When you walk into my room, the five shelf book case on the wall across from my doorway is the first thing you’ll see. It used to be organized by color. The blue section was the largest of course, because I feel that blue books are just a wee bit more magical than any other color. (Aren’t all things better in blue?) Over time though, as books have been pulled down and shared with young readers, or I’ve flipped through pages in search of that one quote I loved, the organized beauty has dissipated and left behind are slanted stacks of bookmarked volumes, loose papers of notes, and a coffee mug or two that has gotten left behind during one of my “word search” endeavors. It isn’t a pretty sight. I don’t plan on making it out to be some sort of messy beautiful. Because it isn’t.
It’s just messy. Someone should clean it up.
But while it shouldn’t stay in the condition it is now, there’s something to be said for the disarray.
Books are for reading.
There is one no-fail way to keep my bookcase in it’s beautiful, organized, breathtaking appearance. It is by no means impossible to keep it Pinterest approved, and Instagram ready. Are you ready for the answer?
Imagine if I never once touched a book on those shelves. Imagine that when little hands reached up to pull a volume down and embark on a journey, I gasped and quickly directed their fingers away from the worlds at their tips. Imagine that my 1940 edition of Anne of Green Gables was used for many a noteworthy social media post, but I never got to meet Gilbert Blythe first hand within it’s pages.
What a miserable little world.
Books were meant to be read. They were meant to get old. They were meant to crease in the binding. They were meant to be worn out. Pages were meant to become loose over time. Words were meant to fade. Stories were meant to be told.
The disarray and the chaos of my bookcase is testimony to the fact that those books are not being wasted. They are read and reread and shared and returned and read again. They are treasured. The stories are known by heart, and have in fact become a part of their readers.
Now as the keeper of those stories, it is my responsibility to keep that bookcase in a manner that enables people to return and select a book to take home with them. It’s my job to keep those books in a way that makes finding them doable, and thus reading them enjoyable. I can’t just let them fall back wherever they get dropped. They have a place, and they are to be put in their place. There is a reason for them having a place, so that they maybe found in a timely manner. Making my books findable makes my books readable which makes my books valuable.
Which in the very end, makes my books worth having.
But it requires work. It requires putting certain books back in their homes time and time again. It means remembering to take my coffee mugs back downstairs and wash them. It means that all the time I spend at my bookcase, isn’t reading. Some of it is working. Work that will most likely be undone soon. But the work I’m doing is to make the reading possible.
Home is for living.
My Momma is one of the most patient and gracious people I have ever met. This week has been one of constant coming and going, cooking and cleaning, folding and washing, spilling and mopping. She does it all over and over. Some of us grow weary of the work, and decide we deserve a break. So we drop our dish cloths, stop our vacuums, and find an easy chair. It’s enjoyable for the first few minutes, but then I see Momma wiping away at the clean dishes, picking up the little tennis shoes, and making a meal or a church friend.
My insides start to eat at me as I realize my selfishness, and her selflessness.
Her home is one that people love coming into. They stay for awhile, and many just drop in for coffee and the friend they find in Momma’s warm smile and always open invitation to a seat by her living room windows. They come, and leave happy. But it isn’t a home like that automatically. My Momma works hard to make her home a place for living. A place for giving.
Blocks are dumped out by small hands in the living room, and sports equipment gets dropped in the entryway. Laughter echoes, and we can all hear the LEGO’s crash to the floor in the bedroom above us.
I feel the urge to stop the chaos from happening, quench the flame of fun, all for the sake of avoiding the work that will follow.
But Momma doesn’t. She smiles, sits back in her gray rocking chair, and lets them play. Watching her work be undone, and knowing she’ll soon be doing it all over again doesn’t seem to bother her.
I’ve always thought maybe she was just too soft. Maybe the mess didn’t bother her as much as it does me. Maybe she just doesn’t see how bad it can get.
I was wrong.
She’s firm and strong. The mess does bother her, probably even more than it does me. She most definitely sees how bad it can all get. This isn’t her secret.
The secret isn’t her ignorance, but rather her insight.
Momma has a place for all the things in her home. All the things in her home belong in their places. They belong in their places, so that they might be found. When they are findable, they are usable.
Which in the end, makes Momma’s things–Momma’s home–worth having.
Remember what things are for. Remember what work is for.
It’s very easy to become blinded, and find the value of something in what it brings us. Often the mentality for work, is “work enough so you don’t have to work at all.”
Clean your house, so you don’t have to again.
Organize your books, so they look pretty.
I’m not saying those outcomes are bad, for they aren’t. I love not having to clean constantly and looking at pretty books. But while having these outcomes isn’t bad, working for the sole purpose of achieving them is.
Momma cleans her house so people can make a mess in it.
I organize my books so that they can be read.
God has given us places, things, and relationships to be used for His glory. This often requires much of us doing the same small, ordinary tasks over and over again. When we forget what these things are for, we forget what the work is for, and then we become discouraged.
All that we have been given by Him is to be used for Him. To share Him with others. To glorify Him. To know Him and make Him known. Let us not forget that. Remembering what things are for, remembering what work is for, all of the sudden makes the mundane rather magnificent.
Now to clean my bookcase.
I saw the condition of my bookcase this morning when I rolled out of bed. When I couldn’t find the book I was looking for, I realized it was high time to put things back in their place.
They won’t stay that way, I hope.
Soon enough someone will remove a volume or two, and the color coded system will once again be out of whack. I’ll have to come back again, and replace all that has been removed.
But that’s okay. In fact, I’m glad that’s what will happen.
Because books are for reading. Home is for living. Work is for giving.