Since we moved into this house, my goal was to fill every space with color and art and words that portray what is most important to me. Almost every picture on the wall I used my hands and paint and heart to create. I want everything to have meaning. The Mary Engelbright pictures in the frames in my kitchen are a daily reminder of a sweet church leader who became my adopted "mom" during my teenage years. She was one of a small crew who pulled me through some very turbulent times. I always want to have reminders of her and all the good she embodies, in my home. It makes it better. I love having my children's art work on display as well. It's probably just a mom thing, but I swear every piece of art they create I find something beautiful in it. It is just so sweet and pure and full of innocence and imagination. It brings a good spirit into my home.
As this house slowly starts to become mine, I grow to love it more and more. Every night as I lock doors and turn off lights, I can't help but linger for a few seconds and take everything in again. This house isn't spectacular. It has flaws and quirks. It isn't huge or fancy. It's old, the outside is outdated, there's still plenty of work to do and projects to complete. But I LOVE this house. It is warm and lived in, sunshine spills into the kitchen and living room, we can see the sunset every evening, and have a beautiful view of the big tree in the backyard that is currently covered in yellow leaves that are falling everywhere and covering everything. This house is my safe haven and sanctuary.
As I sat in the silence I started thinking about things. About me. Who I am. Who I used to be ten years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago. Everything that has happened, everything that has come together up until that very moment.
I used to have this weird quirk in junior high and high school. I counted things. I would tap each finger, back and forth, on the tip of my thumbs, counting until I came to the perfect number. I had rules made up that I had to follow like no stopping on odd numbers, and certain even numbers would be more preferable than others. I would count my steps, beads on the back of the Greyhound bus seats we rode to cross country or track meets, tiles on the floor, patterns on fabrics, books on shelves, lights, sometimes I would even count how many times I would chew my food. Always there were rules. I would change things up a bit every now and again and use words instead of numbers, even count rhythms from songs, count the ticking sound of car blinkers, and even the sound of the dryer. I'd say this weird obsession began when I was 12 years old. It developed during the climax of my parents drug addiction. I'm not a psychologist but I figure it was a coping mechanism I used to deal with the trauma. Counting was something I could control in a home that was very unstable. As I grew older, the counting became something I did often when I was stressed, anxious, nervous, or in a position that was out of my comfort zone or control. Very few people were aware that I did it.
As I slowly learned to adjust and heal from the horribleness I experienced living with my parents as meth addicts, the counting obsession stopped. But I do suffer from perfectionism still. I lived in a drug house that was filthy and was always lacking in food, toilet paper, and all the basic necessities, including power and water, where every window was covered with sheets and blankets, with trash and junk piled everywhere inside and outside, weeds waist high, broken windows, holes in doors and walls, even gunshot holes in my parent's bedroom that resulted from a fight between them one day behind locked doors. We heard the screams and the gunshots and I was terrified that my dad had killed my mom. Somehow, the terror at home drove me to be an over-achiever in school and sports. I managed to be a straight A student, attended seminary, played in the school orchestra, was a member of art club, German club, and NHS as well as a successful athlete, doing cheerleading for two years, and cross country and track from 7th grade until 12th grade. I don't remember ever vocally telling my friends outright, "My parents are drug addicts." In junior high I did everything I could to keep it a secret. Even though we had no phone, I would pretend to use the payphone outside the gym after cheering at a game, so others would believe I was calling home to get a ride. In all reality, my worst nightmare was to have anyone give me a ride home and find out where I lived and discover my secret. So I waited until most everyone had left and cleared out, and then I would walk home in the dark. Only a few friends actually knew where I lived, and even with them was I very hesitant to share many details with about my home and parents and life.
Whatever all the crazy complicated reasons were for my actions, I carry with me a very strong desire for perfectionism. These days it manifests in mild OCD issues. When my house gets cluttered or disorderly, if pillows aren't straight, bed covers are lumpy, toys disorganized, the floor not swept, counters not clean and such, it makes me feel out of control, I can't focus like I'd like to and it affects my ability to be productive. Not that my house is spotless, because it is usually mainly just mediocre, but I attribute my sometimes inability to "let the housework go" and enjoy the little moments to the post traumatic stress I suffered from some very horrible experiences. Of course I do believe that "cleanliness is next to Godliness" and that having a home that is in order is more conducive to the Spirit dwelling there more consistently. I believe that children are less over whelmed in more organized homes and play better and for longer with less toys. Having a home that is clean and tidy really does bring me great satisfaction and cleaning is actually very therapeutic for me, but I definitely can feel the inward struggle I have to maintain balance between my often unrealistic expectations and the reality of living with four children and a husband.
But all of this history made me think about how so often we build on the outside what appears to be "perfect" when there is so much more to the story on the inside. For me, I work hard everyday, to make sure my family stays on top of all the housework. It's important. I'm motivated by many factors. But don't think for one minute that just because my house is always clean that it means I'm perfect and that I will judge you if your house looks differently. There's always going to be a part of me that maintains a clean home because I'm broken inside. We are all broken in some way, and it manifests itself in different ways. And tonight I was thinking how beautiful that concept really is. The broken parts of us. We shouldn't hide the brokenness. Let it come out and tell your story. I'm finding more and more that the broken me is so much better than the perfect me.
Just don't be afraid to be real, and to to be authentic, and to let everyone see all the places where you have been put back together.