I wouldn’t call myself a “tidy person”.
Instead I love whoever coined the phrase, “Creative minds are rarely tidy”. Uhh, PREACH. Tidiness is totes not my strength. Especially when I’m crafting/redecorating/in the trenches of screaming babies.
The hard part about this, though, is that I really love a clean house. I just don’t want to be the one to clean it. I often find myself fantasizing about my children picking up all their shoes and a little fairy dusting every last surface in my house right after she’s put away my laundry and deep cleaned my carpets. This has been especially true lately because Emmy is nearly 15 months old and literally all she does ALL DAY LONG is move crap around my house. Ella and I were trying to quietly walk down our hallway yesterday and kept tripping on/kicking all these rattles and snack cups. It’s the worst.
Growing up, people just dropped by our house without warning. I thought this was totally normal until Nathan and I got married. These days, the thought of someone dropping by unannounced makes my stomach drop to my ankles because our house is YIKES, people. Our life group had a season about two years ago where we split the couples for “Guy’s Night” and “Girl’s Night”. We (the girls) were all at a Fro Yo place when Nathan sent me a text about how the guys’ plans fell through… so he invited them all to our house. My initial response was, “Wow! My introvert husband is being so hospitable!!” Followed immediately by “OMG BUT NO. OUR HOUSE IS A WRECK AND I’M SO EMBARRASSED AND DID YOU PUT THE LAUNDRY AWAY? DID YOU CLEAN MY CRAFT SUPPLIES OFF THE COUCH? I THINK MY UNDERWEAR IS SITTING ON THE KITCHEN TABLE.”
I tried to hide my terror as all the wives started getting texts about their hubbies heading to my house. There was a moment of silence. And then everyone looked up, wide eyed and said “I would never be ok with this happening at my house!!” As everyone started pouring out stories of how embarrassed they’d be by their dirty floors and dusty mantles my heart calmed a bit. I thought to myself, “Well, at least they’re all dads and they know how messy a house with kids can get.”
The next day my walking BFF, Meghan, and I were out for our bi-weekly walk and we were recapping the night’s events. She said that after her hubby saw our house in it’s prime time mess, he felt better about theirs. Usually, when we have social events in our group they are planned and houses are immaculately cleaned. So when you arrive as a guest you end up thinking, “What a clean, beautiful home they have.” And while we know that kids make messes, it certainly doesn’t help you stop the comparisons. I so often think, “What’s wrong with me and my family that we can’t get our freaking kitchen clean? Why can’t we get our shoes picked up? And when will the clutter end?”
While I was initially embarrassed that our messy house made him feel better about his, I thought to myself, “Why?” What a freeing thing to be released from the expectation that your 3 year old is going to be tidy. I decided that every time those feelings of embarrassment popped up I was going to shut them up with this new thought: “I gave them a gift“. A gift of freedom. A gift of knowing that other families are like REALLY messy too. A gift of lifting the burden of perfection and comparison.
Years ago, I read Table Life by Joanne Thompson. In it, she talks about how we need to invite people into our messes, because that’s when they can feel like part of the family. She puts emphasis on leaving something undone and purposely not having dinner finished so your guests can help prepare the meal. And my favorite part: you don’t want people to leave your house feeling good about you, you want them to leave your house feeling good about themselves.
Yeah. Yeah that’s exactly what I want. And while I pretend like I can make that happen by planning a 6 course meal with absolutely no hiccups along the way- that’s just not real life.
Over the summer we threw Ella her 5th birthday party. We decided on a Unicorn theme (ahem, I decided and manipulated the heck out of her to get what I wanted) and I initially believed that I would throw a party of Epic Pinterest Proportions. But by the time the party actually came it was anything but epic. Real life, amiright? I gave up and just thought, “Whatever, she’s getting some presents and has rainbow clothes so we’ll be fine.” Instead of the crazy Pinterest-unicorn-everything I could have made, I decided to settle for quiche and donuts and call it good. We do morning parties around here because all the little kids are still happy and our swamp cooler is nicer to people when it’s not blazing hot yet. So I woke up, actually felt relaxed and popped the quiche in the oven. I told Nathan something along the lines of, “Wow! We’ve really done it! Planned and executed a peaceful kid party!”
About 15 minutes before everyone started arriving, the oven timer went off and I opened the oven to find BURNT QUICHE. ALL OF IT. BURNT. My main dish- totally unusable. Over 40 people would be arriving at my house in a matter of minutes. And I lost my freaking mind. I started frantically running around, screaming things and nearly ended up in a pile of tears on the floor. Nathan and I brainstormed about what we could do cheaply and fast and we landed on making breakfast burritos. (We always have around 10 dozen eggs on hand. Nathan’s an egg guy. More on that another time.)
As I pulled out ingredients, everyone started to arrive. When I told the mama bears about what had happened they all just jumped in and started making food in my kitchen. And I let them. Meghan cooked the eggs, Jess wrapped burritos, Danielle watched the kiddos and I made coffee. Jess leaned in and whispered, “Erica, I would have cried. You’re doing so well.”
I have the best tribe.
Something that would have destroyed me if I was trying to “have it all together” instead became a total bonding experience. If I had let my pride in and said, “No- I don’t need help, I’ll figure it out”, it would have resulted in me feeling embarrassed and my guests awkwardly watching me freak out. No bueno. Instead, I had no choice but to let them in and accept their help. And my soul is healthier because of it.
