Beautiful Mess

I have come to learn over the last three years of living here in the South that Southern ladies love to call one another messes. On numerous occasions I have been told that I am a mess. Even more often is my daughter, Lyla called a mess.

“She is a mess!”

I quickly learned that this isn’t necessarily insult. In fact, most often it is said with great affection. While I balk at adopting the ever-present “ya’ll,” I find myself calling myself or my daughter a mess with the shake of my head and a smile on my face.

Yes, we are a mess.

One of the things I love most about Lyla is her “mess.” She is an unstoppable pink and purple tumbleweed of loud, high-pitched talking and bouncing curls. She leaves behind her a trail of laughter and glitter. Her emotions are unpredictable and untamed and always seem to bubble up at bedtime where she recently wept and wailed,

“I don’t think I’m ready to be a big sister! I still make too many bad choices!”

Bless her heart.

A beautiful mess.

The other night, and I have to write all this down or I will forget, my son Jude beckoned me to come into his room, clearly troubled by something.

He proceeded to let me know that he had traded a Pokemon card in the hallway at school even though he knew that was against the rules.

“I’m so sorry mom. Give me any consequence you want to give me. Just take them away!” He thrust a handful of his precious trading cards into my lap.

Sweet boy. So hard on himself. Beautiful mess of second grade conviction.

I met him with grace and that gave him wings. For the next while he floated around the house “preaching” the freedom he felt with telling the truth.

I thought the matter was resolved and done but a few minutes later he called me into the mess of the master bedroom. There, I found he and Lyla had cleared a space on the floor amongst the piles of random “to dos” and were sitting. Why is it that the master bedroom is always the last place to be cleaned?

“Mom, I want to pray.”

The Spirit within me told me to be silent and clear a spot of my own to sit.

There, on the debris field that is my bedroom floor, we had church.

Where two or more are gathered…

The mess becomes holy ground.

So many times, I feel like I fall short. I fall short as a parent, wife, friend, daughter, sister.

I am a mess. Bless my heart.

It is so easy for me to hide behind my mess. I’ve sought out and justified my sins, I have worn a mask of “fine.” I play “Christian” so very well. I have my lines memorized and perfectly timed.

I’ve allowed myself to become defined by my children, my husband, my parents, my grief.

I see where I have done well in the past, pat myself on the back, and brazenly step into the future fueled by a self-given Kudos with the hopes that history will repeat itself out of reflex or inheritance instead of practice.

I can numb the days away.

I can run so hard and loud that I drown out the voice that affectionately whispers to me,

“you are a mess.”

I guess where hope begins is that I know the one who is never repelled by even the messiest.

I want to be one who stops running, or numbing, or faking, to acknowledge the wreckage that surrounds me. The mess that is uniquely mine, and the mess that is collectively ours because we are in this blemished church, and this fallen world. To hold it up as a battered banner of redemptive promises.

Because it is there, on the floor of my mess that He never fails to show up. The one who navigates every piece of rubble and every pile with familiar footing. The One who sees me in my mess and meets me with gentle affection.

The one who allowed Himself to be beaten into a mess so that I don’t have to be buried in mine.

So, when I hear that click of the tongue and someone sweetly drawls, “you are a mess.” I will smile and own it.


You know when you’re in church and someone decides that a particular worship song needs some congregational clapping? They start clapping, but they’re clapping on the wrong beat. Then other people hesitantly begin to join in, so now there are several pairs of hands clapping off beat. Then, someone who can actually find the correct beat, starts clapping really loud. Well this confuses the entire congregation so they all one by one start dropping out and just close their eyes and maybe lift a hand or two to stop the awkward.

That’s what it’s like for me when C.J. leaves.

Our rhythm has been interrupted and what’s left is a fumbling for the steady.

For at least the first couple of weeks I catch a glimpse of his truck parked in the drive way as I fix dinner around 5:00 and I feel a fleeting “yay” that he’s home from work. Or, I will find one of his shirts in the laundry and do a double take before I remember that it was I that had worn it to bed the night before, or it was a shirt Lyla had taken to cuddle with.

Soon enough those reflexes will taper off and we will settle into our new, albeit temporary, steady rhythm.

I prefer a consistent routine. It gives me a sense of security, and I know the kids do better when they know what to expect in a day.

I am the metronome of the household. The menial household tasks keep me a constant pulse of: pick up, sweep, wash, fold. The sound of emptying the silverware from the dishwasher becomes my cymbal, and the constant laundry becomes the deep bass kick.

