A Beautiful Mess


Starting by stepping back, a note from the editors

Posted In: A Beautiful Mess, Essays

The new year.  2014.  I can hear people all around me saying, “Time is flying by so fast!” “How is it 2014 already?”  “Where did 2013 go?”


“Time goes by quicker now.  Technology helps with that,” one of my mentors recently said with awe and frustration having seen the changes from when she raised her children over 30 years ago.   “I mean, look at your sweet baby – he’s not a baby anymore.  I feel like just yesterday you brought him to church and now he’s seven months!”

We both looked down at his round red cheeks and he flashed us one of his token flirtatious smiles.  Cooing and rounds of “Aren’t you cute” ensued.  Truth had been spoken.  I have watched each month flip on the calendar, looking forward to every new development.  But there is also longing for just a few more minutes of snuggles before he gets too big; of wishing he wouldn’t lose his baby chub too quickly as he learns to move even more quickly around the house… wishing time would slow.

There are also prayers of wishing my baby sleeps for just a couple more minutes or for my own rest to be extended magically.  I hope for deadlines to be extended at work and school as I rapidly grade papers and write my own – wishing I really could spend just a few more minutes enraptured in someone’s amazing research or lost in a fictional world.  But time marches on with no apologies or accommodations.  The sun sets and rises again as it has since the dawning of the ages.

It has been a full year here at ABM.  Hard to believe this little experiment started almost seven years ago! Since then, so many of you have shared your souls.  What we have imagined this space to be – a safe space to share authentically – has come to fruition.  But so much goes on behind the scenes too:  Two women, both mothers with new babies (and Becca with 2 more little ones), jobs outside of the blog, and additionally, Kristin pursuing a doctorate, has led to some deep contemplation about what is next for ABM?


Time has flown and keeps going.  Armed with devices and screens, I (Kristin) find myself swallowed up at times by statuses, stories, tweets, and tumblrs.  Now add more blogs, snapchats, and instagrams, and, well, I could spend my whole day just devouring life through other people’s lenses.

So Becca and I have been in discernment about this online world.  Is another blog entry needed?  What is of value in today’s technology driven world?  How does authenticity work in a world where your online life is managed and edited?  How can we truly be present and, furthermore, what do we need to be present to?

These and other questions have pressed us to start this year off at ABM on a sabbatical.  It’s not that we do not value what we have created here or engaging with our beloved community.  But the work that goes into organizing each prompt, all of our writers, and our events is extensive among all of our other vocational preoccupations.  The online world can and threatens to gobble us up without space for discernment and self-care. An intentional rhythm of stepping back is needed in ministry. So it is with deep peace I announce this sabbatical.   Also, more people have asked about retreats lately – and we’re still open for you contacting us about those opportunities.

By disconnecting for the better part of these next couple seasons, we hope to reengage with a deeper vision of what is next for A Beautiful Mess. The site will continue to be up and running, but new content will be on hold for an undetermined amount of time. We would love to hear from you what you need in the way of authenticity and connection?  How can we continue to seek this beautifully messy life together? Feel free to leave comments on this post.

So 2014, here you are – quickly you seem to have arrived.  But you came on the wings of an amazingly full year.  Births, deaths, disasters, and celebrations all mark what is now in the past.  We look forward to starting by stepping back, by breathing deeply, and remembering what it means to live in connection – not solely through technology and statuses and “likes,” but to this wonder-filled world you have placed us in.

With the season of Epiphany – the realization of Christ being the Son of God and the arrival of the wise men visiting baby Jesus- we pray for our own epiphanies of faith realized in this New Year.  Epiphanies realized in the gracious in-betweens of noticing hummingbirds flit by, of a child’s sweet babble, of the rain falling on our roof, of the thoughtful gesture of a stranger, or the visit of wise women and men into our own lives.  May it be a year of discerning what is worth noticing.


Let Heaven and Nature Sing: A Christmas Tradition by Deby Turnrose

Deby Turnrose is a child of God, a wife, a mom living in the Central Valley of California. Deby loves to read and be inspired, especially with a cup of coffee in my hand. Deby first picked up a camera when you could still burn your fingers on a used flash bulb. Photography is still her favorite way to tell a story. In the past she has enjoyed being a freelance photographer for newspapers, magazines and books, even won a few awards… and now she has recently entered the blogging world. You can find Deby’s blog here.






