I’m going to start this post with a picture today. Not the kind I paint with pretty words and heartwarming metaphors. Just an actual photograph I took recently. And when it comes to summing up my life, this one’s really worth a thousand words.
Are you ready for it?
I grabbed this snapshot recently while working on a couple craft posts for the blog. That big white board you see on the floor is where I take pictures of every step while I’m crafting. So if you look at one of my posts, you’ll see carefully positioned shots of the finished product, and some nice detailed photos of each step along the way. Everything will look very tidy and simple—like happy, little DIY fairies have been crafting in my home.
But the picture above shows the real story—all the things I leave out of frame. There’s fabric and paper scraps scattered into a dozen piles over the floor. Craft supplies covering nearly every inch of our dining table. And the craft projects themselves, in various states of completion. If you look close, you’ll see the wrinkled paper I had to tear off a project because the glue bubbled the first time I pasted it on. Or you might notice the black paint I pulled out because I decided midway through crafting that I wanted black thumbtacks, not the white I originally planned.
There’s a reason I leave all this out of the blog posts, friends: No one on earth would ever feel inspired to craft if they saw this disaster, would they?
And yet—I feel like it’s a beautiful mess, this chaos that comes in the wake of creativity. While I’m generally an organized person who keep every couch cushion in place, on craft days I just sit in the middle of the clutter and focus on the next step. I don’t think about the mess: I actually keep adding to it as I problem-solve and try out different techniques along the way.
I rarely end up with exactly the finished product I envisioned. I don’t think I ever complete every step perfectly without any adjustments to the plan. And I’ll have to do a mad dash around my home before suppertime to get food in the oven and the table cleared of debris. But somehow, while the music plays, and the coffee keeps brewing, and I keep tweaking my plan, I end up creating something new and lovely out of all the mess.
Life in Process
There’s another truth about that photograph I still have to share. And it’s something I’ll have to give you with words, because it’s from the unlit corners of my heart: My life pretty much feels like that picture every single day.
You see, I have a notion of what I want my life to be—an end product, so to speak. I have goals I want to meet. Dreams I want to be fulfilled. I long to live well, use my time and gifts wisely, bless others along the way. I long to hear God say “Well done good and faithful servant” when my days come to a close.
It’s a nice picture, isn’t it? Tidy and polished, taken in good light.
But I’m not there yet. And there’s so much I’m figuring out as I go.
I often muddle through decisions—unsure what to do. I make miscalculations, in relationships and in everyday tasks, that need to be addressed along the way. Sometimes I overcommit. Sometimes I underperform. Most of the time, I feel a little unsure about pretty much everything.
And I often wonder: Will I ever finally feel like I’ve got it together?
I am a work in process. With a hodge podge of gifts and abilities, hopes and dreams, scattered across my everyday life. There’s bad habits and sinful attitudes in the mix too. Limitations and weaknesses I can’t avoid, that cause bumps and tangles as I try to craft this thing called life.
I’ve grown wiser along the journey, thank God. I’ve learned a few techniques that seem to work for me—figured out a few problems to avoid. And there have even been a few triumphant moments when things came together for a brief moment, making life feel lovely and complete.
But the rest of it? My everyday life gets lived in the midst of the mess. I long for certainties, but my reality has always been littered with question marks. I long for organization and predictability, but time and again, life throws curveballs and I end up having to make adjustments. I want clear-cut instructions and guaranteed outcomes–but I’m forced to make decisions without them.
And I feel a lot of anxiety about it all.
Friends, I cannot tell you how much I long to finally “get there.” To have a place where I finally feel comfortable and in control. But here’s the reality we must all wrestle with, day by day. This side of heaven, we’re all works in process. Life will never be a finished product until we take our final breath.
When it comes to crafting, I never mind the messy process. In fact, I revel in it a little: I feel like a free spirit rebelling against the tidy housewife who normally lives in my body and tells me to keep everything in order. I let my creative self come out and play, and she just takes the hiccups in stride—grabbing a sip of coffee while she thinks through a solution.
It’s no big deal if it doesn’t all go perfect while I craft. That’s kind of the whole point, really. It’s what makes the finished product mine.
But when it comes to everyday life? I worry over problems and rehash mistakes. I don’t like waiting for questions to be answered, or visions to grow, or progress to emerge over time. I want to see the finished product right now, so I won’t have to figure it out along the way. I want a guaranteed instruction manual for success that I can follow point by point.
