Four.

Tonight I laid you down to sleep like so many nights before;

But it felt a little different…because tomorrow you’ll be 4.

 

The days are long, just they said, but the years leave me wanting more;

Every day you’re changing, and it rocks me to my core.

 

You love to dance you love to read and you’re always up to explore;

Your smile, your laugh, your spirit – are just a few things I adore.

 

I’ll blink my eyes and your bags will be packed sitting by the door;

I know I’ll stand in disbelief thinking, wasn’t she just 4?

 

I don’t know what lies ahead for you or what God has in store;

But whatever it is, I’ll be right here like all the years before.

 

So rest your head and close your eyes and let those big dreams soar;

This year will be so magical – baby girl, you’re turning 4!

Rest.

Why is it, mamas, that we so adamantly deny ourselves rest?

We measure our worth by our ability to do #allthethings, often refusing to ask for help or — even worse — actually denying it. Even from those in our so-called “Tribe”…

We dig ourselves in over our heads and then suffer in silence as the “dirt” is shoveled back in on top of us. The sad part is, no one even knows it’s happening because we don’t speak up. And if we do, it’s probably to offer yet another reluctant “yes” to just one.more.thing.

We bury ourselves in busy.

Over time, the busy becomes suffocating. We dig deeper and deeper until one day, we can’t breathe. We can’t see the light anymore. And then, because we are human, we succumb to the darkness. And it’s only at that point – the point of pitch black – that we are forced into the level of vulnerability required to admit…we need help.

I know this because I’ve been there. I am there.

I finally broke.

And in my state of brokenness, I realized…I needed rest. And I mean more than a good night’s sleep (but that wouldn’t hurt, either…)

Part of that rest is physical. It’s slowing down. It’s asking someone to watch the kids for an afternoon (thanks, husband). It’s putting off the piles of dirty laundry and being at peace with the crumb-covered floors. Or, if you’re super lucky, finding someone who can take care of those things for a day or two. It’s being ok with letting dinner be grilled cheese or frozen pizza or better yet…an Uncrustable you just pull out of the freezer and put on a paper plate. No prep, no cleanup. Can I get an Amen?! And yes, it’s getting an extra hour or two of sleep.

But beyond the physical rest is the really important stuff – the stuff that the physical rest makes way for.

Mental rest.

Emotional rest.

Spiritual rest.

To be cliché: it’s filling your cup.

To find physical rest, we need extra hands. We need people. We need our Tribe.

To find mental/emotional/spiritual rest we need something more.

We need Jesus.

In my state of being busy, I forgot to seek rest in Him. I let the words on my never-ending “To Do” list become more important than the Word of God. I began to measure my value by my productivity rather than turning to Him in prayer.  I let the shouts of the world drown out the whispers of my Heavenly Father.

Rest, child.

Even the Creator of heaven and earth needed a day of rest. Why, then, wouldn’t I?

So friend…

Just.

Stop.

Digging.

 

Stop saying “yes” to the world and instead say “yes” to Him.

“Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.” – Ecclesiastes 4:6

And if you’re still struggling to ask for help, remember that the King of Kings tells us we are better off sharing the load:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Ask for help. Seek Him. Rest.

What Else, Mama?

So, it’s Valentines Day. I’m aware of this solely mostly because at 11 PM last night I was frantically putting together 26 gifts for my 3-year-old and a dozen more for my little babe to give their friends at school. (I mean, seriously…what do you get babies for Valentines Day?? I was pretty proud of myself here…)

We also got a couple of small things for the girls, and as we sat at the counter for breakfast my oldest asked, “What did you get for Valentines, mama?” I immediately felt unsure of how to answer, because my husband and I had decided not to spend the money on gifts this year when we didn’t really need to.

“Well…I got some flowers from Papa, baby…” (hands-down my favorite Valentines tradition…)

“What else, mama? What else did you get?”

“Well…I got you and sissy and daddy, so that’s pretty awesome…”

“But WHAT ELSE, mama?!”

I couldn’t help second guessing our decision to “skip” Valentines. The doubt crept in…

Should we have exchanged gifts so the girls would see that we got each other something?

Do they think this means we don’t love each other?

I mean, what kind of couple doesn’t celebrate Valentines Day?!

Maybe we should both pick something up today to exchange tonight?

But I stopped myself mid-thought.

…NO.

Because what an incredible opportunity to teach my daughter that we don’t have to BUY each other things to prove our love; to show her that love can be expressed in ordinary, every day actions just as much as expensive, extravagant gifts. Maybe even more so?

So I started thinking…what did my husband get me for Valentines this year? Or, put another way…how did he show me love today?

He got the coffee set-up late last night so this morning when I woke up (before the sun) it would be waiting for me…because he knows my day doesn’t really start until after the first cup.

He fixed a bowl of oatmeal for me to shovel in my mouth on the way out the door…because he knows if he didn’t I would have skipped breakfast all together. And probably lunch, too. Because who has the time?

He got our toddler out of bed, got her dressed and fought her through every bite of a sausage biscuit sandwich…because he knows my mornings with the little involve a lot and if we divide and conquer we all get out the door a little less frazzled.

He made time for the school Valentines Day party in the middle of the afternoon, even though he had a million other things to do…because he knows if he didn’t our oldest would have been heartbroken. And he loves me well by loving our girls well.

