Monday, November 30, 2009

In the Midst of the Mess

I guess "delusional" is about the only word for it.

During the long car ride back from Ohio last night, my mind began filling with lists: people to email, tasks to complete, projects to start, gifts to purchase. I grabbed a pen and filled half a sheet of paper with scribbled reminders, a few urgent items starred.

Bright and early this morning, I dove in, selecting only the most time-sensitive and immediately necessary items to copy onto a to-do list for today. And then my toddler woke up, and we both faced the Monday Morning Reality Check: After five days of doting grandparents, plus Daddy being around, I was now the only source of attention for Elijah.

Neither of us dealt with it well.

Elijah whined. I snapped and seethed, impatient, irritable, resentful. I cried out for help, and snapped again, my morning an endless cycle of frustration, repentance, and repeated ugliness. I wished I could go to bed and start the whole day over again.

I stopped and confessed: Father, I am having such a hard time dying to self today.

I remembered my own words: Elijah is not an interruption to my agenda...he is my priority.

I thanked God that Jesus didn't pursue His own agenda, but instead prayed, "Not my will but YOURS be done."

And during a brief phone call, I listened to a friend say, "On days like today, I just have to accept that I'm not going to get anything else done. I have to love on my kids and let the rest go."

While Elijah napped, I ate leftover smoked turkey and apple-spinach salad and pored over wise words of grace and peace from Ann.

When he woke up, still slightly grumpy and begging for "Leleplh" (his cousin, Olivia--"Leleplh" is my terrible attempt to spell how he pronounces "Livi"--he loves to watch the videos my sister-in-law has posted online), I sat here with him on my lap, trying to breathe slow and deep, letting go of the to-do list, thanking God for our widescreen monitor as I browsed in another window while clicking through all 68 video clips (most are less than 30 seconds).

I scrapped my plans to package homemade cookies and take them to the post office this afternoon. I sat in the middle of the kitchen floor and read library books. I turned on "bebec" (music), and changed the song when it was apparently the WRONG bebec, and swayed and sang to my little grump.

Then I thought of a conversation I had with a friend recently. She shared how her husband is (wisely) wary of blogging because of the way we women put our best foot forward, sharing the polished versions of our lives. "Why don't you ever post pictures of the house when it's messy?" he challenged her.

I also thought of Ann Voskamp's ability to see beauty in the most mundane things. And so I grabbed my camera and documented a failure of a day. In this season when we all post warm, inviting pictures of our homes decorated beautifully for Christmas, I am inviting you to come tour my disaster.

Don't get me wrong, I think those holiday photos are fun--a friend of mine posted hers just this morning, and I loved the virtual tour of her beautiful home! But here at the Kannel house, in between Thanksgiving recovery and the trimming of the Christmas tree (which is currently still in the basement), we're just going to be real for a moment. Let me help you feel better about your mess.

Step in the back door and see three bags that need to be unpacked, library books strewn across the [ugly and in need of replacement] kitchen floor. The kitchen mess would be far more overwhelming if I used my wide-angle lens--but I was too lazy to change it.

Cookies I have never screwed up before, which I planned to bake and send to a friend this week: first batch completely flat (that has seriously never happened before, I have no idea why) and mangled coming off the sheet; second batch burned:

Cookie-baking dishes filling the sink:

Suitcases in the dining room, needing to be unpacked, laundry needing to be started:

Five days' worth of mail, meal planning paraphernalia, and other paper-clutter covering the dining room table...we'll have to clear a spot to eat...

Blocks scattered across the living room floor--meant to be cleaned up before we left last Tuesday, and forgotten in the rush to get on the road:

The long to-do list I foolishly expected to accomplish today (notice NOTHING is crossed have no idea how twitchy that makes my type-A, anal-retentive self):

...And the basket-case-yet-still-adorable two-year-old who had other plans (and desperately misses Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Duh, Grammy, Pops, Uncle Josh and Chief):

(I'm not being totally heartless by snapping this picture, by the way...there was no immediate crisis. Here he is upset because he doesn't like the song that's playing and wants a different one. EVERYTHING was just that big a deal today.)

So now that whiny mess of a toddler is sleeping again (apparently needing to catch up after our trip), and instead of tackling my list, I'm taking the time to blog. Perhaps not the best use of my time--or perhaps (I hope) it will encourage someone today.

