Friday, October 7, 2011

messy blue desks and matching red shirts

today i got organized.  can't you tell?  i want you to be able to tell.  i desperately want you to notice.  feel free to ooh and aah--go ahead, i won't mind.  this is a picture of my desk and it doesn't always look like this.  in fact, it really never looks like this, and so i photographed it for you.  okay...i really photographed it for me -- for my pleasure.  this picture actually brings me real, honest to goodness, happiness.  they say clean houses and organized desks and new shoes can't deliver happiness.  but today i am disagreeing with them.  because i am happy and the desk did it for me.  yep, just this neat and orderly rectangle of blue.  that's all it took.   (see honey, i really am a very simple woman).  i wish i had done a before and after photo, but i didn't think of that (before).  i just wanted it clean.  in a moment of frustration, i was about to sweep everything off of its painted blue surface, but i stopped myself and instead was calm and collected and stable about the whole thing.  i put on some music and took my time. i had to stop and get bella a snack and a marker and countless sheets of stickers, but eventually i could see light at the end of the tunnel -- or at least blue at the bottom of the piles.

here's what makes me crazy about this messy desk though.  i don't even really have a job. i mean, i am not teaching.  there was no stack of english essays piled high. there were no quizzes or theatre scripts or lesson plans to be found in the incredible amounts of stuff.  no, nothing at all like that.  i can't blame the mess on a job...only on jody.  she's a keeper of things and a collector of doo-dads and really good pile-er upper of stuff -- articles to read, things to look at, pictures to sort, letters to write...and before i know it, it is out of control - a billowing, blustery, bad kind of mess.

a few years ago, i took a class called LINK to determine what my gifts might be.  i had to fill out a lengthy, detailed questionnaire which promised to help determine my values.  my results came back and to my shock (and horror) my number one value was efficiency.  not faith or family or compassion or kindness, but efficiency!  i mean i like it and all.  i do value being efficient, it is a most helpful thing, but it was almost embarrassing to think that was the end result of this test.  my husband, who took the class with me, peered over my shoulder at my results.  he said nothing, just raised his eyebrows and did that "hmmm...." thing he does.  he didn't have to say a single word.  i stuffed the result sheet fast into my binder and then stormed off for a cup of weak coffee.  i have to wonder if it was truly a measure of my value or was it just a disorganized mother dreaming...

i do value getting organized.  in fact, it seems i spend an awful lot of time trying to get there, trying to get on top of the piles, trying to get ahead of the game.  i tend to think if i can just get blah-blah done, then i can do blah-blah-blah.  if only i might get ahead in the area of blah-blah then blah-blah-blah will all fall into place.  i can handle fill-in-the-blank if only i can fill-in-the-blank.   are you with me?  do you do this?  do you think if you can wake up and Get Organized everything will then be better.  i don't mean some things, i mean  e v e r y t h i n g. everything will be better.  i'll magically be slimmer and smarter and cooler and calmer if only i can get this thing done!  the problem is this thing changes from day to day.  there is always a this thing looming in my life.  there is always a blue desk to organize or a messy cabinet to declutter or an inbox to empty.

most of you know about the esteemed proverbs 31 woman.  you know the one who gets up early, stays up late, makes her family's clothing and meals (from scratch), and when she's bored she buys a vineyard (with her own blessed money)!  yeah, that girl.  can i let you in on a secret?  i'm kind of glad she's not my neighbor...or best friend...or sister.  i mean i really do admire her.  i think i am supposed to --- i think that is the point.  i certainly want to emulate her (from a distance).  i always have. but sometimes, she kind of wears me out.  she intimidates me.   there is one verse though in that final chapter of proverbs i am especially fond of.  "when it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet."  that verse just cracks me up.  can't you see mrs. proverbs31's children and husband all running around in red?  sort of like the wise families wearing bright, matching shirts at disney world.  they do exist.  i, just this past december, was there and stood staring at the well organized families in their coordinating attire. for this mother of five who barely got the suitcases packed, it was incredible to see.  for the life of me, i cannot imagine telling my fashion savvy 15 year old daughter she must wear the family shirt -- the family colors.  the 14 year old boy would also have put up a rather big fuss, no doubt. had we actually attempted this plan, i just know we would have somehow forgotten to pack at least one of the matching red t-shirts.  it probably would have been the middle child and she would have spent the day at disney wearing yellow, certain we meant to leave her out and utterly convinced she'd be tragically lost.  i am pretty sure disney world would have been dramatically less magical had we attempted to wear red.

i'm kind of giving the proverbs 31 woman a hard time though.  i don't mean to. i think she is included in the bible to give us women encouragement, not guilt.  i am sure of that.  i am also sure that this authentic woman knows what is going on in her house.  she's on it.  she's a with-it kind of mom.  no one is slipping through the cracks or escaping under the radar.  she's that kind of woman.  she's not losing anyone in the whiteout or the chaos or the confusion of life -- they are wearing red.  that means...she is prepared.  she is organized.  she has planned ahead.  she set out those red garments well in advance.  in fact, she spun the cotton (from her field) and dyed them red (from her vineyard).  she didn't have a target to run to or a mall or a website...she had to be organized.  i used to think that verse meant i was required to know where everyone and everything was in my house.  when the 8 year old asked for the signed permission slip i could whip it out of the folder marked "signed permission slips."  when the 15 year old was searching for her driver's permit, i would be already on it, pulling the paper out of the file marked "emily's driver permit."  when the husband requested a receipt, i could rifle through the "receipt" keeper.  when a friend called for a favorite recipe, yep, you guessed it --the "recipe" rolodex! this was how i interpreted that verse -- until i had five children.  and then all these files and folders and keepers started to fall apart, started to crumble. usually i find myself with piles of receipts and permits and papers and recipes all stacked high on the above mentioned blue desk waiting for the perfect moment when the planets align and the great "to be filed" pile, finally and miraculously, gets filed.   in the past few years, we seem to have paused in this to-be-filed place.  everything piled high and nothing exactly where it should be...but certainly on its way -- always on its way!

honestly though, if i was to spend the great gasping amounts of time filing papers and labeling folders, i would most certainly lose track of my household. i don't think this verse has anything to do with matching clothing or organized desktops.  i think the wise woman though does have her industrious little finger determinedly on the pulse beat of her family.  she does know what they are up to.  it doesn't mean she follows them around with a safety net and fireplace padding - lest they fall.  it means she knows who they are...what makes them tick...what makes them laugh till they cry...what makes them cry till they laugh.  she knows the intricacies and inner workings of her husband and her children.  she makes it her business to know them.  it doesn't mean she can always find the school papers to sign.  it doesn't mean she is always on time with a healthy snack in hand.  it means sometimes she climbs tired onto their beds at 10pm and listens as they share their dreams or disappointments.  she fixes them tea or maybe just water at the kitchen counter and quietly hears the heartbreak or triumph of that day.  she doesn't always have the right words or a perfect plan, but she is there. she's hardly ever always stunning or sophisticated, but she is available.  

her desk isn't alway organized.  her life is rarely well ordered, but she knows how to prioritize.  she knows how to put aside the piles and instead gather a girl or a boy onto her lap... or into her arms.  that is the kind of proverbs 31 woman i want to be.  if i happen to stumble into a vineyard purchase or some flax to spin...well that would be great too.   but my job, whether my light burns early or late, is to love my family, wearing red or yellow or just plain old dirt... to love my family.

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