scattered chaos – or a story?

A half dozen (or more) children’s books are scattered in piles of two or three around the perimeter of our living room. The one most recently read lays atop our ottoman beside a discarded ballet slipper. Its pink partner sits in front of my husband’s recliner. A pink polka-dotted blanket is on top of the rug, and a paper airline peeks out from underneath the couch. Blue sparkly Cinderella shoes and fuzzy pink slippers grace another corner, and the pink bin of Legos sits opposite. A plastic green cup with a straw sits proudly beside the remote controls. Cushions are all in tact at the end of this day – and that says something.

In my more frustrated moments, I’d say this is scattered chaos. I look around and feel annoyed that I didn’t ask my daughters to pick things up before they went to bed. I’m annoyed with myself for not picking up more before grabbing my laptop to write a long overdue blog post. But then I try to remember how this mess tells a story of a full day well enjoyed by two five-year-old girls. The books are from reading time at the end of the day, me in one chair with one twin and my husband in another chair with her sister. Before this there were dance parties (hence the ballet slippers and Cinderella shoes) and a yoga session (note the blanket on the floor as makeshift mat). One twin adores her slippers and hates cold feet, so she wore them downstairs until the day’s play began. Another girl was thirsty before bedtime and so she brought in her ice water with a straw while being read stories.

In ten years, the mess will look very different.

In twenty years, we’ll miss the days that left behind such a scattered chaos.

I wish – I pray – that I would have the long view as I parent during what feels like a long summer in the midst of a long season of gloriously imaginative play and charming smiles punctuated by sibling conflict and mommy frustration.

My word of 2016 has been “rooted.” I haven’t written about it here before because, well, the book has taken a lot of air time. But it’s because of the book’s publication that I chose this word as a focus and prayer for this year. It can be too easy to get lost “in the clouds” of a book release, becoming a published author, engaging in speaking events I’d only dreamed of before – and forgetting my roots. The lovely, hard, sanctifying thing about motherhood and marriage is that my family roots me and grounds me in reality. There is laundry, and the dishes pile up when neglected, and meals need to be cooked and planned, and these ones I love are always present. Loving me and counting on me for their rootedness.

This task feels too immense. And it is until I remember where I am rooted. Deep in the eternal love of God, secured for me by Jesus Christ, spoken into my heart and soul by the Spirit. To be rooted in him, all I need to do is rest and abide and remember. Reading the Bible and praying and worshiping in our local church community help immensely. roots

The truth is that as I look around my living room this evening, the scattered chaos and the story it tells reminds me where I am rooted. Physically and emotionally – here with my family at a house in Virginia amidst a neighborhood and community of friends. Spiritually – I am rooted in a story that often looks to human eyes like the scattered chaos of this room. But it is telling a bigger story of redemption and hope and joy as the life of God is known through my work and play and parenting and marriage and friendship.


Five Minute Friday: “mess”

Ah, the irony of writing about “mess” as I’m in my favorite coffee shop, surrounded by happy chatter and no mess except that of my own creation … which right now, is nothing. But here goes. Jumping into Five Minute Friday for my favorite of blog activities. It’s been a long week, one where I didn’t recover from last weekend’s illness till Thursday really. One of feeling drained, exhausted, “just making it.” I don’t like weeks like this, yet they seem inevitable to living in this cracked-jar world. Meaning I’m a cracked-jar of humanity whose weaknesses show up even when I try to glaze them over, and yet whose glory shines through in the midst of those places. There’s a verse about that in one of Paul’s letters (2 Corinthians chapter 4, verses 6-7) …

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. …

Ok – on to five minutes about “mess.”


Many days I feel like that’s all I am – a manager of mess.

“Clean up the toys! Put those shoes in the basket! Take your plate to the sink! Where do the Legos belong? How many times do I have to tell you not to throw your food on the floor?!”

But, really, what’s wrong with mess? Yes, orderliness breeds peace and calm. Clean creates mental space. A messy home for me is visual chaos (and thus mental as well).

photo credit:

But what’s wrong with mess, if mess is evidence of life lived fully and creatively? If mess is evidence of life? For, true, our home pre-kids certainly had less uncontainable mess. I’m sure my husband’s rooms pre-me were much more organized, picked up, neat. His car certainly was clutter-free before I came along.

And my desk, when rarely used, is immaculate.

Life requires mess though. Art requires mess. Life is living out the art of who we are, therefore it’s inevitable that life will be/look/feel messy. And I haven’t begun talking about the relational mess all of us create and contribute to when seeking to love and be loved. That will be for another post … or maybe another retreat … or my next counseling session?