What is it about needing help that makes us feel so… ugh? I like to blame it on judgey moms. But the truth is, it’s just my own insecurities and feeling like I’m not enough. Friend, there are so many things out there that are making you feel way more insecure than you need to. Maybe it’s Pinterest. Maybe it’s that mom on facebook who can’t stop bragging about how freaking awesome her life is. Maybe it’s just this voice in your head reminding you of how not-awesome your life is. Whatever it is- shake it off.
Like, for real. Just stop. Don’t be that mom. Don’t be that friend. Instead of trying to always look like you have everything together, give people the gift of grace instead. I’m sure i don’t need to tell you this, but the truth about life is that it can get so ugly and hard. There are seasons of joy and there are seasons of such intense pain that I cringe just remembering mine. What saved me the most in those seasons of life weren’t the moments I actually “had everything together”. No way. What saved me in those seasons were the people in my life who were honest with me. The people who let me into their messy homes. The people who opened up to me about that struggle in their life, in their marriage, in their parenting journey. The women who told me about their major mom fail the night before. The wives who told me about their “did I really just do this?” freak out on their honeymoon. The friends who told me that sometimes they didn’t really believe that God was good.
Be that friend to someone, girl.
Be the friend who gives the gift of relief. Be the friend who extends grace and an embarrassing story of your own. Be the friend who builds up the people around you instead of tearing them down by only revealing the “perfect” areas of your life. And when someone gives you the same gift in return- say thanks.
In order to build a healthy tribe around you, it takes vulnerability. It takes letting them into your messy home and intentionally not cleaning up while they’re there. It takes bravery to tell your most vulnerable stories to empower the women around you. And sometimes it takes burning all the quiche at your daughter’s unicorn party.
We’re better together, dear friend. We’re better when we’re 100% us. We’re better when we’re honest and so freaking beautiful when we are a hot mess of LIFE.
Give someone that gift today. Give them the gift that you so desperately need yourself. Give and give and give some more. And when a friend offers to give you the gift you need- don’t you dare turn her down. Let people help you, friend. Let them see you when you’re weak. And take their hand as they guide you to Jesus when you can’t get there yourself.
We really do need each other.
Don’t hold back.
Give the gift.
I have to confess- I probably have way too many words on my walls. #sorrynotsorry. As a stay at home Mama Bear, I am in my house ALL THE FREAKING TIME. And I’ve found that I just really need visual reminders of what God is doing in me, through me and around me. And the other problem is that I like change WAY TOO MUCH. Nathan has to give me time stipulations for things- like he’ll agree to a big house change as long as I’ll leave it up for x-amount of time. Years ago he told me I could only repaint if I left it on the walls for two years. What kind of insane person can agree to something that long term??? I’m kidding. Kind of.
Anyhow- getting to change out simple things- like words on my walls- helps me to keep my time commitments to my husband. And I thought I would give you a super simple tutorial on how to do basic calligraphy. Ok fine- it’s more of “tips for chalk calligraphy” because who do I think I am!? I’m no expert here. Just a bored mom with commitment issues.
What you’ll need:
- Chalkboard Paper. I get mine from Hobby Lobby and it’s a cheaper way to practice your chalking. If you hate it you can just get a new sheet and not feel wasteful. You could also just practice on a chalkboard, but unless that chalkboard is primed and your markers are superb you will have to repaint that chalkboard and take it from me- it’s just easier to use chalk paper.
- Chalk markers. Again, Hobby Lobby is my BFF. I just get their chalk markers and they are a timeless classic. Also pictured below are a chalk pencil and a chalk crayon. Both are great options when you get a little more confidence under your belt. But for beginners I really recommend a chalk marker. They’re erasable if you make a mistake and they’re so easy to use.
- Q-tips and water. When you mess up (because you will. And that’s totes ok.), I’ve found it’s easiest to dip a q-tip in water, ring it out a bit and then erase your mistakes with it. It will take a little more clean up work than you’re imagining this way, but it really is the safest way to hide the fact that you’re a human who makes mistakes.
First things first- decide which font you want to use. I usually scour Pinterest for something I like and then practice copying it. Copying will be your best friend as you learn to chalk. You can get fancy and creative after you’ve got a grip on it all- but to start just flat out copy someone else’s work. I can’t tell you how many things I copied until I was brave enough to make designs on my own.
DaFont.com is a great resource for this as well. You can find a font you like, click on it and then type what you want to write in the “custom preview” box. It will show you your words in that font and ta da! just copy the heck out of it.
I decided to go for a simple calligraphy font here. Notice how this picture is just the “bare bones font”. No thick lines yet, and it’s definitely not perfect. But it doesn’t have to be because the next step is where you hide everything.
So next what you want to do is make the “down” lines thicker. I’ve outlined where I want to do this as you’ll see below. The “down lines” are exactly what they sound like- wherever your marker stroke went down as you were writing it. I’ve found that if you decide on a simple rule like that it’ll help your font look uniform and intentional. Go ahead and thicken all your “down lines” with an initial outline and then start filling them in.
Sometimes you may have to do two coats of marker to get what you want. Sometimes not. Just feel it out.
Notice how the bottom outline of “grace” is nowhere near perfect. This is why I recommend chalk markers because they really do hide a multitude of sin, people.
After you’ve filled them all it, hang it up, step back and study your work. Are all the “down lines” matching thicknesses? How’s your spacing? I tend to want a big difference between the width of my down lines and my skinny lines. So I try to never thicken up the skinny parts- makes for a more dramatic/calligraphy feel!
Bottom line to chalking: practice, practice, practice and practice some more. You seriously can’t practice enough. The more you do it the more you’ll feel confident and confidence is key.
What words will you put on your walls?