Three first-time guests were coming to my house for a women’s ministry planning meeting.Before their arrival, the kids and I scooped up clothes to hurl into the laundry room and tossed toys into hiding.I’d shove stacks of papers and boxes of books into the kids’ arms.”Take this to the garage,” I’d instruct. “We’ll hide it there.””Where?” they’d ask.”It doesn’t matter. Anywhere. We just need to get it out of the way.”So they did. They tossed things every which way, no rhyme or reason, no attempt at order. Piles on piles, teetering on the chest freezer, balanced precariously as they might on the end of the Cat-in-the-Hat’s puffy white-gloved finger.The garage was a carnival of clutter. A maze of mess.But the house itself was looking pretty calm. The place looked almost civilized.I lit a vanilla candle and set out a platter of pumpkin-chocolate-chip muffins. Some tea. A pitcher of water.At the last minute, I realized the bathroom trash needed to be emptied.”Here,” I said, tying up the plastic sack and handing it to our youngest. “Could you please run that out to the big trash can?””Which can?””The big green one outside by the shed.””Okay!”As he trotted off to complete the task, I unlocked the front door and turned on the outside lights.A few minutes later, I heard the kids exclaim, “They’re here!”But the guests’ voices weren’t coming from the front door.They were coming from the back.From…the garage.(insert overlapping Kroeker voices whispering to one another: “what?” “why are they coming that way?” “what’s going on?” “who let them in?”)”Hello!” one of the ladies called out. “Anybody home?””Welcome, welcome!” I said, inviting them inside and taking coats. “I’m so glad you’re here. Come on in. But, may I ask, why on earth did you come through the garage?””The door was open,” one of them explained. “When we saw it open, we assumed you wanted us to come through that way.”Oh, no.All that work.All that shoving away and hiding the junk of our lives was for nothing.They squeezed right through the middle of it all–right through the middle of our secrets.That last-minute decison to send the youngest out with the trash is what did it. He ran out, tossed the trash, and raced back in without shutting the door.And now these three ladies saw the deepest, darkest, messiest place in my home.”That’s where I hid everything!” I admitted.They assured me that everyone has a room or place like that.I can’t imagine theirs could compete with my gargantuan tribute to clutter-mismanagement. I had to resolve that I simply was letting them into my life right away.They’ve seen the mess.I have no secrets.And they appear to have accepted me anyway.While I chip away at those stacks, sorting papers, craft projects, cassette tapes, CDs, books, shoes, paints, brushes, hair clips and old lamps, I’ll remember that night.The night I was reminded that it’s okay to let people in through the back door of our lives.And if they don’t like what they see there, if they can’t stand the mess–the teetering piles of pain and sin and fear that we store inside of us in grimy garage-like spots in our hearts–then maybe it’s just as well. They’d only find out later, on a spring day when I left the door open myself.If they can stand the mess, if they can make their way through the shadowy, muddy maze and into my home, I’m here.I’m in the kitchen, sharing a platter of pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins.And they are welcome.Anytime.