18 Years

You get somewhere around 18 years.

18 years to watch a soul form.  You get 18 years to be THAT person, the one who knows and guides and corrects.  18 years.

I remember when I held him there, close to my heart, mere seconds after he was born.  Held him and marveled once again at this gift, this miracle.  A son, who pressed his way through dark to blink and look wide eyed at a world filled with light.  I remember in that moment, checking over fingers and toes and being  astonished at the strength of his lungs, how 18 years felt like aeons.  And as I held miracle right there in my hands, I breathed deep and I’ve been holding my breath ever since.

Through the long nights when the cries could not be satiated and I wished I could hear his thoughts as tiny eyes, tear full, looked deep into mine.  Through the sleeplessness and forgetfulness that seem to be prerequisites for parenting.  Through the red cheeks, runny nose and crankiness of the first tooth. Through the first steps and the bumps and bruises that come along with learning to walk.

I held my breath all through the toilet training and when I said a final ecstatic goodbye to diapers. A big boy now. When I packed his first lunch and he seemed to be buried by his Franklin the Turtle back pack.  When I watched him wave his goodbye at the bottom of the stairs – independence – kindergarten. Now what?

 I held my breath as I raced with my car and my heart.  The call from the school came. “When will the swelling go down?  He’s been stung by a bee.”  I held my breath as I watched them load him, swollen,  hive-covered and unrecognizable, into the back of the ambulance.  I didn’t breathe once during that long drive.  I held my breath when the doctor gave me a pointed look and said, “Without that epi-pen, our conversation would have been different, different indeed.” 

And all of that breath came out in one whoosh on a Saturday morning at the end of this Summer.

Still bedraggled and hair sticking straight up, we sat on the couch to enjoy the slow and unhurried of a Saturday morning.  We were sitting and talking over cups of coffee and orange juice.  Just talking about things important and things mundane.  And before my head could understand the impact, I turned to my son and blurted,

“Do you think?  Do you think we did all that we could, said enough, showed enough about the goodness of God and the mercies of a Saviour?  Did we do enough?”

I will never forget how time stood still in that moment when he turned to look and a wisdom beyond the years of his life was there in his eyes as he softly whispered, “No.”


My heart stopped for just a second as the full weight of that one word pressed heavy on me – “No.”   How could I have possibly missed the implications my anger, my bitterness, my disobedience would have on this young soul? 

And just for a moment my mind raged with questions of self pity and remorse turned inward.   I tumbled through the questions and wondered if it was too late. 

Just then when I thought I would come undone, he looked at me and said “Mom, it’s okay, because I know.” 

“I know that I serve a good God and that He loves me.  My heart is good.”

Relief washed over me in undulating waves as I reached out and held that 16 year old frame and held on tight.  My heart mourned for what I did not, could not see, that I did not plant generously, did not sow enough in order to reap enough (2 Corinthians 9).

 How could this possibly be alright?  How much have I missed with my absent heart?

And, isn’t retrospect a funny thing?  Because, there, right there behind you, is the vision so clear of the missed moments when diapers, and tears, and tantrums, and trips to the hospital became the only thing you could see.   Behind you, the angry words that tore holes in a soul and brought quivering lips and fear that could be seen right there in those green eyes swimming in tears. 

And doesn’t retrospect just bring you right there to your knees?

Right there on bended knee with palms open basking in grace.

Grace that covers, as my friend Ann said right here, “Grace has this way of taking back to the Cross what’s been done — but what takes back the things I never did…?  Grace — it is strong enough to carry even the things never done, the things heaviest of all.” – Ann Voskamp.

Beautiful photography by my friend Phyllis Caslick.




  1. This is beautiful, Tonya. I am terrified of looking back with regret, but I know we are all human and fallible. I know I will make mistakes but I pray that God and my son will give me grace, as yours has. Thanks for sharing.

    • He will friend… Grace covers and I am so thankful for that grace – everyday thankful. Praying for your mama heart friend. {Hugs}

  2. Ummm…Tonya? I don’t even know what to say, this was so beautiful.

    Thank God for His grace.

  3. Ah yes – aren’t you just so grateful that thanks to the shadow of the Cross, we are called up higher… to no longer live under the heavy hand of Regret? Praise God that He swoops in and covers up – fills IN – all of our short comings as we parent these gifts He’s given us? Love you sweet friend!

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