In about a week and a half, we will celebrate the first anniversary of moving our family of five + dog into a darling but smaller-than-average house in a new state. A smaller-than-average house was exactly what I needed, as I am not overly fond of cleaning and I prefer to keep my children in earshot, but it does take some careful strategy and furniture choices to make it work well. Alas! Careful strategy takes time and furniture costs money, so the process has gone a little slower than I imagined.
I was beating myself up about this one afternoon, and my neighbor Laurie graciously told me that it takes longer than most people think to move in.
“So give your self time,” she wisely told me. “You’ll get there in about a year”
I took her words to heart, circled the one-year-mark on the calendar, and every time I panicked about the fact that I was still tripping over boxes, I’d remember:
I get a year. We’re not there yet.
Well, my friends, we’re practically there. And I’m still tripping over boxes. It’s true, I have gradually moved the mess backwards and have largely confined it to my bedroom and closet. But in the meantime, we’ve invited a puppy into the family, and he brings with him an endless amount of debris. Unfortunately, this creative-artsy-boy/dog mom also creates her own unique debris (i.e. furniture rehab projects all over the porch), so I’d say May 2020 is looking like a more probable “all moved in” date . . . if we’re lucky, and if I resist the call of the creative projects for awhile (not likely).
I know I joke about my mess a lot here on the Internet, but in reality I feel a lot of condemnation about it. The negative self-talk is kind of extreme, and this morning, it reached a pinnacle. I woke up, looked around at all the piles in my bedroom, felt extremely embarrassed that I had invited babysitters into this situation over the past week, and I found myself saying:
“God, please forgive me. I am such a messy woman.”
And you know what?
I think God disagreed!
Instead, I felt him reach right into my my negative thoughts, redirecting me with the following:
“I don’t see mess, I just see evidence of blessings well-tended. Of course I give you more than you can handle, because I make things beautiful in my time. The dust and dog-hair and dirty clothes just show evidence of life and priorities in order.”
Never one to accept God’s intervention into my negativity without a fight, I pushed back: “Oh yeah? What about my son’s dust mite allergy? See? I’m just a terrible parent! I’m doing such a bad job managing his health!”
And to that, I heard him say: “ You can make an idol out of many things . . . health or cleanliness or control or your children . . . and that is where you need to careful. Instead, place those children in my loving arms, trusting that I gave them just the family they would need.”
I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up, because it’s hard to argue when God reveals you have an idol. And I began to think about how many times I set standards and call things sin that have nothing to do with sin, and in fact lead to it if I’m not careful. And it occurred to me that God was showing me something bigger . . . showing me that so often we pray to God to “bless our mess,” when in fact, the mess is the evidence we have been blessed in the first place. The sin comes not in the mess itself, but in the effort to control it instead of trusting God to make it beautiful, when and how He deems fit.
I cringe a little to share this story, because it doesn’t highlight me in the best possible way . . . at least according to standards here in the United States. However, I wonder if that’s exactly the point: that maybe the standards that we use are often wrong, and can sometimes lead us into paralyzing condemnation and away from the path of life. If you’ve been beating yourself up about something today . . . about not managing your own situation better . . . can I encourage you? Maybe it’s time to take a step back, reassess, and thank God for the mess. And then carry on with whatever He has planned for you today.