The Way a Mother Can Make Peace with Time

He’s out in the deep vast white, a hooded smudge of color trudging through the deep.

I watch from the window, watch the golden lab spring behind him, ahead of him, beside.

Malakai turns sharp to the north, tromping out into the field’s markerless sea of white. His hood turns to see: is Boaz following? Then a sharp turn to the west, and a glance to see if the dog is tracking.

Together the two zigzag out towards the woods and I am happily mesmerized, warm inside, watching my boy with his dog out in the quiet wonder of it all.

Life flushes his nose, cheeks, with flaming warmth when he slips back inside, to rub his hands by the fire.

Words, fragments of stories, tumble out of him, and I nod, trying to etch him in my mind like this. Do all mothers do this? Memorize moments?

For some reason, I don’t trust ink and paper, computerized sensors of cameras.

I carve it down in synapses and neurons— in heart fibers– – before he, who he is now, is gone, mellow voice turned deep, untried hands grown long and deeply lined, trenched with days.

I wrap up this flashing instant in knitted afghan, he and his little sister with her cloud of blonde, and pull them close to read Richard Scary before the flickering hearth.

On the illustrated page, Huckle the Cat, is dreaming of what he will be when he grows up: a pilot? A farmer? An apple-pie tester?

Malakai thumps my arm, words surging, “Mom, Mom, I’d like to be an apple-pie tester when I grow up. But I can’t, because I am going to be a farmer. But I am not going to be a farmer, because know what? I am not going to get any bigger ‘cause I just want to be your little kid, and you can be the big Mama. Shalom, will you stay the baby for Mama, too?”

The sweet pain of love wells, a smile breaking through its aching blur. How did he know how time stings a mother’s heart?

How I keep reaching through time’s relentless current to pluck out a moment, to hold, to own, now, bringing it close to lips, to breathe life into it, to keep the now forever alive, refusing to let it become but a memory, stiff and lifeless.

But time is wet, slippery, elusive….gone and carried on.

Malakai and Shalom slide off the couch and chatter away into imaginary places.

I catch nothing. Ever.

Foaming, roaring, racing, the torrent sweeps all away, and I am left with river stones, memorials worn smooth by all that once rushed by.

Come night, the embryonic man growing steady in a little boy’s body lays the head down on the pillow, pulling quilts tight under chin.

I press lips and heart to his forehead, and Malakai whispers, “Remember, I am not going to get much bigger? Just a bit, but I am staying little, so I can be your boy. And you can be my big Mama.” He snuggles into night and dreams.

And I sit in the dark, watching him breathe, and how a whorl wisps at his temple, a tendril of his initial halo of curls. Out his window, the moon bulges like a luminous woman, full with child. I wonder if I can forever stay Big Mama, netting, capturing time.

Love’s a deep wound and what is a mother without a child and why can’t I hold on to now forever and this child here and why does time snatch away a heart that I don’t think mine can bear without?

Why do we all have to grow old? Why do we have to keep saying goodbye?

~from the book

I lean over to stroke Malakai’s cheek. I have the mother ache deep in the marrow. Memorize. Memorize.

Life is only all our moments slipped on in a row, one after the other — and if you turn slow in the light, the moments might shine translucent and the surprise of it catches you and releases you and it is what you always hoped and always knew. There is mystery and glory in every now.

And this is the  only way to slow now down, to slow time down: it’s only when I fully enter into now, that the weight of being fully here can slow time down.

Full attentiveness is the only thing that slows time. Catches time.

Malakai sleeps in moonlight. In such light.

In the gray blue of next dawn, we rouse boys for barn chores, turning on lights, gently calling their names.

Like disoriented moths drawn to light, they stumble into the kitchen, eyes squinting, hands stuffed in jean pockets. I tousle a sleepyhead, teasing, “I think you grew an inch in the night, Levi. And your brother caught it too—look how long and lean he is.”

The Farmer playfully pokes Caleb, Joshua, handing them their coats for the run to the barn.

And I grab a stone from time’s river.

“Remember?” I turn toward The Farmer. “When we’d wake up those babies and prop them beside the heat register, bundle them up in snowsuits, pulling their boots and hats on? Then make that dash through the drifts and cold to the barn, to begin the day’s chores. And you’d set those two little boys in a feed cart, to play, while we fed sows?”

Their figures stretch in the doorway.

“Just look at them now.” I whisper the words. The glory mystery of time.

Caleb extends to The Farmer’s shoulder, Joshua up to his chest. That baby and toddler are molting, emerging, growing into near men.

The Farmer shakes his head, chuckling dismay. I feel his worn workhand rest on my shoulder, steadying me in the rushing current.

They can all grow up. Big Mama can become Old Mama.

God who is the spring of the river of life, He has plans, places, purposes that time’s current will carry these children to — off to destinations, to new skin, to kingdom dreams.

The water cycle streams: from Him, through Him and to Him are all things.

And If I dammed up the river, froze time solid, wouldn’t these becoming people become mortuary specimens, icy, petrified, set?

Malakai wanders sleepily from the dark hallway into the kitchen light. I embrace his slender frame, feeling ribs, warm skin, little chest pressed close.

Am I dreaming or does he smell aquatic, like a newborn wrinkled from the waters?

Cheek against mine, I whisper to the boy growing up in my arms…

Run time’s river, son. She’s flowing us Home.

He hugs me tight and I ease down into the water. And let go.

Let go. To flow Home.

I took time away yesterday: An edited post from the archives


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Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart.

To read the entire series of spiritual practices

During the next three weeks, as we walk with Him, might we consider: The Spiritual Discipline of Time Might we explore the purpose of time, how to live in time, slow it down and not rush, how to use time as a holy thing. And how do we make time for God and for all things eternal? We look forward to your thoughts, stories, ideas….

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