On Creating and Messes

On Creating and Messes

A few weeks ago, I was attempting to make homemade mayo in the food processor, while cooking dinner at the same time. My 11-year-old daughter was nearby, doing homework on the family computer. The egg yolk, vinegar, dried mustard, and salt started to emulsify into light, creamy goodness as I painstakingly tipped in olive oil one drop at a time — oh, wonder of wonders! — and then promptly “broke,” turning grainy, oily, and generally unappetizing.

Darnit! I said, banging on the countertop with my hand, and then repeated darnit, darnit, darnit! three more times for emphasis.

{Except I didn’t say darnit.}

My daughter looked up — she’s a pretty good swearword watchdog, because it’s something we don’t do {with the occasional parental lapse} in our house. Later, she was concerned: I’m sorry your mayo didn’t turn out, she said. I assured her there were far worse things and that I should have bit my tongue — not to mention stuck with my tried-and-true, whisked-by-hand recipe.

But, here’s the thing.

I’ve been realizing lately that, for all our successes {whether spiritual or writing or crafty or cooking or whatever-related}, there is a lot of trial and error, and even more mess.

And, I think mess — at least for me — represents a barometer of how much my creative life is flourishing.

dirty dishes

Right now, there’s spilled nut flour and puddles of coconut oil on my perpetually smeared countertop; there’s bits of herb and chopped veggies smashed into our kitchen’s faux peel-and-stick tile. There’s some funky smell in my basement that made my husband take out the trash and open the windows. {Then I had to break it to him that I’m attempting to ferment sauerkraut and the funky smell is here to stay for a couple of weeks, at least.}

There’s paint and magazines and fibers and washi tape and mod podge and books all over my dining room table. {Thanks to Christine, a self-taught spiritual art journaler, who facilitated an art journaling session at Kris‘ Refine retreat in April, I now have another way to make a big mess on yet another large surface.}

Here, I dig into the Word, here I attempt to sort out thoughts and emotions, and here, I hope to paint a visual image of where I am now and how God figures into it all.

art journal

Your creative mess is probably different. Maybe, it’s related to the women’s bible study you’re writing and the piles and piles of notes and books that threaten to engulf your nightstand. Perhaps, it’s the mass of flowers you’ve yet to pot for your amazing patio garden.

You know your mess. And, like me, I hope you’re coming to terms with it. Because mess = life.

You see, we’re all creating, all the time. And, it’s rarely neat, controlled, or tidy.

We’re creating our faith lives, crafting them one verse, one experience, one prayer at a time. We’re falling away and then returning. We’re taking steps forward and steps back.

We’re creating our family lives. Caring for kids and husbands, grandkids and aging parents. We’re realizing as soon as we think we have things figured out {with an illness, a life stage, a job}, the rules change, and we’re re-creating.

We’re creating with our words, spoken and written, shaping relationships or stunting them, infusing love or imparting harshness {sometimes both on the same day}.

We’re creating with kitchen hands and craft-table fingers– making pork stir-fry or playdoh smushes. {Or we’re calling out for pizza or popping in Planes for the 10th time.}

I like to think that the better we are at creating, the bigger our messes — and the more we learn to be okay with that.

I used to think I couldn’t create until my email inbox was cleared, the dishes done, laundry folded, and the kids all off at school. You can imagine how well that worked.


Setting ourselves up to be creative perfectionists sets us up for failure. But, when we are willing to let things get messy {or stay messy}, we open up space to create. When we try new things for the sheer joy of it — while still knowing they might fail spectacularly — we are saying we value the creative process and the experience of making something more than a Pinterest-worthy end product.

As for me, these days, the dishwasher always overflows; the bathroom is often a few days’ past its “clean-by” date; and the laundry heaps on my basement floor have been there long enough to harbor creepy-crawlies underneath. My husband finally gave up and put our Easter decorations into their bin in because the pile has just been sitting there since, well, Easter. {I was hoping it might migrate magically into storage.}

I’ve been busy — you know? I’ve been cutting letters out of old cards and getting paint all over my hands, having dinner with friends, making homemade fruit leathers and jewel-like beet puree, and wrangling my three small people.

It’s been, undeniably and indisputably, messy. But, it’s been good.

What lovely messes have you been creating?


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  1. Love, Love, Love this!!! We have been so busy lately – me working full-time this summer, baseball tournaments on the weekends, working on my business and filling orders when I can. When I get a moment to look around, I see ALL the things that need to be done and I start to stress. I used to let the need to clean rule me and I drove my family crazy. Now we do try to do a little at a time – a load of dishes today, a load of laundry tomorrow. I would love to have my house clean and organized, but I see other things more important now. Taking the time to watch a movie with my family, making a mess in the kitchen while making something yummy with my little girl, enjoying the weekends at the ballfield with family and friends. Creating definitely means messes, but I would much rather be creating memories and relationships than have a pinterest worthy house. 🙂

    • “I see other things more important now.” Yes! It’s all about perception, seeing differently — looking past the temporary messes to the permanent memories, to the lasting benefits of living a life open to creating. I’m so glad you’re able to enjoy this busy, messy season.

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