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How to Cope with the Mess

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My sweet, creative daughter filled every counter space, sink basin, and coffee table with EIGHT different craft projects in a single morning. Meanwhile, my oldest complained that he couldn’t find his shoes (they were in his room hiding under a towel, dirty clothes, and random school papers). My other two sons dumped out every single lego they own and spread them all over their bedroom floor. This would be fine, even understandable, except that I cleaned the house YESTERDAY and we were only an hour into the start of a brand new day! And my children aren’t toddlers anymore!!! I’m so over the mess! If you are a mom, even the mom of a fur baby, I know you feel me. 

The Lord knew our days would be like this. In Proverbs 14, sandwiched in between all sorts of wise counsel, we find this nugget: 

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14:4 (ESV) 

Mom Version: Where there are no children, the house is clean, but kids make life overflow with blessings. 

1. The mess is part of it. Be gentle on yourself. 

There has never been a spotless stable that holds big, stinky animals. There will never be a house that is ALWAYS clean where children live. Someone told us when our children were babies that “cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.” And it is! Every. single. day. Be generous with grace towards yourself. You are not alone. Everyone else’s manger is a mess too!

2. The mess is worth it. Take the risk. 

Messes require hard work. Children and oxen remind us of the DAILYNESS of the task. I wonder if there is anything God is calling you to right now, that you won’t even consider because of the “mess,” the never-ending list of responsibilities associated with taking on such a huge task. Starting a business? Writing a book? Fostering a child? Count the cost. Know what you are getting yourself into, but then be ready to step out in faith. A farmer with a hoe works a small amount of ground in one day, but a pair of oxen plow about an acre a day! Oxen were not cheap and taking care of them was a huge undertaking, but harvest time made the investment worth it. Pray about where God may be asking you to invest. The outcome could yield greater rewards than you could ever ask or imagine. 

Let me take a moment to caution. This is not a guarantee or promise of success every single time. Farmers knew that pestilence or flood or hurricane could come along and wipe out an entire crop. But what did those farmers do when that happened? They planted AGAIN! Who knew COVID could come along and completely bankrupt your business or thwart your plans? Don’t give up if 2020 wrecked everything. God has a much bigger picture in mind. He will give you the strength to begin again. 

3. Give Jesus your mess. 

It’s hard to read a verse in the Bible about a manger and not have drifting thoughts to the nativity scene (like the one I may or may not still need to put away from Christmas). It would have been so much easier if Jesus would have stayed in heaven and told us he loved us from there. But Jesus wanted us to know him. He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10)! That’s the exact same word used in Proverbs 14:4. Abundant carries with it the picture of being full to the point of overflowing. He thought the mess was worth it then and He thinks your mess is worth it now. Let Him turn the everyday hardest of hard messes in your life to joy so full that you can’t hold any more.

Guys, I don’t have it all together. My house is still a wreck, but I’m ok with that. Today I’m going to love on my kiddos. I’m going to trust that the never-ending pile of dishes has a much bigger purpose than I can see. And I’m going to step out in faith when He calls me to do hard things. He’s got this and He’s got me. 

Can someone please resend this to my inbox tomorrow?! Thanks! 

Heather Carlton After being a missionary in Africa and South Korea, Heather Carlton is now a writer and speaker at women’s events. Her passion is to see women empowered, equipped, and mobilized to serve where they are and to the uttermost parts of the world. Heather lives in Saint Augustine, Florida, with her husband and four children (ages 5,7,9, and 11).  They are a beach family that loves surfing, paddle boarding, and life on the marsh.


11 comments on “How to Cope with the Mess

  1. I felt like she had a camera into my home!

  2. When my kiddos were little, the moms I most admired were those that could sit on the floor in the middle of the mess, and PLAY. Good word!

  3. Thanks for sharing, Heather! As a working mom, there definitely doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day (or week!) to keep the house clean. Thanks for reminding me of what’s really important!

  4. Perfectly written and absolutely accurate. Give yourself grace every day and enjoy those children. 🥰❤

  5. Hi, I need this today. Thank you for the reframe. Ana

  6. Avatar for Heather Carlton

    Andrea O’Brien

    I feel this everyday! I didn’t know I was so concerned with my house being clean UNTIL I had a child and it made it something that was difficult to maintain! I needed this reminder that the mess means we’re doing life.

  7. Thank you Heather! So happy to read your writing and more happy to hear you and your family are well. Thanks for the reminder to give it to Jesus.

  8. I started working part time last year and had to go full time because we needed the money. I am still homeschooling our kids too. We moved in August and I am not even close to unpacking. THIS, I needed to hear. Thank you!

  9. Thank you Heather for the reminder sometime I get so frustrated with my girls.

  10. That was awesome. My house is always clean, but almost never tidy. Oh well, I work in and outside of the home. Moms can feel guilt about the mess, especially if our husbands make comments about it, but our kids are with us only a short time. If they want to play a game, the clutter on the counter can wait.

  11. When God calls, He always provides what we need. Thank you for the encouragement to step out in faith when God calls us to do hard things. I agree, He’s got us!

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