Last week while in Michael's, I came across a bin of brightly colored journals with various words embossed on the covers. As soon as my eyes landed on this one, I knew it was the right journal for me. A beautiful mess perfectly describes the season of life I am living right now. It's a different kind of mess from five years ago when we were finishing up our last round of breastfeeding, potty training, and getting children to sleep in their own beds throughout the night. Back when we were establishing our little farm and helping goats birth babies, butcher our own chickens, and start seedlings for the gardens all throughout the house. Those were the days when we had five children under the age of eleven, and I was homeschooling all of them. Life was most definitely messy, but it was a different kind of mess. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually kind of miss some of those days.
Now the house is void of diapers, potty chairs, and toddler beds. I typically let the goats and sheep do their own birthing and only intervene when they're in serious distress and no one else is available. We no longer butcher any animals (hated that part of farming), nor is my husband allowed to fill every sunny windowsill or table with trays of dirt. My eleven years of being a homeschooling mom have come to an end, and our farmhouse is now full of preteens and teenagers, except when our baby grandson comes for a visit. I suppose our youngest---who is about to turn eight---isn't officially a preteen yet, but in her mind, she's been an adolescent since she was about three. Middle schoolers and high schoolers bring their own unique brands of mess to the house, as do the middle-aged parents who reside with those adolescents. And that is the season we are currently in.
I'm a little more aware of (and annoyed by) the disarray today because we are just finishing up spring break when we are all home together much of the time. The weather has not cooperated with the break, and even though the younger children did spend some time outdoors, most of the week has been rainy or cold, so we've been inside a lot. The kitchen sink has filled up quickly with coffee mugs used to create individual "snickerdoodle" treats found on Pinterest by our ninth grade daughter. The dining room/multi-purpose room table has been covered in papers, pencils, and tape used by our youngest as she makes more artistic creations. Which, by the way, is most definitely an improvement over the entire walls she used to cover with her "artwork." The coffee table in our living room held Nerf guns, tablets, headphones, and sketchbooks until I insisted that everyone pick up their stuff last evening before company came. The boys' bedroom has always been a disaster zone, but this week all I can see are Legos everywhere. This is because the ten and eleven year-olds are creating an entire Star Wars themed village with various shops such as Darth Vader's Bakery, Jabba's Fitness Center, and Jawas' Junk Shop. It's quite clever, I think, but it creates a huge mess while they are in the midst of a creative brainstorm like this. The girls' room is full of shoes, makeup, nail polish, and a homemade Shopkins house as our teen daughter is practicing new hair and cosmetic techniques for the prom, and our seven year-old has used some of her free time to build a structure for her 86 Shopkins. Even our bedroom---which is supposed to be off-limits to everyone other than the parental unit---contains clean wet clothes hanging on Amish drying racks, clean folded piles of clothes waiting for the owners to put them in their dresser drawers, and a stack of items to be carried up to the attic, plus an additional large bag full of clothing to be taken to Goodwill. Even the outdoor areas seem to have extra mess this week because it doesn't matter that I am ready to decorate the porches for spring; Mother Nature is making it clear that I am not in charge. With a foot of snow forecasted here in about 24 hours, the snow shovels, skis, and rock salt are still sitting on or beside the porches for future use. And our boys are in the process of building some kind of fort on the bank, so there are poles, arrows, rocks, and homemade flags adorning the side of our property making it clear to everyone driving up the lane that children most definitely still live here.
These are just some of the messes that make up my life and home right now. It's by no means all of the messes. I do get frustrated...and aggravated...and discouraged by it all far more than I care to admit. But I also recognize that what all of these messes have in common is Life. When I was a little girl, my favorite place to go on Sunday afternoons was my grandmother's house. Her house was far from empty, quiet, and lonely. Instead, my many aunts, uncles, and cousins congregated there every weekend, and the house was bustling with activity, good country food, noise, and life. I had the best times of my childhood right there rolling down the grassy banks, playing games of wiffleball in the yard, hiking up through the cow pastures, and hunting for Easter eggs with my numerous rowdy cousins at my side. My favorite TV show in the seventies was The Waltons, and I imagined myself growing up and living in a big white farmhouse in the mountains full of energetic, beautiful children, swinging or rocking on the expansive covered front porch. There would always be people around, and there would always be something going on. And that's pretty much what I finally got. I just never thought much about the messiness that comes with that big family country life.
I sometimes feel fed up and disgusted with the messes, especially after looking at Pinterest or home magazines on the store shelves. I want to post my own beautiful house pictures on Instagram, Facebook, and here on my blog. I suppose I could make everyone pitch in and do some serious cleaning up, then stage the house just right, and then kick everyone out of the house for awhile so I could get some great shots to load to Google photos and use on here. But that wouldn't be our real life. It's not what's really going on here. When I am feeling rather discouraged, I remember something my mother-in-law said to me four or five years ago when I was feeling especially low. It was this time of year, and everything outside was a brown muddy mess. My husband decided to try a new feed project for the livestock by sprouting buckwheat in trays in our kitchen. We had an actual week old goat kid in a trough by the coal stove whose mother had rejected her and my husband insisted on saving. And he had bricks from the barn heating on top of the coal stove to take out to the kidding stall at night to keep other new goat babies warm under the heat lamp. I sat there on a kitchen chair in front of the stove, taking a turn holding this tiny goat kid wrapped up in a blanket, looking around me at this mess of a house that was now my life. And I started crying. I sobbed to my mother-in-law that I'm really not this messy, sloppy, terrible housekeeper. That I used to live in a beautiful, neat, organized, immaculate home before I got with this son of hers and had all of these kids. That all of this mess around me was not who I really am. And she said the kindest, most beautiful thing that anyone could have said to me at that time. She leaned closer and looked into my eyes and said, "Don't you know that when we come here, we don't see a horrible mess? We see a family full of love for each other and this wonderful Life."
So in my low moments, when I start to feel angry or bitter at the clutter, the projects, the messes around me, those words of hers reverberate in my mind. And I choose to see instead a Beautiful Mess that is this Life.