By: Sarah Moran
I’m not a big fan of messes. Ask anyone who knows me. My parenting goal for this summer? To teach my girls to clean the house—thoroughly. Not exactly the “Judy Moody Not-So-Bummer-Summer” they were hoping to have!
As a little girl, I made a tape (yes, I said tape!) of myself singing the “Monster Mash”. Don’t ask me why this was my selection. In the background, my little brother can be heard making noise and begging for chips. The recording concludes with my exasperated declaration, “You made it all yucky!” (Never mind that my singing was yucky.) All I knew at the time was that my brother made a mess of my plans.
You could say that I come by this trait honestly. My mom’s oft-spoken stories about my grandmother are tales of her paste-waxing the floors by hand. And, as a kid, I remember waking up on Saturday mornings to my own mother vacuuming around my bed. (She also literally vacuumed us out the door when we went on vacation. Need I say more?).
But, I can’t blame nurture entirely. My own nature was bent on seeking out order and beauty. As I have recovered from the less lovely aspects of this part of my personality (perfectionism, caring too much what others think), I have also come to understand that, at the root, this trait is a God-given desire for the beauty of His original plan (without sin, without death, orderly…perfect.)
Before I could learn to appreciate that truth in its fullness, God had to refine me the hard way. He allowed me to experience messes in order to make me more like His son and to position me for the abundant, fruitful life He desired for me.
During my teens, my parents endured severe marital trials. For years, my dad was in and out of the house. Miraculously, my mom, dad, brother, and I all came to Christ during this difficult time. My parents reconciled during my second year of college. I learned a lot of important things from this experience; but, I was young. And somehow, if subconsciously, I came to think that if I obeyed God and made good choices, I could avoid that kind of pain in my adult life. I dreamed of having a happy family, a good marriage, and happy, healthy children. I also had a growing desire to honor God with my life. I was not prepared for the messy way He would accomplish that purpose.
I met my husband Bryan at the age of 20. We had a fairy-tale courtship, engagement, and wedding. God was gracious to us. Every worldly thing easily came our way. My plan was off to a great start.
We went on to have three baby girls in three years. What a blessed and insane time that was! I loved being a mom, but I was tired all the time, and without my knowledge, Bryan was stressed and coping poorly. His mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer just before our second child was born. And, after our third child was born, I got very sick. All the while, Bryan’s mom was undergoing brain surgeries and chemo therapy. I finally got medicated for anxiety and depression. My mother-in-law died two weeks later.
After a year, I was feeling strong again. I had one kiddo in kindergarten, one in Mother’s Day Out, and one at home for some much-needed attention. I remember thinking to myself, “It’s all going to be o.k. now.” Then, on November 14, 2007, I took Audrey (my youngest, then age 2 1/2) to a friend’s home so I could run some errands. A couple of hours later, my friend called me panicked. Audrey had been hit in her driveway by a carpet cleaning van leaving her home.
Shortly after we arrived at Dell Children’s hospital, the doctor came in to inform us that “there was nothing they could do for Audrey.” She had died. What happened next only makes sense because the Spirit was palpably present in that room. Nearly the first words that came out of my mouth were:
“I will not be able to bear up under the weight of this unless it has eternal significance.”
A fire burned inside of me from that point on to make sure that it did.
The next year was both devastating and sacred. An acquaintance aptly described the territory of our grief as “holy ground”. I spent an abundance of time alone in God’s Word, and He began a transformational work that has impacted the way I view literally everything now. I dug into the truth about Heaven and gained the treasure of an eternal perspective.
It’s a good thing God was building His truth deep into my soul, because the onslaught of trouble was not yet complete. In October of 2008, as I prepared to give a talk to my Moms Together group about Heaven, I became aware of my husband’s long-time secret struggle with internet pornography and subsequent infidelity. In a matter of two short years, absolutely everything that mattered most to me had been attacked (and likely fatally destroyed). That was when I crawled into my bed and thought about not getting out.
As God would have it, destruction was not an option. I am witness to the indisputable fact that God still rescues and heals! I did get out of bed. Friends and family surrounded us with love, grace, and support. God sent an anointed counselor to help us through. We were hanging by a thread in every way, but God restored our marriage slowly and painfully. It was a long, ugly, loud, snotty, teary process. But it was worth it!
I learned to be brutally honest with God.
I was angry and crushed. I didn’t know how I could trust a God who would allow such tragedy into my life. I yelled, kicked, and screamed. And, He patiently revealed more of Himself to me. Contrary to earthly logic, He lovingly healed me, deepened my faith, and bestowed upon me a confident hope that still bolsters me today!
Six years later, I’d be lying if I said I don’t have scars. And, if I pick at them, they still bleed. I still cry and doubt. Sometimes I have trouble trusting both God and my husband. But, what God has done inside all of us is so undeniably awesome that I am quickly redirected to praise.
Has God’s mercy met my mess? Emphatically, YES! In every moment, His mercy was present and in control. Furthermore, He has made (and continues to make) beauty out of ashes.
My parents will celebrate their 44th wedding anniversary this October. They are retired and live two streets away from us. We do life together now. Mom and I lead a women’s Bible study in her home. We share an eternal perspective.
In 2011, our family started a little girls’ Bible study in our living room. What began as a summer project has turned into a full-fledged, homegrown neighborhood ministry to 4th-8th grade girls. A fabulous team of mothers have joined us. They tirelessly, joyfully make Tween Time a reality. Three years in, we serve 100 girls, and we are growing! Our non-profit, Audrey’s Harvest, supports our ministry. Read more at www.tweentime.org.
My brother and his family are awaiting the “green light” to travel to Uganda to finalize their adoption and bring home their 7-year-old son. Before they were even matched with a child, God burdened their hearts for the people of Uganda. For Christmas 2012, my sister-in-law raised money with family and friends to build two wells in Audrey’s name. Our entire family is now permanently connected to what God is doing halfway across the world.
And, at the ripe, old age of 39, God allowed us to experience the birth of our 4th child, Margaret Alice (Maggie) on August 16, 2014. She was born in the 7th year without Audrey, a detail not lost on us. The number 7 is continually used throughout Scripture to symbolize God’s perfection. This baby’s 20-week mark was Audrey’s birthday. And, the due date was our 16th wedding anniversary. We consider this God’s seal of victory over Audrey’s life and death and over our marriage. I know without a shadow of a doubt that this child is a gracious gift of God’s mercy in the midst of our mess.
In short, we have to keep breathing. We have a lot of work to do! God is not done with us yet. So, we press on.
Don’t ever forget, dear sister, that our God can do what no man can do! He can take your ugliest messes and make them beautiful. If you will only hang onto Him for dear life, He will rescue you, too. The outcome may look different, but you can be sure it will be victorious. Cling to His Word. Do not despair! Great treasure awaits those who hope in the One True God.
Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered. 1 Peter 5:10
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13