Traditions.  We all have them.  One of our very favorite Christmas traditions is traveling out of town into the foothills of California.  California’s Gold Country is dotted with wonderful towns full of wineries, antique stores, and an assortment of Christmas tree farms.

We like to visit a restored gold mining town that is a state park, Columbia.  It is a golden opportunity for us, that is for sure.  We spend some time at the park, watch candy canes being cooked and twisted into shape and have a picnic.  Then we head up to one of our favorite tree farms and pick out our tree.

Like most anything you try… some years of tree hunting have been wonderful… even magical and some have been a bit of a head scratcher – leaving us with the thought, “Whose brainy idea was this?”  Some of the “what were we thinking moments,” include a farm were there was nothing but a “grove” of six stumps with large tree odd protruding branches coming of the sides.  That particular farm gave us presents to take home.  No, not a tree, but because the farm was directly across the street from a dairy, we came home with a bevy of flies in the car.  Every day for two weeks one or two would escape to their freedom, the rest were vacuumed up.   Another tree farm we visited was one where the “forest” looked like rows and rows of cactus trees.  Since we weren’t looking for a southwest type of Christmas, we passed.

Oh sure… there have been Christmases of us being too sick or bad weather, or just to stinkin’ busy to spend the day searching and chopping our tree.  So we ran to a home improvement store or a corner lot to grab a tree. Those Christmases are the exception. We love and look forward to devoting a day to make the drive to get our tree.

My first memory of cutting down the tree was when my son very little, really too young to even walk on his own. We lived fairly close to a coastal redwood area when you could bring a saw and choose your own tree. Well we brought a saw and a ton of rain, pouring…pouring rain. So our chopping experience was parking and from the car picking out a tree and my husband going out and cutting it down, tying it to the roof all in the rain. Did I mention it was pouring? Poor guy, I gave him a nice cup of hot cocoa. He drank it in drenched clothes.

Since then we have settled into two tree farms that we love. One is a bit smaller, cozier with a few farm animals. Another is nestled in a valley, which is home to majestic views of nearby mountain peaks. Hot apple cider, as much greenery as you can haul back home, and a tractor ride.

Sure…there are easier ways to get a tree.  We know…We get it. For us, taking the drive out of town in the busiest season of the year is worth it to us because…

We get out of town in the busiest time of the year! Away from the hubbub, the to do list, the crowds.

We drink hot chocolate and eat freshly baked cookies after we have the tree bundled up on top of the car.

We listen to the Christmas carols in the way up.

We breathe in that fresh, pine mountain air when we arrive – Aaaaahhhh, nothing better than the evergreen air.

Throughout the years, my husband began cutting the tree and as the years rolled on my son took a turn sawing into the trunk. Every year he cut a little bit more until now he cuts down the entire tree. A rite of passage has been created.

When a teacher asked my son what his favorite part of Christmas was, he said…you guessed it, Christmas tree picking. We are making memories and that is what traditions are all about.

The Christmas carol, Joy to the World, has the lyrics, “Let Heaven and Nature sing.” Visiting the woods every Christmas gives us the opportunity to be in the midst of nature’s singing.

Merry Christmas


Beauty from Ashes by Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. She is passionate about Jesus, her family, healthy living, and singing. You can follow her on instagram: @theelizabethtaylor or find more about her wreaths at facebook.com/wreathsbyliztaylor.






I am just like many of you: a wife, a stay-at-home mom, and a homeschool teacher. But in addition to all that, I deal with an auto-immune disease called Multiple Sclerosis (MS) which is a neurological disorder that can cause serious short term and/or long term physical impairment. Itʼs a difficult and unpredictable disease. One month I may feel like a normal, healthy person. The next I may be lying in bed without the use of my limbs.

Since being diagnosed with MS in 2007 I have had three major episodes involving pain and physical impairment. The most recent of which was in February of this year. That particular episode caused me to become paralyzed on the right side of my body starting with my hand and foot, and gradually spreading to my entire right half. I was in that state of impairment for six weeks. Not easy for a thirty-something mother with two young chil-dren. At my doctorʼs advice, I underwent three days of intervenes steroid treatment knowing it was probably the only way to halt the episode, reverse the effects, and stop any permanent long-term damage.

It was a hard process. The steroid treatment added mental and emotional stress to my already handicapped condition. It was a long recovery and it was months before I could use my right hand again. The episode caused me to lose many motor skills that I had taken for granted. Even after the feeling and movement had returned I still had to retrain my muscles through weeks of physical therapy. I had to teach my hand how to cut food, button my kidʼs shirts, and type. These things seem so little and easy to the average person. To me they were difficult, frustrating, and at times, impossible.

