The BLOG: Voices
Why it’s A-OK to have a messy house this Christmas
Susan Arico | December 15, 2016
So I have this daughter…
(Don’t you love that? Couldn’t a blog post go just about anywhere with an upfront disclaimer like that? Because I know youhave a daughter… or a friend, dog, husband, whatever… who could be a story-starter too.)
She’s a unique character, a keeps-you-on-your-toes type. Lots of ideas, strong opinions, energy. I’ve talked before about how she’s gluten-intolerant; she’s also a highly sensitive child…. Which is, by the way, a Real Thing. If you think you may have a family member who’s very sensitive to stimulation, bright lights, itchy clothes, etc – I highly recommend Elaine Aron’s work.
Anyway, my daughter benefits from alone time – listening to audio books, doing puzzles, coloring. She loves these things, actually. And she likes nothing more than a good fort to burrow into. Our new house in Crete has an open loft at the top of the stairs, leading to the second floor. One quiet November Saturday she built a fort there. It started with the standard stuff – table, blankets, pillows, the basics. Then slowly, over the course of a few days, the fort took on a life of its own. More chairs along the side. Every spare blanket in the house, seemingly. All her arts and crafts supplies inside. Stray toys, a shield, bathrobe, stuffed animal carrier “adorning” the outside nooks and crannies.
It was the kind of thing I normally would have had “dismantled” after a few days, but it kept her happy, and that space isn’t yet actively used for anything else. So up it stayed. And stayed and stayed, till here it stands today.
The challenge one finds when encountering An Area of Disarray is that it tends to build on itself – you know, kind of the urban “broken windows” theory applied to domestic order. My office area shares space with this fort, and the fort’s unkemptness and ethos spill over into my zone. So we end up passing by the whole area when its clean-up time… And it shows.
Yesterday, the third Sunday of Advent, I was pulling out our tartan Christmas tablecloth and preparing the table for our special advent meal. We put up our tree too (our first ever synthetic tree – funny story acquiring it, and a far cry from the past trees we’ve hand-chopped in our Virginia farm… but that’s a story for another time.) And, as I swept the living room to prepare for tree decorating, my spirit rankled over this as-yet-undealt-with fort scene… Like it was a blight on our Christmas efforts. Like “we’re far from Pinterest-worthy holiday scenes in our B/B+ house-cleanliness efforts anyway, and now this eye-sore is undoing whatever steps we might be taking in the right direction.” And I don’t have an inner Martha Stewart (see above – my “B/B+ domestic order” note), but if I did, her look would be stern and disapproving.
Then I caught myself.
We were getting ready to hone in on the upcoming nativity, the scene where Mary shows up pregnant and unkempt in Bethlehem in the eleventh hour of her pregnancy. Not a person has a room to lend her of any kind, let alone an ordered, pretty, tranquil room. She winds up in a space whose whole purpose is decidedly not for human hospitality – no, it’s for animals. And it’s there that she spends the first Christmas night. It’s there that the Divine Son makes his entrance into the world. It was that untidy space He chose to bless and warm with his entrance.
When it comes right down to it, Mary’s stable and my daughter’s fort have a heck of a lot in common. They’re eye sores. They have no ring of the genteel. They don’t fit the scenes of order and tidiness we value, the ones we gravitate toward. That’s the whole point.
God comes in the mess. He comes unexpectedly, and without beauty or fanfare. It’s His way.
Which makes the mess in my house perfect at Christmastime. And the mess in your house perfect too. Maybe what we need this Advent is different than what we try for. Maybe it’s just eyes to see his unexpected coming, his actual presence in the places we overlook or devalue.
That’s what it is for me this year.
Susan Arico — wife, mom, and strategy consultant — can be found at www.susanbarico.com.