He responded to our daughter’s cries from bed that she was a little hungry…then a little thirsty…then that her foot itched…because he knows that by bedtime there’s not a whole lot of me left.

He didn’t say a word when I sat down after dinner…without cleaning up…to have a little time to myself. To eat cheesecake, drink my latte and write…because he knows that sometimes that’s exactly what I need.

He loved me this Valentines Day by showing up.

Correction: He loves me every day by showing up.

So baby girl, when you ask “what else” …that list could go on forever.

 

Love you to pieces.

To my strong-willed daughter…

Tonight, we had a tough night. Like, a mama locked herself in the bedroom for a grown-up timeout kind of tough. Tonight, you broke me. But after I got you to bed and began to pick-up the scattered pieces of our house and my heart left in the aftermath, I saw this paper you had brought home from school…

Immediately, it brought me back to you. And in that moment, I desperately wanted you to know…I see you. Yes, baby girl…you. I see you, and I love you to pieces.

Through the stomping and the screaming, I see you. I see that you don’t like what I’ve done or said or asked of you, and you’re making your opinion known. I see that you clearly know what you want, and in your own way, you’re standing up for it. I see that you are willing to fight for yourself, no matter the consequence. And deep down, I know this is a trait that will serve you well someday. Today is just not that day. But I see you baby girl…and I love you to pieces.

Through the tantrums and tears, I see you. I see you dealing with great big emotions that are difficult to process and impossible to contain. I see that you are feeling overwhelmed, unheard and misunderstood. I see that you’re seeking not only attention, but affirmation. Affirmation of who you are and what you are feeling. Yes, I see you baby girl…and I love you to pieces.

Through your stubborn head and sensitive heart, I see you. I see that while your brain tells you to never back down, your heart tells you the consequences will hurt. I see that those parts of you are in constant conflict. I know that you equally dislike letting me win and letting me down. And sometimes, the biggest battle you fight is with yourself. Please know I see you baby girl, and I love you to pieces.

I see that through your veil of defiance, you desperately want my approval. You push me away, but never let me get out of reach.

I know that you’re pushing your boundaries. Testing my limits. Seeing if I will follow through. And even when it’s hard baby, I promise you I will…even when giving in would be easier.

Because you are worth the hard. You are worth the fight. You. Are. Worth. It.

I know that these pieces of you that are so incredibly difficult right now, if channeled correctly, will be unbelievably beautiful as you learn how to use them for good.

I know that being your mother will. not. be. easy. But it will be the most incredible, rewarding, worthy thing I’ve ever been called to do. And even when you think I don’t see you…that I don’t understand who you are…I promise you baby girl, I do. I see you, because when I look at you…I see so much of me. So even when it breaks me, I will love you to pieces.

Love you most,

Your Mama

Dear Emmy,

Yesterday afternoon, I posted this picture for the world to see:

I shared it because it filled my heart with joy. We were all at church, and as I looked down our row I thought to myself, “We are so abundantly blessed.” Papa was holding Lexi, your daddy was holding KK, Auntie was holding Lakyn and the older girls were proudly performing every song the worship team played.  My heart was truly overflowing. I was so, unbelievably happy.

Later in the day, I was feeding Lakyn while listening to the older girls playing downstairs. Sister fell asleep in my arms, and instead of laying her down, I decided to just pause and enjoy the moment. But in the stillness and solitude, the sadness washed over me….

That picture should have six little girls in it.

And just like that my joyful, happy heart was shattered.

We should have needed on more seat when we sat down at church.

 Nana should have had one more little girl shaking sprinkles on the Christmas cookies.

 There should have been five sleeping bags on the floor at bedtime.

 There should be presents under the tree with your name on them.

 When people look at our crew and say, “That sure is a lot of little girls!” …what they don’t know is there is another one missing.

 3 Gillespie girls. 3 Hummel girls. Even playing field.

There should be six.

Sometimes A lot of times, grief hits me this way – in the happiest moments. Probably because it’s those moments I most feel your absence. I feel the hole that is left in our family with you not here, and I wonder if anyone else feels it, too.

Tonight, as we have every Christmas Eve since you died, we will light a candle in the center of the table that will burn in your memory. Your stocking will hang in its spot above the fireplace. A crystal angel that your Papa gave me our first Christmas without you will sparkle with the lights on the tree.

We do our best, sweet girl, to make you a part of who we are as a family. We are a family of 5. A family of 12. Without you…we are not full us.

On these days, I feel your absence in the depths of my soul. My heart aches for you. But when the sadness threatens to consume me, I remember how lucky I am that you were mine at all. I remind myself that God knit you together perfectly and wrote your story flawlessly. And even though you are not here, He is still writing.

He is the master author of each of our lives, and in the final chapter there is a common thread: death. But that is not the end. Because on the first Christmas, He gave the world a baby. A baby born humbly, who grew into a faultless man – God’s son, who died so the rest of us might live. So that even if when someone we love goes before us, we can hold to the hope of a heavenly reunion.

This Christmas, while I wish you were here to decorate cookies, sing in church, unwrap presents, and add one more little girl to our family photos, I will remember that God is uniquely using your story to write mine. That He gave you life with a plan and purpose – just like His own son. God gave His son’s life so that you and I would not be separated by death. And in the waiting, I never want to lose sight of that promise.

So for now, know that I miss you. And when I look at that photo, I know there are six little girls in our family. And one day, we will all be together again.

Miss you most,

Your Mama