Oh my sweet baby boy...it's been more than four years since we said "hello" and "goodbye" in the same moments. I've learned to channel my grief into good by giving back to others or channeling it into art. The moments where it catches me off guard are pretty rare these days. It's always there, but those moments where the tears leak out happen less and less often.
But sometimes you surprise me.
This week it came in the mail. We received an invitation from our incredible church for a Mother/Son and Father/Daughter dinner. I smiled thinking of my husband who is an amazing father spending the evening with our precious oldest daughter. But then, as my eyes looked back to the invitation, they locked on the "mother/son" part of the invitation.
The reality that I would not be participating in this dinner hit me. But not because I don't have a son. But because I do, but you're not here to go with me.
For a moment I imagined walking into that dinner. The picture is blurry as I only have faint ideas of what you might look like now. But in my mind you look like your daddy. I see your precious tiny hand clenched in mine, dragging me behind you as you take in everything in the room, occasionally drawing closer to my leg when someone speaks to you and you feel shy.
I see your blonde, wavy hair curling a bit on top of your head as you are dressed in a tiny suit that your daddy always liked looking at in stores when you were still kicking away in my womb. You turn to look at me with a smile on your face and I see your daddy's blue eyes that you would share with your sisters glistening with excitement as you start to tell me about something you see.
Pregnant with Barrett - 2012
And then I'm back in my bedroom in our apartment and I feel the tears dripping down my face.
Baby boy, you've changed my life. You made me a better person, and I don't know how I could ever thank you for that. Your death is a constant reminder to me to never take a day that I have with your sisters for granted. And I know that you are watching over tiny Gabriel until mom gets to see you both again. What a blessing to be able to grieve with hope.
Not a day goes by that I don't think of you, with a smile passing over my face as I think of what a blessing you have been to our family and countless other lives. But sometimes, like this moment this week, you still surprise me.
You're not here for us to go to the dinner, but you are always in my heart and I will always, always, always carry you with me.
Motherhood is so rewarding, but it can be so draining. This is especially true in an age of social media when comparison is so easy to do before we even realize it. We forget that social media is but a glimpse.
My motherhood journey has been and will continue to be full of mistakes, but I now view each one as a learning opportunity because that is the best thing that we can do with those moments.
But in the last year, my views on motherhood have changed even more and I hope that I leave a legacy for my grandchildren and beyond that is full of mothers investing time.
When my girls think back, I hope they remember a mom who worked three jobs while in graduate school but still always had time for them.
I hope they remember a mom who may not have had a spotless home, but who always valued time with them more and had no problem immediately putting down the broom when they asked to be rocked or wanted to read a story.
I hope that they remember a mom who left the laundry for another day when bath time ran late because she got caught up in splashing and playing horses with them in the water after she washed their hair.
I hope they remember a mom who often said "those things can wait" and instead loaded them up and took them to the park to swing or play soccer.
I hope they remember a mom who knew when she was becoming frustrated and stepped away to let them wane before speaking to them so that the tone that came next was full of love.
I hope they remember a mom who disciplined by listening, explaining, and discussing; a mom who allowed them to have bad moods and bad days instead of holding them to a standard of perfection that it impossible to reach; a mom who taught them the importance of honoring emotions and not holding them in.
I hope they remember a mom who made sure she always had enough patience for them.
I hope they remember a mom who made sure they were at church with her even when everyone overslept and all arrived with ponytails and buns on our heads.
I hope they remember a mom who treasured curling up in the chair with them and reading to them or sitting in the floor playing in the dollhouse.
I hope they remember funny conversations at the dinner table and that their mom was never ashamed of being silly with them.
I hope they remember a mom who fought for what she believed in and instilled that passion in them.
I hope they remember a mom who taught them the importance of self-care so that you have a full bucket to pour into others.
I hope they remember a mom who cared about the world they would grow up in and fought to make it better.
I hope that they remember a mom who always reminded them the importance of kindness and loving other people.
