Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Beautiful Mess

I am a fairly neat and orderly person. Unless we are talking about putting my laundry away, the inside of my van, or organizing my bathroom. But right now we aren't talking about those things. Because in most everything else in life, I like things to be tidy. Looking good. Clutter free. A place for everything and everything in it's place. If the main level of the house is a mess, I cannot seem to relax. However, this has not always been true about me. Growing up, my room was a disaster. I could have put a million holes in the walls of my bedroom while hanging up pictures from Teen Magazine (and was quite often irritated that my Dad would not let me. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, anyone?) and it would not have bothered me at all. But something strange happened when I began to grow up and start having to pay for some of my own things. All of a sudden, nothing could get dirty. Everything needed to stay looking nice and shiny and new. A few examples.

When I was seventeen, my parents bought me my first car. She was a 1999 maroon Mitsubishi Gallant. She had a sunroof and she rocked. I put the "S" in somebody when I drove her. I named her Ruby and she was with me until 2005 when Boss and I both traded in our "cool" cars for our first family vehicle (We keep cars like we keep dogs around here. Not for very long at all). Ruby was a very pretty car. The only trouble was that she had tan cloth interior. Even on the insides of the door, all the way up to where the windows began. This caused me some trouble. You see, I like to drive with my left elbow resting right up there on the door where the siding meets the window. And after time, the indention of my elbow began to wear a nice little spot into the siding of my car. The fabric began to look all squishy and worn. And after awhile, the spot was all I could see when I got inside of my car. It drove me crazy. When someone else would ask to borrow my car I would say, sure! But put your elbow on my worn spot and make it worse, and you die. I was kidding of course. But not really. The worn spot drove me bonkers. The inside of my car now looked like a "mess".

Another example. When Boss and I were first married we used part of our wedding gift money to buy new bedding. Our first "we are a married couple who now get to sleep together" bedding. It was important to me. I took my time picking it out and finally decided on a fluffy green and tan comforter set from Target. Looking back I cannot believe that I selected that bedding, but hey! I was young and in love and everything looked beautiful to me at that time :). Anyway, I loved our bed. I loved our bed for many newlywed reasons (ha!), but I especially loved my new comforter. We had not had it for very long, when one day I came home to our very tiny apartment in Charleston to find a huge, fat, navy blue ink spot, smack in the middle of my new comforter. Turns out Boss had left a broken ink pen in his Champs work wind shorts, and when he took them off and tossed them on the bed after work, the ink bled through onto my comforter. I was a sad, sad wife. That was the first day that I learned that love is a choice and not always a feeling :). My beautiful bed no longer looked pretty. It was stained and ruined and all my eyes could see when I was in the room was a navy blue ink stain "mess".

Last example. Shortly after we were married, Boss and I discovered that we were pregnant with our first baby girl. After we discovered we were now three, we decided to move back home to my family. Because we were in the process of moving and building a home while pregnant, we postponed buying baby nursery furniture. When the house was finally completed, Emma was 10 weeks old, and I went to town decorating her room with the tiny budget that I had. Her walls were painted pale purple and I selected a crib to match the rocking chair I had gotten from my mother. Her room was very sweet. But then our baby girl grew and grew, and one day she began getting teeth. Little teeth that liked to gnaw on the side of the crib and leave little teeth marks all over it. I had planned to use this crib for many more Z babies, and now in my eyes it was ruined. No longer perfect. To me, it now looked like a "mess". I am ashamed to say that I was actually frustrated with my tiny baby girl and her naughty teeth gnawing ways.

Looking back I can see that it was crazy for me to be so uptight about "things". After all, many cars have come and gone since Ruby. It was so not worth wasting my time on an indention in the side of my car's fabric. The same is true with comforters and cribs. After all, they are just "things". And while I began to loosen up a bit the more I grew and the more I mothered children, I still found that my insane need to control things and keep them neat and tidy remained. What would start out as a mother/daughter baking day would turn into a mother baking day, because I did not want the children making a "mess". What could have been a really fun memory of fort building in the living room, I would say no to, because I did not want the "mess". So many things I have missed out on because I was afraid of getting dirty. Afraid of the "mess". But then I read something one day that changed the way that I view "messes".

