There’s a cradle swing laying at the foot of the cross. Next to it is an itty-bitty pair of leopard sandals with pink flowers on them, brand-new and only worn once. There’s a tiny pink baby blow-up pool. There’s a Bumbo seat and a play mat with well-loved teething toys. There’s a bassinet that won’t be used anymore, and a rocking chair that has served its purpose for many years – the permanent indentation of my rear end on the seat. All these little things, discards of a precious season of my life that is quickly slipping away. Tomorrow my eldest “baby” will be getting braces. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she lost her first tooth? I clearly remember coming home from a Yom Kippur service and breaking our fast together as a family. She came up to me with big, brave tears barely held back in her eyes, silently showing me the tiny white speck in her little hand.

I find myself trying to hold each moment of these little ones in my hands, to truly see each one before it slips through my fingers and is gone forever. I want to firmly imprint on my heart the faces of my children as they are right now; their funny little words and thoughts I want to etch deeply into my soul. I am seeking to be present with each heartache, fear, and victory. We are in the midst of an awkward stage, one that I see as a launch pad into the next season of our lives as a family. Just as pregnancy and birth can be painful and frustrating, tight and restricting, it is the picture I get when envisioning what God is doing in us right now. Because I had my first five children in four years, it seems like whenever there is a new season on the horizon, they ALL enter it at just about the same time, and then they ALL leave it at just about the same time. In one big whirlwind, they’ll ALL have driver’s licenses. They ALL grew out of the wooden train set in one summer. As I write this, they are ALL leaving the itty-bitty stage behind.

On one hand I have five children with newly-budding maturity and potential that has yet to be fully-realized but is almost bursting out at the seams. They are PEOPLE with their own ideas and gifts! No longer are we only faithfully keeping our hands to the plow, planting seeds that we know won’t show green sprouts for quite some time. Now those green shoots are starting to show! On the other hand, I have a three-year-old who wants to “do school” already, and a baby who is suddenly okay with Pete holding her even when I’m in plain sight. She’s daily adding favorite activities to what used to be a one-item list with “nursing” at the top.

Perhaps it is my perspective that has created what I see as a great chasm between “baby” and “young adult getting married and leaving home.” Is it because I have been doing this for so long that now that it’s almost over I feel like I’ve lost my footing and that there really is a huge leap between this season and the next one? I don’t think I have ever met another mother who cried when she donated her cradle swing. I did, though. I completely fell apart when I laid Tirzah in it for a nap the other day while at my grandma’s house. She slept peacefully in it for three hours. I kept sneaking in to look at her cherub cheeks while she swayed in dreamland. As I was loading the swing back into my van, I realized that was probably the last nap she’ll ever have in her swing. Technically, she has been too big for it for a few months now even though it’s been her very favorite place to sleep. We gave the swing away to a friend the very next day. Which means my days of cradle swings are over. Just like that. I was wiping tears off my cheeks, trying not to freak my children out, reminiscing over the years of how cradle swings have saved our sanity as parents. We’ve run out at 3 a.m. to get D batteries, we’ve taken the swing apart and loaded in into our tiny car trunk, dragged it from room to room, and had to replace it a time or two. Every one of our children has loved the cradle swing. And right then, I have to lay it at the foot of the cross. Surrender it willingly, with full awareness of what it represents. Can a heart burst with gratitude for sharing such a gift as creating life with my heavenly Father?

While my children are growing up before me, I’ve discovered that this new season is a birthing process for me as well. I added up all the months and years of nursing, pregnancy, and having a small baby at home and realized I’ve been doing this for nearly twelve years straight. My very body has belonged to other people for more than a decade. Because I have died so completely to myself and my own life, I almost don’t recognize the person who is starting to emerge. Looking back, I see how sometimes I’ve willingly surrendered myself to Yeshua’s purpose for me in motherhood and other times I’ve held back until He’s had to pry “me” from my hands. The woman I see coming out of this season is no longer a vessel for new life but an incubator for kingdom fruitfulness. My journey of dying to self and serving my family is far from over; the mothering yet required of me will be challenging in unimaginable ways. But I am not tethered to the same kind of vulnerability anymore. There will be a day soon when I am going about my work without a baby on my hip. Just when I was starting to get comfortable with what was being required of me, indeed had finally even embraced it with both arms, the game has changed and I must learn completely new rules.

The question that has come to mind over and over again during this past year is, “am I present enough?” Am I embracing this, experiencing it, appreciating it enough? Do I hear clearly what the Lord is saying to me in this, or am I distracted and trying to just survive it? As we are closing this door and go into the next place, is our heart posture one of trust? How many moments have I lost already “just getting by” not realizing I was witnessing a holy and sacred impartation of God’s character and creativity into my life? His fingerprints are all over my life through these children. I have only to open my eyes to see them. Because I am living with heart-eyes wide open, there is a certain necessary grief to the passing of this season. In fact, it has not been without many, many tears. Pete was praying for God to show us His heart even in the sadness and what he heard was not new, yet was revealed in an amazing way. God has invited us into the process of procreation for His own glory. Our children are not ours; they are His. He has placed us right where we are so that we can equip them to bear fruit – for HIS kingdom. In so doing, we produce fruit in our own lives and that is what prayerfully produces the hundredfold abundance we desire to see in all our lives. This is how we prove we are His disciples, as Yeshua exhorts us in John 15:8. Yeshua has asked me if I will lend Him my body, my life, for the purpose of creating fruit for His kingdom that goes far beyond what I could imagine. I have no idea what that will look like in this next season of motherhood. But as I release these little trinkets of my children’s childhood back to Him, release their very lives back to Him, I confess that it was never about me at all. This has always been about His glory. How gratitude flows when I acknowledge that He owns my life and yet has let me share in this amazing gift.