The Messy Middle
I’ve got this habit.
I’ll buy a new outfit or top that I really like and I’ll wear it over and over again in a continuous cycle along with the four other most recent tops or outfits I bought and really liked. Then, once a piece has lost its novelty, it slowly fades somewhere to the back of my closest, me about as aware of its presence as my old high school homecoming dress.
Even though I have a full closet, this ends up making me feel like my wardrobe is boring, which is probably true because I wear the same five things over and over.
So, I’ll scroll Pinterest and drool at the fashion boards, ensembles meticulously planned but styled as to make us believe they just “threw this old thing on.” Which only feeds my desire to find that next outfit or top I really like.
Talk about an unhealthy cycle. Thankfully because of this thing called a budget, most of the time that desire gets squashed.
Still, this year I want to make a change. I’m not completely swearing off shopping, but I am trying to be more intentional and creative with the things I already have. This means reaching into the back of my closet and thinking outside the box with how I pair things, rather than automatically wearing that one shirt with that same sweater or that one dress with the same boots.
What I came up with this week felt like a brand new outfit!
Pictured: a lace vest I found on the sale rack at Urban Outfitters probably three years ago (and have worn maybe once), paired with a leather skirt from Express I got for my birthday (LOVE) and your basic long-sleeved tee and leggings.
A simple perspective shift unleashed the potential of my existing closet, and working with what I had to create something new was SO much more satisfying than buying something new.
Thanks to some extra down time over the holidays, I ended up stumbling my way into a new obsession: HGTV’s FixerUpper. Seriously, one episode in and I’d already jumped head-first onto the “Joanna-Gaines-is-my-spirit-animal” bandwagon.
In the series, Chip and Joanna Gaines work together as the ultimate husband and wife dream team, catering to clients wanting to purchase older homes that need some love and make them their own. Each episode, Chip and Joanna work with the client’s budget and wish list for their home to present three options. With each house, they also present some ideas of how it can be renovated. Then, it’s up to the client to pick and ultimately trust the Gaines’ vision for the home’s potential.
Every single time, one of the options is WAY worse off than the other two (think green-tagged and deemed unlivable), and every single time I find myself hoping they’ll pick THAT house.
Sure, the other houses are more promising. But once I glimpse their vision for what the disaster-house could be, I need to see how it comes to life through the process of restoration. And I guess something in me knows that the more broken-down and seemingly hopeless the house is to begin with, the more sweat and hard work that is poured into the process, the more rewarding the transformation will be.
I experienced this the one summer my whole family lived in the living room while our back bedrooms and hallway were being completely gutted and rebuilt. My dad is absolutely amazing and did most of the work himself. We’re talking electrical, plumbing, sheetrock, insulation, painting. If there was something he didn’t know how to do, he taught himself.
But at the time all I saw was how long it seemed to be taking. I saw the open walls and the concrete floors. I saw my belongings crammed into a suitcase in one corner of the living room, and my complete lack of personal space. I saw the discomfort and frustration the present lack of restoration was causing me, and I longed for it to be complete.
Sometimes I long to experience the completion of the refining work God is doing in my life.
I long to be liberated from lingering fears and insecurities. I long for the absence of struggle and difficult seasons that seem to get me stuck. I long to be cleansed of my sinful tendencies once and for all. I see what I want the finished product to be, but I long to experience it now, without having to walk through the discomfort and frustration of the renovation.
Sometimes the process seems that it’s taking too long, and I long to fast-forward to it’s completion.
A friend going through a difficult season recently told me that sometimes she wishes God could just wipe clean certain situations she's walking through and give her a new start. That the mess feels too messy and it’d be easier if God just took it away.
But she said that as much as she wishes that, she knows that’s not how God works. He doesn’t disregard the old when it gets too messy. He restores it.
My generation seems to have lost the mentality that if something’s broken, you fix it. Instead, when things get old and tired, like the clothes in our closet, we buy new ones. But I think that God is far more interested in working with what is, and creating out of it something beautiful. Not because He couldn’t “buy a new one” or even because new things are wrong, but because He sees innate value in the thing that’s broken, and He’s willing to put the time and effort into fixing it.
I’m learning the beauty of living in the messy middle. That place where my own brokenness and need for restoration is painfully evident, but where I can also look back on the restorative work God has already done and rest assured that He will carry it to completion.
The process of restoration is slow, and sometimes painful. There are moments of breakthrough and other long stretches of mundane, when no change seems to be coming.
I’m learning that God’s not after the finished product so much as He is after the process, because the process is where relationship happens as He carefully molds us, stripping us down and exposing new layers of our hearts only to bring them further into His lavish love and healing grace.
The hard fought middle can be just that—HARD—but it is necessary, because we miss something when we skip to the finished product without the hard work of getting there. Without the messy middle we miss an opportunity to press into the heart of the One who loves us deeply through every step of the process.
Without the messy middle we miss the beauty of the transformation.
P.S. Wannabe fashion blogger pics below!