calls me home!


Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

6 thoughts on “Then and now”

  1. People keep saying this to me and so I'm listening. But the verse you shared at the end captivates the whole thought to me perfectly and puts it in perspective. I know there were days (like, oh say, yesterday!) when I was feeling lazy and didn't want to work very hard at being a creative mommy. I kept telling myself that whatever I decided to do would be remembered and I really needed to make the most of it instead of just popping in a movie. It's HARD being a young mom. But I'm listening and I'm telling myself every day it will go by so fast. I'm growing to believe it. I met a lady at our new church who told me that she cherished every moment with her kids when they were growing up because she knew the moments were fleeting and now her kids are about to leave home and she has no regrets. I thought to myself, "Now THAT is what I want to be able to say!" So I affirm that, will hide that verse in my heart, and will keep saying these things to myself.Thanks for the reminder (and the verse) this morning!

  2. Your son looks just like your husband in the first photograph šŸ™‚ I feel exactly the same and my girls are only 7,5 and almost 4. But, in the hard days of 3 kids in 3 years, no family in this country to help out and a husband that works a lot, I admit I wished some of those days would rush past. Now, I feel regret and grief and wish I had savored them more. I can see now how fast it is all going. I tell myself at least I was there (a SAHM). I think it is a symptom of parenting in a fractured world, the grief and pain are intermingled with the joy and hope. In heaven we will rejoice in the joy without the pain of the loss.

  3. I'm having some of that nostalgia myself, and wishing I'd done things differently. My girl just celebrated her 12th birthday, and it hit me that she'll be a teenager in ONE YEAR. Have I done enough to point her toward the Lord? Have I raised her to be strong in her convictions? I think about these things as I watch her become more independent each day. And I, too, pray for an eternal perspective.

  4. I so did not need to read this as my son is less than one year from entering college. In prep for his Eagle Scout ceremony, I discovered (and it's on FB) his very first Scout picture, when he was in 2nd grade and saluting in his brand-new uniform. Where did the time go?!I always tell new moms to cherish each day because there is a paradox at work: the days (and nights!) and weeks pass slowly, but the months and years just fly.

  5. God gave me such a blessing that my long time neighbor and friend was in a different stage of mothering, me with babies and she had teenagers. I remember one particular chaotic day during Christmas holidays that she walked over into a tornado. There were diapers, spilled lunches, no bath for me, toys all over. One of my children had broken a cherised Christmas ornament and I was very upset. My friend said very calmly to me "Sherrie, my house is perfectly clean and my tree is perfect. I decorated it all by myself." I still remember how that struck me and how God knew I needed that moment to happen for me. I have never forgotten it and have retold that story many times. I have not done things perfectly and would do lots of things different, but that day is etched in my mind always. What a gift.

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