Take me back.

Just for a day. I want to see those blonde curls bouncing across her chubby little cheek. I want to see that popsicle stained mouth and wash those sticky hands again.

I want to hear her giggle as I push her for the hundredth time on that squeaky swing in the park by our house.

I want to go on another walk with her baby brother strapped to my chest as she rides in the little red wagon. I want to sit with her on that pink princess rug and sip pretend tea with her favorite doll.

Take me back.

Take me back to those summer days when the kids would run through the sprinklers wearing nothing but a soggy diaper. When the driveway was an amusement park of chalk drawings and four-wheeled ride-ons. When the days were nothing more than books and snacks and an occasional Thomas the Train show playing while I regained my sanity and a much needed shower.

I know those days were long. I know there were plenty of tears. I know the whining made me crazy and nap time was a coveted prize. I know those days were full of thankless work for tiny, helpless people you would literally give your life for. And you do. Every single day.

These were the days that the sink was always full and the floor was lined with puffs. Your day attire consisted of a robe or stretchy yoga pants. Maybe together.

I remember how tired I was. I remember thinking that there would never come a day when I wouldn’t fill another supply cup or kiss another boo-boo. I couldn’t fathom a time when they wouldn’t need me to test the bath water or help tie their shoes. It was exhausting. But I didn’t realize how much it meant to be needed and trusted.

Don’t get me wrong, the tantrums made me insane. The sibling fights made me want to hide in the bathroom and pray for Jesus to take me to heaven or eat a dozen Oreos behind a locked door. Bathroom spaces are sacred places. Even with little toes peeking under the door.

“Mommy, are you in there?”

“Yes, baby. Give mommy one more minute. Or ten.”

Take me back.

My heart hurts when I look at the old pictures. When I think about how fast time goes and the moments that got away.

Memories are a funny thing. They can be full of regret. But they are more often full of grace. They tend to give us amnesia over the hard stuff. Memories can be a gift.

They are also a gentle reminder to seize the moment. Capture the opportunities and learn from the past. Every day holds the possibility to love with more intent, forgive without reservation and live with purposeful joy and thankfulness. Even in the mess. Maybe because of the mess.

Embrace what is before you — the sick days, the late nights, the meal times, the carpools, the pizza parties, the road trips, the goodnight kisses, uncontrollable tears of the toddler and the attitudes of hormonal teens trying to figure out their changing bodies and how they fit in.

Someday, you will look back. You will understand the journey of parenthood with a different perspective. You will have regrets. You will wish you had put your phone down, listened with greater attention, asked more questions and taken more time. You’ll wish you had trusted God more and let Him take all your worries, guide your decisions and carry your burdens.

But don’t regret the past. Guilt is too heavy a burden to carry. Lay it at the cross.

Those little hands may be small, but their hearts are big and have the capacity to extend a greater grace than we realize. Grace demolishes guilt. Let it.

Mercies are new every morning. Seize the day. Smile and look into the eyes of those around you. Etch the conversations, laughs and even the struggles into your heart. You’ll appreciate them down the road. You’ll see how God works everything for good.

You’ll look at that old picture and you’ll realize that you had a lot of influence, but not nearly as much control as you had imagined.

You’ll thank God that, although you aren’t there to tuck them into bed, calm their fears, drop them off for school or brush their hair at night, you still get to do what matters most. You get to turn them over to God. You get to pray for their hearts. You get to appeal to the One who loves them more than you do.

No, You weren’t perfect. No one is. But you showed them that they need Jesus and so do you. You showed them the gospel. You showed them that love is unconditional. You modeled the forgiveness and grace of God.

That little curly, blonde haired girl will remember that. She didn’t want the perfect mom. She wanted you, sweat pants, stretch marks and all. She wanted the mom who did her best, made mistakes but realized that’s she needed to lean on God.

She will remember that. She will one day be there too. And she will look back and be thankful for the hard days, the sacrifices and the good memories that were gracefully tattooed on her heart. She will even be grateful for your imperfections.

And so will you.

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