Embracing the (Literal) Mess

One night I found myself standing at the kitchen sink, angrily scrubbing the dinner dishes while my husband and our two foster children played outside in the backyard. It was a beautiful October evening, but I was annoyed. Annoyed that every dish in our house seemed to be dirty, that I had done two loads of laundry that day and still hadn’t tackled it all, that my new rug was covered in dirt and wood chips from the park.

In that moment I realized that I was prioritizing a clean house over things that actually mattered. I don’t often make the right choice in these “lightbulb-moment” situations, but I’m thankful to say that on this particular day I took a break from aggressively cleaning dishes, went outside, and ended up having a great time with my family.

I can’t help but be reminded of the classic Mary-and-Martha story in the Bible, when Jesus gently says to an over-worked, stressed out Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Our clean houses won’t last forever (and if your house is anything like ours, it won’t even last an hour). Jesus reminds us that there is only one thing that does last forever, and that’s our relationship with Him. What a perspective shift, right? I don’t want to spend my short time on earth stressing about laundry or spilled apple juice or dirty socks on the floor.

Instead, I want to shift my mind’s focus to the things of eternity. I also want to view those daily messes with eyes of gratitude: laundry means family members that I love, spilled juice means fun and giggly children in the house, dirty socks mean a day spent playing outside.

I’ve heard it said that a messy house is a sign of life. I don’t know about you, but if I had to choose, I would much rather have a home filled with life, laughter, and celebration than with perfectly dusted shelves and squeaky clean floors. So I’m trying to embrace the mess—the literal, physical mess in my house.

Sometimes I still catch myself running around after dinner, picking up all of the toys and sippy cups and things that rolled under the couch, and then I realize that my time would probably be better spent connecting with God or my loved ones. There is certainly a time and a place for cleaning, but I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be every time and every place. A little mess is okay.

If, like me, you follow cleaning blogs and have made your own natural version of Windex and have a constant backache from bending down every five seconds to pick up crumbs off your kitchen floor…take heart. There is grace for us. There is an opportunity here to embrace the mess, breathe a little deeper, and set your mind on the things that truly matter.

If you were looking for a permission slip, here it is: Leave the dinner dishes and go join that game of backyard tag with your family. When you look back on these days, you won’t remember how clean your house was but instead how present, connected, and joyful you felt. The dishes can wait.



photo courtesy of Unsplash.com


in the Quiver

9 thoughts on “Embracing the (Literal) Mess

  1. How did you know? I’ve been struggling with my increased role around the house lately too. “It’s not enough I take care of everything outside the house (the livestock, other animals, yard, flowers, garden, automobiles, equipment, ad nausea), now I come inside to do laundry, dishes, clean house (even though we have a housekeeper), make meals. I find myself resentful and this has been bothering me greatly. “Where’s your joyous heart?” I ask. When I start to grumble, when it all starts to be too much, I start to softly sing to myself “It is Well with My Soul” or “There’s Something About that Name.” God comes down and begins soothing my human spirit; calming me so I can be with Him in peace and not in turmoil. Thank you so much for helping me see I’m not alone in the struggle. God’s blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen! Take it from a mom whose children are now adults…and a mom who missed many opportunities to giggle with her babies. Reading your post reminded me of several times when I left the dishes soaking to spend time with my family. Those are times I cherish. Thank you for sparking my heart with sweet memories 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Megan, thank you for helping us change perspectives when we grumble. Just tonight I fussed inwardly about preparing dinner. Convicted of a complaining spirit, I thanked God for my kitchen and the pork chops. Counting blessings while working and asking God to forgive our discontent will redirect our thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Megan, just last night I grumbled to myself—maybe out loud a bit—that I had to stop what I was doing to prepare dinner. With conviction and tears, I thanked God for my kitchen and the pork chops and chose joy. I’m grateful for His forgiveness. Thank you for honestly sharing this challenge of responsibility and time with family. You made a wise choice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. JD, thank you for your thoughts on this post! I’m glad it resonated with you. You are certainly not alone in feeling that way. I love the idea of introducing a gospel song into your day like that!


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