My therapy was eventually a success. Three months after my first MS symptoms started occurring I was walking, grasping, reaching, and holding like a “normal” person again. My hand was still weak and a few fingers still partially numb at times, but I knew that it would be the last part of me to heal. Little did I know, God would use this hand containing the last lingering and burdensome symptoms as a tool to bring me hope, restoration, and confidence.

While browsing websites in October for a good holiday-themed wreath I noticed that the burlap wreaths were upwards of $60. I wondered why they were so costly, and I decided to try my hand at making my own wreath more affordable price. I went to a local craft store, grabbed some supplies, and hurried home to try and make something close to what I had seen online.

To my surprise, I caught on pretty quickly. The process was difficult at first, especially since my hand was not accustomed to being challenged and flexed in such a repetitive manner. But the finished result was beautiful.

Being proud of the accomplishment, I decided to post it on my social media sites and see what others thought of my first venture into wreath creation. I received comments from friends like “Thatʼs amazing!”, “Where did you buy that?”, “Did you make it?”, “Where can I buy one?”. I was shocked because I considered my accomplishment fun and therapeutic, but not a consumer product. Apparently, others thought different from me.

Friends from all over the country started requesting wreaths. Then the orders started coming in from strangers who had seen my wreaths in the homes of their friends. I had so many requests for wreaths that it became a family affair. I had my kids making tags for “Wreaths By Liz” and my husband shipping wreaths all over the country.

Over the last seven weeks, I have made and sold over 30 wreaths to 25 different people in five states. I also have several pending orders and even more prospective buyers. And the inquiries keep coming in daily.

I cannot adequately describe how much happiness and satisfaction making wreaths has brought me. There is such a sense of redemption as I use my own hand, a hand that wouldnʼt even move just a few months before, to bring such beauty to other’s homes as well as my own.

Isnʼt that just like God?

I have gone through an array of emotions this year: fear of what was happening to my 30-year-old body, terrified that my condition would force me into a wheelchair, and desperate to recover. I struggled to find the balance between hope and reality, and finally was able to surrender the outcomes of my future to God and rejoice in today knowing that God has a plan for me.

These wreaths are an expression of my journey this year. They are physical proof that God can truly turn our ashes into something beautiful and restore the joy that had once been lost.


Embracing The Change by Alyssa Bacon-Liu

Alyssa Bacon-Liu lives with her husband and puppy in Los Angeles. She blogs at All Things Beautiful, where she writes about marriage, faith, growing up, the pursuit of happiness, and finding the beauty in the everyday. Connect with her on Twitter or on Instagram: @alyssabaconliu. 





The quiet chill and quickly fading daylight

It’s begging me to consider it all

To reexamine where I’ve been and where I’m going


This season, it begs me to reflect

The months just escaped from my fingers

Right in front me, they just disappeared


There are good things ahead, yes

So many good and wonderful things

And yet

It’s all so new and all so different

And I just want to stay in this place a little while longer


You know that place, right?

The place where today is all there is

Where I can tilt my head back

And soak in each ray of sun

And not have to worry about the days that are about to crash into me


Leaves change and

It’s dark already

And I’m just afraid that I can’t handle it all

Tomorrow could be beautiful

Or it could break before me


It’s funny actually

Hoping for it all to change

And then being scared when it does


I have to open my arms, I know

I have to embrace the change

Because it’s here and it’s real

And it’s been a long time coming


It’s dark already

But I’m stepping outside

Slowly, maybe

But at least I’m taking the step

Even from this place, I know what happens when the morning comes


Leaves change and

Maybe I’m changing too


Celebrating life’s mess by Kristin Ritzau

Posted In: A Beautiful Mess, Essays

Kristin here. Thank you to everyone who has contributed this season so far and those to come. Celebration is important to reflect on, and Becca and I are looking forward to hearing more of what it means to you in the weeks to come.  I am honored to be part of this community!  More announcements to come in the months ahead, but until then, here are some of my latest musings.

Monday night I saw one of my heroes in person again – Ms. Anne Lamott. All day I planned in my head what I would ask her.  You see, it’s my goal to talk to her every time I see her.  It’s a funny thing, but after seeing her five times now, I almost feel like we have had a conversation of sorts over the years.  From asking her who inspires her writing, to giving her a button she liked on my jacket, to this past week when I asked her how life on social media was going – our relationship is blooming in a lovely way (albeit a bit stalker-ish).

