Cara is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom living on the East Coast with her husband and two sons. After years of working in student ministry, she has come home to raise her boys and begin tackling grad school. She loves hanging out with college students, watching Parenthood and eating chocolate like it's one of the food groups. In addition to iBelieve, Cara is a contributing writer at RELEVANT and Today's Christian Woman. She writes about faith, marriage, motherhood and intentional living at www.carajoyner.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
My boys tend to leave a trail.
You can tell where they've been by the mess floating in their wake.
There are the blueberries stuck to the TV, the stickers scattered across hardwood floors, and the assortment of crayons and markers scribbled on the couch, table, beds, windows and walls. We bought a new mattress last year and every time I strip the sheets, I spot an additional ring that didn't quite wash out. I'd like to tell you it was juice that someone spilled, but we all know what it is. Why pee or throw up in your own bed when mom and dad's room is right down the hall? Smudged fingerprints from sticky hands cover every semi-reflective surface and there are food stains in places that I never imagined could get dirty and I'm really not sure how to clean. And it doesn't matter how many times I give away the toys, they still seem to pour out of every corner of every room. I don't know who decided pillows should be loose on the couch, but whoever it was didn't have small children. Had the designer been a mother, all sofas would come equipped with pillows that are permanently attached and cannot be thrown on the floor ten times before lunch.
Then there are the residual marks, created by a lifestyle of chasing, washing, feeding and holding - bottomless laundry baskets, a home that is never actually clean, chronic sleep deprivation and a wrinkly tummy that stretched out to grow and carry babies.
These are the marks of my children.
I've spent a lot of time reorganizing over the last four days, trying to regain a tiny bit of order in the thick of chaos. But when the toys were put away and I went to the closet to pick up a bucket of paint to cover the crayon marks on the dining room wall, I paused. These are marks of my children. They are the marks of a house that is loud and busy and dirty and full of life. They remind me of a curious boy making his way and getting into trouble and hiding the evidence of his mischief under his pillow.
And one day there won't be crayons on my walls. The pillows will never be thrown off the couch and I doubt BJ will walk around putting stickers on the floor. We'll sleep 8 hours uninterrupted and the only dishes we'll wash will be from the two of us. My home will be clean, but it will also be quiet. That season will be wonderful and refreshing and full of new stories with my grown children, but it will also mean that this season is over. So I'm not just accepting the mess today, I'm loving it.
Those are the things I thought about standing in the closet, looking down at that bucket of grey paint, which is why I left it there and I left the marks on the walls. I hope that when friends come and sit around the table with us, they'll smile and maybe laugh at the crayola renderings next to them.
It's a sweet, brief time friends. And I love it so much it hurts.