Monday, January 05, 2015

The Tension of January

It started with a teasing comment from a friend last week as he opened the back of my Suburban to load something in the trunk. "I thought you had it so together. Seeing this mess changes everything."

He was referring to the gingerbread house frosting smashed in the upholstery in the back of my Suburban. (There were plenty of other messes too, this was just the most egregious.)

He winked playfully and as a Dad, I knew he was just goofing off...but the striver in me, the one that constantly struggles with keeping my priorities straight versus pleasing others, cringed. I have been intending to clean that mess for weeks, but there always seems to be something else more pressing. On the surface I keep things pretty tidy, but look closely and there are countless places where I have chosen to let things slide because there is life to live outside of perfect order and organization!

This morning as I went out into the driveway to attempt to clean out my car I passed several other small messes that seem to mock me: the weather stripping around my backdoor that my beloved kitty has clawed to shreds, the mark on the wall caused by a hurried attempt to clean so we could get onto more fun parts of the day, the wrapping paper, bags, tissue and ribbons I shoved in a closet to tend to another day when children were not home on break and the sun wasn't shining so invitingly. And although my heart is full, there are reminders everywhere of how far my home is from a checklist definitions of 'perfect.' (I will spare you the photos.)

Because it is the season of cleaning house, evaluating our lives and setting big goals I thought about what I could do differently. How can I get this all UNDER CONTROL? A friend told me she was shutting down her calendar for the month to get her home whipped back into shape. I like the sound of that, but fear it wouldn't end in January. I might never leave my house! I look at my list with all the things that need to be wrangled back under control, or that I have committed to supporting, serving and starting in 2015. Suddenly, I feel overwhelmed and it is only January 5th.

See, as much as I adore orderliness and plans, I also really love the spontaneity of living each day. I don't just want the checklist, photo worthy/inspection ready life, I want one that can relax and play in mud puddles after heavy rains or take off to visit a friend just because. I want a pet cat even when it means shredded rubber, dogs even when it means muddy prints on my back door, kids even when they mean LOTS of messes, a husband who leaves his own marks, and piles of laundry that mean I spent the day doing more than just cleaning.

Yes, my responsibilities must be managed. It's called reality, but I don't want to swing so far to the side or order that I am unavailable for the adventure of life. I also don't want to be so far gone in the adventure, that I miss the rhythm of schedule and the structure my children need.

So, this year, I am trying to live in the tension of both. Like a trapeze artist I find the balance in small, constant adjustments rather than big sweeping changes. I am striving to start and end each day with some common themes. Quiet, coffee, exercise, a notepad and a plan for the day--written in pencil, with a heart attitude that matches and with margin for real life to unfold. And at the end of the day? I want to get back into writing at night, reflecting on what I learned when I kept my eyes and ears open, my hands not so tightly clenched to the agenda and left some room for God to move amidst the errands, the laundry, the bill payment and the volunteerism.

I have a few phrases posted inside my agenda: "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down." (Nehemiah) "So that I may bless whom?" (Lysa TerKeurst) and "What does love require of me?" (Andy Stanley)

And in terms of full disclosure, I do have a reorganization task list too...It is written in pencil and starts and ends with the word GRACE.

Here's to 2015!


Carrie said...

We got a new (older) dog a while back, and he had some trouble adjusting. One day, he rode with us to run an errand. The next day, I went to get groceries. The sacker/carryout guy opened the back of the find that the dog had left a...ahem...*deposit." Right there on the carpet. Mortifying.

Just thought that might make gingerbread frosting feel less humiliating. :-)

JMom said...

Oh, Carrie!!!! That made me laugh. I can't imagine your face. Those baggers have stories to tell I am sure!

Aja said...

When I was a mom to two babies under 2 years old I took a great Bible study with older ladies from our church. During the section on hospitality and having an orderly home, one lady asked "What would you say to Jesus about the state of your home if he walked in tonight?" I said, "Sorry about the piles of laundry!" in a half-joking manner. She totally chastised me for that and said I should really give more thought to stewarding my home better. Years later I still think about that night and I think: nope. I would choose the laundry piles all over again. My babies were my complete focus and nothing got done for that first year or so (my house wasn't filthy and I was blessed to have deep cleaning help). I have no regrets. I want a real life. Messes and all.