I don’t really know HOW to respond, honestly. So many people caring about me and my family asking the simple question “how are you?” But every time, I struggle with the answer. This month contained some of the highest highs and lowest lows I have experienced in the past 15 years. Some minutes, we are doing ok. Others, we are grieving in deep places in our hearts. And yet at times, there are moments of great celebration and joy. How do you wrap all that up in an answer short enough to be honest? The place I keep landing is…messy.
Messy is really the best word I can think of to describe these past 3 weeks. My 66-year-old parents lost everything they owned and the house they built 30 years ago in Hurricane Harvey. Going back home, a 6-hour drive for me and the kids, was an emotional roller coaster to say the least. Seeing 44 years of family history out on the curb in piles was a surreal experience for all of us. We were all a physical and emotional mess. Watching my dad struggle to throw away tiny drawers of nuts and bolts and screws that he had been saving for decades gave me a glimpse into the inner turmoil of an otherwise stoic man. The kids and I talked a lot about what had happened and how things would change. We talked about how our trip down to Southeast Texas was a mission trip to be the hands and feet of Jesus for people who could not help themselves. We talked about family and what really matters in this world. We talked about showing up.
The same week the storm blew in, a blog I had written months before posted. Then, it went viral. Under normal circumstances, this is the kind of response that a writer dreams of and I expected for it to feel like success and winning and all the things that come with accomplishing a big goal. While I was overwhelmed with the response and overjoyed at the impact it was having on people who were really struggling, it was also extremely humbling. My girlfriends asked me one night how I was feeling about it all. My response: “I kinda wanna curl up in the corner and rock back and forth while sucking my thumb.” Writing comes from such a deeply personal space and to know so many people have taken a glimpse inside my soul feels a bit unnerving. It feels messy.
But isn’t this life? It’s never all good or all bad. It’s always a mixed-up bag full of messy. Husband and I had a mentor once tell us “no matter what you are going through, nothing is ever as good as it seems and nothing is ever as bad as it seems.” That is the ding dang truth! There is good in every hard thing and hard in every good thing. Jesus knew it.
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you would have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
He knew and He warned us. God did not promise us a life without pain. Even Jesus didn’t get that gig and He is the Son of God. But He did promise to sit with us in the middle of the mess. He promised us the mess would all work out somehow. His word shows us that messy doesn’t disqualify us from making a difference. In fact, our mess is what actually positions us to make the biggest impact on all the other messy people in this world. People admire our strength, but they connect with us in our weakness. It is from our place of deepest pain that we have permission to speak into the pain of others.
Don’t run from messy. Don’t try to drink it, eat it, shop it or work it away. Be brave enough to sit in the middle of it. See what messy has to offer. And then encourage others to sit in theirs. Even better, sit with them. It is always amazing to me what happens when people show up and decide not to fake it. It’s like the whole room takes a collective deep breath and drops the façade. Authentic connection happens in these moments, and connection is what we were created for in life. This beautiful, hard, real, messy life.