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Your Mess is your Message

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the world. Namely, why so much bad sh*t has been happening. I mean really – 2020 has been a hot mess express. It’s like one big bad news cycle on repeat, and it’s been the source of so much anxiety, worry, pain, doubt, dread – pretty much every bad feel in the book has been felt. And we’ve all got a bit of mess, be it from something derived from the 2020 tornado or something else altogether – financial hardship, family drama, health pains, fertility troubles, or any other litany of emotional, mental, and/or spirital woes. I’ve got multiple girlfriends battling infertility, we’ve got family members dying or facing serious medical issues, my dad was unemployed from the pandemic and their basement just flooded from the tropical storm Isiais. Liv has to get her eyeballs operated on next month. The behind-the-scenes of the business of blogging can be murky in general when dealing with brands, let alone during global crises. J deals with crazies on his job every single day. SO MANY OF US are in boats on choppy waters, and now so many of you are having to make hard decision for your kiddos’ schooling, or you’re teachers or counselors being tossed around through it all. It can feel like one big fat mess sometimes (or most times), and it can be reaaaaaally hard to make sense of it all.

Which, if you’re like me, you often try to do. Because it can be freaking hard to be an adult with no answers, and lately it’s felt like that TikTok clip “I don’t understand! I don’t understand, b*tch I don’t understand!” has been on repeat in my brain. And for as much as we keep trying to make sense of the mess and unearth some godly message as to the why/what/when/how to make it stop of it all, I think the deal is this:

Your mess IS your message.

The way you get over your mountain paves the way for others to brave the same climb.

God doesn’t MAKE bad sh*t happen. God LETS bad sh*t happen.

That much is clear. I mean, hello 2020 – clearly, bad sh*t is happening every single day all around us, and it’s felt like the apocalypse is right around the corner since, like, March. Global pandemic? Pentagon-confirmed UFOs? Murder hornets? Check, check, aaaaaand check – the zombies must be next, folks. I mean, we fought off a literal SWARM of Japanese beetles from a tree in our front yard last month by way of a beetle sex trap (yes, a sex trap), so if that ain’t a sign from above I don’t know what is.

But I heard it said best on a podcast I was listening to this weekend; while God does let bad things happen in our world, He in no way, shape or form finds joy in those bad things. Our God is not a vindictive God, heralding in our weaknesses and sadnesses with an attitude of superiority or snark, like “See! Those earthly losers and peasants are totally worthless and useless without me! Ha! Take that!”

No.

When we cry, God cries, too. {John 11:35 – Jesus wept at the grave of His friend Lazarus}

Psalm 34:18 says “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted” – He is closer than ever to us in our darkest, most painful moments. In our mess, there He is.

And through our mess, He can create a message.

If you think about it, most messages of the strongest kind don’t come from someone whose life has been a cake walk. Most life-changing stories aren’t being told by folks who haven’t known pain of a life-changing kind. Our perspective is shaped and our strength is sharpened by going through the fire – not skirting around it.

One of my own strongest messages in a mess was (maybe obviously) Liv’s whole birth situation (Here’s Part 1 of her birth story, and Part 2 ICYMI!).

And then hugely, our 73 days in the NICU. Because that was just…brutal. It was the hardest 73 day stretch in J’s and my life so far, for so many reasons. But for quick perspective, folks typically take a newborn baby home after 3 or 4 days in the hospital. And typically, birth happens after about 40 weeks in the womb. And typically, babies are between 6-10 pounds at birth and cute as a button.

And our entire experience bringing Olivia Grace earthside was anything but that.

It was physically traumatic, with both she and I almost dying, requiring an emergency C-section at 32 weeks 6 days so that I wouldn’t have a stroke, seizure, or both that same day. My blood pressure was 180/120 that morning, so anyone who knows anything about medicine knows that ain’t a good number on a BP check – it’s a red alarm. And the OG was a measly 3 pounds 0.1 ounces at birth and looked more like a little alien than a chubby little human baby cherub. She was immediately strapped up in all sorts of things in a literal incubator in a different room than me, and many of the next 73 days were the same: watching our new baby be taken care of by people that were not her parents, in a sterile white room that was not her nursery.

