samuel is 5. yes, 5.

he is my child that i miss the most. i miss him because he is my middle child. he is the child following my very verbal oldest and very cute youngest. Since he was a baby he could self soothe. he would hold his blanket up to his face and stroke it with his pointer finger while his thumb plopped in his mouth like a cork.

for months i’ve been praying for samuel. he hasn’t been growing up. it’s like he has been a 3 yr old for the past few years and hasn’t moved forward. i felt distant from him and somehow just couldn’t connect. i felt like i was missing him. and i was.

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as his birthday approached we talked about putting his blanket away. i joked with him about giving it to the mailman or the trash truck that comes every wednesday morning. he would laugh and grab his blanket all the tighter. the blanket has followed him everywhere: school, church, grandmas house.

when he was angry, he pressed his blanket to his face.

when he was sad, his thumb popped into his mouth.

when he was tired, his blanket stretched out under him like a stretcher carrying him off to sleep.

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on the morning of his 5th birthday he came into our room. i asked him if he was ready to give me his blanket.

he looked at baby Hannaly, sleeping on my arm. he laid it across her body and said, “Hannah (bc he calls her Hannnah and i love that!) can have my blanket so she can suck her thumb.”

i tucked his blanker away in our closet. since then, something in samuel has changed. i feel like i am seeing my son for the first time in a very long time. i don’t just see him. i hear him.

i hear his thoughts, his feelings, his heart. i hear words. i hear sentences. i hear complete thoughts.

instead of seeing his thumb locked into his mouth, trapping him away, i see him.

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and this one thing that was his security for so long was actually the one thing holding him back from growing, from becoming who he was meant to be. he no longer sulks in the corner, he speaks. he no longer stuffs his anger, he expresses it. he no longer needs his blanket to fall asleep, now he asks for me. and i love him. i love the words that come out of his mouth. i love hearing how he thinks and sees the world. i love understanding the way he perceives life, friendships and God.

how often do we cling to a security object (a habit, a relationship, an income, a church) that is actually holding us back from really growing?  there is a part of us that is desperate to grow and yet, we get stuck, slowly sinking with that object taking us under. we think we need it for life, but it is actually what is weighing us down.

 

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something aches in me when i don’t see him dragging his blanket behind him anymore. it’s like he is growing up and that is difficult for a momma. i want him to get big, but i miss his babyhood. it’s like an era is gone. and as much as i want that kid to grow up and discover who he is, i still want to crawl into his room at midnight and see his body tangled up in those rags of a blanket.

so much of motherhood is holding on and letting go. learning to live open handed.

i think samuel wanted to give up his blanket. perhaps he wanted to let it go a long time ago, but i didn’t see the signs. he wants to be big and pass on his babyhood to his new little sister. i love that kid. i really do. he expands my heart in all kinds of directions that i never knew existed. him growing up is growing me.

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i don’t miss him anymore.

happy 5th birthday, sambo. samma lama. sammy. my samuel.

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she walked into my home, star bucks in hand, and with an exhale said, “it feels like home walking into your house. it feels healthy.”

her comment startled me. it made me stop. had she seen me five minutes earler slamming down anger like a whip commanding obedience, sending my four year old to his room in tears? had she seen me frantically throwing away trash and putting pillows back in their perspective places.  had she seen my neurotic need to get my house in order for her arrival, only to have failed miserably- toys, blankets, and undone forts piled across my floor.

she told me about her house that feels like a tomb, her kids grown and gone. everything now in its place, untouched and silent.

she misses the mess. all i hear is failure.

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i cried myself to sleep Monday night. the weight of all my failures shutting me in and down like pulling shades on a hot afternoon, all i wanted was the darkness. i let it come over me, heavy and deep.

like flash cards running one after the next, i replayed my many faults and let my tears fall.

because my failures are many and once i let one slip past the doorway of my, ‘ i’m good enough fortress,’… all the blocks start to crumble.

and they did, guilt soothing me to sleep.

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 i felt guilty about not enjoying- EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE. OF. MY. DAY.

i hear constantly that these days go by so fast, one day you will miss these years, you will never regret staying at home with them, soak it up, play with them … ______________ (i’m sure you can fill in the blank).

You are at the grocery store and the kind old lady pulls her cart up to yours as you have one kid squirming their way  out of the designated kid seat, one begging for fruit snacks, and one stepping on your heels, and she says, “these are the best days of your life.” really? really?

so not only am i NOT enjoying this outing with my wild children- to which i am already feeling guilty about, now, i’m feeling guilty about NOT drinking in these precious moments enough. guilt.

guilt is at every corner.

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my failure wasn’t that my house was messy, but that i STILL cared what my friend thought. i wanted to present a house, a ME, that had it all together. i wanted her to see a mom that was  making dinner, had clean floors, and kids that greeted her with a hand shake. i wanted to present a picture that wasn’t really real. and when i couldn’t control my kids into picking up, i snapped. i scolded, i yelled, i shot anger like arrows into their chests.

the truth was- my messy house made her feel at home. in fact, it was what she wanted.  but all i heard was one day, you will miss this- the chaos, the mess, the crackers smashed into the carpet. and another layer of guilt was exposed.

guilt- that i had just yelled at my kids for making a mess, guilt- that i had tried to put my house in order to present a perfect picture of our lives, and guilt- that i wasn’t somehow embracing these days- as they are supposedly the ‘best days of my life.’  i just can’t win.

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guilt isn’t a foreign feeling to me.

it’s always been there, before kids, before marriage, before i even knew how to name it.

guilt, like a gun always accusing.

and i run and run in circles trying to fight it back, telling it to go away, diffusing its power, until nights like the other night- i fall on my knees accepting my sentence. guilty, as charged.

