Yesterday, some dear friends came over for dinner. They are everything that family is when we live so far from our blood family. Earlier in the day, I found myself in an all-too-familiar pattern of feeling the stress instead of the joy.
‘The house is a mess! Samuel is running to every corner fascinated by everything from Little People to Legos, refrigerator magnets to salt running through a funnel. How will I ever clean up, cook and bake his (very belated) birthday cake in time?’
But the Lord asks me to think His thoughts; see what He sees. These are the days He speaks gentle, and wraps tight, and asks me simply to receive. He beckons me to the Gospel and His rest for all my weary burden. Through all Christ is and does for me, I live without apology or shame, as I become the one He uniquely creates, redeems and calls by name to bear witness to His Glory.
The truth is I cannot have it all. If I want my heart’s desire, Him, I must learn to release so I can receive. It is the only path where I can be faithful in this world. The only way to become a Home for Him that points myself and others to Him.
For me, this is especially true, as I learn to live with open hands and invite others into the visible mess of my home. I remember how I wrote on a Facebook status a few months ago, something like,
‘If cleaning up the external mess makes an even bigger internal mess, why not live with integrity and keep the mess all around?’
— Abigail Alleman (@abbyalleman) November 19, 2014
There’s some tongue-in-cheek there, but a lot of truth that has the power to set me free. My dear friend, Amy, said she needed to cross-stitch and frame the status for her wall. My dear cousin said the opposite was true for her because keeping the external mess, made her a bigger internal mess. I love both responses.
#Home is saying ‘Come as you are and I will give to you and receive from you as I am’ #PreachtheGospeltoMyself
— Abigail Alleman (@abbyalleman) November 19, 2014
Because, Home is saying ‘Come as you are and I will give to you and receive from you as I am’.
A little while ago I wrote about my mama inviting others into her home, in all its mess and beauty. She especially did this with younger mothers who found themselves far from home. She knew how to bring them into the heart of the living home she was. So many of those times happened in our farm house or somewhere between the barn or the back and front of our yard. There were seven pairs (plus a couple of extra for guests) of manure-encrusted work shoes in the entry. There was Dad’s recliner covered in questionable debris of what my Grandpa called ‘foreign matter.’ There were open canisters of flour and sugar on the mustard-colored linoleum. When we had the church, or family, over for a picnic, there were too many flies hovering over the potato salad. And there were all kinds of craziness jumping off the loft into mounds of hay. And there was incredible beauty in the midst of wild, earthy mess.
Those times are the purest scenes of Home that I carry with me. They are the memories of Mama at her best. When so many hard years of chronic illness and financial strain followed our leaving that farm, we all lost our way and wandered far from Home.
But that is not the end of the story. The next scenes I think of are from Mama’s last months of life. They are of the open invitation into a rehabilitation center in New Jersey. Here she rose shaky, determined with a walker. She would learn to use, for as long as she could, a newly made hip and arm of steel to replace the ones eaten by cancer. We celebrated Christmas there as I organized my nieces and tiny nephew in a Nativity play.
And these scenes flow through to Easter in another hospital room and the snapping of a picture of mama and I. My aunt Debbie held it close to her heart as she walked down the aisle on the morning of my wedding, in honor of mam. There are scenes, too, of the days near the end. As My dad and I were away working, mama’s friends were invited again into this now gut-wrenching mess that would reveal eternal beauty. They came into a different set of walls, and cared for her or sat with her by her hospital bed. And, in these months, mama gave us all the greatest picture of our true Home.
When I became a mama without my own, I knew I needed to invite others into the mess. I asked my sisters and every mama I could to help me find the way. Their wisdom is seasoned. And not one regrets plunking themselves down 'moo' or 'oink' farm animal noises with their toddler. Not one says folding the laundry ranks higher than stilling and looking into the eyes of a friend to really listen, or to open to their own honest, broken. Not one says to close the door, because the mess is too great. They do not want me to miss the beauty. For life, is indeed, short. And mama heartily cheers these voices. This chorus sounds a lot like a song from Heaven.
The greatest loss of Home comes in living the lie that we are not okay, somehow, as we are. I have dear friends, like my cousin, who I may be tempted to close myself to, because they multi-task so well and are just too efficient and so, expose the weakness I want to hide. And oh, how I pray I won't be blind to so much beauty. I pray I will clasp their hands tight to hold onto the practical and so very helpful, and also the truly profound things they teach me as they effortlessly fill deviled eggs and live and speak who they really are.
I wrote my friend, who was coming to dinner and whose apartment I had complimented for its tidiness as I visited her on Saturday. I confessed how I wanted to clean my place top to bottom before she and her husband came. I apologized for not trusting her, knowing it was more important that I offer the honest mess that would open the door to the just-as-we-all-are beauty of Home.
I pray we circle this world with the truth of how we are all lost wanderers when we hide the mess and miss the beauty. I pray we find the courage to live in the integrity of the real; the broken. I pray we open doors to each other and so, too, the Love that holds the only true promise to bring all of us to the Forever Embrace of Home.