My house is a mess. I'm not playing with you, I mean dir-ty. Yes, that photo to the right is my kitchen and no I'm not ashamed to bare my messiness to the world. There are brown stains on my kitchen floors, clothes strewn throughout, dish bowls full of milk and soggy cereal, scattered chinese take-out boxes, papers everywhere, toys on the floor, pencils and crayons on the counters and all the beds are un-made.
Four years ago, I would never never allowed this to happen. Back then, I obsessively cleaned and then had the audacity to say to visitors, "oh, I'm so sorry the house is a wreck", in the hopes that they'd say, "are you kidding, this place is spotless and now I feel bad about myself for not being as clean and organized as you, you are fantastic and amazing, how do you do it? What magic powers do you possess? I bow down to you, oh great one."
But last night with my kitchen in runis, my youngest daughter said, "do you want to come and feed my fish?"
I took a quick look around the house and thought, "I really should clean this place a bit." But then, I dropped what was in my hand onto the floor and said, "sure! why not!"
We went upstairs and I fed her glutenous fish much more than she should have eaten and then I went across the hall into my oldest daughter's room. I sat on the floor, visited with her and hand-fed her guinea pig an entire stick of celery which she ate with paper shredder-like precision.
Then I sat and read a book with my son and tickled him and sniffed him on the back of his neck where he smells like heaven and instead of coming back downstairs and worrying about how much cleaning needed done, I prayed and the prayer drifted me to sleep and I slept 10 hours straight, waking up feeling happy and rested and loved. The peace in my house is overwhelming, it's like floating on a cloud of happy, a cloud that never touches the ground.
I did not yell at my kids to clean their rooms. I did not stress about the state of disarray in which we currently live. I did not beat myself up about the piles of laundry overflowing in my closet. And I did not sell my happiness, contentment or precious time with my family for the price of having an organized house or life.
This person I have become is unrecognizable. I wish I could say that I did something different or that I did something to change myself but that would be a lie. I am being changed by God. He is showing me my options and giving me the strength to choose the right ones.
There was a time when I would have been so stressed out at the lack of cleanliness or organization that I would have lashed out at my husband and my kids. I was looking for fulfillment in my ability to control everything around me and when I couldn't keep all the balls in the air and everything threatened to fall apart, I was frustrated. And certainly not fun to live with! It wasn't that long ago that I was miserable in my ineffectiveness to maintain perfection.
Sometimes my house will get clean but most days I'm going to choose to take a walk and enjoy this incredibly amazing weather or I'm going to volunteer my time somewhere or visit a friend who is sick and clean her house instead.
My house will always be here to clean. Those bowls of soggy cereal? They will wait for me. My life won't. These moments where I can sit on the couch and kiss my husband will pass. This very small window of time with my kids is closing fast. Why would I choose to do the dishes rather than sit and play a board game? My kids will never remember that I washed their clothes but they will remember the times I said, "lets go outside and play in the mud!"
You know that saying, "would you rather be right or be happy?" I think I needed another question: "would I rather be in control or be happy?" There was a time when I would have chosen to be in control for the false sense of happiness it afforded. Today, I choose differently. I choose to invest my time in something worthwhile, something that brings me joy rather than the smoke and mirrors of control.
And my house? I'm starting to get used to it. If you showed up to visit on a day when it was particularly bad (like today), I wouldn't even run and hide in my bedroom and pretend I wasn't home. I would invite you in, shove the toys, papers and dishes on the table to one side and offer you a cup of coffee. If I was able to find the coffee filters!