But change is in the air. Every tiny karate chop under my ribs is a reminder that soon a new pair of hands will join in our song.

The reality is, my physical strength is limited. I am reminded daily of this, by a body I barely recognize.

And on particularly weary days, I cannot keep up the rhythm and I have to stop. I have to lay on my left side on the couch watching my sweet snare section building block cities.

This was my position the other day when my Jude came over to me, looked me in the eyes and quietly asked,

“You doing okay?” with the sincerity of a person well beyond his years. He’s not used to seeing his mama still.

I am reminded that not only am I the metronome of the daily routine, but I am also the one from whom they will take their emotional, and spiritual cues. Their shoulders are too small to carry me.

In my weakness and human frailty, I must be at peace. Not pretend “fake it til you make it” peace, because children can smell a fake from a mile away. Genuine, transcending all understanding peace. Peace that can only come from a source that never runs dry.

I pray for peace in this world, so my husband’s job will be uneventful and relatively safe. I pray for peace in my home even though I feel buried in a multitude of incomplete household chores.

From my spot on my left side on the couch I pray and wait, and I marvel in the miniature world of blocks. Then, I feel that flood of promised peace that fills every weary crevasse. I smile at the wonder on my son’s face while I hold his hand next to my belly button so he can feel another type of rhythm:

A faint steady beat coming from tiny hiccups.

Dandelion Centerpieces

I can see a tiny sign of Spring starting to speckle our yard. On a lawn that has yet to decide whether it will be brown or green, pops of yellow appear. The dandelion has begun its conquest.

As our resident “flower child,” last Spring my daughter Lyla spent hours outside picking bouquet after bouquet of them, filling every vase I own with water and creating a hodgepodge centerpiece of wilted, smelly weeds on my kitchen table.

Dandelions are an interesting little flower. I’d never realized before last year that they open and close as the sun moves across the sky. They also morph from soft little yellow flower, to fragile puff ball consisting of tiny soft chimney sweeps that are sent flying easily by wind or by breath to plant more, little yellow flowers.

Once my favorite season, this year Spring brings with it a melancholy hum. An undercurrent of impending change, and that which is unknown twinges in my soul.

I have entered into my third trimester of pregnancy. Baby girl will be a Spring baby.

Though, as I rub my belly, a bearded man wearing red and white striped pants and a star spangled top hat holds my husband’s broad shoulders and steers him out the door, across an ocean, and away from me. Away from our two kids and the baby on the way. Away from the dandelion spotted grass.

As I fold and place tiny onesies into drawers, C.J. stuffs issued uniforms and really big socks to be worn with big boots into giant green duffel bags.

“How are you doing?” Well meaning, loving friends and family ask me. How AM I doing? I wade through the hormones and search my heart to sift out the genuine emotions and I come to the conclusion: I am okay.

Okay. How is it that I’m okay?

Had you told me as an adult in my early twenties that this was to be my life, I would have shut you down quickly, because I would not have been okay. The life of a military spouse was so unbelievably foreign to me. The idea of potentially giving birth without my husband by my side would have been too much for me to even consider.

I had believed that I lived my life surrendered and ready for whatever call God placed on my life. As the daughter of some pretty bold missionaries, I anticipated my calling. I married a man I believed to be called to vocational ministry, and for a time he was. I waited to see which jungle and unreached or broken people or church God would send us to. “Here I am God, send me!” I prayed with my hands stretched open.

Little did I realize that I held one finger tightly back. The bony index finger that would extend at us from a patriotic poster. YOU.

I rebelled against this call. This was my exception to surrender. The asterisk next to my “I *trust you!”

I can look back over my 35 years and see the people that God placed in my life as guides and teachers. One such woman held me as I cried in panic over the unknowns and said something along the lines of “When you get there, you will be well equipped. God will make you ready.”

I feel like I am living at the particular “there” that I so feared at that time, and I look around and I am somewhat surprised to see that I’m– okay.

I know why I’m okay. It’s because I have been here before. Standing at the cavern of the unknown.

And I know the one who has filled my lungs with air.

Some days I will be far from okay. His breath will feel more like being given CPR, puff by puff. Sustaining me for each tearful bedtime, each broken appliance, each lonely Friday night, and when the time comes He will give me breath for each contraction.

For now, I will relish in the okay, and the resilience of the dandelion. With ten open fingers I will release my husband because I can feel that warm, familiar, wind on my back. The divine current that has proven trustworthy; that is not confined by miles nor time zones. The breath that gives me life and sends me flying.