You know those people who seem to have it all together? They look great, their children are well-behaved and dressed in darling outfits, their homes are decorated and lovely, and life seems to be going along swimmingly?

I used to aspire to be like that, but that doesn’t seem to be God’s plan for me. It’s not that I’m admitting defeat or saying that I’m giving up on a tidy life, rather I’m accepting that our path is messy.

When we love people, we invite their brokenness and mess into our lives. Mess is inconvenient; it takes our time, energy, and sometimes money to fix it. Despite our efforts, the mess cannot always be fully contained. It spills over and touches the people who dare to stand near.

Let me offer a few examples from my own life. We lived in Colorado for six years prior to moving to Idaho. During those years I suffered from an autoimmune disorder. I had many medical appointments, took medication that made me feel a bit crazy, gave birth to two babies, was hospitalized with a blood clot, ruptured a disc (requiring surgery) during my daughter’s birth, had surgery again (with complications), and so much more. This all happened while my husband was adjusting to his first university faculty position.

My life was messy.

My disorder finally went into remission and we moved to Idaho. Nobody here knew me as the woman who was “always sick” or “needed a lot of help.” I loved it. I was free from that old life and had the rare chance to start over. Our life was good in so many ways—we had a new home, new church, new friends. I enjoyed homeschooling my children and they were thriving. I had two flares of my blood disorder—one quite severe—but we made it through.

Then God called us to adopt our children, and life got messy again.

We became needy. We couldn’t manage alone. I determined that if somebody offered help, I would always answer “Yes.” I’m not the friend I used to be. I rarely host guests for dinner, I rarely take a meal to somebody with a new baby, my house is no longer tidy, my children are not always well-behaved (and that is putting it mildly). In short, my life is messy.

God knows what we need. He knows what we can manage and what we can’t. Best of all, He never leaves us.

I yearn for a tidy life; it suits me. 

I feel comfortable with tidy. I want to be the woman who has it all together, who drops off muffins an hour after a new baby is born, whose children have beautifully braided hair and matching Easter dresses, who mails birthday cards on time and answers emails before they are weeks old. But that isn’t the life God has for me, at least not right now. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever see that life again, and my heart hurts thinking about it.

Yet, I want what God wants. I want to lay down my life to do the work He has for me. Will this bring pain into my life? Yes, it already has. Is it worth it? Yes, and yes again. I have a front row seat to the healing power of God.

My life may not always be pretty, and sometimes I worry about the future. I miss the life I used to have, but when I think about Jesus, my heart is easier and my burden is lighter.

My life may not be pretty—but I pray it is beautiful to the One who matters most.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Lisa Qualls

Lisa is the mom of twelve amazing kids by birth and adoption (and sometimes more through foster care). More than thirty years ago she married Russ; they had no idea the adventures awaiting them. Once lost, now found, she is forever thankful for grace. Lisa is passionate about caring for children from “hard places.” She is a TBRI Practitioner and works for Fostering Idaho. In 2006 she created the blog One Thankful Mom where she writes her honest reflections on family, faith, adoption, and foster care. Lisa’s work has also been published on Empowered to Connect, Show Hope, Adoption Today Magazine, Focus on Adoption Magazine and many other adoption/foster care publications.