If you have not read the story of Kate Mcrae, you should. She is a little girl who is fighting brain cancer in Arizona. I first heard of her story over a year ago, around the time she was diagnosed. I think I was drawn to her because not only was she right in between my daughter's ages, but she shared my youngest daughter's name. Kate. And if that had not been enough to keep me reading and praying, looking at the photo of her piercing blue eyes on the Internet did me on. For a year now I have read her mom Holly's blog as she has journaled this road they are traveling with Kate. Several weeks ago she shared something so profound, that I will forever be changed when I think of things that make a "mess".

Kate's mommy shared that she had a shiny, white laptop that she used for her blogging. One day Kate decided to use the laptop as a surface for drawing her picture. Evidently she put her little paper on the laptop and began to draw a beautiful picture....with a green permanent marker. That bled threw and left green permanent marks all over the shiny white laptop. Kate's mommy shared that a year before she would have been upset over such a thing. Much as I was upset over a stained comforter and a gnawed on crib. But now she shared she is just thankful. To her, those green marks represent that Kate was well enough to be coloring. They are a forever, permanent mark to show that her daughter is alive and living. They are a reminder that she is here. And should anything ever happen to sweet Kate (and I pray daily for complete healing), I have no doubt that those green marks will be all the more cherished. To Kate's mommy those green marks are not a mess. They are beautiful.

As I began to think about the concept of a beautiful mess, I began to change the way that I thought about "things". That indention in my car? A permanent mark to show that I was there. Young, single, driving back and forth from home to college. It is proof that many hours were spent in Ruby. Some hours laughing with friends. Some drives spent praying and crying and wondering what God's plans were for my life. Would I get married? Would I be a mommy? And the stain on the comforter? If I still had it, I would no longer find it a mess. I would use that blanket to one day share with my daughters when they are newlyweds (and perhaps their husbands have irritated them) that love is more than a feeling, it is a choice. A choice to love even when they irritated. A choice to love through all of life's messes. And the baby crib? Oh, how I now wish I had saved the bar to that crib with my sweet baby girl's teeth marks on it. Showing that she was there. That she was growing. That she was my baby. Now, those teeth marks would be beautiful to me. A beautiful mess.

As I have reflected on these thoughts I have seen that I am not only leery of "messes" when it comes to things. I am also leery of "messes", when it comes to me, too. I can be a complete "mess" on the inside. Bitter thoughts towards my husband. Grumpiness towards my children. Luke warm in my relationship with God. But I slap a smile on my face for others to see. Why? Because I don't want them to see my "mess". I am afraid that if I show them my stains, or my indentions, or my gnawed on marks, that that is all they will see when they look at me. All they will see is a mess. But the more I think on this, the less afraid I become of showing others the "mess" that I am. Because you know what? My "mess" represents that I am alive. It shouts to the world, hey! I'm human! And it also shows a beautiful need for my Savior. I no longer feel the need to show the world that I am a shiny, white laptop in perfect condition. I am beginning to be okay with showing my permanent green marks as well. Because in God's eyes I am not just a "mess'. I am a work in progress. A beautiful mess. I am beginning to try and live differently. In the way that I view my earthly posessions. In the way that I mother. In my relationships with other people. I am trying to be more comfortable when it comes to getting messy. Because life is messy. And that's okay. Because it's a beautiful mess.

2 comments:

Candy said...

thanks....

Always Almost said...

Thank you so much for this! You have perfect timing. Just yesterday, I was so annoyed at my husband for scratching the baby's changing station while we were putting it together (I TOLD him to use a smaller screwdriver). This morning, the scratch was all I could see when I looked at it... but you're so right! How blessed am I to have a husband that's so excited to put together furniture for our baby that he doesn't even want to wait long enough to go find another tool! And this is a lesson I'll need to become more familiar with when our little man arrives! So bless you for this!