Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lessons from the Lego Man

On my desk, next to the blue tape dispenser, sits a legless Lego man.  He is a leftover from one of the boys' Hobbit playsets.  He drove me crazy for days.  I would give him to a kid to put away but he just ended up discarded again.  Not that he is not played with.  He is.  He is just never (EVER) put away.

But tonight, as I sat him on my desk, I had a smile playing across my face.  I realized something today. Something that I think is valuable, even worth sharing with you.  Because I think many of us have fallen into a trap that we don't even realize has us ensnared.  It is not inherently evil, but it has the potential to rob us of joy.

I love a clean house.  I enjoy decorating and arranging and rearranging things.  I love the feel of a freshly tidied room and a beautifully made bed.  I love when there is a place for everything and everything in its place.

Except, as my husband will lament, my shoes.  I confess I am a lazy shoe person.  I kick them off in random places and soon have a pile to carry back to my closet.  It drives him crazy.


I tend to get crazy when my house is cluttered.  It puts my brain in a fog and I may even snap at my kids to "put it away for the eleven hundredth time."  Because we homeschool, we have endless opportunites for messes and let me tell you, the house can get out of control in the time it takes me to go to the mailbox and back.  I'm not exaggerating!  I have a ransom box where stray items are "jailed" and the owner has to do a job to earn them back.  It works pretty well as long as I am consistent.  When I am consistent I am less frustrated and they are more likely to keep their stuff when it belongs because they know I mean business, but when I get lax it is painfully obvious very quickly!  (5 kids plus 3 dogs...things can go south faster than you can blink)

But I digress.

Like every mom we have the constant battle of keeping our homes presentable.    We want our kids to be responsible and good stewards of their belongings.  We want them to be thankful for what they have and desire to take care of it.

But like many other moms I often set too high of a goal.  And it usually comes after looking at a home magazine of some sort or watching HGTV.  I see these beautifully decorated, always presentable and pristine homes and find myself frustrated by the lack of cooperation from my brood of messy chicks.  I lament the Hot Wheels on the floor and the bikes strewn across the back yard because I dream of the Shabby Chic perfection on the magazine cover or the photo frames arranged at just that right angle for viewing from the sofa.  I imagine a kitchen where the sink is sparkling and empty and the dishes are all put away and there are not grease splatters from this morning's breakfast still on the stove at dinner time.

Then I ran across the funny little Lego Man.  Why didn't I sigh in frustration this time?  Because I had a realization that one day...way too soon...there will be no more Lego Men on my floor.  One day the bikes will no longer lay in the grass and those photos in the frames will be aged because my children will be grown.  What will they remember about me? About home?  Do I want them to remember being constantly barked at to put their stuff away or that I cared more about the pillows on the couch than their comfort during a family movie?  Do I want them to be afraid to experiment with cooking for fear of messing up my perfect kitchen or remember discovering the joy of a perfect cookie that they baked all by themselves?

I've stopped buying home magazines.  I haven't watch HGTV in months after they cancelled the show featuring the brothers who held strong Christian beliefs.  I didn't realize until after some time had passed without watching decorating shows that those things bred discontent in my heart!  They give us unrealistic views of home and life!  Now, I also dream of being a farm girl, thinking that if the kids could just roam free and learn to build treehouses or fix tractors or something they would not want to play video games any more and my floors could stay clean for 34 seconds.  They would be so blissfully tired by evening that they would fall into bed with a smile and offer to wake up early to milk the goats because they JUST LOVE FARM LIFE SO MUCH.   I lament living in the city, wishing I had chickens and goats on about 10 perfect acres of land, but the reality is I LIKE being a mile from Kroger.  I LIKE that my dearest friends live just down the street.  I LIKE having a bug-free house and a snake-free yard!  I LIKE chickens and goats, but I do NOT like critters. (spiders, snakes...y'all even the thought makes me cringe!)  That being said, I would still be thrilled to have land and animals, but I have to accept where I am now.  My home is a gift, dirty floors and all.  I may not have perfect neighbors or the friendly neighborhood comraderie that is more often found in rural communities, but we have an acre.  In town.  We have tall trees that shade us in summer and a play room that gives the kids a place to land in the winter.  That mess upstairs that causes me to stay downstairs?  It is part of the story of our home.  We are a loud, messy crew.   I have to let my kids be kids, teach them to clean, teach them to care for their things, but also teach them that our home does NOT have to be perfect to be welcoming.   So there is a pile of towels on the couch.  Who cares if the dog shed on the rug again?  I'll get to it...but for now I need to go outside and get my hands dirty in the garden.  I need to smile at my daughter as she shows me the same trick on her scooter for the 80th time.  I need to sit on the front porch with my son and listen to his tall tales.  I need to hear my teenager spill the details of whatever story he is telling me because he is sure to clam up again tomorrow and that opportunity will be gone.  Some things are needful right now.

Having a picture-perfect house is not one of them.

Balance.  It is all about balance, which is difficult in a world that bombards us with shiny perfection.  But taking my eyes off the world's idea of a successfully run home and looking at the faces at my dinner table make it abundantly clear where my focus should be.

Live well.  Laugh often.  Love much.

Appreciate the visits from the Lego Man.

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