It was a mess. I was a mess.

Namely because I just could not understand.

I didn’t understand God. I tried – I tried to “get it.” I prayed to “get it” – to get WHY this was our story. To get why this was Liv’s story – what sort of greater good or purpose He was trying to make happen.

And at first, I thought I “got it” around day 30, when sh*t really hit the fan and the mess got messier. (That story here).

I saw the absolutely incredible response from so many of YOU, dear readers, and followers on Instagram reaching out to lift up collective prayers to the heavens and I thought THIS IS IT! We are going through this so that everyone watching can be encouraged in their own journeys, or know they’re not alone in their own struggles – especially knowing how damn isolating NICU life can feel.

But once it got to be day 40…day 50…day 60…day freaking 70…I figured something else was up.

Because we were miserable. The wait was beyond uncomfortable. The mess felt unbearable.

And at that point, it almost felt like the NORM to the rest of the world was our baby just being in the hospital forever. Obviously not a true narrative…but feelings aren’t facts, and in the moment, that’s what it felt like.

It was a waiting game with God.

Especially once we got to the whole make-it-five-days-without-an-episode game…and we’d get to 3, even 4 days and have to restart the clock again. What a tease. What a roller coaster. What a yo-yo effect on our hope, bringing it so high before sending it right back down even faster.

73 Days in the NICU

At this point, I think I see more of the message on the other side of the mess.

Especially looking back with Liv as a 22-month-old today, being the most joy-infused, personality-filled kid on the planet.

God always knew it would be okay. He promised it would work for Good. {Romans 8:28}

What God DIDN’T promise is that it would be easy.

He never said it’d be a fun walk in the park, or without trials or devils. God never said it wouldn’t be hard as HECK to get there.

He just said that He will work it all together for our good. Maybe our good won’t look like what we thought it would, or what we thought it SHOULD. But that’s okay, because we’re not God and contrary to what society tells us and what we sometimes think, we DON’T always know what’s best for us.

We’re emotional, flawed humans with a penchant for error in a very flawed world. We’re not enlightened, we’re not “woke,” we’re not better than the divinely orchestrated plan for our lives.

The message I got loudest from our mess was how badly, sorely, desperately I need Jesus. How no earthly self-care ritual or inspirational Pinterest quote could get me through or give me peace aside from the greatest, deepest peace that only He could give.

And really…what a gift.

What a blessing. What a GIFT to be given the opportunity to grow in faith and deepen our reliance on the Lord here on Earth.

Yes, sometimes the SUCK to get there is just SO SUCKY.

Yes, sometimes the pain in the process is near unbearable.

Yes, sometimes the path to more faith is rooted with weeds of doubt and ideas that maybe He’s forsaken or abandoned us altogether, because we can’t feel the Hope.

I read once that the Lord does that sometimes – He gives us these “dark nights” of the soul where we are left wondering where the HECK God is, to bring us deeper in faith and closer to Him in the end. To push us to be better and pull us to be stronger in our lovelovelove for the Lord, in bearing very frank, real witness to how we sooooo can’t do the hardest times in our lives alone.

We need Him.

We need Hope – risen Hope.

We need strength, from Him who strengthens us {Phil. 4:13}.

Yes we need family and friends and strong coffee and good red wine, too, but above all, we need Him more than any of those things and then some.

Just because we can’t feel Hope doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s like looking at a cloudy night sky – the stars are there, whether you can see them from your perspective or not. Or, ever fly through a thunderstorm? It can be scary as SH*T if you’re in the turbulence with lightning nearby – but elevate just a little higher above the storm clouds and you’ve got an incredible birds’ eye view AND peaceful, clear skies. We often forget that what we see where we’re currently at isn’t all there is in life.

We see the mess.

But God sees the message.

And if we’re patient (which Lord knows I’m not – work in progress), faithful and open, we might eventually see the message, too.

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