I have a pretty piece of furniture in my living room. I remember when Chad and I bought it. We had been married for a year, and our wedding china was still in boxes. We were completely broke, but I decided I wanted a china cabinet to show off all of my beautiful dishes. Chad determined that he would find one for $50. I laughed in his face.
But, later that afternoon, we ran across one at a garage sale. It was marked $75, but as soon as they saw us looking at it, the owners ran over and asked if we would take it for $50. Sold.
We brought it home, and for fourteen years now it has housed all kind of pretty finds, family crystal, and some of my favorite little things to look at.
Recently, I painted it green, and I love it even more. In a home with three kids, this piece of furniture with all its breakable goodies is one thing in this place that is all me, all things kids can’t touch, all prettiness and girliness and greatness.
The other day I was walking past it when I noticed something was a little out of place. I saw colors that weren’t right. I saw sharp plastic edges in the middle of a world of delicate glass and lace. I looked a little closer.
One of my sweet little candy dishes had somehow become a storage space for Legos. I laughed to see them in there, grey and red man-world toys tucked carefully inside a crystal bowl. I laughed and I thought about how I was going to have to dig those little pieces out of there, since they just don’t belong in this beautiful space that I had created.
And every day since, I have walked past those Legos, and every day I leave them there.
I remember what life was like back then, back when Chad and I were searching for our $50 china cabinet. We were happy. Our world was clean and neat. We went where we wanted. We stayed out late. We spent our money on movies and dinners and clothes and fun. Our house was company ready. Our hair was good. We made plans, and the plans came to fruition. We were care-free back in those days.
Our life was pretty, kind like a little green china cabinet. It was filled with neat things that we enjoyed. It was orderly and attractive and probably fairly enviable.
Then one day, we found out that we were going to have a baby.
She burst into our world like a tiny tidal wave. Everything that filled our lives before was rearranged and pushed around by the tide of parenthood.
Twice more the waves came over us. Two more babies. Sometimes we paddled enough to keep our heads above water. Other times we were tossed around like seaweed in the surf.
But, as each wave hit, we could see more clearly that what we thought was perfect before was actually missing a little more chaos, a little more laughter, a little more dependence on God. With each child born, we got a little more of all of it.
Our pretty and ordered life stopped looking perfect. And, it was more beautiful than ever.
Maybe that’s why I can’t bring myself to dump the ugly little Legos out of my pretty dish. Because despite the fact that they are grey and boyish and sharp and out of place, they remind me what a privilege, what a grace and a mercy that it is that I am a mama. That I have a messy house and a pile of laundry that would shock you and a million reasons to smile every single day. They remind me that perfection isn’t equal to beauty. But, maybe a handful of Legos in a fancy dish is.
Tomorrow I’ll send my first two babies back to school. The goodbye is always a heartache. They will bounce out of here with excited grins and new backpacks, and they’ll come home bubbling with stories of an amazing day. I will establish a new routine. I will be just fine.
Life with kids is filled with hellos and goodbyes. It is imperfect. It is beautiful. And, it goes on.
Sometimes too slowly. Sometimes, like tonight, way too fast.
And, when I send them out the door tomorrow, maybe I will walk over to my china cabinet and lift the delicate little lid on that certain crystal bowl. And then, through the tears, I will smile. Because somehow those ugly little Legos are a beautiful reminder of just how amazing this life is.
These three little children’s lives are washing right over us. And, we will swim. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
And, someday, when I’m eighty and my feet are firmly planted on dry ground once again, I’ll bet you wouldn’t be surprised to see an old green china cabinet in a corner someplace, still holding the little crystal dish filled with Legos. And, even then, I’ll bet it will make me smile.