Every single piece from every single game littered our family room floor along with every single toy in the room. It was a mess so big I actually took pictures at different stages of the cleaning just to illustrate how overwhelming the mess was. I had just been in the kitchen trying to clean up the piles of dishes there. I was alone as usual, and there was nobody to call for help. It was such a huge mess I couldn’t even clean it up right away. I have a Master’s degree, and have worked with children with severe developmental disabilities. Still, I couldn’t even begin to think about how much work it would take to clean up this mess.

My five-year-old twins had created what they called “Kidtopia.” It was the opposite of an instagram worthy moment. Years later, it is still one of the worst messes I have ever had to clean up. It perfectly illustrated the fact that when we Landises go all in, we go ALL IN! In my overwhelmingness, I felt angry, frustrated and alone. Fast forward seven years. I was talking to my sister, and she asked if other people struggled with keeping it all together. Then a friend confided that she feels like she’s the only one at church who can’t get it together. After that, my teenage daughter asked the same thing. We all think that we are the only messy ones. The only broken ones. The only ones who can’t get it together and keep it together, but that’s not true.

Though I did survive Kidtopia, we still have daily disasters most days. Our daily disasters revolve around different difficult and bewildering messes now, the kind that are often easier to hide on Instagram. Still, these messes leave me feeling angry, frustrated, alone and afraid for my children’s safety and futures. If only I could learn that God is with me in the here and now, that He has purpose in what He has chosen, and that He will walk me through every valley and storm. In the words of Timothy Keller, “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows.”1 In the words of Karen Alexander Doyel, these circumstances are “invitations to spend time with Jesus.”2

I draw great comfort from these words – when I can remember them. God isn’t just afflicting me or my family. He’s not mean. He is working out His good plans. Plans that matter and are the very best plans for all eternity. Plans that will cause me to spend time with Christ Himself. Plans that will cause me to peel away all the things that I depend on more than Christ in this life. Instead, I often sit feeling sorry for myself and wondering what God is doing.

While doing this, I forget that I worship a God who is with me in the valley3, and His plans are for good and not for evil.4 He was with me when I was trying to clean up Kidtopia and when I was trying to find mental health resources for my child in a very overwhelmed system. He is with me daily as I walk out my struggles and wade through overwhelming situations. I am not the only one. You are not the only one. He is with me in the mess, and will lead me and protect me. He is with you in the mess and will lead you and protect you. He has promised that if I trust in Him with all my heart and do not lean on my own understanding, and acknowledge Him in all my ways, then He will make my paths straight.5 He has promised you that if you trust in Him with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, and acknowledge Him in all your ways, He will make your paths straight, too.

I don’t have to worry about the how or the what-ifs. I can trust in Him to provide what I need in each moment of need. I don’t have to fear or worry or despair. I am not defined by disaster and mess. The words Kidtopia, dirty dishes, infertile, victim of crime, and mother of special needs children do not define who I am. They are all circumstances God allowed me to experience, but I am not a circumstance. I am made in God’s image6. So are you. All I have to do is to seek Him first and to walk the path He shows me. He ALWAYS provides. He ALWAYS directs. He always prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemy3 , whether that is Kidtopia or mental health crises or anything else. I can sit down to a feast each time God allows overwhelm, pain, anger, worry and despair into my life. I can look at my dish of Ebenezer stones7 to remember how He has been faithful up until this point7 and will continue to be faithful in each new trial as well. God has given me so many past feasts that it’s a wonder I still doubt Him…but I do. He has given me three children after years of infertility, dear friends to walk with through various seasons, counselors for my children, financial provision again and again, lifesaving medication, new counselors and psychiatrists in the middle of Covid, loving nurturing teachers for my children who struggle, protection and provision during a crime my family witnessed and on and on and on.

Yet each time I face a new trial, my first response is to feel overwhelmed, angry, afraid, and alone. This should not be. I still seek out that Instagram-worthy life that does not exist, preferring the false veneer, the false idol, over what is good and solid and real and true. I am gradually learning to let go of the veneer more and more and to remember that difficult and painful moments are invitations to spend time with Jesus, at the table set with a feast, in the presence of my enemy3, trusting that He is choosing what is best for all eternity1. Even though, right now, in the mess, pain and overwhelm, I can’t see that.

So, my life might look great from the outside, but that is not the truth. My life is a mess. So is my house, and without Christ, so am I. I rarely feel like I have it all together, and if I do, it rarely lasts beyond the kids coming home from school. Only in Christ will I ever be enough. Not because I am enough or can be, but because He is enough, and I am to rely on Him, not myself. Because He meets me with more than I need at His table in the presence of the enemy3 of the moment. If only I could remember that He will only ever give me what is best1, and difficulty is an invitation to sit down with Him2, allowing Him to peel away all I depend on in this life so that I will put Him first.


1. Keller, Timothy. 2013. “Twitter Post.” Tim Keller, NYC. twitter.com/timkellernyc.
2. Adams, Chris. 2019. “Karen’s Legacy.” Chris Adams. https://chrisadams.blog/2019/09/16/karens-legacy.
3. Psalm 23 English Standard Version, https://www.bible.com/bible/59/PSA.23.ESV.
4. “Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. | English Standard Version 2016 (ESV) | Download The Bible App Now.” n.d. Bible.com. Accessed November 3, 2022. https://www.bible.com/bible/59/jer.29.11.
5. “Proverbs 3 | ESV Bible | YouVersion.” n.d. Bible.com. Accessed November 3, 2022. https://www.bible.com/bible/59/PRO.3.ESV.
6. Genesis 1, https://www.bible.com/bible/59/GEN.1.ESV.
7. “1 Samuel 7 | ESV Bible | YouVersion.” n.d. Bible.com. Accessed November 3, 2022. https://www.bible.com/bible/59/1SA.7.ESV.