I’ve always loved the Riddle Game played by Bilbo and Gollum in J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit.” This game was nothing like the silly rhyming games we played as kids. Bilbo and Gollum played a very clever guessing game as they tried to win the One Ring from the other.

Try this one from their game:

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town
And beats high mountain down.

What do you think the answer is?

Time – the great equalizer and unbeatable enemy.

While I do understand how people can view time as an enemy, ever since the birth of  my oldest child, Elli, I mostly see time as a friend.

Our first Christmas with Elli, she was ten months old. I overheard another mom, whose baby was the same age, lamenting how sad she was that the year had passed so quickly. I could not relate at all. Scott and I were beyond relieved that Elli had survived to see her first Christmas. When I looked back on Time Past, I did not pine for the sleepless nights, endless crying, hours of pumping breast milk, relentless counting and boosting calories, and 24/7 measuring / administering / tracking dozens of powerful medications. I did not wish to turn back or slow down the clock. Those days had been agonizingly, miserably long. By Christmas, though, pressure was finally beginning to ease up, and I could find hope in the future, in Time Yet To Come

The year 2000 was very hard. But from this vantage point, the end of 2009, I think that this year has been more so.

Last year, at the exact same time our daughter died, the church we’d worked so hard for five years to rebuild, alongside close friends, began crumbling. Our church had always tried to be a community of people who comforted and supported each other through difficult circumstances. But this time, when we (and other families) found ourselves walking dark roads, instead of support we encountered misunderstandings, misjudgments, false accusations, and the damage and loss of relationships. It seemed like the worst possible timing, coming as it did on top of our loss of Elli and all the people who had been central to Elli’s life for so many years.

More significant still, amidst that avalanche of lost and damaged relationships, my relationship with God also was rocked to the foundation. It was like a free fall, in the dark, so you can’t see the bottom or when you’re going to smash into the next outcropping.

But tick by tock, this year crept by. Those initial intense pangs began to ease and raw wounds began to scab over… though the scars will be permanent. A new life and new relationships are beginning to emerge, like snow drops poking through the ice in early spring. And most importantly, I’m climbing out of that free-fall with God.

But as we move forward, I don’t want to lose any of the lessons I’m learning — lessons about forgiveness, faith, community, carrying one another’s burdens, expectations. Carrying those lessons with me, I look forward with hope. Because God has carried us through these things, when the next hard thing comes (and I know it will), I can look back at this year, remember his faithfulness, and reinforce my confidence that He will be there again, in that next hard thing.

I am so incredibly thankful that this year is nearly done. It is not a year I ever want to repeat. Today, I look forward to new days with new potential. Today, time is my friend.