Jan 17, 2018 by Alyssa Duvall

The Gospel Coalition: "Mothers, Embrace The Mess"

In an authentic, uplifting message to mothers everywhere, women's ministry leader and mom-of-two Caroline Albanese is sharing with The Gospel Coalition readers why it's okay to embrace the mess that comes with family life. After all, if "having kids and keeping the house continually clean is like oil and water," as Albanese says, we had better learn to go with the flow.

"When the house is clean, I hear a hallelujah chorus in the background," Albanese says, and what mom can't relate? "It’s amazing. The sky is bluer, my head is clearer, and I feel like I have the mind space to dream and plan and focus on what I actually care most about in life." But, naturally, little children don't share our interest in spotless counters and obstruction-free floors. So what do we do?

"I heard about a book that would help me develop routines so my home could always be pristine. Of course, I immediately bought and read it, in hopes that I could achieve a shiny home," Albanese said. "Despite my efforts, I keep falling short. I feel trapped in the tension of wanting an immaculate home and a full and vibrant childhood for my kids. I wind up anxious and dissatisfied with the state of my home, and sometimes my life."

Clean Manger

The other day, Albanese explains, while listening to Proverbs on her audio bible app (a Christian mom's secret weapon, I dare say), a verse suddenly struck her:

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4).

Your littles and not-so-littles might not tip the scales quite like an ox, but their capacity to make a mess makes this verse powerfully resonant.

In the historical context of this proverb, Albanese explains that many families depended on oxen tilling their fields which would then provide crops to eat and sell.

"I can imagine living back then and thinking, I just want the manger clean for once," Albanese jokes "For crying out loud, how hard is it to have a clean manger?"

The proverb answers this sentiment and tells the frustrated homemaker, “Sure, you can have a clean manger—if there are no oxen. If you want a clean manger, get rid of the animals. You’ll have it nice and clean. Sweep it, mop it, spray it down, get it nice and fresh smelling."

"But without oxen, you don’t have crops," Albanese continues. "Abundance comes from the animal that makes the manger dirty. If you want the abundance, you must embrace the mess."

Abundance Is Messy

If any of us got rid of our husbands, children, even pets, even for an afternoon, sure, we could easily achieve a clean house, Albanese explains. "Sparkling counters, floors freshly vacuumed and mopped, everything in its place with zero clutter. I could take a deep breath and enjoy a lovely, well-ordered home."

But in that pristine peace, what would be missing? "The wonderful husband God has provided for me. The precious children, who are a treasure from the Lord," Albanese teaches. "Sure, I could have things immaculate. But how lonely! We may not have a home that is always spick-and-span, but there is a richness in our home. There is life. There is abundance."

Moving forward, Albanese describes how Proverbs 14:4 has helped her change her outlook on "The Mess".

"The toys on the floor symbolize imaginations expanding, explosions of thought as young minds learn and grow," she says. "The crumbs on the floor after lunch are a reminder that little bellies are filled, that God has been faithful to provide us with satisfying food each day. The dusty dresser top is a visual message that our time is being spent elsewhere. The mud on the front mat is a reminder that my son and husband had a blast outside together, making sweet father-son memories. There is adventuring at the playground, water-splashing at bath time, running around the house while pretending we’re trains, and dancing to songs blasting on the music speaker. There is abundance."

What can we take from this teaching from the Word? "Look beyond the mess, to look toward the abundance."

"...Look at the richness and beauty of children enjoying life, of joyful moments with parents and kids, of love and laughter reverberating off the walls. This is still hard, since I really value a clean home (which, to be clear, is not a bad thing)," Albanese concludes. "But I pray the Lord grows me more and more in recognizing what matters most, and in embracing the people over the perfection."

Moms, the midst of your mess, embrace your abundance.

Follow us on Facebook: