beating a dead horse

That’s a terrible title {where did the horrible saying even come from?}.

But what I have to share today qualifies: it’s been said before. Over and over.

And yet, maybe we all need to hear it again.

// It’s not as pretty as it seems //

Take our kitchen, for instance.

I posted this photo on instagram with this caption:

“it only took four years to muster up the motivation to finish painting the kitchen”

A few minutes after posting, my friend Emily commented, “looks great!”.

Funny thing was, we had not painted it yet. We were just removing everything so that we could paint.

From a distance – from the outside – it looks pretty good.

Up close, you see this:

You would never notice the unfinished state that our kitchen has lived in these past several years by looking at photos on the blog. We do a good job of staging and photoshop-ing to get it looking just so.

But the truth is, it’s not as pretty as it seems.

. . .

Then there’s this:

I mentioned to my friend that I saw photos of her brother and sister-in-law and their new baby and their cute life and they looked so happy and is their marriage back on track?

No, she said. Their marriage isn’t great. They are struggling with this new baby. Not a lot of happiness.

I know better than to assume life is as good as it looks in photos.

And, yet, I still made big assumptions based on a few momentary snapshots.

. . .

The other day, my sister’s friend asked her if I was for real. Like, does my bathroom really look like that? Where’s the little scraps of toilet paper and dirty towels and overflowing trash can?

Well, goodness. Of course the bathroom is a mess. Our entire house is a mess.  I just pick it up before snapping photos.

We have a household full of messy people. Why there must be a light saber dropped in the middle of the floor of every single room, I can not explain. And the random socks – don’t get me started.

I do this for a living – staging and photographing, blogging about project successes and lovely things. I put on a good face and do my best to be honest, but don’t be fooled:

It’s not as pretty as it seems.

I don’t say this to be all downer on you. And like I said way up there, it’s been said many times before.

But I just wanted to remind you, remind me, that there is more to life than appearances.

Staged living rooms are good. Instagram photos of your trip to the pumpkin patch are darling.

Don’t stop enjoying the beauty of life and sharing it with others.  There is much to be grateful for and your highlights might just be the inspiration someone needs to find joy this day.

But also remember that under the happy faces and styled spaces lives a messy person. Someone who is flawed and struggles and tries her best to cover it all up with appearances. Rather than fall into that trap, let’s start being honest with each other.

If you write a blog, you don’t have to air it all out publicly. If you’re updating Facebook, there’s no need to give the gritty details of the battle you just fought with your toddler.  Or your husband. The general public doesn’t need to know your innermost struggles.

But your people do. You know, the ones you trust. The ones you can talk to and be open with.

Let’s not walk around pretending to be pretty and making assumptions about other people’s pretty lives.

Instead, let’s give grace and accept one another – however messy we are.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2

Poor horse. No more beating – time to bury this one.

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115 Responses to beating a dead horse

  1. Margaret October 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Thank you! You bless me!!

  2. Heather October 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    Emily… I love the way you write! You definitely have a talent {another one :)}. Beautiful post :)

  3. Camie October 25, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Thanks so much for the reminder and inspiring words. I love reading your blog and love writing my own, but it’s true, sometimes lief isn’t perfect and the “pretty” photos only capture the good things. There’s nothing wrong with sharing the pretty things, but I hear you, we don’t always know the “full picture” from the photos of our lives.
    I find myself constatntly being reminded that it is okay to not be perfect and be human…that is how God made me and through continual work and His help hopefully I get a little better one day :)
    Until then…we’ll enjoy creating and striving to be the women (mothers, wives, sisters, friends ,etc) that we ought to be and not beat ourselves up when we don’t do it perfectly.

  4. Maria M. October 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Oh, Emily… you always seem to beat that dead horse right when I need it most. Hopefully, it’s just a stuffed effigy because I hope you never stop the reality checks. God bless you and your family. :)

  5. Becky October 25, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    You know what you can’t fake… Sincerity. Thank you for sharing your pretty, staged, sometimes messy life with us.

  6. Nicole Salceda October 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    Well said! Thank you for reminding us all and it’s soooo true! Love this especially, “let’s give grace and accept one another- however messy we are.”

  7. Jen October 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    AMEN! Many blessings of grace to you to! :)

  8. amyks October 26, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    So true and often so hard to do…thanks for the real reminder and the beautiful bible quote at the end! Have a great, but “messy” weekend!

  9. Theresa Erwin October 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Thank you for such a timely message. It came when I really most needed to hear it.

    I loved the vierse at the end of your post, but when I looked it up in my bible the wording was different. What version bible did you get that wording from? (I’m using NIV.)


  10. April October 31, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    I can totally relate. We call our house the money pit because it’s old and is constantly needing repair and/or updating. Some days I wake up with a pit in my stomach thnking it’s never going to be completed.

    Then I remember this house means something to more than just us. It’s a part of our town’s history, and so many people have come to us with stories about it or asked if they could tour it. When people we know come by for the first time they ALWAYS say, “We wondered who lived here. This place has just come to life since you guys bought it.” Our friends are constantly remarking that it looks like it belongs in a magazine. When we talk about giving up and moving or building another house, our family and friends are shocked. “But you’ve put so much love and hard work into it!” I even have a friend who drives out of her way to see what’s new at our house when she drives to work, and then she texts me to say, “I love it.”

    These people don’t see the cracks, chipped paint, worn out carpet that can’t be replaced until we…, contractor bills, or the fights my hubby and I have over it much less the messy daily life that leaves the socks, backpack contents, Legos and dog hair everywhere. They see beauty and “perfection” which is what I want most of the time. Sometimes I want people to know our life is messy.

    We didn’t know much about home repair when we bought it. We just knew it was beautiful and special. We have learned a lot from books, magazines, home improvement stores and, of course, the internet. It hasn’t been all unicorns and butterflies which is the perception everyone gets about us from it. It’s been messy, aggravating, expensive, and sometimes bloody, hard work, but it has changed us for the better. We know so much more. We appreciate so much more, and we see others hard work and know it didn’t come without sacrifice.

    So when I wake up feeling the pit I close my eyes, and pray, “Jesus, I am so thankful for this house. Please help me remember to be thankful when times are tough not just when they are good.” I don’t always feel better immediately, but it I know He isn’t going to give us anything we can’t handle so I can get up, get dressed and keep going. And from the outside it looks seamless.

  11. Tamra Krohn November 13, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    Thank you so VERY much! I have tears in my eyes. Truth!

  12. Nicole Tarver November 15, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    I have to say how much I love and refer to your website so often. I didn’t read all 113 comments, but I thought I’d let you know where the term “beating a dead horse” came from. I, personally, always find it so interesting where our phrasology comes from and the hisroty behind it. It really makes us in tune with our histories.

    Beating a Dead Horse

    A dead horse was the seaman’s term for the first month at sea, a month for which he was already paid and spent the money soon afterwards. To the seaman, with his money gone, he was working that first month “for free.” To mark the end of this “dead horse” month, the crew would make an effigy of a dead horse, beat the thing, and dump it overboard in celebration. To officers on the ship, beating a dead horse described the difficulty in getting the crew to do any extra work during this first month at sea.

  13. danielle September 12, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Thank you. As an OCD clean freak and blessed parent of a 3 year old princess who often hosts large get togethers I mostly enjoy maintaining a clean house. But my high standards come at a price. This post has allowed me to listen to God and seek for that balance that comes from loving my family and inviting His Spirit into our lives. Especially when our house is not as pretty as it seems.

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