Monday, August 20, 2012

I like things clean. I can't help it.

Most of the time I think I strike a pretty good balance. I enjoy being that laid back, anything goes, cool mom.  Sometimes, however, I am that mom whose children shudder in fear when they hear the sound of her slippers hitting the floor and they realize they haven't finished their jobs yet.  Yep, when it comes down to getting housework done, I'm a drill sergeant.

Last summer when my little brother was in town, he stopped by one morning while the kids were still doing their morning chores.  Asa was cleaning toilets, Ethan was doing dishes, Julia was going through her workout routine of push ups and sit ups, Astrid was scrubbing the floor on her hands and knees, and little three year old Ezra was struggling through making his bed.
"Is this homeschool or military school?" my brother asked with a smile.
"A little of both," I answered with a wink.  Then I reminded the kids that inspection would be in 10 minutes.

That's right.  Inspection.  I told you, I like things clean.

That's why, when we moved out here, the dirt drove me crazy.  It was everywhere.  There wasn't any grass around our house for a hundred feet or more in every direction.  When we walked outside we were assaulted by dust storms.  Every time the door opened I cringed. Open doors just mean more dirt inside.  At one point I was so overwhelmed with it I cried.  And I am not a crier.  As you could guess, the dirt did not just end up on my furniture and floors, it stuck to my children too.  They were always filthy.  And they loved it.  We all know it's true, although once we reach a certain age most of us don't really understand the appeal, love dirt.  They love to dig in it, rub it on their faces, lie down in it, even eat it.  So as the grass began to fill in around the house and the dust storms died down, my children ventured further out into the parched fields in search of one thing.  Dirt.

We have lived in our country home for two months now.  And for two months, my children's hands and feet have been dirty.  Sure, we use soap.  They take baths.  But there seems to be a perpetual grime around their fingernails, under their toenails, and infiltrating the crevices of their busy little hands.  So I have given up.  Many of my walls are smeared with black hand prints.  And I just don't care.  Those marks tell stories.  They speak of long summer days filled with bike rides, swimming races, catching crawdads, and climbing trees.  They hold the excitement of kid hands clutching chicken eggs straight from the coop, cradling newborn puppies, and creating a grassy nursery for tiny kittens. They tell about deep holes dug in search of arrowheads or in the creation of caverns for army men engaged in battle, or even to bury a sweet pup who didn't make it through his first day of life.

They tell of young lives being lived without hesitation, reservation, or pretension.  Full force, straight on, and completely and totally given over to making each moment count.
No matter how much dirt that involves.

Those handprints on my newly painted walls and footprints on my freshly shined floors help remind me of how I want to live.

I want to jump into the mud with both feet.
I want to run my dirt encrusted, unmanicured fingers up and down the walls of my own life and the lives of others.  Not fearing the mess, but relishing it.  Not letting the dirt bring me to tears, but thriving in the raw authenticity and power of a life lived like my kids do...full force, straight on, and making every moment count.
I want to love without fear, even when it makes me uncomfortable.
I want give without pause, even if it means losing something I think I need.
I want to move past appearances and meaningless expectations of who I should be or how I should do things, and just be.
I want to roll in the dust and throw handfuls of dark earth into the air and let it shower down on me, washing away my need for perfection, self protection, tentative living, and an armored heart.

Some treasures can only be unearthed when you dig really deep.  Without a shovel.  On your knees.
The truth is, no matter how much I like a spotless house, life can't be about making sure everything always looks perfect.  It has to be about leaving a mark.  Telling a story through the prints you leave on lives.  On the world.

I want to get my hands dirty.


  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! I have had to ask myself many times, "Do I love my children or a clean house more?" Some day when they are all gone I can have a clean house. Until then, we keep a nail brush in the bathroom to scrub those always dirty (even after soaking in the tub) fingers and toes!

  2. Emily,
    Hi there...stopping by after reading one of your posts for the Hip Homeschool Moms. LOVED your post and absolutely delighting in your blog. I have four boys who also love all things dirt related. I tend to be one who also likes things clean, neat and tidy. But, I've given up being so concerned about it that it was becoming more important than the relationships in my life. Now, like you, I embrace it and revel in the stories each smudge of dirt and muddy footprint tells. I also want to get my hands dirty and dig in to real stuff that is this life...the one that our God has so richly blessed us with. Thank you so much for sharing your heart with such openness and honesty.

    Sweet Blessings to you,

  3. Hello there! I came by because I enjoyed your hip homeschool mom post, and I could tell we'd get along famously! ;)

    I am one of those mommies who can't concentrate when there is clutter or mess, and boy, does that add extra nuttiness to homeschooling, doesn't it?? I KNOW it's more important to read aloud, or finish that math chapter, but all I REALLY want to do is wipe down the counters and finish the laundry.

    My kids love to be dirty, and since we are off to go camping, they are going to be as happy as...well, pigs in muck. I myself, am contentedly plotting the hot baths when we return...


  4. I loved this post! I may not be a "clean freak" so much as a "organization nut", but unfortunately both have gone out the window as I've taken on homeschooling! But sometimes when I find myself getting "all in a tizzy" over the shape of things, I try to snap myself back to reality and recognize that life is so incredibly short and often we obsess over the most ridiculous things while neglecting what matters most.

    I appreciate so much the reminder to focus on what matters!


  5. Beautiful family. Beautiful writing. Beautiful blog. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  6. I want to "get my hands dirty" too. <3
    Thank you for sharing your heart in such a lovely way.
    Cathy ( @DTgrandma )