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You know those people who always seem to have it all together?  They look great, their children are well behaved and dressed in darling outfits, their homes are decorated and lovely, and life seems to be going along swimmingly?  I used to aspire to be like that, but that doesn’t seem to be God’s plan for me.  It’s not that I’m admitting defeat or saying that I’m giving up on a tidy life, rather I’m accepting that our path is messy.

When we love people, we invite their brokenness and mess into our lives. Mess is inconvenient; it takes our time, energy, and sometimes money to fix it.  Despite our efforts, the mess cannot always be fully contained. It spills over and touches the people who dare to stand near.

Let me offer a few examples from my own life.  We lived in Colorado for six years prior to moving to Idaho. During those years I suffered from an autoimmune disorder that was not under control.  I had many medical appointments, took medication that made me feel a bit crazy, gave birth to two babies, was hospitalized with a blood clot, ruptured a disc (requiring surgery) during Ladybug’s birth, had surgery again (with complications), and so much more.  This all happened while Russ was adjusting to his first faculty position at the University of Colorado.  My life was messy.

My disorder finally went into remission and we moved to Idaho.  Nobody here knew me as the woman who was “always sick” or “needed a lot of help.”  I loved it.  I was free from that old life and I had the rare chance to start over.  Our life was good in so many ways – we had a new home, new church, new friends.  I enjoyed homeschooling my children and they were thriving.  I had two flares of my blood disorder – one quite severe – but we made it through.

Then God called us to adopt our children…and life got messy again.  We became needy.  We couldn’t manage alone.  I determined that if somebody asked if I needed help, I would always answer “Yes”.  I’m not the friend I used to be.  I rarely host guests for dinner, I rarely take a meal to somebody with a new baby, my house is no longer tidy, my children are not always well-behaved (and that is putting it mildly). In short, my life is messy.

God knows what we need.  He knows what we can manage and what we can’t.  Best of all, He never leaves us…never.

I yearn for a tidy life; it suits me.  I feel comfortable with tidy. I want to be the woman who has it all together, who drops off muffins an hour after a new baby is born, whose children have beautifully braided hair and matching Easter dresses, who mails birthday cards on time and answers emails before they are weeks old.  But that isn’t the  life God has for me, at least not right now.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever see that life again, and my heart hurts thinking about it.

Yet, I want what God wants.  I want to lay down my life to do the work He has for me.  Will this bring pain into my life?  Yes, it already has.  Is it worth it?  Yes, and yes again.  I have a front row seat to the healing power of God. My life may not always be pretty, and sometimes I worry about the future. I miss the life I used to have, but when I think about Jesus, my heart is easier and my burden is lighter.

My life may not be pretty – but I pray that it is beautiful to the One who matters most.


  1. Bethel (Reply) on Thursday 25, 2010

    I know that this is an older post but I just found it and oh so glad I did! I was that very tidy, have it all together mom of four. And then we adopted two out of foster care. Our life is so messy right now. Even after 3+ years of having the boys home. I wish I could say that we've figured this whole thing out. Not so. It's such a journey but my God is so very faithful! Thank you for sharing so honestly. I needed that today!

  2. Paula (Reply) on Thursday 25, 2010

    Your post really resonates with me. I, too, have an autoimmune disease that I developed about 6 months after I had our 8th biological child. After 2 years of treatment my illness seemed well under control, and we felt called to adopt. We adopted 2 children from Uganda, arriving home in Oct. 2010. I had to spend almost 6 weeks there, which ranged from stressful to harrowing. When I returned home, physically, mentally and spiritually depleted, with a houseful of needy, traumatized children and 2 new little ones (ages 1 and 3) who needed me to help them adjust, it was overwhelming. I knew it would be hard, but I thought since God called us to it, it would be doable. I then had a flare of my illness and 2 other significant health problems arise within 2 months of arriving home. I had to not only accept, but ask for, help from friends, as well as hire additional help.

    Anyway, it leaves me pondering what God wants me to learn from this–to lean on Him more, to take better care of myself, or just that He never promised it would be easy.

    I long to be that together woman, too, instead of the one who is always late, always begging rides for her kids, always missing deadlines, etc. Oh, and cringing when recently people who saw me out for the evening commented on how great I looked, which makes me wonder how I must look to them on a normal day!

    So I hope that my life and myself are beautiful to Him, too.

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Thursday 25, 2010

      Paula, thank you for your beautiful note. Seasons of suffering are so hard to understand — it seems we have to trust and then trust some more. And somehow in the midst of it, we need to be thankful for it all — the painful and the joyful. I am praying for your healing right now. Blessings.

  3. Fabulous4 (Reply) on Thursday 25, 2010

    WOW. I just keep reading this… I so get "tidy life suits me" but at the SAME TIME I would truly be very discontent and "restless" with life any other way. Beautiful, real words of hope and vision. P.S. Starting my I-don't-want-to-be-a-lunatic-Mom-Sabbatical-hours this week. I am determined not to ADD these hours, but to lay down other things in order to make them happen. Help me, Jesus! :) Bless you & your beauties.

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Thursday 25, 2010

      I am so glad that this meant something to you and I am especially happy to hear that you are making efforts to take care of yourself in the midst of it all. Thank you for blessing me with your comment.

  4. Julie (Reply) on Thursday 25, 2010

    I love this…I need this….I too like a "tidy" life and feel it suits me and my temperament. It is SO hard for me to let go of that vision and dream and let God make my life messy – for the sake of my family and mostly for Him. Thank you thank you for saying what most of us moms (especially those of us with big families!) feel. I pray that you and I all those reading will have joy in the middle of the mess.

  5. learningpatience (Reply) on Thursday 25, 2010

    I have no idea how I missed this post when you wrote it, but I think I need to read it every day. It is a great reminder that I have traded my neat life for something better – people, children.

  6. Andrea (Reply) on Thursday 25, 2010

    As a mom of 3 getting ready to add 2 more from Ghana to the mix, I can't thank you enough for this message this morning, Lisa! I so needed to hear this. Love does heal. It may not be tidy but it will be joyful!

    • Lisa Qualls (Reply) on Thursday 25, 2010

      Thank you, Andrea. I'm glad you found my blog! I hope you'll enjoy the community here.