Embrace the Mess
just a little something
to begin your week.
Six weeks ago, Jared and I arrived home from our vacation well past midnight. We had heard the news earlier that day that torrential rains flooded our neighbors’ homes and we were dreading what we may find. With one step onto the soggy carpet, we realized our fears were true: our basement was flooded. After spending all night trying to soak up the water, we realized saving our carpet was futile, and Jared and I dragged sections of our drenched carpet to the garbage can, dripping the entire way. Later, my mom reminded me of the time when sewage water flooded our basement when I was a little girl. We had to throw away everything the water touched because of the contaminated water. Needless to say, I was quite thankful that the water in Jared’s and my townhome was just rain water. It could have been so much worse.
About two weeks after we returned home, just when we started to feel like things were settling out, we were very surprised to learn that we needed to remove all of the drywall in our basement, bathroom, and garage due to mold that we couldn’t even see. We almost laughed at this point in the journey because it felt like everywhere we turned we had new repairs to be done in our house: our water pump, air-conditioning, cable, fire detectors, stairs. And now mold. I would be remiss to not mention that during the same week we were tackling our water-logged basement, I started a new job in the inner-city and we also opened our home to a friend walking through her own difficult season.
Even though I knew my circumstances could be a lot more tragic, I have to admit in the following days, I was still pretty overwhelmed. Not only did we have many repairs to do, but we also lost our main living area. Our basement represents the one area in our house where we can relax; when I need to take a chill pill, I go downstairs to practice yoga to an exercise video or when I need to decompress from a long day, I turn on an HGTV design show. Similarly, when Jared has a moment to relax (which doesn’t happen nearly enough), he watches a ball game of whatever sport happens to be on during the current season. For those of you who know us well, you know that it’s important for us to have some sort of relaxation to balance out our intensity! In light of these circumstances, a flooded basement felt especially stressful. Yet at the same time, I vividly remember when my childhood home burned to the ground and we were just thankful to walk out unscathed; relaxation wasn’t really our main concern. So I knew that even though Jared and I didn’t feel very carefree, we knew we still had much to be thankful for.
All of these stressors piled upon me to the point where I felt like I was going to explode with anxiety. As I’ve written before, I’ve become more tuned into when I overreact because I know that is highlighting a root issue I need to address. So in the anxious days that followed with adjusting to a new job, a new housemate, and a house in disarray, I kept asking God to speak to me about what He wanted me to learn. I knew this inconvenience was entirely different than when I endured cancer and I kept telling myself that if I could walk through that, I could certainly walk through a flooded basement and other stressors. But why was this rattling me so deeply?
One day when I was praying about all of the anxieties on my mind, in the quietness of my heart, I felt God say something like, “Even though you couldn’t see the mold in the dry wall, the problem was only going to grow bigger if you didn’t cut it out and replace it. Sometimes it’s necessary to embrace the mess in order to fix the problem and bring a better outcome.” I remember at the time totally understanding what God was saying to me. He was using the basement disaster as a metaphor for my own life by showing me how He was working in my current stretching season. Out of love, He was cutting out the moldy drywall in my life, so to speak, to make me more fruitful and look more like Him. And even though it felt messy, it didn’t mean God wasn’t present in my circumstances—quite the opposite. He was using these circumstances to address my root issues and draw me to Him.
This insight reminded me of Jesus’ words in John 15 when He said:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (vs 1,2).
Jesus’ words connect with me because I’m learning as a novice gardener how important it is to prune my plants to make them stronger. Just yesterday I took the scissors to my tomato plant, cutting off every branch and leaf that was brown or wasn’t bearing fruit. Was it because I wanted ill for my tomato plant? Heavens no, they are like children to me! (Ha, at least that’s what my husband says.) I cut off the non-fruit-bearing branches to encourage more growth, and so it is with God and me. I can sense Him asking me to look deeper into my fears, my worries, my purpose, my insecurities, my relational skills, my ability to handle conflict…the list continues. So often my life feels much like our basement: under construction and covered in dust. However, I am learning to embrace what God’s doing in my life: cutting out the parts in me that are not fruit-bearing so that He can make me more fruitful.
God’s used the mini-disaster in our basement to remind me that He uses the messiness in our lives to encourage us to address our growth areas and make us stronger and more like Him. Even if it takes flooded basements or other stressors to capture our attention.
PS If you made it to the end of this entry, I would love your prayers for tomorrow as I have my next oncologist appointment. This appointment marks almost two years since my first surgery to remove the ovarian tumor. I’m thankful to be at this point and trusting God for continued good health. Thank you for your prayers!