Living in the Mess

Life is messy. That is why we love those DIY shows. They take a mess and make it beautiful in an hour or less. But in real life,  the mere act of painting a bathroom will likely take at least a week for the average person. There is the prep, the edging, the clean up, and a million interruptions in between. Trying to fit a home renovation into a work schedule means that your room will be a disaster for some time. To achieve beauty, you have to live in the mess.

The same is true for decluttering. Sure you can do a drawer a day and make slow consistent progress. But every once and a while you need to turn a room upside down and make a mess. And at some point, you will likely run out of time or energy before you have run out of mess. So what do you do? Shove everything back into different boxes and corners so it looks better, or do you sit with the mess for a while? This happened to me recently. Since I had some bins and boxes that just didn’t fit anywhere, they had taken up residence in my dining room. Unable to take it anymore, I transported them to the kitchen table near the bookcases into which they would have to assimilate. I started sorting, making piles, and tossing, until I realized it was dinner time. I had a choice to make. Tidy up the mess I had made or just leave it there. I know myself enough to know that if I shoved it out of sight it would definitely have been out of mind, and I didn’t want that. I needed this to be dealt with.

Version 2

 

Thankfully I have a laid back husband who knew this had to be. So I left it. Everywhere. And then I lost motivation. I was tired, hormonal, overwhelmed and had a million things to do- important stuff like trying to save the world on twitter or writing a blog that no one would read.  Regardless…..I couldn’t make myself do it-for nearly a week. I would move a piece here or there, but overall the mess stayed the same. Until I decided to do something. Just do SOMETHING. I told myself. So I did. And like a typical ADD person, I hyper focused, and got it done. Mostly.

Tadaa……

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Yes, it’s way better, but no I didn’t finish my room. I tossed a lot, I sorted a lot, and I organized a lot. But I didn’t finish. And that’s ok. I made progress.And I didn’t shove. You may think it looks great, but I know there are papers and bins in those bookshelves that still need to be dealt with.

All too often when we are surrounded by messy feelings, inside and out, we want to shove them away and not deal with them. Especially in the Christian community. Some people go so far as warning that you should never speak negative words for fear that you will bring it to pass. What a prison to live in- never being able sort through your feelings because you are afraid you will make something bad happen by verbalizing it! Even if you are not that extreme, there are only a few people, if any, that are comfortable with being around other peoples’ mess. Some will rush you through your feelings because they don’t think you should be feeling them “still.” Some will suggest you think happy thoughts instead, shoving pain away instead of working through it. Some will want to pray away your emotions without letting you feel them for a moment. Some will even push you away completely because your mess makes them so uncomfortable. I have been guilty of all of these reactions.

While I know that I was better off leaving the room chaotic for a little while,  I do admit that when it comes to the mess in our hearts, there is a fine line between sitting in your pain with a purpose and wallowing in your wounds without direction. The Bible does tell us to think on things that are holy and noble, but we also read the psalms and see a man painstakingly working through his emotions, sitting for a moment to deal with the pain in his heart rather than pretending it is not there.

I want to be the kind of friend that can sit with someone in their mess, allow them to work through it, and cheer them on in their success. Of course there is the contingency that the mess is actually being acknowledged and worked on. If I had left the room in disarray for years, added to the clutter, and blamed others for the disaster, then there would definitely be cause to bring in a bulldozer. And that is the material point. Without humility, and true repentance, the mess would have been meaningless. But because of my track record over the last year, my sweet, long-suffering husband knew that this mess was a sign of progress.

I am so thankful for a husband and close friends that have sat with me in messy places and allowed my heart to feel. I know there is much to be learned in this place, and I refuse to miss seeing God’s glory, just to make others, and even myself, feel more comfortable.

Psalm 42

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
6 My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

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When it is Too Hard to Remember

911If there is one thing I am good at, it is forgetting. In fact, one of the few German phrases I remember from my short 3 month stint in Deutschland is, “Ich habe vergessun,” which means, ironically, “I have forgotten.”  My memory holds few priorities. I have forgotten details that were dearly important to me, yet remember countless lines from any show I have watched as a child. And sadly with age and children, many children, it has only gotten worse. Yet as much as I acknowledge this reality, even I forget how forgetful I am. You see, quite often I take for granted that I will remember something special. An event. A quote. A goal. But God, in His infinite wisdom, knew better. Because He knows our propensity to forget, He wisely reminds us to remember.

Remember from where you have fallen, (Rev. 2:5)

Remember who brought you out of the land of Egypt…(Deut 6:12)

Remember the way the Lord has led you…(Debt 8:12)

Remember your Creator…(Eccl. 12:1)

I feel like each one of those verses demands its own blog post. Each one preaching a strong sermon. But not today. While acknowledging the importance of remembering, I can’t get away from the realities of remembering. Conjuring up memories of a devastating day should not be taken lightly. I am sure there are many today who cannot easily rally around the battle cry to #neverforget. I am sure there are many today who daily try not to  remember because the memories of that day are so piercingly ever-present.

Even looking at a picture from happier times can stir up grief, confusion, and pain that is hard to bear. Maybe this is the case for you today. Maybe the date for you isn’t 9/11, but a different day when your security was shattered, when life changed forever, when you wondered how you could go on.

