Monday, February 8, 2010


I am a closet "cleanie", but you would never guess that by looking around my house right now. In the years B.C. (before children), I actually polished the fixtures in my bathroom messy water spots there, just shine, shine, shine! My closets were neat and organized. I liked to make even strokes in the carpet with the vacuum cleaner, tiptoeing backward out of a freshly cleaned room so that it's pristine state lasted as long as possible. Okay, I know this all sounds very weird. Still, in my secret heart of hearts, I genuinely do prefer order and cleanliness.

But now on any given day, you can walk into my house and find...carving tools and wood shavings scattered on the kitchen table. An ongoing paper mache project taking up most of one end of the living room floor. Knitting needles and balls of yarn piled on the couch or the coffee table. Bowls of cloudy water and messy paint trays cluttering the computer room, a blanket of watercolor paintings spread across the bed beneath the window. Scraps of wax and homemade pots piled on the hearth, ready for the next session of candle making. Random pieces of clothing, "costumes" for an upcoming play production. Sometimes, all this MESS threatens to drive me crazy! What happened to my house?!

Well, what happened house turned into an art studio. Creativity is messy business. And it's a drawn out, ongoing process. It is squelched when someone is always coming around straightening up or packing away the tools necessary for working on a new masterpiece. I am not an artist and I don't quite understand why creativity requires so much mess - but I do know that Thomas is more likely to play the banjo if it stays out of its case. That paint boxes stored neatly away in the closet get used much less than paint boxes out on the table. That fabric scraps scattered over the couch this week means all the Barbies will have new outfits next week. That a seemingly infinite clutter of papers covered with ink scrawls and doodles will magically transform into poetry that breaks my heart.

Maybe someday I'll have a clean house again. Funny thing is, I think that by then I'll miss the mess more than I ever missed the order. I've learned the mess brings with it rich, rich compensation...a spontaneous bluegrass jam session, a short verse that speaks powerful benediction to the calling of motherhood, a vision of trees dancing across a page...worth infinitely more than vacuum cleaner brushstrokes on carpet.

P.S. - Looking over this again before posting, it occurred to me that life in many ways is really an "art studio" of sorts. God is creating something exquisite - people who reflect His beauty and holiness, people who truly delight in and joyfully proclaim the Artist's glory. It's a messy process. Life is an art studio...and it is very messy. If we could put away all the yuck, if we could keep the paint boxes in the closet and the carving tools in the case, life might look neater, feel more comfortable, appear saner. But we'd be left with vacuum-cleaner strokes in the carpet, instead of the glorious, radiant saints God is creating. I am so thankful God isn't an obsessive housewife who shrinks from messiness - grateful for the vision of Glory He gives us in the midst of this wild and wonderful creative process!


Niki said...

I really loved this post. You make me "see" what you are writing.

tracy said...

unfortunately, my messy house is just a messy house. i lost my cleaning mojo a long time ago. i wish i had it back.

emily said...

i need me some mojo. Or at least a pinch of mom's thanks-to-children-like-me-no-longer-borderline-OCD need to have things tidy. How did i get the rest of your personality without that? :P

Camille said...

Because you, dear Emily, are really a poet. :) I clean house - you turn words into magic!
Love you!

Jessica said...

Camille I found a great chili recipe that is super easy and cheap and thought you might like it. Here it is:

Lentil Chili
* 1-1/4 cups dry lentils (half a pound)
* 4 cups tap water
* 2 tablespoons oil or bacon grease
* 1 to 2 tablespoons dry onions
* 3 beef bouillon cubes
* 15 oz can tomatoes
* 2 teaspoons chili powder
* Dash hot pepper flakes or Tabasco sauce
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place the lentils and the water in a large pot. Put the pot on the stove and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the lentils are simmering gently. Cook for 30 minutes. Do not add the other ingredients until after the lentils have cooked. If the lentils begin to get dry, or if their water boils away then add more water. You want the lentils to remain juicy while they cook. When your 30 minutes are up, add all of the remaining ingredients. Simmer the chili for 15 to 20 minutes and serve with crackers or cornbread or over rice. Makes 4 servings.

*Now I doubled this and it made a ton, so I'm sure you could triple it to make it for all those boys! Love your blog!


emily said...

@Jessica - I may try this too!

I think my parents and siblings may be scared of lentils though :)

Camille said...

Lentils? I think I feel a blog post coming on!

Lina F said...

Two things I loved: "Creativity is messy" and the perception of life as an art studio. I agree, creativity is one of the messiest character traits. There are sketches all over my house, journals with poetry lying around, art supplies, sewing junk all over the breakfast bar. Even my kitchen has become a creative studio but I tend to keep that area clean for health purposes. I have always told people to see humanity as an art form. Each one of us is given a blank canvas when we are born, a few choice colors. It's up to us to paint this canvas into who we are today.