God bless this mess

We have been living in squalor. This is not new. We do it all the time.

We let one thing or another slip. An errant cup in the living room will usually gather friends. A piece of paper somehow morphs into a pile. Towels steadfastly refuse to hang up on their own no matter how often we leave them on the floor to fend for themselves. Laundry piles topple, shoes multiply. Life happens.

Tour

Recently I had the occasion to visit a brand new home. This is home to people so kind and giving I always feel simultaneously bolstered by our friendship — and pretty sure I’m not measuring up as far as goodness goes. I feel like they are reinforcing my faith even as I worry I may be lowering their average. I’m a work in progress at best.

This family is blessed with an abundance of children. I’m not always certain of the actual head count, but I think “a passel” explains it well. Great kids all. They are very busy people always giving or doing or helping someone. I should be half as good.

The night I arrived at their home to drop off one of my children for a visit, the man of the house decided it would be a great time to give an impromptu tour of the new house. Being a real estate junkie I was thrilled to take it, even as I offered up the fact that his wife, who was not home at the time and had not been expecting company, was surely going to kill him. He, being a man, insisted on signing his own death warrant and went ahead and ushered me through.

It is a gorgeous house. Spacious, wonderful, with fabulous flow. I was in awe of the whole thing. Just beautiful. A short while later I received a text from the lady of the house apologizing for the fact that her husband had shown me “a mess.”

Mess?

Funny, I didn’t see a mess at all. I toured a house brimming with life and love. Full of evidence of the people who lived there and what they liked to do. What I saw was a “home.”

Groceries on the counter and a towel on the floor is not a “mess.” That is evidence of a life well lived. You are clean and you eat. What’s not to love?

I hastened to assure her I loved the house and appreciated them sharing it with me.

Still, her reaction gave me pause. How many times have I apologized for my own home? For shoes by the door, dishes in the sink, sofa pillows strewn all over and blankets in disarray.

Sometimes, after a particularly successful slumber party or gathering I admit I can’t wait to “put the house to rights.” I love things neat, spotless, tidy. I thrill to shoes lined up, laundry put away and not a cup or pillow out of place. The truth is, that is not how we live.

Living

How we live is book bags and homework, snack plates and shoes. We leave things in the strangest places. You can almost find a pair of earrings on the buffet (so we can remember to take them upstairs, then rarely do). The mud never stays in the mudroom. We let clean laundry stack until it threatens to topple and pretend that putting it at the end of the bed constitutes putting it “away.” There are games to get to and friendships to attend to and sometimes making hospital corners on a bed sheet must take a back seat.

I like fresh and clean and get pretty antsy when things are a mess, but the longer I am blessed to live I have learned to embrace it too. I get annoyed at the mess, because I’m human, and then imagine what it would take for a home to be a house with nothing out of place. What — and who — would be missing. It breaks my heart to think of having nothing left to clean.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I am still going to put on airs and insist on cleaning up like crazy before anyone “new” comes over. I am, however, also learning to accept what makes a house a home is life well lived. Sometimes life is messy, imperfect and leaves a mark. That’s the good part.

Relax

I think we all should relax and quit apologizing when a “house” looks more like “home.”

When the chance to open our home happens, I hope I can open the door wide, welcome guests with an even wider heart, and say with utter sincerity “Thank you Lord, please bless this mess.”

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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