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In just a few hours, family will file through our front door bearing their famous dishes and desserts. There’ll be cheesy corn casserole, and buttery pecan pie, tangy cranberry relish, and pillow-y mashed potatoes. I can’t wait for everyone to gather around the table with their plates piled high.
I love a full platter. And I want a full life. Perhaps more than any other season, Thanksgiving and Christmas remind me of the importance of living well and making the most of every life stage. Yet this year, it’s felt especially tough.
Over the past few months, our life has felt full—sometimes bursting-at-the-seams full. There has been a lot of laughter but just as many tears. We’ve cheered through my husband’s football season and grieved a player’s loss. We’ve totaled a car and watched God provide another. We’ve battled health struggles and found hope in others’ care.
It’s been a season, piled with joy and peppered with grief. And sometimes I wish for a slightly less-full life. I’ve found myself keeping everything at arm’s-length, believing I’m too full to handle anything more.
Yet it wasn’t until I stumbled upon an unusual proverb that my perspective started to change. “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4). What do oxen and mangers have to do with our hectic, hurried, modern lives?
As I stopped to ponder the meaning, the words stuck in my soul. I want a clean life—one with clear boundaries, tidy categories, and easy relationships. I want my floors swept, clutter cleared, and dishes washed. But sometimes my quest for clean prevents the crop God desires to cultivate in my life.
Where there’s no ox, there’s no dirty manger. But where there’s no ox, there’s also hunger. Sometimes the messy things of life are the very circumstances that eventually fill our plates and soothe our souls. Clean might be cut, dry, and easy. But it seldom satisfies.
So as I look at my life in the midst of a hectic, messy season, maybe it’s time I change my perspective. I’ve tried so hard to tidy up my life. But in so doing, I’ve missed the abundance.
I plan to fill my plate full this afternoon. Thanksgiving isn’t complete unless you taste one spoon of everything on the buffet line. Sometimes life is the same. We embrace the tears with the laughter, the grief with the cheers, and the stress with the anticipation.
Messy mangers yield abundant crops. And messy seasons cultivate faith and character. So I’ll take the messes with the hope that new life sprouts from the most untidy, unexpected places.
Here’s to full lives and full plates. May we thank God for every good—even messy—gift.