Our house is up for sale, St. Joseph help me, and I don’t think it will ever go.

The smallness of the house was something that attracted me when we first viewed it 10 years ago. I had prayed to God for a “little, old house, with a big yard and fruit trees.” He gave me exactly what I asked for. We have apples, pears, lots of colourful flowering trees and bushes, and a great backyard. But it seems it was the “little” part that God took most seriously.

When we took possession of the two-bedroom house, Scott closed in the carport, adding a small playroom, a tiny office space, and a non-closeted bedroom. But somehow, with six home-schooled kids, a one-bathroom, three-and-a-halfish bedroom house doesn’t quite cut it anymore. There’s just nowhere to hide.

The market in Mission is just slow enough right now to let the house get pretty rough between viewings. Dishes, laundry, and bathroom duties are kept up, but detailed home-staging isn’t able to be a priority when I spend most of my day teaching phonics and arithmetic at the kitchen table. It’s amazing what messes can be made without a sound in such a small space.

So, anytime I get a little ding on my phone and see those words, “we have a viewing tonight,” I want to lock myself in my room and cry myself to sleep. I sometimes give in to a feeling of helpless, me-against-everyone-ness. The ceiling suddenly has little cobwebs that I never saw before, and every single shelf in each of our 10 bookcases is overflowing with paper product and dust. The bathtub needs scrubbing, and the dog manages to hold back puking until he makes it to our small amount of carpeted floor. And so, I give in to despair and yell at everyone in sight.

But now, oh but now, our school year is finished, and the kids are outside playing the day away. How is it that they are literally not even in the house, and yet they manage to make it messier than before? My floor has become a beach of dirt, and the muddy hand prints are on places I can’t even reach. I have swept so much that my broom snapped in half yesterday. It wasn’t a good moment for me.

But something happened today as I stood in front yard, hanging laundry on the drying rack (our dryer is dying. And the washer. And our furnace. And our roof. They all waited until we listed the house, of course.). I could hear my four youngest laughing and make-believing in the backyard, as they made a little hobbit-hole hide-away under an overgrown bush. I came inside and watched them through my bedroom window. They were cleaning off a small picnic table and hammering a crucifix into the wall of an old, wooden playhouse they had re-discovered, and intended to make into a secret fort. Then someone turned on the hose to spray everyone. Everyone got really mad and yelled. Then they resumed their play, but only after coming inside to grab their lunch and bringing some of that now wet dirt in with them.

But as I watched them and listened to them, I realized how alive they seemed. They worked, and argued, and played, and ate. And they did all of it with intention, and zest, and mostly, with happiness. They were human, and alive. Suddenly, for a few moments anyways, the newly waiting pile of dirt to be swept wasn’t such a burden for me. It seemed such a small price to pay for the gift of life. I comforted myself with the thought that while my house will never be on someone’s Pinterest wall, it will be the home of so many of my children’s good memories. The dirt will almost make up for itself.

A life truly lived comes with messes. A home truly lived in does the same. And a heart seeking after God will struggle with the messes of sin and mistakes with every beat. But grace can conquer, and she turns those messes into something cleansed and beautifully alive. Don’t give up.