I hope they remember a mom who told them that their voice was powerful and that they should use it for good.
I hope they remember that she made mistakes and she wasn't perfect, but that she asked for forgiveness and always worked to learn from those mistakes. I hope they remember a mom who fought for them and who loved them immensely.
This world your father and I are raising you in has not looked very pretty the last year. This election has brought up a lot of words and behavior that thankfully I did not usually deal with on a regular basis. With voting being in two days and the world being saturated with so many messages from these candidates, I wanted to make sure you got a message from mom.
You. Are. Enough.
Do not ever let anyone tell you that because you are female, that you are less. You are not less. Being a woman is not easy, but it is something that I am proud of, and I hope you are too.
The world will saturate you with messages that your beauty is determined by your weight or your body shape, the clothes you wear, or the makeup on your face. Do not believe those lies. You are beautiful because you are you. That's not a cliche. It is absolute truth.
In this world you will have struggles. God does not hide that fact. But don't let those struggles make you forget who you are. Never let them become more powerful than your identity as a one of a kind, made in God's image, beautiful, strong, woman. When struggles come your way, do whatever you need to do to work through them and heal. Do not ignore them. Face them even when it's hard and deal with them physically, emotionally, and mentally. Ask for support when you need it and be willing to be honest with yourself about when you need it. And then, let those struggles motivate you rather than define you.
Let those struggles, and your testimony of God being with you in the midst of them, be your motivation to make a difference in this world.
Never let anyone..ANYONE...tell you that one person cannot make a difference in this world. God has used plenty of individuals to enact incredible change...just look at David. LOOK AT ESTHER. The list could go on and on. If you seek Him as you seek to make this world a better place, nothing and no one can stand in your way.
My girls, when you hear messages from people around you that anyone is undeserving of love or assistance, call out those words for what they are:lies. We don't get to determine who gets our love and our kindness and our support; we freely give it and trust God to do the rest.
When you feel like your love is met with hate, love anyway. When you feel like your kindness is taken advantage of, be kind anyway. When your assistance is rejected, let your offer continue to stand in case they change their mind.
When the world tells you that you are wasting your time investing in someone, invest your time anyway.
Time invested in another human being is never wasted my loves. Invest away.
When you start to wonder if you are wasting your time, take some time for yourself, and then get back up and keep fighting. Sometimes you go long periods without seeing any fruit, but then one day you will be amazed when that person you have been investing in smiles at you and suddenly it is all worth it. That person may never tell you, but it could be that their story always includes "Because that person cared...", and though you never hear it, you made a difference.
Give kindness freely. Smile at strangers. Lend a hand. Sit and listen. Hold their hand when they're struggling. Hug them if they need it. And be willing to be on the receiving end when you need a smile, a hand to help, and ear to listen, a hand to hold, or arms to hug.
Love without borders.
Look in the mirror and see beauty.
Look at other people, all of them, and see beauty.
Look in the mirror and see worth.
Look at those around you, and see worth.
Look in the mirror and see a unique child of God created in His image.
And then look at everyone around you and see beautiful souls, each uniquely designed and created in His image.
Look in the mirror and see a beloved daughter of the Most High King.
And then look around at the world and see His beloved sons and daughters.
And then here is the kicker:
Believe that about yourself. Believe that about everyone around you.
Treat yourself like you believe that. Treat everyone you encounter like you believe that.
You will be a light; a radiating light.
In this world you will have trouble my incredible daughters. In this world you will see injustice. You will see bitterness and sometimes you will see people just being mean. You will be overwhelmed by the hatred you witness. Your heart will break and you will hurt. You will see things that make you wonder why you try.
Seek the justice you wish to see. When you see bitterness, be forgiving. When you see "mean", be kind. When you see hate, love. Allow your broken heart to heal and know that it's ok to hurt. And always, always, always, try anyway.
You are world changers. You are important. You are loved.
Love, your hard-headed Momma who refuses to believe she can't change the world with Jesus on her side.