the secret to being ok when nothing is ok

I have this thing with mess.

Mess, as in both the literal and figurative sense. 

Dirt, clutter, disorder. Hard conversations, tense words, unresolved conflict. It all taunts my shoulders up into a mountain of knots quicker than most things. I just want everything to be in order; to be "ok". All the time. Who doesn't?

But thing about life is that--by it's very nature-- is quite the messy process. You can't live in a home or try to grow plants or learn how to love another human without there being some measure of mess. 

So, how do I learn to be ok with that?

Last week, I pushed our coffee table and rug out of the living room to intentionally make a giant mess right in the middle of our home.  We had new plants that needed potting and this pregnant mama liked the idea of doing the happy chore inside next to the air conditioning unit.  Dirt was...everywhere. Behr didn't even know how to handle it. Poor buddy. He's a lot like his mama in that he's not hugely keen on getting his hands dirty. 

"I scared of dat dirt." he declared at one point, hands splayed out like pudgy starfish. 

"It's ok!" I chirped back, "Dirt is good!" 

"Dirt is good?" his cautious skepticism was adorable. 

"Yea! Messes are ok sometimes." I reassured him. 

Yes, messes are ok because they're an unavoidable part of life. He needs to know that (and his mama wishes she'd embraced it a lot sooner). 

I tend to define myself by how well I keep my house/life in order. If  there's dust gathered behind the couch or the bathroom is in desperate need of wiping down, I think, "You're a failure." If Jonathan and I have a miscommunication fight or Behr is being defiant I think, "It's all your fault. If you could just be more (organized, mature, on top of things, etc) things wouldn't be this way." Instead of believing the truth that only by God's grace am I a new creation, I think my identity--my worth--is entirely made up from what I do. 

The truth is, I like ticking off checklists and feeling like I'm winning at the relationships in my life. I like being able to say: "Look what I did!" And while there's nothing wrong with being a good and faithful steward of the roles Jesus has given me, it's all supposed to reflect what God is doing in my heart, not how well I can seemingly hold things together. Because no matter how hard I work, no matter how much I strive to make my life perfect, it never will be. Like I said earlier: this life will always come with a heavy dose of inevitable, grace-inducing mess.

I'm fumbling my way through this, but I think learning to live with Inevitable Grace-Mess starts with simply accepting it. It's as if there's an undiscovered room of peace behind this door I call Control. I like that door, it makes me feel safe and predictable. But guarding that door, constantly checking the locks and straining to keep a firm grip on the doorknob at all times is a sure fire way to live life worn down, thinned out by stress and closed off to grace.  I just need to let the door fling open and breathe in the tangled beauty waiting on the other side. I need to be ok with things not always being ok and surrender the rest up to Jesus.  

And maybe a tangible way to remind myself of that can sometimes look like turning our living room into a temporarily soil filled gardening station. After all, you can't give anything a place to grow without first getting your hands dirty, right?

What sort of Grace-Mess are you going to "be ok with"  today? Hop over to Instagram and let me know!


In case anyone was wondering, the beautiful and extremely functional mat pictured here is from Gathre and we couldn't love it more!