Beauty and Mess: seeing it with new eyes


Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox." Prov. 14:4


I am sitting in my little quiet time chair with a cup of strong Austrian coffee in hand. From my second story window, I look out on the tops of countless pine trees with the Rocky Mountain speeking through, and a sky full of wispy clouds slowly moving by. In every home we live in, I choose windows that look out on the most beautiful natural scene, so that I can have some of His life-stuff to bring peace and quiet to my soul each morning as I meet with Him.

In front of me is a pile of books scattered over a coffee table. There is also a couch pillow thrown onto the floor, a couple of pairs of shoes left where they were taken off, a wilting potted plant in desperate need of water, some child’s abandoned sweat shirt, and a half-eaten candy bar. And this is just the eight feet in front of my chair!

The rest of the house is much the same-- life messes in the midst of order and beauty. As the proverb says, “Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean.” I comfort myself daily with the fact that I have six or seven oxen living in my home most of the time, and thus my stalls are not always clean, but my house is full. My world is always a mixture of beauty and mess, order and piles of things not yet subdued into order.

Sometimes the circumstances of life are like our home--messes and joys, fears and blessings all in the same breath.

But it is what we see and how we perceive what is happening that will determine our comfort or our despair.

I have purposed daily to choose to enjoy the beauty of the treasures He has placed in my path, because when I look for His fingerprints and whispers amidst the messes, my heart changes and begins often to sing with the rhythms and chords He has placed there.

This week, I am enjoying the tulips my next door neighbor’s put in a jar on my front porch in contrast to piles and piles of snow, and seeing the blossoms on the trees, amidst the ice that give a promise of the life of spring that is around the corner. This habit of changing my way of seeing came when God gently intervened one day in a moment of my own anguish and despair.


God interjected a life application many years ago, when I was struggling with language in a foreign country, loneliness, disappointments, and inability to control almost any area of my life--you might say I was in a life-mess.

Many years ago in the midst of another possible miscarriage, I was sitting by a window in little mountain town in Austria. I was all alone because Clay and his mom, who was visiting from America, had gone to look at some little shops. We were staying at a tiny lake-side Inn in an obscure alpine village. Unexpectedly, just after they had left me to rest by myself in the room, I had begun to bleed, again, and was about 5 months along in my pregnancy.There was no one to talk to, no one to ask for help.

Fear gripped my heart, as I knew we were hours away from a hospital and my German was not good enough to explain what was happening to me! Tears flowed from an invisible inner spring, and I begged God, from the anguish of my heart to please, please let me carry this child to full term. All of the struggles of the last few months seemed to flood through my anguished soul.

Just then, a little sparrow hopped up on my window sill  where I was looking out as I prayed, and began to chirp, as though it was singing directly to me. I was not more than a foot away from the tiny creature.  It stayed there for several minutes and hopped closer and closer to the edge where I was looking out, an it appeared the fledgling birdie was  staring at my heart through the shiny brown glass eyes and literally chirping and singing wildly to encourage me.

What a sweet, delicate fuzzy ball of delight—singing its heart out with no one to applaud or respond, except for me. It was as though God was saying to me, “I am listening. I see the birds on a thousand hills, not one falls to the ground without my full attention. This little one is here to remind you that I see you and hear your heart's cry.I love you and am with you! Do not fear. Leave your broken heart with me.”

I didn’t know what would happen, but suddenly, a peace blanketed my sore heart. I knew that God, who is love, was with me and would be with me in whatever happened. It was as though an angel, in the form of a tiny bird,  had visited and given me His deep, soothing comfort.

It was the last time, in that pregnancy, that I bled. The pregnancy delightfully turned out to be Sarah, my first born, and now best of friends and a bigger blessing to my whole life than I ever could have imagined then.

From that moment, I decided to take notice of birds who sing—to believe that they are especially praising God, agents of his hope for me. I see them also as a personal reminder from God that He is present, every day, all the time--here with me. Often on my walks when I am pouring out my dark heart to God, a bird hops or sings along my trail and I am reminded that God is there— with me!

Now, I have birds sprinkled throughout my home--amidst the messes and art of my life--there to remind me of the song so many years ago from God's feather messenger.

We all have our own particular life and real messes, but even in the mess, God is there to redeem, to send His love, to show beauty around every corner. But, our eyes must be attuned to the beauty instead of focussing on the life-clutter--looking with faith and not with doubt, fear or despair.

Today, my prayer for you--and for me-- is that He bring the reality of His joy to you today in the midst of your order … and your messes, because He is with us to give us hope and comfort, always.

my birds in my living room

My birds that sit with me every morning in my living room, with my cup of tea and Bible time.