The Mess

A few days ago, after fixing dinner, eating with my family and washing dishes, I set to sweeping our kitchen floor. It was a mess! Somehow, it had gone from just plain dirty to literally crunchy with bits of who-knows-what underfoot.

As I swept, I noticed a myriad of tidbits mixed together in my dust pile on the floor. Bits of blue play dough, dirt from my husband’s work boots, and crumbs fallen from highchairs and sticky fingers. I don’t make it my general practice to analyze the tiny particles that fill up my dust pan, but for some reason I felt forced to take notice.

It occurred to me that I wasn’t just sweeping up dust and debris from a day full of dirtiness and mess, but crumbs of life that had fallen from each one of us as we truly lived this day.

A smile crossed my face, and as I continued to get at each speck of dust, I replayed in my mind scenes of the day’s activities. I pictured my girls choking on laughter as they squished and mashed play dough into lumpy shapes and round little balls. I pictured my husband, rugged and handsome with dirt on his face, his hands, his boots, after a long day of hard but fulfilling work. I pictured myself, singing and dancing to my “Fixing Supper” playlist, sometimes so captivated by the words or melody of a favorite song that I didn’t worry about spilling a few crumbs here or a box of pasta there. I pictured my family circling the table, talking, laughing, and coming together at the end of our day to break down bread and life together.

With all this in mind, I stared at the mess and found it beautiful.

And then I thought of relationships.

Of the hard ones, the messy ones. I thought of hearts severed, torn to bits, and how I wish I could sweep the mess of a broken friendship into a pile and bring it together again.

My daughter loves to look at scrapbooks, and a few days ago she asked me if we could look at the scrapbook I made of the day she was born and the brand new baby days that followed.

Together we turned pages, and I narrated the stories behind the pictures. As we came to the end of the book, we stumbled on a photo spread of friends that came to visit my daughter in the hospital when she was only one or two days old.

This group of pictures has a way of catching me off guard. Somehow, I always forget that it’s there, and every time I look through this scrapbook it sneaks up on me, and sort of hits me, and I feel slapped across the face, across the heart.

These friends, so dear, were family to us, and I thought it would be this way forever. Sadly, four years later, we are no longer in relationship with them.

How this happened, why it happened, are questions that still circulate inside my head and the details of the struggle our friendship has faced are not for this blog.

My husband and I have tried everything we know to fix things, to work things out, but nothing, it seems, can be done.

Sometimes you can give everything and end up with nothing.

We pray for them. We think of them. We love them. Perhaps these are the things that will never change.

I keep thinking about the pictures, about how it hurts to look at them, how it hurts to remember, how it hurts to hear my daughter say, “Mommy, who are those people?” And I wonder; should I take them out? Remove them from the book and throw them away, so that my eyes won’t have to see them and my heart won’t have to feel the raw ache of a friendship lost?

The answer, I found, is in the dust pan, in the pile of life on my kitchen floor. No matter how you look at it, it is a mess. But in that mess there is beauty, and goodness, and life lived well.  

The same is true of my pictures and of all friendships broken.

Just as I replayed the scenes of my day and found joy and goodness in the midst of the mess, I can look at my friendship, lost and broken, and pick out the most amazing bits of joy and goodness from amidst the debris.

Instead of throwing the pictures away, I can close my eyes and sweep together the memories, the crumbs that made our friendship. I can replay in my mind scenes of Riccio’s Pizza and swim meets. Scenes of laughter that made my head hurt and tears willing to fall together over moments of loss and trials to great to bear alone. I can see cookouts, and pranks, and “Hey, come on over.” I can see, with the eyes of my heart, my friends, my brother and sister in Christ, holding my firstborn in their arms, praying over her as a newborn soul, praying over me and my husband as newborn parents.

I know that people are flawed and relationships are messy, but even when the worst case scenario becomes the worst reality, there is beauty, and goodness, and life lived well, and life lived together.

Sometimes you can end up with nothing and find that you have everything.

In the midst of life’s broken, dirty mess, take notice. Sometimes our messes need to be swept up and thrown out. Sometimes in relationship we need to move on and make room for new loves to grow.

The mess is there, for sure, but it’s the tiny pieces within, the love, the joy, the goodness, that are treasured and stored in the heart, never to be swept away.

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