The Messiest Mess

A few years ago I tumbled into a river.

In white pants and wedges—with a not so graceful leap over a rock—I slipped, squealed and dropped into the murky water.

I emerged wet, dirty, embarrassed and bloody.

My husband and son tried not to laugh—“tried” being the optimal word.

To make matters worse, some snot nose kid hollered at me, “Hey lady, you’re supposed to stay on the rocks.”


The bad words my brain internally hurled at him are not worthy to print.

The truth was…I couldn’t hide my condition.

I was a mess.

My white pants were ripped at the knee, streaked with mud and red sticky blood dripped down my leg.

I hobbled away through the streets of San Luis Obispo with my leg throbbing but my pride wounded even more.

People stared. It was uncomfortable.

I think about that day often.

Everyone could see my shoddy state. And everyone made a choice to offer sympathy or mockery, or better yet, look away and pretend it didn’t happen.

(Once my husband and son saw the blood, they (of course) offered support.)

But it makes me wonder how often do I do that to people?

I laugh at the gaffe, at the awkward, at the girl at the pool trying to cover her butt after she wore a thong and then felt embarrassed.

I get butt hurt at my neighbors for having strong opinions—even though I have more than a few of my own.

I shake my head at my husband struggling to not lose his temper with our teens and yet give myself plenty of mercy over my own parenting fails.

But when I remember that day at the river I remember how BAD I felt.

Alone. Wounded. My pride licked.

And when I choose to remember something changes in my spirit—GRACE washes over me.

I remember a young–sometimes brash/sometimes insecure woman—who wore inappropriate clothes at Lake Havasu. Please hide the pictures if you have them!!!

I recall the last argument with my teen daughter when I lost it…

I remember doing really dumb sh** as a teenager too.

I remember how tough it was to navigate parents and friends and expectations. I so desperately wanted to look cool; be pretty, feel accepted…but mostly I just wanted to feel loved.

How can I so easily forget?

But the river reminds me of GRACE.

It reminds me that we all fall into the muddy water when we take big leaps on the rocks of life.

It reminds me that growing up is hard and parenting a teenager is like an airbag exploding in your face. It exposes every weakness. You might live through it, but you’ll never be the same.

Earlier on that day long ago, before the river incident, we toured the San Luis Obispo Mission. A carnival was setting up on the steps of the mission with bands and games and food. As we stepped out of Mass on the church steps of the mission, the musicians struck up a merry tune.

We walked our son through the brightly colored rainbow of party.

And then we realized we were marching our son through a gay pride festival.

It was wildly inappropriate. Like Mardi Gras–but gay. My son’s eyes were saucers.

It seemed like a parenting catastrophe at first, but then the conversation got good. It was honest and real and poignant.

I heard my son’s heart for people and his take on living out his faith without pointing fingers. I heard his desire for love and to love others.


That’s what GRACE does.

It looks past the messy and invites us to go to a deeper place–into the raw and the beautiful treasures of brokenness we try so hard to hide.

I’m learning, day by day, not to judge the mess–not mine or yours.

But even in my learning I blow it. I cry out to God. And I try again to remember…


Because how often is the mess the most messy right before the breakthrough?



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