Embrace the Mess, A Letter to My Future Self

embrace
Accidental “Collaboration” art by my daughter and me, a happy(?) surprise she left for me in my journal.

This letter is to my future self.

One day, when you are storming around your messy life as a mother of many small children, scowling at spilled crayons and upturned buckets of legos, haunted by the ghost of clean kitchens past…  When you reach the point, clocking in late for laundry after a long day of wrestling tiny people with wills of their own into habits that will hopefully serve them, when you are done with all the begging to be read to and back-scratched and heart-to-hearted, at last the last set of eyes has closed and the silence sweeps you up into a flood of thought that has been dammed up all day long.  It may be tonight.  It may be years from now.  But I know you, and I know that one day, a sentence is going to form in your mind that you will not be able to let yourself forget.  It will resonate deeply with you.  And it will haunt you.  Because you know you are blessed and this is the life that, through prayer and vision, you chose.  But there in the tentative silence of a houseful of sleeping children, you will look around your mess and examine the evidence of your earthly existence.  Your life will flash before your eyes as one long and never-ending to-do list that stretches out into eternity.  And you will think–God forbid you will utter–these words:

I was made for more than this.

At that moment, take this letter out and read it, and take heart.  It is going to be okay.

Dear Mackenzie,

Hey.  I am writing this to you early in the morning on October 1, 2019.  The sun hasn’t come up yet, and when it does, my feet are going to hit the floor and not stop running until long after the sun goes down.  Life with seven young children is a blur.  How many children do you have now?  Everyone always used to ask me if I was trying to beat Mama’s record of nine.  I never intended to, but now I wonder if I will.  Did we do it?  Don’t tell me.  It’s better just to let life unfold without knowing too much about your own future, don’t you think?

I know that you are in a difficult season.  That it feels wrong to even say how overwhelmed you are. Because you love your family and you are so loved and so blessed by each dear little child that God has given you.  But let’s face it.  Your life is exhausting.  Even the smallest outing is such a great effort.  Just getting out the door somewhere on time leaves the house looking like a bomb went off.  You can’t get ready too early, or there will be spills and accidents and you will have to hunt for clean clothes and start all over.  But you can’t get ready too late because there will inevitably be some small thing that someone needs that you locked into the house, or someone will need to go to the bathroom, or something completely inconceivable will happen while you are lugging out diaper bags and baby seats and tripping over people in the doorway who are scrambling for socks and shoes.  And then there are all those seats to buckle.  You arrive, breathless from crossing a parking lot, just trying to keep everyone alive until you can get into the door.  Every place you go, you can see people counting and mentally lining all of your children up in a row, doing math problems in their heads about the possibility of all of them belonging to you.  You can feel people watching you, and you are desperately hoping that this isn’t one of the many moments where someone explodes or loses their temper or behaves inappropriately or everything falls apart.  You go to church or the grocery store or to Grandma’s, and when you come back home, you spend the rest of the afternoon just putting your life back in order.  Feeling frustrated that everything is a wreck, but grateful to be back home in the wreck instead of pretending your life is neat and tidy in public.  Then it is time to eat and clean up and brush all those rows of teeth and coax people into bed.  By the end of the day, I know you are spent.  I know you are weary.  I know this is not the glamorous life people dream about when they are young.

So much of your life is used up by maintaining a mess that never goes away.  And I know that bothers you.  I know you sometimes feel like you were made for more than this.  Go ahead and say it.

I was made for more than this.

Dear Mackenzie, I know why you feel this way.

Because it’s true.

You were made for more than the ideal in your head of neat and tidy, quiet children in an organized and spotless house.  For more than the static picture of a beautiful family on the wall, where everyone is smiling and no one is screaming or making a fuss.  You were made for more than a kitchen with floors that shine.

Embrace the mess.  It is evidence of real life.

Why do you spend so much of your energy fretting over the never-endingness of the tasks before you?  Why does it bother you so much that you are never actually going to get that kitchen clean or to the bottom of the laundry pile?  Years from now, you are not even going to remember the days when the house was especially clean.

Want to know what you will remember?  The day you ditched all the chores and went outside to make sun prints with the kids.  The day you delighted them by lining the craft tables with some new and exciting and especially messy project.  The days that you cared more about experiencing life with them than following them around with a broom and dustpan.

Life is messy.  Embrace it.  Don’t struggle so much.  You are doing a good job.  You are praying for vision.  You are trying to reorganize and declutter often, you are training your children to help out.  You are not living in a magazine.  You live in a commune for little artists and musicians that are prolific in their production of all things creative.  Messes go with the territory.  Messes and mistakes are an essential part of creative process.  This house, this life, this family–it is all a work of art in progress.  Relax.  Say yes more often to the things you will remember.  To the things that your children will never forget.

One day, your house will be spotless.  You will not kick a path through legos and origami and bits of thread and fabric and the occasional stray needle (ouch!!!) to get to the kitchen.  You will not be greeted by such a host of dirty cups and bowls and spoons and skillets.  You will no longer wish you could erase the phrase “noise pollution” from your memory.  One day you will walk into a quiet, clean kitchen and pour yourself a cup of coffee in silence. Your children will be grown.  There will be no more jelly-smeared kisses.  There will be no more humming at the table.  There will be no singing, squawking, squabbling, whistling, shushing, excited talking about a new day.  And don’t you know we will miss it?

I know it feels like you were made for more than this.  You were.  You are raising up children who have already changed the world by their very presence in it.  The lives they touch, the joy they bring, the imagery that did not exist before they penned it, the song never heard before they sang it…  Every little act of serving them–feeding them, clothing them, cleaning up after them, training them to care for their own needs as well as the needs of others–is your contribution to something much greater than “keeping house.” Your prayer is that these children will fully become the souls that God created them to be, that they will walk in his ways, that they will find true purpose and meaning in the unique identities he has given them, that their lives will have an eternal impact on this world.  You pray that they will be a reflection of Christ, that as they walk into an ever-darkening world, their faces will shine the light of His countenance.  That many will come to know God through them.

This is what you were made for.

This is a life worth living.

Embrace the mess and say yes to an inspired life.

You will not regret it.

I look forward to meeting you one day and meeting your children, now a little more grown-up.  I wonder who they have become and what they are doing these days.  But don’t tell me.  I really do believe it is best not too know too much about your own future.  And anyway, I think I prefer taking one day at a time, looking for the beauty and purpose in it.  Because every day really and truly is a gift, don’t you think?

With love for you and yours always,

Mackenzie

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