I hadn’t talked with our eldest daughter for several days when she called and asked what we’d been doing. I paused, trying to muster up an answer with some substance. Coming up empty-handed, I winced and responded, “The same thing I was doing last time we talked. Trying to gain some semblance of order around the house.” Again. And chances are good that the next time we speak, the answer will be unfortunately similar.
I’m not a perfectionist. I do prefer order and cleanliness in my home, but I can rarely crawl out of the hole of “ endless piles and stacks” long enough to achieve rest on the level ground of “routine maintenance needed.” I have friends who seem to have it all together. Their homes are comfortable, but orderly. The countertops remain clutter-free. Their families’ coats and shoes rarely stray from their designated hooks and baskets. The floors rarely show evidence of traffic. I choose to like them anyway.
Most days, I’m able to live fully in my life without comparison to the illusional snapshot of another’s. Yet there are days when the freshly emptied laundry basket magically refills in minutes. The errands to be run are greater than the energy required to execute. The thought of planning dinner feels overwhelming. I feel defeated. And on the darkest days, shame.
This morning, as I was mapping out my plan for the day, I felt a subtle yet significant shift of perspective occur. It dawned on me that I actually have a choice to make. I can wallow in the frustration of living in “clutter purgatory”, or I can choose to look beyond the stuff to something greater. I choose the latter.
I am deeply grateful for…
~ Bits of scotch tape adhered tightly to my wooden floors, capless markers banished hopelessly under my couch, scraps of yarn and paper dripping throughout my house and small hand print smudges made from pastel–chalk hands accidentally decorating the wall. There is creativity abounding in my home.
~ Scattered weapons. Light sabers, daggers, broken cap guns and wooden swords that have been worn down to only traces of the original paint as a result of many battles. I have little boys in whose very souls the Creator planted seeds of justice, goodness, and the drive to fight for all that is good and right. I have fine young men who will one day fight for all that is important, and they are in training… in my home.
~ A clumsy pile of muddy, worn, and sometimes companionless shoes that were deposited right beside the shoe basket. Their owners have quickly shifted from the adventures of exploring the creek, jumping on the trampoline, and straining to see their favorite fish in the pond toward the next exciting venture inside. There is anticipation in my home.
~ An unfinished Star Wars Monopoly game that has taken up permanent residence in the center of our family room on the coffee table (and the surrounding floor)… Because the big brother came home from college and took time to play. I have children who love and enjoy each other in my home.
~ Tellingly height-specific rows of smudges across the windows in our sunroom, made by fingers and noses pressed hard as wonder-filled eyes welcome the chickadees, house wrens, gold finches and occasional downy woodpecker who have come to feast at the bird feeder. There is love of God’s creation in my home.
~ An un-manicured backyard in need of tree-removal, weeding, pruning, and an occasional mow. There is a daddy who chooses to play with his children in my home.
~ A little voice that intrudes upon my coveted quiet time of the day – my bit of heaven in the form of a cup of coffee, a quite moment, book in lap and pen in hand… Because I have a little boy who could have chosen a sibling, but who chooses me to play a game with him. I have simple pleasures in my home.
~ Traces of the frayed ends from sheer coral ribbon… From tying what felt like thousands of bows on our daughter’s wedding invitations preceding one of the most joyful weekends in our family history. I have thriving young adults who have emerged from my home.
~ Towering stacks of beautiful old yellowing books waiting to be re-shelved in our home library… Because my children have befriended hundreds of perilous adventures, brave heroes, quirky characters, and faraway places as their very own. I have a love of story in my home.
~ Empty boxes of cereal left in the pantry, empty boxes of popsicles left in the freezer, and granola bar wrappers sprinkled throughout the van… Because my children are growing like weeds and they are consuming food proportionately. I have strong, healthy bodies in my home.
~ Guitar picks that pop up unexpectedly like long-lost Easter eggs from last year’s hunt – in the dusty corner of the bathroom, under the box of crackers, wedged in the floor vent. I have music filling my home.
~ Empty cups of Pinkberry yogurt sitting on my bedside table that really should be thrown away but seem to keep resurfacing… Because I have a sweet husband who spoils me (too often) with trips to get yogurt, backrubs, a forgiving spirit and kind words. I have close to 20 years of fidelity, love and commitment in my home.
My house isn’t spotless, perfectly organized or immaculately decorated. But within it’s walls, I can make the choice to bask in the presence of life, energy, joy, and beauty – to allow the temporal to point me toward the eternal. And when our daughter calls to check in next, chances are good that I’ll be “doing the same thing I was last time we talked. Trying to gain some semblance of order around the house.” Only then, rather than a wince, I hope to produce a grateful, knowing smile.
“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they could never find it.” Edith Schaeffer