We’ve been homeschooling for a few years now and the vision I had about homeschooling when we started doesn’t match up with the reality that we live out day to day. Our days are a lot messier than I thought, and not in the idyllic “we painted mini Rembrandts today” but in an “everything is chaos and why are we doing this?” kind of way. No, our mess doesn’t seem to accomplish anything.
I have good intentions. Each day starts out with a plan, a schedule, a hope of marking items off the list with sighs of satisfaction. We start out at the kitchen table, Ian and me. I’m helping him along with his Key Word Outline for IEW, a writing program for the Christian school he attends part time. Keeping his eyes on the page is an accomplishment in itself. Writing about sailors who were called “limeys” makes him thirsty so he heads to the fridge and gets out a gallon of milk, which he proceeds to swing over the top of his head, flinging milk in every direction. Milk is everywhere and while he says, “Oops,” I’m staring slack-jawed at the mess, in shock because this is a deja-vu moment. This very same scenario played itself out just last week when he yawned and stretched with his full glass of milk and the world had to stop in order to “de-stickify” the kitchen.
So instead of a writing lesson we are down on the kitchen floor talking about impulsivity and being responsible and how to clean up after our messes and in walks my Narcoleptic teenager. Who, because of this disorder has learned to operate in “survival mode” and can eat and perform basic tasks while still sleeping. Only slightly awake, he pours the gallon of apple juice so near his cup, he almost made it. Apple juice ricochets off the counter, plummets down the cupboard and pools at his feet and he is unaware. It is my screaming that wakes him up and he sploshes through the apple juice on the floor to go fall asleep in the bathroom.
Frustrated, I find myself mopping the floor for the second time before 9a.m. and the it serves as a metaphor for me of the bigger messes of our life that exacerbate the tension I have with my reality and the idol I’ve made of things looking a different way, of things looking the same as the pictures on the homeschool blogs I’ve read or of my dear homeschool friends whose children can play the violin underwater while solving complicated algorithms.
The bigger messes we deal with in our home tend to fall in the realms of mean-spiritedness, selfishness, disrespectful attitudes, and my own impatience and anger as I aim to help my children problem-solve and end up making their messes, my mess too.
And so I have to preach to myself everyday. I have to think on and meditate on and swim in the truth that my Jesus is a redeemer. He is in the business of making messes holy. He takes our moments of chaos, which I think have no redeemable value and he turns them into opportunities to depend on Him, lean into his mercy and trust that when He says He is working in all things, that He really is. That somehow, in ways I do not see, He is taking our mess and doing a refining work. In them. In me.
I may be mopping up spills after my children on into their adulthood. I hope not. I pray they learn to conquer their pouring predicaments along with the bigger messes we seem to grapple with everyday and that they would see in me, a mother who is trusting Jesus in the midst of the mess.