There is something about this time of year when the trees begin to drop their leaves which makes me so very sad. It is that movement in autumn, closer to winter than summer or fully fall, where the leaves, already turned in color, drop to the ground leaving branches stripped and standing bare.

Every year I feel my heart mourn around this time. Mostly because I know the cold, dark days are coming. The long wait for warmer weather begins.

This year there is also another reason for my melancholy.

My oldest daughter turns 10 this winter. As each leaf falls to the ground I am reminded that we are growing closer to her birthday. (It doesn’t help she reminds me once a week.)

Like any nine-year-old, she is a joy and a trial. I was a baby myself when I had her, smack dab in the middle of twenty-three, we have done growing up together she and I. Baby and babe.

I remember when the first few days after coming home from the hospital with her. One afternoon I had taken a nap and my husband came to wake me. She was hungry, crying out, red and mad and wrinkled. He said to me, “she needs you”. This wonderful feeling washed over me. The feeling of being not just wanted but needed. It was indescribable.

She has needed me less and less since that day. Though more lately. And I feel a bit like that tree being stripped down bare.

Double-digits scare me. Single digits were the majority of my time with her. When she hits the big 1-0, I will have less than half of my time with her left in our home. Less than half to raise her, grow her, teach her, love her, hold her.

That is scary. That makes me question. Have I done enough? Am I doing enough? Have I loved long and held tight? Have I spoke affirmation and guided gently? Have I shown her grace and faith and trust in the One who matters most?

I know I can’t stop it, can’t slow it down, or prevent it from happening. Honestly, I don’t want to. I know this is part of it, the whole of it really, her growing and eventually leaving but that doesn’t mean I don’t dread it. Similar to the way I dread this time of year and the inevitable winter.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

That includes children growing and leaving. Just like the leaves. And I know that He will keep her just like He has in the past.

When I sent her to preschool and couldn’t bear to leave the parking lot.

When I left her for full-day kindergarten and worried what she’d do if she had to go potty or if she got hungry or sleepy or sad.

Her first babysitter. Daycare. Day camp. Field trips. Bus rides alone.

For now, I’ll cling to that: He will keep her and He will keep me. I will wait for the spring, when the trees bud with new growth and I will remember there is a time for everything even double- digits and leaving home.