Friday, September 14, 2012

Bless the mess

[From Scott]

Of all the words Amy and I use to describe our home, "neat" makes its appearance later in the list. It's cleanest times are when company is coming over (provided no one deducts points from the three laundry baskets on the far side of our bed or opens the hall closet). Other than that, our home's appearance resembles the locker room of a minor league hockey team – should that hockey team really be into Nerf guns, Barbies, and Happy Meal toys.

This morning I was working on the computer and had things set up the way I like: notebook on the open drawer to my right with a full cup of coffee sitting on the desk just above. Amy and I were preparing our China Mac book when our newest addition toddled up and began pushing on the drawer holding the notebook, which nudged the board where my notebook sat straight into my full cup of coffee, setting off a caffeinated tsunami.

This was one of those events where you don't get upset at your kid, but yourself. I'd forgotten how curious two-year-olds could be (And why wouldn't I? It's been almost four months since I had one that age.). What bothered me the most about the spill is it washed into several of my journals. When a lot of your friends are into hunting and fishing and fixing up cars, keeping a journal is one of those things you don't want other guys to know you do. My replacement phrase in conversation for "writing" is "working on my bow staff skills."

I have my reasons, though. In addition to the fact that arranging words in a creative order seems to be my only marketable skill, I want my children, grandchildren, and so forth to have a written record of what life was like through my eyes. My journals contain thoughts on where our family is at the moment and what we want to become, sermon notes, Bible study notes, random jottings on what I did/need to do that day, etc. It's random – a lot like life.

So when the coffee wave hit my stack of journals (above), I had a flash of anger. Not now, but I saw a day in the future when my kids and their kids would read through these. They'd look at the words I wrote in my own hand, not something left on a computer screen. With God's mercy and grace, I pray I've left a Christlike influence on them and they would be inspired in their own faith journey as they read of my personal victories and failures, hopes and fears.

Now they were ruined. A light brown stain would always be on these particular notebooks.

And that's where I caught myself, for the chipped tables, scratched furniture, dented car door, and yes, coffee-stained notebooks are part of the story themselves. Much more so than whatever words I write. Ever watch people compare their scars? Each has its own history and takes that person back to a time where, in the moment, it wasn't pleasant. But they learned something from it and in time almost developed a fondness for that physical reminder that will never leave.

We say clean and neat is our preference, but if that's the reality we miss out on so much. We miss out on the risk of loving others. We miss out on seeing just how much we can give. Ultimately, we miss out on the resulting mess that more often than not brings a blessing.

Writing this post took some time as I had to constantly break away to tend to a little one's snotty nose and another's whining. Charlotte wouldn't give up until I placed her in my lap. If you've ever tried to type while holding a two-year-old who all of a sudden thinks the keyboard is an awesome new toy, you know the high degree of difficulty that entails. You may also eventually become aware you're so distracted by writing that for five minutes said two-year-old has been stuffing Cheerios from Lord-knows-where into your mouth (which you're mindlessly eating).

I look at my journals. Not stained anymore, but with new beauty marks. Ones that will, one day, continue to tell a story.

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