MEET KELSIE

Kelsie Crozier is the wife to her husband of 15 years, and mom to three kids, ages 8, 10 and 12. She’s a registered dietitian by degree and, during the pandemic, became an involuntary homeschool mom, a job from which she is still desperately attempting to recover.

She worked for 10 years specializing in nutrition for the newborn, pediatric and pregnant populations at a local hospital and now she is finding herself as a freelance writer and self-taught florist.

She loves teaching those around her to nourish their bodies spiritually, physically, and emotionally. When she’s not feeding her family, chances are she’s out on a run, reading a book or growing food and flowers in her garden.

LETTING THE BOW COME UNDONE

I will never forget that morning. I had a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old and we had been invited to the home of an acquaintance for the very first time. The agenda for the morning was to decorate gingerbread houses, a task I would never choose for my busy young daughters except under heavy duress.

I knew my girls’ crafting style and there is no way to describe it other than explosive. I often affectionately referred to my oldest as a “walking tornado.” She left a trail of clutter wherever she went. This messy activity would likely cause me great stress, yet the loneliness of early motherhood was beginning to undo me, and my desperation for friendship willed me to accept any invitation that came my way.

Our hostess that morning had a daughter, a gorgeous waterfront view, and an impeccably clean house. We walked over the threshold onto plush white carpet and I immediately instructed my girls to remove their shoes. There wasn’t a single toy in sight. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have known a child even lived there.

I scanned the room and took in the picture windows overlooking the lake. Individual places had been set at the dining table with all the ingredients needed for gingerbread houses – bright red frosting, piles of sprinkles and sticky candy in fragile ceramic bowls, all carefully arranged above the starkly white rug. There was no way this activity was going to end well. I excused myself to the bathroom and was met by a faucet and toilet bowl that sparkled back at me. A scented candle burned on the counter, sending out the fragrance of pine and cinnamon. How was this real life? Everything is so perfect. It was like I’d entered a glass box with muddy children and was challenged to somehow leave no footprints, no indication of our presence.

I do not belong here in this glass, white house. This is no place for me.

My house is dirty, my kids are messy, my bathrooms don’t shine, but it was that cinnamon Christmas candle that put me over the edge. Did I even own a scented candle anymore? Lord knows I hadn’t lit one in the past three years since I became a mom!

I showed up that day desperately longing for connection, but in that moment, all I felt was wholly inadequate. I was barely keeping my head above water. I couldn’t keep a carpet white. I couldn’t safely burn candles with my kids. I lived in a small condo with a view of a cell phone tower, not a lake. There was evidence of the children who resided there in every corner. My husband was working full time while going to school while I was working a part-time job that I hated. Our marriage had serious issues, but we were stuffing them. If we sought help, it would only be evidence of failure in my mind. I was walking through immense pain and yet covering it up at every turn. It was all I’d been taught. Whatever you do, you have Jesus, so all should be well. You need to look okay. I kept tying up my life with a big, pretty bow.

The very thing that triggered me that morning at the playdate — the outer image of perfection — was the exact image I was projecting to the world around me: look like all is well. As much as I longed for authenticity in others, I was unwilling to offer it myself. My value was too tied up in appearances.

Look like all is well.

But all was not well. For years, for my entire existence really, I had been working so hard to swallow and hide away my pain, lest it cause another to look poorly on me. I wanted the “A,” and felt it could only be achieved if I covered up the ugly, so I donned my guard and put up walls to keep my messy sides hidden and unexposed.

I don’t know what exactly caused the undoing, but it was a domino effect once it started. Half a decade had passed from the gingerbread house playdate. I kept trying to tie the bow on my life even tighter, but then the gravity of life kept pulling it undone. I reached a point where I was too tired to care anymore, bone-weary from the constant striving. I couldn’t keep walking this journey without community. I opened up with the women at my Bible study table one morning about one of the struggles I held closest to my chest, how I felt my body had totally failed me. The words fell out of my mouth, unrehearsed. I shared how my body refused to respond in the way I wanted it too, how this was deeply impacting my marriage. I was seeking professional help, but I needed others to walk alongside me.

Through tears and snotty sobs, I went into mortifying detail. I expected the women to distance themselves, to back away slowly as I unleashed the mess. Instead, they rallied, and pulled their chairs even closer. They laid hands on me and prayed. They joined me in my tears. They welcomed Christ into the mess and pleaded with him on my behalf. I was not made to be the outcast I feared. If anything, my honest, public unraveling reserved me a permanent place of welcome at their table. It paved a foundation for deeper vulnerability and truth-telling around our circle.

Recently, I began studying a book called Prayer in the Night. Every time I read a page, I want to weep at the beauty of it. The words feel like poetry; they resonate to my core. In it, the author, Tish Harrison Warren, writes of a dark season of time in her life. “I was a priest who couldn’t pray. I didn’t know how to approach God anymore. There were too many things to say, too many questions without answers.”

So often, our human experience has taught us to silence our doubts, hide our messes and pain, lest they cause those around us to distance. We think the better we look from the outside, the greater our degree of acceptance. This begs the question: can we just be okay with not being okay? If we know we live in a broken, fallen world that Christ will one day redeem unto himself, why the perpetual push for perfection, portraying lives wrapped up with pretty bows?

In my personal unraveling, I have taken a 180. Where once I hid away the messes I stored deep, now I’m unsatisfied when conversation stays at surface level. I want to jump in and talk about the grit and dirt and muck.

I’m tired of pretending my hands are clean, my life is in order, I’ve got it figured out.

I feel concurrent waves of release and tethering, as I come to grips with the reality of the pain, mess, and suffering in this life. I have spent so long trying to avoid it, thinking it meant I was doing something wrong or had made a mistake, or had brought a trial onto myself. Pain and hardship felt like my letter grade for so many years. I have spent far too long hiding my report card because I was embarrassed by what one would see on it. If life operated under a set of formulas – do this and then this will happen – what did it say about me and the dark places of my soul where I store my unanswered questions and unexplained hurts?

I still want to receive that “A,” but God continues to be in the work of redeeming my story, and teaching me to rest from my efforts at perfection. Warren writes in her book, “Jesus calls the weary to himself. He does not call the self-sufficient, nor those with the proper religious credentials or perfect, Instagram-able lives. He calls those exhausted from toil, from just getting through the day. He calls those burdened with heavy loads, those weighed down by sin and sorrow. It is these, not the confident and successful, to whom Jesus says, ‘Come to me.’”

So, let the bow come undone. Engage in deep, honest relationship. Let those around you see the mess, the true you. Allow them to be the hands and feet of Jesus, ministering to your soul. There is freedom in the undoing.

Written by Kelsie Crozier for The Anchor Journal

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