Today, I really need to say out loud and in print how much I love my messy family.

I’m not sure what you mentally picture on your side of the computer screen as you read this post. Perhaps our family looks a little more put together than is accurate. Social media has a way of doing that.

A family getting dressed up nicely and going out to church or dinner, or to events in public has a way of doing that too. It’s just what we do and it’s okay. We don’t need the whole world to see all our yucky stuff.

On the other hand, if you’ve been feeling lonely lately because it seems like everyone else is polished and pretty, and your family stuff is so dysfunctional it will never get sorted out — let me assure you, we are all that messy. It’s called sin, and every person in the world is plagued with it. Every family is broken and hurting. Praise God, Jesus has come to rescue us from the messed up state we are in. He is our only hope.

Last night my husband lined up all 5 of our kids in the kitchen. Then Mike pulled me into his arms and kissed me hard. All the kids eeeewwed and said “Yuck!” and “Dad, gross!” and “Get a room!” and were secretly glad to see it. Our kids needed to see it because we have been fighting a lot lately. Yes, church members, sometimes your pastor and his wife fight because we are real people with a real marriage, and real people do that. It’s messy — it’s love, it’s anger and it’s forgiveness. It’s real.

For many years in our marriage Mike and I almost never argued — maybe 15 out of our 20 years — and I was proud of that fact. Now I’m not so sure. It’s as if we were flat-lined, and a flat line is a dead line. Now we are up and we are down sometimes, but we are truth-telling and so much closer than we’ve ever been. It’s scary, being this vulnerable with another person. I wouldn’t trade it.

Oh, these amazing kids. Parenting my beyond-the-beyond children. I’ve accepted as reality things I never would have imagined possible, like a lifetime of formula and measuring protein and rages and police and fear and this incredibly explicable joy of watching them become amazing people. So much sacrificial love, poured out of me and into me and through me. There is no human way I could parent these children, so it has to be the power of the Holy Spirit working in me. There is just no other way.

Whatever the junky, awful, very, very difficult stuff you have going on in your family right now — let it be there. Choosing to love is not saying you think it’s right or agree with the behavior. Simply say, I love you. I will embrace the mess as being part of this family, and for today, I will ask for forgiveness, I will forgive. I pray for God’s healing and grace, and I choose to love.

How do you show love and acceptance to your messy family?