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Today’s invitation is by Sarah Torna Roberts. I’d introduce her, but she’s about to do a wonderful job of introducing herself, so just keep reading.

 

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Once upon a time, my children had a Cheese Fight.

 

This was back in the days of tiny babies and no extra energy to be found and so I did something that shames me even now, I bought bags of pre-grated cheese, poison preservatives and all. I was tired, okay? And I had babies that never let me put them down, so how exactly was I supposed to grate my own cheese?

 

Anyway, one evening Brandon was working late and I was out in the garage where our washer and dryer are located. If memory serves, I was actually doing laundry, which was obviously my first mistake. As a result of what came next, I now happily let my laundry pile up to Everest levels and then and only then, I beg my husband to do it.

 

So, there I was. Feeling pretty darn Super Mom-ish, switching clothes to the dryer before they sat so long that the mildew scent forced me to wash them again (and again).  After I had completed this domestic task, I wandered back into my dimly lit house where my children were supposed to be watching yet another episode of Phineas and Ferb, only to be greeted by a sound that was most definitely not the awesome theme music of that hilarious (for adults too!) cartoon, but by shrieks and maniacal laughter from the five-year-old and three-year-old. The baby was sobbing. You’d cry too if you had cheese bits stuck to your head.

 

My friends, there were shreds of grated cheese everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. My living room was covered. My little hooligan boys took the two and a half minutes I was in the garage to open the fridge, find two large bags of pre-grated cheese, open said bags (a task I, at 32 years old, find difficult), concoct their evil plan, and execute… all over the couches, the carpet, the dog, the baby, and each other. And then of course, they’d found time to squish all the cheesy bits into the carpet and the hardwood, leaving waxy streaks that convinced me once and for all that pre-grated cheese should not ever be consumed by humans.

 

It was a mess.

 

flipped out. I don’t mean that I spoke sternly, or that I gave a lecture about wasting perfectly good (?) food. I don’t mean that I calmly and quietly ordered them to their rooms to “think about what they’d done.” I mean, I started hollering and waving my arms. I mean that I really wanted to spank them. How I didn’t, I will never understand. Grace of God, folks. I mean that I started sobbing. I mean that I called Brandon and without so much as a hello, I screamed into the phone for him to get the hell home, that I couldn’t take another second of all these children and their messes. I mean that I grabbed the vacuum and even though I knew that the sound scared the baby, I ignored his cries as I rolled that old and crappy machine all over the carpet. I mean that when I realized the vacuum wasn’t picking up a single shred of cheese, and was in fact making the situation much worse by further smashing each piece into the carpet, I shoved the machine over so hard that it crashed with a bang on my floor.

 

I was a mess. And it wouldn’t be the last time I felt that way.

 

As my babies have grown, the messes of crushed cheerios and dirty burp cloths have given way to legos beneath my feet and stacks of books filling their beds to the point of discomfort. And while there is certainly grace and relief in these easier to deal with messes, there are other messes that are new and just plain difficult to clean up in this season of big kids.

 

These days, we’re navigating brother to brother relationships, complicated and ugly emotions like jealousy and entitlement. We’re fielding hard questions and explaining heartbreaking concepts like racism to them. And half the time, we’re having to back-track and take re-dos at these conversations and answers. There is nothing neat and tidy about this new season of parenting, at least not for us. We’re introducing them to the world a little more every day and sometimes that pushes me to the end of myself even more than the days of endless nights and temper tantrums.

 

The truth is, while I may not freak out from pure exhaustion quite so often, I’m absorbing more conflicting emotions and twitching with helplessness more than ever before. I want them to be independent, but I don’t want them to be hurt. I want them to fight heroically for justice, but I want everyone to love them like I do. I want them be critical thinkers, but I don’t want their small shoulders to bear burdens that, at face value, aren’t theirs to bear. I want them feel loved and cherished to the tips of their toes by me, but I also want them to see me as a person whose only value before God and His people is not as their mother alone.

 

How do I do this?

With a lot of messes, a lot of mistakes. A lot of laughter and a lot of forgiveness. A lot of sticking together, no matter how big the mess gets.

 

Those early days taught me the good work of letting the messes come, working alongside each other in humility and forgiveness. To be honest, while this new season is just as messy, it is also one of the greatest honors of my life to teach my sons the value of entering into the mess together. Some of the most beautiful moments of motherhood have been knee-deep in the mess with one of my boys.

 

Two years after the Cheese Fight of 2011, it was a normal afternoon when I realized a bedroom door was closed and things seemed to be a little too quiet. I crept up to the door and without a single noise, turned the doorknob and inched the door open. As I pushed my head between the door and the frame, leaning into the bedroom, I was hit on the cheek by s fleck of yellow-orange. My little boys’ eyes grew large and their fingers froze over the humidifier where seconds before they’d been shoving handfuls of pre-grated cheese through the vents where the fan was spinning and sending the cheese flying throughout the room. I closed the door, covered my mouth, and stood in the hallway with my shoulders shaking in what was something that was a combination between a sob and hysterical laughter. I walked away, leaving them I assume, confused for a moment before they continued with their insanity.

 

You see, I had learned from the Cheese Fight of 2011 that it’s far better to let the cheese dry into crispy little flakes overnight before attempting to vacuum it up. So I went on my way knowing that sometimes the best thing to do is wait until it’s a little more manageable. Sometimes it’s okay to take a beat, and then come back tomorrow and clean it up together. We will never be without these messes, so the best we can do is soak in the lessons and try not to freak out. To know that seasons ebb and flow and that motherhood is full of messes and full of grace and growth. For our babies of course, but even more for us.

 

And when we do freak out, that’s okay too. It’ll make a really great story some day.

 

And for anyone wondering, I don’t buy pre-grated cheese anymore. Unless I am desperate and exhausted. Which happens a lot.

 

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Okay, mamas. Now it’s your turn! As always, we have the link-up going on here at Esther’s blog. This week we are contemplating, chatting about, writing on, and instagram-ing on the word “Mess”. I think that’s a word that we all know all too well. Think about it and join in the conversation. There are so many ways to accept mess, enter into mess, deal with mess. Let’s come together and not live in shame about how messy our lives really are.

 

On that note, I hope you’ll consider hopping on to instagram with a picture that reflects a messy part of your life right now. Don’t forget to use #wholemama when you post, and let’s get a little vulnerable and a little free!

 

HOW TO JOIN:

  • Journal or blog your thoughts on “mess”  If you’re blogging, link it up with us below, so we can read and encourage.
  • Read other people’s processing (as links are added to the link-up below) and encourage them.
  • Join the Twitter party tonight (Monday) at 7:30 PST and later. #whole mama
  • All week long, post on Twitter and IG. Show us your mess, or show us your favorite tools for dealing with mess (coffee and wine count!)  
  • And…YES we’re still giving away free books!!!! Just for sharing your life on the #wholemama hashtag on Instagram. Last week’s winner was Lindsey Smallwood, who is getting a copy of Wearing God, by Lauren Winner. Congratulations, Lindsey!
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