Saying Yes to the Mess

By Ashley Haupt

The kids decided to get creative in the kitchen. 

Five year old Ben chattered on excitedly about becoming world famous for his invention of “cutie juice” which involved the careful squeezing of each slice of cutie into a funnel-and-cup and then careful transfer of precious milliliters into four paper cups placed in the fridge for proper cooling.

Seven year old Abby wanted to bake a cake and I did my best to remain hands-off in order to let her learn. She made a strawberry cake from a box mix and Ben helped me make a fresh berry sauce to go with it. But by the end of the night, I felt sure Ben had squeezed all my energy into those little paper cups along with the cutie juice.

Later, all four gathered on the driveway with the neighbor kid to create a special “stew” that involved a lot of harvesting from our front landscaping. Bits of leaves, bark, mulch, and flowers were stirred in with a good amount of hose water.

Yes, it was a mess.

But I know this: creativity requires that you embrace the mess.  To embrace what might be, you must be willing to break a few eggs, make a mistake, fling a little flour.  This is much harder than it even sounds, because it goes deeper emotionally.

You must relinquish the illusion of control and believe that while it looks like things are falling apart, really they are coming together in the most wonderful way. Family time, bonding, laughter and creating are happening right before your eyes.

As we tucked the bundt pan into the oven, Abby said, I wasn’t very good at that. Oh honey, I told her, it was your first time. First times are always a little awkward. You did great!

Really? she said, obviously pleased. Yes, I assured her.

Creativity demands flops and failures and first attempts, and it hands back the joy of creating–the thrill of the making.

I made this is a powerful incantation and the kids were heady with creation magic, which is really a small but thrilling imitation game of the Creator.

In myself, I have to fight hard against the urge to pop their magic bubble. I fight hard not to counter their fragile possibilities with stone cold realities, when instead I should let them try, let them learn the blessing of a skinned knee, a burnt cake.

Abby was very surprised when I instructed her to wash her cake dishes.

I can’t go behind them in life washing all their dishes for them, lending them the illusion that cakes come without mess.  It would be equally tragic for me to say no to all the cakes to avoid all the messes. I’m learning.  It’s slow.  I think I’m raising these kids, but I think they are raising me instead.

Yes is messy, but infinitely more fun than no.

Yes to the mess of life, yes to the learning, yes to the belly flops, and the awkwardness of first tries.

With this Dixie cup of cutie-juice, I salute all creative, messy endeavors everywhere.

Here’s to yes.

Published August 20, 2015

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per week chock full of articles from a variety of Send Network voices.

Ashley Haupt

Ashley is a messy, creative seeker of grace in Christ. She is usually surrounded by a gaggle of children, but she loves long talks over coffee with a friend, photography, poetry, art, books, and being outside. Writer, pastor’s wife, speaker, mother of four, and returning to teach high school English after eight years at home with her kids.