 

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yet, guilt has only one diffuser, one replacement, one silencer: LOVE.

one love that is greater, one love that stepped in, one love that paid the penalty for all my failings.

the only escape from guilt is accepting love. accepting the truth that I’m not good enough- ever. accepting the truth of who i am and crushing the shadow of perfect perception i have of myself.

the goal is not perfection, but process.

the remedy of guilt is accepting grace.

the motion that keeps my heart beating inside of my chest is love.

 

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there is no guilt in love. none. ever.

because the truth is my house is in shambles and i don’t enjoy- EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of my life at home with kids. the truth is i daydream about when they are older and i can eat an entire meal without begging my kids to take- just. one. more. bite. the truth is that i get real- red in the face- angry at my kids. the truth is that i want to give people the perception that i’ve got my act together and meals planned out for weeks.

there is the real me and the me i want to be. and when i can’t live up to that pretty perfect picture of me- i fail. i fall short.

i feel guilt like it’s my blood.

 

 

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but when i am me. the real, honest, down right messy me, it is there that i am loved. there, that i am free.

there is no failure (or fear, guilt, shame, loneliness)- when truth is met by love.

love is always an invitation to honesty.

an invitation to be who we really are.

an invitation to let ourselves of the hook of perfection.

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the truth is- i’m not invited to have a clean house or the perfect discipline techniques

or to love EVERY SINGLE MINUTE of my day.

i am invited into love. always love. accepting God’s love and accepting me (as i am), the one, He loves.

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i survived week one, alone, with my four little human beings.

it wasn’t always pretty,  but the fact that we are all still alive is cause enough for a party.

i know it sounds coo-coo, and, yes, i’m still on some pain meds, but going from 0 children to 1 was the most difficult transition of all… even more difficult than balancing all 4.

 

 

 

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i remember when sam left for work and i was left alone with our 12 day old son.

i watched his red truck pull out of the driveway and i started to cry. i was alone. alone and terrified.

i remember when the meals stopped showing up at our doorstep and presents wrapped in perfect blue bows stopped arriving in the mail.

  i remember standing aimlessly in front of my closet flipping through shirts that no longer fit me, hopeless to find something  that would hide my  stretched out stomach.

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i remember being desperate for a shower.

 doing a stack of dishes felt like a heavy burden and nursing made me dizzy. the bleeding trickled on for days. 

and the crying never seemed to end.

i was constantly running a million scenarios through my head: what if he screams in the grocery store? where will i feed him if i go to the baseball game? if i go to the bank should i use the sling or the stroller?

 something in me stopped and something new began. something i couldn’t control or maintain or silence took over inside of me and a deep sort of darkness set in.

 

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 a darkness that didn’t have words, but only a feeling of failure that swept like deep long slaps across my chest.

a fracture that i couldn’t mend with any sort of sleep schedule or master with the right sort of sway. no amount of baby books i read or techniques i tried, could take away my  overwhelming sense of loneliness.

i felt it, but i didn’t know how to speak it.

i suppressed all kinds of guilt and fear and shame because good moms weren’t supposed to feel this way.  good moms only felt absolute bliss.

 

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if i could say anything to the 26 year old me, to the new mom, driving around town, with a screaming baby and my trunk stashed with diapers, a baby swing, and all kinds of ‘just in case’ equipment, i’d say,

***

you are going to be okay.

i know you don’t feel okay.

i know that everything in you is crumbling and nothing is the way you thought it would be. i know you dread night feedings.  i know you feel lonely and the loneliest when you are surrounded by other moms who have it all together. i know that nothing feels right inside. i know that you can’t get out the door without spit up running down your back and you’ve changed four dirty diapers in a row and you’ve already changed your own clothes twice. i know.

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but what you don’t know is that giving up the life you once lived is painful. there is a death, a dying, a starting over. the fog that you feel won’t lift after 6 weeks or when you start sleeping through the night.

the fog dissipates slowly.

a new life is being reborn in you. and it won’t take a check list to make the discouragement diminish. it will take low expectations and fumbling through prayer and speaking honestly for the ground beneath you to settle into the its new foundation.

it might take a while till you feel like yourself again and for  your identity as a mom to take shape.

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just wake up every morning, listen to kind voices, get dressed. don’t try to figure out how you’re going to make dinner and pump at the same time, don’t google ‘is a pacifier linked to learning disabilities’ -  just put on the hot water, your favorite Pandora station and then brush your teeth.

enter this new normal accepting that it is messy and filled with all kinds of nasty guilt and strangers who think they know best and blogs that cast down shadows of shame.

perhaps there is no right way to feel, but simply feeling at all is right enough.

remember your only  judge is Jesus and He loves you. lots.

and, when you feel put out and undone, do not chop off your hair, or charge up your credit cards, or find a new day job.

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find a small space that makes you feel alive, find a friend that won’t judge you, and just keep putting one foot in front of the next.

oh, yes, and cry, cry your eyes out. pull over, sit on the curb, and cry. then call your mom and ask for help. ask the stranger to hold the door while you maneuver your over sized stroller through the tiniest  door on mother earth.

my dear-  you will be okay. you are a super hero that’s learning how to walk. i  promise, one day you will fly.”

 ***

8

i wish i could have accepted myself, with all my weaknesses, with a little more honesty and grace.

i wish i could have eased into motherhood knowing that everything i felt was normal.  i guess people told me it was hard, but i just had a hard time accepting that it was actually hard for me.

i thought i was stronger, more adaptable, more capable. but it turns out i was just as broken as the next mom- the next human ( i just wasn’t good at admitting it).

and i don’t think i’m flying quite yet, but i am an excellent speed walker.

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everyone has a different experience blooming into motherhood. this was mine. it wasn’t pretty.

no matter what you are facing… find places to speak and be heard.

it makes coming alive so much more beautiful (and bearable).

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