Embracing the Mess

This is a guest post by Jenna Lanoue

I have always been a strange blend of a detailed, type-A planner swirled up with a day-dreaming, mess-making creative. I take way too long to address beautifully hand-lettered invoices at work and I create checklists anytime I sit down to paint. I work at a computer all day and immediately want to come home to make things with my hands. Unfortunately for my poor husband, this usually results in piles of dishes or pieces of scrap pallet wood around our bedroom, where my craft table currently lives (Dear Lord, let apartment life one day be a thing of the past).

Over the past 2 years, I have discovered a love for hand-lettering. It has been tested in many forms along the way as I try to hone in on the processes and mediums I enjoy the most, but if it sits still, I’ll put a word on it. The creative in me has dozens of art supplies on her Amazon wish list to try out and is scheming up new products to sell at shows, while the organizer in me wants to simplify my workspace and make more spreadsheets.


Creativity is messy. It makes sense, right? Life is messy. People are messy. I am a person who is alive. There is breath in my lungs, so it makes sense that some level of mess would accompany my endeavors. It’s simple math. So why am I so surprised, and admittedly disappointed, when I find myself surrounded by mess?

I worked on a handful of custom orders this weekend. I painted scripture on a recycled piece of pallet wood and lettered encouraging words on a slice of tree stump. I sanded and stained a piece of plywood. I started painting a huge canvas, proceeded to make irreversible errors, and then had to go buy a new one. I watched way too many episodes of The Office, scrubbed paint off of my hands, and wiped sawdust off of my favorite jeggings.


The creative in me was inexplicably happy. I had spent a weekend making beautiful and meaningful pieces with my own two hands, pieces that would find their homes in bedrooms and living rooms and wedding ceremonies. Yet somehow, as I took out my phone to photograph some of my work lying on my craft table, I was surprised and embarrassed how dirty the table was. There were specks of paint in every color, pieces of bark and sawdust layering the table, and little bottles of paint strewn about rather than neatly nestled in their crate.

The organizer in me was dejected as I started compulsively cleaning up,,,

…because beautiful things can’t possibly come from a mess like this.


Is that what I have been believing?

I have nothing to give until this gets cleaned up. Until I get cleaned up.

Nothing good can come of this mess. 

I am a mess, so everything I produce will be a mess. 

 If I go around believing that, I will never do anything. I will never create anything. Because truthfully, I am a mess. I’m a big stinky mess of a human with flaws and vices and junk in my heart that I need like a hole in my head.


But here’s the thing. I have been bestowed beauty and promised redemption. I have been offered rescue and given love. I have been yelled grace – because, let’s face it, my stubborn heart can’t hear just a whisper – and invited into mercy, mess and all.

How could this be?

How could the mess be a place from which comes beauty and acceptance?

I have to believe that beauty will emerge from my mess because the Creator Himself dove down into the chaos and the muck and the mire in order to extract the beauty He originally created. He personally sunk down deep into it all in order to reverse and redeem. And if He, the Master Creator, the ultimate Creative, chooses to enter the mess in order to purify and produce beauty, then what have I to fear of my own mess? If this is true, then I must believe that beauty can come from the messes I’ve made and the chaos I leave in my wake.

Maybe the mess is worth embracing.

(Insert scared emoticon. Six of them.)

Messes are unpredictable. They’re dirty. They’re emotionally exhausting and they turn us into squishy humans when we’d much rather be tough and pristine and presentable.

But if I’m truly honest with myself, some of the most fruitful seasons of my life have come out of some of the messiest. Some of my most powerful experiences of worship and prayer have come out of a sense of desperation, and some of my best art has been produced in a chaotic emotional state or an overturned physical environment.

I am feeling challenged this week to embrace the mess and see what kind of beauty emerges. Not because it will improve my art or because it is trendy to be a troubled artist. But if I am willing to embrace the mess, I will surely find myself embraced by the One who overcame the mess. And that, more than the art itself, is what I ultimately crave, desire, and desperately need.


Jenna is sharing a FREE download of one of her most recent creations! Click HERE to download your reminder to “Embrace the Mess”!



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Jenna Lanoue lives by the ocean in Beverly, Massachusetts with her husband Jeren. She works as an administrator at a local school, but is a worship leader and maker at heart. She has a serious weak spot for Indian food, espresso drinks, puppies, and the Food Network. You can find her at @othebliss on Instagram or www.etsy.com/shop/othebliss.

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