Heaven forbid any of you ever come away from this blog with a polished, shiny picture of me. I am real. I am oh so flawed. And this is what my house looks like on a Monday after a weekend away. But I serve a God who makes the ugly beautiful...who brings order from chaos...who loves me even when I am a grumpy mess...and who has drawn my boundary lines in pleasant places, given me a beautiful inheritance--if only I will open my eyes to see it.


litabug said...

Thank you!! This was our day too. Mess, laundry, but I had this glowing ideal that we had to have the Christmas tree up by the 1st of December (yes, before even unpacking from our Thanksgiving trip). The kids were exhausted; one was whining and another was bouncing off the walls (and the Christmas tree, and the breakable ornaments...). Epic failure for me: I barked and snipped almost the whole time. :(
Praise God for his unconditional love and forgiveness!

Unknown said...

That was great! Thanks for sharing! I may have to do a post like that some time too. It is nice to just "be real" about our lives and our homes. Because we all have days like that, and our homes are not perfect and shiny. :)

Rebecca said...

Funny that you posted some imperfect pictures...I have been thinking about posting pictures of some of the mess in our house because of ongoing construction. Grrrr for construction mess but yay that it's almost done!

You're so blessed to have a grumpy toddler! :) I can't wait until I have one someday.

Danielle said...

We seem to be living parallel lives, when it comes to our experience with toddlers. I understand your internal struggle completely! Thanks for your words today.

laurie said...

I love this post.

Kristin said...

This seems to be a theme among blogs this week. Here is another one you may find encouraging:

Thank you for your honesty. I was just thinking this morning how much I could get done if I didn't have two kids to care for. Ha.

Anonymous said...

thank you thank you thank you. Our day was the same, and I did not handle it well. So we ask God for help, and ask again and again, and tomorrow it will be better! (hopefully)

Zoanna said...

How refreshing, Amy. I love posts like this, and even though I don't HAVE a whiney toddler, I have myself to contend with on days like this.

To cheer you up, may I suggest the trick I play on myself to feel accomplished in a to-do list? I would write on there:
-take pics of messy house-
-post pics on blog
-play with Elijah
-change music for Elijah
-pour my anger out to God
-burn some cookies and brag I succeeded without even trying:)
-take pictures of said burnt cookies

In my case I burn cookies on purpose because my dad LOVES them and asks for them every year. So I stand at the stove and babysit them till they're way too brown.

Anyway, look how women are encouraged by your candor. We need each other and we need God. To-do lists? Eh. Just revise them with God-centered purpose and a dash of humor, and then watch Him redeem your "mess." That's his specialty. Now, where's MY camera?

Susanna said...

Hi Amy, I found your blog thru the Crockpot Carnival, and now I read it regularly b/c I share many of your same passions (just finished When Helping Hurts - loved it!). Anyway, this is SOOOO true about how we make everything look perfect on our blogs! I need to get better at doing what you did in this post. Thanks for your example, and someday your little boy will be able to read this post and see how you chose to prioritize your family.

Unknown said...

Wow, thanks for sharing your mess! Truly, I sometimes think that everyone has it all together, except me. How can I have kids in the next year or so if I can't keep up with the house now (while I work full-time). I know that no one is perfect, but that can be so very hard to remember sometimes. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. Press on, and one by one, your most important tasks will be completed and the others will turn out to be unimportant (note to self).

HRLMercygirl said...

Amy, dear Amy... I LOVED reading this post... I have missed reading your blog and think it's time I started blogging again. Thanks for your transparency and authenticity. I appreciate YOU!!! :D

KevNik said...

Thank you for being so open and HONEST! I admit, I read some women's blogs about how wonderful everything is and on a day like you had today, which I have many, I feel like the worlds worst mother EVER! I am so grateful for your honesty, your love for Christ, your encouragement, your advice, and your compassion. I read this daily and feel like we have much in common...type A here as well :-) God has used you in ways you may never know, but you have touched my heart tonight and helped me realize we all have bad days, we need to rely on Christ and just die to self! Thanks again for your blog!

In Christ's love

baludec3 said...

Great post! I like your post. Thanks for share good post. Nice pictures. I am follow your blog.

Anna said...

I loved this post! It has to be one of my favorites you've written. :) I do love seeing the inspirational posts everyone writes about homemaking, organization, decorating, etc.... but sometimes it is refreshing to see some realism, like this, especially because I know that your life isn't a disaster even though you had a messy day... that is something I tend to fear for myself. Thanks for your honesty, Amy!