Tuesday, April 2, 2013

When You Want to Encourage Others but Feel Like a Mess Yourself

I usually try to keep at least an itty bitty pathway through the toys. And I like to have one countertop clean so my perfectionist eyes can find a refuge from the stacks of dishes and crusty-stuck things. And I really, really try to get enough laundry done so it doesn't begin piling up in an almost life-size version of Everest directly in front of the washing machine because, that is visible from my kitchen, and much more importantly, from my front door.

But the day when two... two... sweet elderly neighbors decided stop in at separate times for a visit? And for one of them it was her first time to step foot in my home?... There wasn't a clean surface anywhere. Not one. I couldn't even offer a seat on the couch because that had been swallowed by laundry, too.

At least my oldest daughter had on decent clothing and looked like she had a shower within the week. The other two looked as bare and wild as Indian children that had spent the better part of the day chasing a pack of stray dogs. Or were they playing stray dogs? I couldn't tell if the shockingly loud noises coming out of their mouths were attempts at barking or just ear-splittling indecipherable toddler language. Sometimes I just look at them with all the love in my heart and say "where is your mother??".

It's ME. I'm a mom of THREE. Oh Lord help. 

It's really wonderful. I want another one already.

But I digress...

So for a moment I considered panicking. I considered diving in between my neighbor and my life-mess like I was protecting her from a spray of bullets that was headed her way accompanied by a slow motion soundtrack of me yelling "nooooooooooo!!". Instead I just took a deep breath and internally threw up my hands in surrender and went to give her a hug.

I couldn't help mumbling an excuse, though, about how I'd been sick the previous three days, which any Mom who has gotten sick with little ones still at home knows this means it is a free pass to take at least two weeks to catch up on all the work you got behind on. I didn't even attempt to divert her attention from the new blue crayon-graffiti that reached impressively high wall-levels considering it was scrawled by my foot-and-a-half tall artist.

And she really looked around. And there was a lot to look at. And she just took a deep breath like it was all a great comfort to her and said "honey... you should see my house! I don't even have three little ones!". I wanted to give her some kind of door prize for best neighbor visit ever.

Because really? She was relieved my home was a complete and total disaster zone. She was relieved my kids were dirty and noisy and all over the place. She was encouraged because I didn't "have it all together" because that meant to her that I wouldn't expect her to have it all together.

Sometimes the best encouragement is vulnerability. Sometimes the best encouragement to someone else is letting them know when you don't have it all tied up in a pretty Pinterest bow. 

So often I can be tempted to feel that I can't help or encourage someone else when I'm having a just-trying-to-survive kind of day. But it is exactly in those tough and messy days that I am learning I can sometimes offer the most encouragement.

So if Jesus brings someone across my path on those days... I'll try not to put those walls up. I'll try to let them see the train wreck in all it's glory.

And I'll give them a hug. Because Jesus can have my pride and I'll take real relationships instead and I think maybe, just maybe, I might be ready to grow up into this now.

More on this topic of encouragement, and comparison, and perfectionism, and relationship coming in the next couple of days... Much love, friends!


Lyn Foley said...

Beautiful post, full of great reminders. Thanks for the laughs, too.

Elise said...

Aunt Lyn!

Thank you so much for your love and encouragement! You mean the world to me!


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