Basically, I’d just like to have control over everything, you know?
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
I know it’s hard, friends. Living in the middle of our story, without knowing the end. It’s hard to look at all the uncertainty of life and find peace. It’s hard not to worry when we have to constantly make decisions and tweak our plans.
But as I glanced at my chaotic kitchen a few days ago and snapped that photo, God gave me a little attitude adjustment. It started as a cynical and discouraged thought—This confusing mess is the perfect metaphor for my life. But God handed the picture right back to me and said, “But didn’t it lead to something beautiful in the end?”
The chaos of my craft project reminded me that the path to “finished” doesn’t always look pretty and precise. You generally have to fix up some problems along the way, and what you end up with is rarely what you envisioned at the beginning. But that’s kind of the whole point, isn’t it? All the uncertainties, confusing decisions, and messes? It’s what makes your life uniquely yours.
Jesus once said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. . . For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Sometimes I read this verse and I find myself thinking If Jesus’ burden is supposed to be easy and light, than whose burden am I carrying, anyway? Because sometimes it feels really hard.
Crafting a life of faithfulness to God isn’t meant to be a burden, friends. It’s meant to be a gift—a place of freedom and creativity where we discover who God designed us to be. So if your life has been feeling frustrating, hard, and heavy, maybe, just maybe—some of what you’re carrying isn’t from Him, dear friend.
As I’ve reflected on that crafting picture, God’s planted a few insights on my hearts—truths that have lifted some worry from my shoulders. I end this post by offering them up to you. I hope they help you find a little hope amidst the uncertainties of your own life.
1. Expect Mistakes.
When I make mistakes as I craft, I just try something different and move on. So why do I get so harsh with myself when I make mistakes in life?
Relationships get messy at times—misunderstandings happen and we step on each other’s toes. Sometimes, even after our best research and planning, we miss that one little detail that turns into a fiasco. Sometimes we just get tired or distracted. Mistakes willl happen.
What if—instead of trying to make excuses for them or beating myself up about them—I accepted these mistakes as a natural part of life? What if I didn’t turn them inward and let them make me feel like a failure? And instead, I saw them as an opportunity to make corrections and move on with a little more wisdom next time around?
What if mistakes aren’t the worst thing after all?
2. Don’t Fret the Mess
There are some messes we can’t ignore—bad attitudes, unhealthy habits, emotions that overrun our minds and hearts. We can, and should, ask God for help in tackling these issues in our lives. But much of the “messy” in our schedules and homes just comes as the byproduct of good work. Work and family life can be chaotic at times. Interruptions happen, schedules get turned upside down. Things get complicated.
All too often, I let worry take over when life starts getting messy. But what if I just embraced the mess, and accepted that I can’t control everything? What if I trusted God to help me handle issues as they arise, instead of trying to plan for every little detail and contingency? What if I enjoyed today a little more, and stopped planning for tomorrow just a little less?
Maybe the mess is where all the good stuff actually happens.
3. It’s Okay to Make Adjustments
When I craft, the finished product always turns out just a little different than I originally planned: The creative juices are flowing and I just use some trial and error as I put a project together. In real life, though? I get frustrated when things don’t go as planned, fretting about the time and effort that gets wasted. I feel paralyzed by decisions, fearing that I might make the wrong one! I worry that I won’t get the “end product” I’m hoping for.
But what if I just expected some decisions to not work out—and adjusted along the way?
It’s not a failure to trial and tweak our hopes and plans: It’s just a natural part of living. Rarely does anyone’s journey ever take them straight from Point A to Point B. Sometimes the path turns. Sometimes we take a turn—and realize we want to aim for a completely different destination.
So what if I stopped worrying so much about whether my decisions will be ultimately successful—and just focused instead on the joy and growth that will happen along the way? Isn’t it worth taking a step of faith—even if the only “end product” is that I’ve learned more about myself and God along the way?
I printed off a copy of that picture and tucked it into my journal—the place I often turn when life’s anxieties and fears get the best of me. It reminds me of the chaos in my crafting space, and how it frees me instead of filling me with fear. I want to remember that my life is a crafting space too—and I’ll miss the beauty of the here and now if I’m always worrying about the end product. I want to remember that God will help me be creative with life’s challenges, even though I can’t control them.
Maybe you need to remember that too.
We’re all works in progress, dear friend. And God’s not finished with either of us yet.