What I see in Anne is permission. Permission to be myself. Permission to know that God loves me no matter what… really, no matter what.  That sometimes what I think matters most doesn’t and what really matters is always hard work – like loving someone who hurt you or writing because it’s part of my calling. We all need someone who can remind us of these things.

What I am reminded of is that life is labor, but what I forget is that labor has a flow to it.  It contracts and relaxes.  It gives and takes. It pushes and pulls.  It requires courage and fear, but most of all love. And life is love.

Showing up to my life everyday, depending on how much sleep I’ve had, is sometimes easy and other times I want to pull the covers over my head and disappear, just for a little bit.  Maybe I just need a nap, says the mom of a six-month-old who refuses to nap.

This week, in an adventure of showing up, I took an exploratory photog session of my house.  Here is what I found.



Pure and simple – it’s a mess. I never wanted my dining room table to become a dumping ground.  I like it when my dishes are clean and put away.  I thought I could contain baby stuff to certain areas or baskets (laugh away, please, I live for comedy).

But today, something in me longs to celebrate this mess.  I know that I am not going to show up on an episode of Hoarders quite yet.  At some point, things will get picked up.  However, reflecting in this moment, I do not see mess.  I see the memories we have made in the last six months when we weren’t fussing over picking stuff up or agonizing over baby toys.  I see meals made – great meals – I taste the beef stew, the homemade ice cream, and the fried eggs from our chickens. I see lying on floor for tickle-fests. I see papers that will be graded because I love my job.

When I asked Anne what she wants her grandson to know about social media, her answer was classic simple-Anne, but deeply profound.

“I want to be a grown-up he wants to be.  Teenagers today do not want to be their parents.  They see the gray, worried expressions caused by multitasking.  I want to be radically silly and know when to relax.” Words of truth, words of permission.  Words heard while making eye contact, not looking down at my phone or picking up piles.  Words I hope to embody as life gets more and more technical, for these are not words to say, but words to live out.

So my son might not grow up with the cleanest of homes at times.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.  Trust me. This is not something that hasn’t caused a meltdown or two.  But today, it is worth celebrating as I sit her amongst the dishes, toys, and papers and rest.



Within the Husk by Kimberly Coyle

Posted In: A Beautiful Mess, Essays

Kimberly Coyle recently moved from Switzerland back to the United States where she lives with her husband and favorite little people. She copes with life’s biggest questions by drinking lots of tea, writing, and God’s grace. You can find her writing at www.kimberlyanncoyle.com or tweeting @KimberlyACoyle.






I find something to love in every season, but Autumn requires no searching on my part. It is a feast of color and crisp October air, turkey and steaming cups of hot tea. The occasional gray and rainy afternoons suit my melancholy ways, and I find Autumn and I make sympathetic friends. We understand each other.

I have three children and not one of them shares my love for this season. Perhaps it’s the return to school, the loss of summer freedom, or the cold, foot-stomping wait at the bus stop. They see Autumn as a kind of death, and the school bell as a death knell to all that is right and good in their world.

Through Mama eyes, I see the return of routine, and I celebrate it with imaginary cartwheels, so as not to upset the delicate balance between my pleasure and their pain. In the Fall, my days have purpose—a rhythm that hums along at a quiet clip. My heart slows. I think deep thoughts. I know the days of full-on summer bloom have past, and the harvest just begun. I begin to reap all I’ve sown into this home and these children over the last few months. I feel the gathering of words that have waited all summer to find a place other than my head, and in the quiet, I harvest them, each and every one.

Autumn, with its flaming red, its pumpkin and spice drama, its golden harvest haze remind me it is good to enjoy the fruit of our labor. It is good to watch the seed fall and the leaves die, to live with expectancy, knowing all things rise again. This season reminds me that every consequence, every hard conversation, every hug and hot meal I’ve sown into my children will reap a reward. They are still growing, still springtime fresh, edging into summer bloom. But one day, one day, the leaves will turn and I will see them in their abundance and in all of their colorful glory.

This is the season we will gather in the fullness of our lives. We will meet around a cramped table and eat Dad’s Famous Turkey. We will share smiles and football fan shouts. We will share dirty dishes and aired grievances and old wounds. And in spite of them all, we will give thanks. Our children are in bloom, we will reap a harvest, be it this Autumn or the next. All things will fall like seed, a universe hidden within its husk, and all things fallen will rise again.