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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.

So Much More Than Crumbs

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Not too long ago, my five year old son, Aaron, wandered into the bedroom when I was reading my Bible. He asked me to read some of it to him. I stopped what I was doing and together we cuddled up to read Luke 9:10-17, the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Since we were reading from the actual Bible rather than a children’s story Bible, we read one verse and then stopped to talk about it. When we read verse 14, I explained that though there were 5,000 men present, there were also lots of women and children there too. We talked for a few minutes about just how large the crowd might have been and how hungry they probably were, when Aaron said, “I know what the kids got to eat! Crumbs. I bet they got to eat all of the crumbs.” “Oh, no,” I said, “Let’s keep reading and see what happened.” We continued and read those precious words, “Everyone ate and was filled” (v.17) and they even had leftovers! How many times do I make the same assumptions in my own life? How many times do I look at my circumstances and expect God to give me crumbs when His plan all along was to meet all of my needs even to the point of overflowing? He has more for us! So much more than crumbs! 

When we read this account of feeding the five thousand in the book of John, we get more insight into where the original five loaves of bread and two fish came from. In John 6:8-9 we learn that Andrew discovered a boy with food and reported to Jesus what the boy had packed for lunch. Before we can get there, we have to back up to that morning before the boy left the house. The Bible does not say who packed the boy’s lunch, him or his mother (my money is on the mom), but what we do know is that this little boy of all the little boys, men, women, and girls is the ONLY one out of over 5,000 people that packed lunch that day. Or was he? It is highly possible that there were at least a few others who brought lunch with them, hid it from everyone, refused to share and COMPLETELY MISSED seeing Jesus’ miracle of provision.  What’s worse is that they missed BEING the miracle of provision. This breaks my heart. How many times have I missed allowing God to use me because I was too busy taking care of my own needs and worrying about feeding my own family, when all along His plan was to use the very resources He has given me to reach the masses for His glory?

One truth God has been showing me lately is that in order to receive anything, He often first asks me to step forward and offer what I have. In some ways this feels counterintuitive. I would never throw out my old sofa, until I have the knew one delivered. I don’t want to be left empty-handed. I don’t want to find myself quite so vulnerable. If I’m really honest, I’d say this is my way of maintaining control of everything around me. Yet He often asks us to make the first move, offer up those few fish, and THEN He will provide the feast. This is so hard for me to do, but this is exactly what I teach my kids to do every day. When they want to be heard and want their way, I often find myself saying, “Right now, the thing you need to do, is make that first step of obedience. Go clean your room, then we’ll talk about additional privileges.” What first step of obedience is God asking you to take today? What one thing could you do to give God a clear indication that you are listening and are ready to hear more? It may be as simple as writing that note to encourage someone or being the first to say “I’m sorry.” Whatever it may be, make the move, read His Word, do the one thing that He’s clearly asked…NOW.

Whether you see yourself as a part of the crowd (hungry, yet suppressing the pain), or the little boy (offering everything you have to Jesus), or even the disciples (the event planners freaking out over lack of provisions and taking on the burden themselves), Jesus’ response is the same to each of them. He feeds them. He takes care of them. He has a plan and in His plan no one is left on the fringes to beg for crumbs. Each person showed up that day to see Jesus, to listen and learn, and find out who this man was. When we show up ready to see God, regardless of our current roles, responsibilities, or place of pain, He will show Himself…in His time. Jesus was not there setting up morning coffee and tea breaks for His all day conference. He had no problem with allowing people to get hungry. He had a plan, but it didn’t look the way anyone else thought it would. He orchestrated His plan in a way that made it apparent that only God could have worked in this way. Only He can meet our deepest needs. Take time, seek Him out, and let Him fill you today.

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.