all the things...
I have done what I am supposed to do.
I smile at church. I wave and give the occasional, ok, frequent, hug to the few people I believe are comfortable with receiving one.
I engage in small-talk at preschool classroom events.
I chit-chat through parent-teacher conferences.
I have joined umpteen Facebook groups and zealously play my part with comments and likes.
I have followed more positive and encouraging accounts on Instagram, and have been sharing their content to promote more positivity and encouragement on my own feed.
I have been doing all the things…
I send and receive the “we should get a coffee soon!” text with little or no follow through - the kids are sick, I am sick, we have a dentist appointment, the car is in the shop; ope - now you’re sick.
I have L O V E D leading community groups and forging friendships at weekend retreats through emotional, spiritual, and yes, actual physical fires.
So, why are there still nagging questions of is it enough? Am I enough? Why do I still feel so empty? Why are my friendships still so surface? How do the moments pass so quickly between what was once intense transparency to barely a passing nod?
I am at a point in my life where, as a work-from-home-stay-at-home wife of almost 10 years and a mother of 4 kids under 8 years old, that I am tired.
So. Very. Tired.
But not because of the endless loads of laundry and dishes that never seem to get done. Let’s be honest, there are PLENTY of blogs about those topics…
No. That’s not what I am tired of.
I am tired of myself.
I am tired of the shadow I have allowed that cloaks me in lies and keeps me at a less-reachable distance, despite my deep desire for true connection.
I can recall one of the first moments I experienced this kind of connection…
My husband has been my best friend since 2010. We were an unlikely couple, meeting at what could possibly be described as the absolute worst part of my life. Our first date was on a Wednesday in September. He invited me to have lunch at a nearby park. After we enjoyed our locally grown, organic, gluten and dairy-free wraps and iced tea, we walked for what seemed like hours. We both knew that we had baggage and it was so freeing to dump all that dirty laundry (metaphorically speaking) on the ground and sort it out together. From that afternoon, I couldn’t imagine finding anyone else like him, nor did I want to try.
There have been intense moments throughout the last thirteen years - conversations that should have happened sooner, heated arguments that shouldn’t have happened at all. I can honestly say that there were too many times that the cloak wrapped me in its grip and pulled me away, claiming to ‘protect’ me, to guard me. There were days that I just wouldn’t talk. I would hold it all inside and figure it out myself. I would see the hurt in his eyes; he could feel the distance between us growing, but I didn’t care. I felt safe there, in the shadows. Even as a seasoned mother of newborns, there would be times of heartbreaking, emotional distance put between me and the crying child who only wanted me, but I believed I had nothing left to give, that I couldn’t possibly be enough.
However, over the last few years, there has been a peeling back, a deeper level that I have yet to reach, but I know is there, beckoning me to stop wading in the shallows, but become fully submerged in the truth that is waiting for me.
Through some serious soul searching, I have been able to recognize the oh-so-familiar feel of the shadow creeping over my shoulder, wanting to pull me back into a pit of depression and despair. In the shadows the lies have been whispered to me like a lullaby, almost painfully soothing because it’s what I have known, what I have believed for so long. I still, at times, retreat to its trenches - but what I have found there now is not comforting. It is hollow and empty. The shadow that once held me close now only reveals an aching void that I have neglected for many, many years.
The ability to just be me - with the shadows, messy mom hair, worn out leggings and all.
Not just a girls night out to show off the pizza on Instagram Reels, but a true tribe of friends that I can rely on to encourage and challenge me.
More than forced family photos, I long for peace in my home that comes with contentment and connection to one another.
I am coming to terms with the reality of a whole new world (queue your mental image of Jasmine on the flying carpet and sing out loud right….now) that doesn’t require perfectly outfitted children waiting patiently at the kids ministry check in table or a 5-course meal on something other than paper plates for a dinner party.
I am becoming more and more ok with knowing I do not need it all together or a perfectly clean house to strengthen friendships and our family dynamics. Date nights are great, but so are quiet evening talking while attempting to match the bajillion single socks.
I have always loved to entertain - the planning, the lists, the preparation. It all exhilarates me but often propels me into a mindset of perfection. Which will often leave me missing the mark and feeling disappointed or like a dinner-party failure because the combined 8 kids wouldn’t sit still for dinner and my friends ate standing up in the kitchen because my table was not big enough.
“We are afraid to be rejected for who we actually are, so we either bail out entirely or crank it into entertainment overdrive, trying to wow our way around authenticity.”
The Ministry of Ordinary Places
crumbs of authenticity...
But the point is, I did it. I opened my home, my husband was supportive of the endeavor, and our children made new friends.
I have realigned my priorities. If you need a hot cup of coffee and some cheddar turtles from Aldi, my door will always be open, I’ll always have extra mugs, and I’ll try to remember to wipe off the table before you sit down.
I have tasted the crumbs of authenticity and now I am craving it. The fire for meaningful connections has been lit and there is no easy way to put it out - it can only grow brighter.
I love coffee shops, but I am beginning to love my kitchen table even more.
Chelsey and her husband Evan are raising their four kids in southern Michigan. When Chelsey isn't behind a computer working as a digital creator or taking care of her family and her home, she's exploring the great outdoors with her family! Chelsey's heart exudes hospitality, always welcoming and wanting for connection and comfort - so fitting that one of her favorite things to whip up in the kitchen is soup!
Photos by Carly Kristin Photography. Headshot provided by Chelsey.