I try to keep my world uncluttered but as fast as I clean it up, the mess reappears. I'm not blaming people I love who don't seem concerned about their litter. They just walk around it, without a care. I wish I could do that. I wonder if I stopped my incessant organizing, sanitizing, and straightening, how long would it take for anyone to notice. Would we drown in the mayhem first?
I remember reading about a woman's routine before bed time: letting the dog out, making lunches, locking doors, setting the alarm, signing permission slips, picking up clothes and toys, setting out clothes for tomorrow, fluffing the pillows on the couch, turning off the tv…on and on and on. When her husband decided to retire, he just stripped down to his boxers and jumped into bed. Sometimes I envy my husband's care-free life. I'm not complaining. He's a wonderful man and I love him dearly. He's not lazy and he works hard for his family. He just doesn't see what I see. And why should he bother. He has me.
If I start feeling sorry for myself I remember Proverbs 14:4: Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest. I noodled on those words for quite awhile but now I think I understand what Solomon was talking about. When our lives are full of abundance–people, friends, husbands, kids, dogs, activities, and so on, well, its messy. Each one brings neediness, challenges, clutter, and concern. Without all the complications they bring, life is cleaner, quieter, but emptier. No need to fill the manger with food for the oxen. No need to pick up after him. He is a ton of trouble. But just as the oxen brought riches to a first century family, our riches come different kinds of oxen. From chubby arms that run for a hug, and knees that need kissing. From a dad's tender expression of gratitude when he lets you know that besides the Lord, you are the most important thing in his life. From all that clutter and mess comes fullness, silliness, tears, laughter, joy, compassion, tenderness, love, lessons and growth–ultimate strength and true abundance.
So tonight as I pick up the house before bed, I'm thankful for the clutter, for the mess, for the socks on the floor and the crumbs on the counter. It means there is still life here, still lessons to learn, and people to love. Its quieter now that the kids are gone and we wait for the grandkids to call. And I miss the carousel of activity that kept my kitchen in an upheaval and my refrigerator full. And sometimes, when its still, and neat, and everything's in its place, I wish I had a few more oxen to clean up after.