Jesus Himself knew the importance of remembering difficult times. His crucifixion would be a terrifying but glorious day for His followers. His death was necessary to bring life. Compassionately and cleverly He prepared them with the last supper.

Do this in remembrance of me.  Remember my sacrifice. Even though it is hard, remember.

 If your heart hurts when you remember, don’t bear this alone. Find a friend to walk with you and bear your burdens. Send a text, make a call, take a walk to a neighbor’s house and tell them you are feeling sad. And don’t stop reaching out till someone obeys the Holy command to bear your burdens.
And most importantly, when it is hard for you to think back on former days, you must always remember to run to the One will never forget you!
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15
My heart and prayers are with those today that are finding the pain of remembering a very heavy load. I pray that in your weakness, you would know His strength; that in your fear, you would see His power; and that in your pain, your would feel His presence. Amen.

 

How I Became a Minimalist

Moments before my 39th birthday I bought a book by Joshua Becker called, “The More of Less.”

As an incentive to buy his new book, he was offering his $89 dollar course on decluttering for free! EIGHTY NINE DOLLARS! I thought. Who on earth would spend that kind of money on an internet course on decluttering! I was quite sure there was nothing new he could tell me or offer me through this book or his course for that matter. I have read it all. (I would like to pause here to share a picture of all of the decluttering books I already had, except I recently gave them all away!! True story.  But I am getting ahead of myself.) Since it was my birthday, I figured I could splurge on an $11 chance that this might be the one trick that really works. So I bought the book, and with it came the free course.

However, once I started reading the book, I found myself getting frustrated that I was reading instead of cleaning, because with 5 children if I stop cleaning for 5 minutes the house looks like an episode of Hoarders!  I considered putting the book away. I mean, do I really need to read 222 pages of “Get rid of your stuff”? I get it. But since I kind of like rules, I decided to press on. However, I expressed my dilemma to my new Uncluttering Facebook friends (part of the course) and they told me there was an audiobook! I bought it instantly, and finished it in two-three days. The bonus to the audiobook was being able to listen in the car WITH MY KIDS.

And this is what I learned. I NEEDED EVERY PAGE OF THAT BOOK. Why? Because we are constantly inundated with the exact opposite of minimalism every day of our lives. The reality is that you have no idea how profoundly you have been affected by consumerism until you slowly peel back the layers and ask hard “why” questions.  It is only then you can see how many of our knee jerk reactions are stemming from a lifetime of consumeristic indoctrination.

In Josh’s course, each week you receive an email with a video and an assignment, and I have to be real here. I didn’t always do the exact assignment. I know I said I like rules, but I am also a woman, and perfectly able to change my mind mid-blog. I kind of decluttered at my own pace, but his videos were so powerful and thought provoking that it didn’t matter if I did the exact project.  He offers fresh perspective and will challenge your long held beliefs about what is valuable.

The Facebook group was so empowering. Sometimes I was annoyed by it because the constant posts were “cluttering” up my newsfeed, but then other times the encouragement to get off my butt and clean out a draw was just what I need to see in that moment. It was also a place to get the “attagirl” I really needed. The truth is that you really won’t get that from the majority of people.  While most of your aquaintances are getting more and buying bigger, it is immensely comforting to have a group of people encouraging you to buy less and get rid of more!

Strangely, I was met with more resistance from the outside world than I expected.

“Are you sure you want to give that away?”

“What if you need that?”

“But that belonged to someone you love!”

Add to that, my own personal resistance. I had all of those same doubts myself! I didn’t need more people confirming my fears. I needed people to come along side me and tell me I could do without it and then tell me how they did it too! I was desperate.  I was tired of organizing my stuff. I now knew that what I needed was to get rid of it. I want to spend time with my children, not with their stuff. I would spend hours organizing their toys, folding their 15 pairs of shorts, or washing their 30 cups!

So I did just that. I went through every item of clothes in my closet and drawers, and so did the kids. As God would have it, I just lost a bunch of weight, so I made the crazy decision to get rid of anything that doesn’t fit me now or belong in this decade! I got radical in the kitchen. Each child got a one cup. Gone are the days of washing 30 cups at the end of the night. I bagged them up and put them in the garage as a test run.  I gave away at least 5 bookcases, a china cabinet, two armchairs, a dresser, and multiple bags of clothing, toys and books. Here’s the things. I always thought we were minimalists. Compared to other families, our kids had very few toys. We live in a small house, so there was just no way we could have a lot of stuff. Comparatively that is. But that was one of my major problems. Comparing us to other people. Instead I needed to compare the stuff we had to the room we have, and that was not minimalist at all. But beyond getting rid of the stuff, the biggest game changer was getting rid of “stuff holders.” Previously I would scan every garage sale for those rubbermaid drawer containers, sterilite bins, and bookcases to contain all my stuff. I was running out of wall space and found creative ways to squeeze more stuff holders all over our house. Then during this course I told my mom I had emptied out and given away two sets of rubbermaid drawers, only to see concern on her face. “Where are you going to put your stuff??” She asked. “That’s just it! I don’t want more stuff!” As long as I kept the stuff holders, I will just keep filling them back up.

Before this course I dreamed of a bigger house, but now I find it easy to be content. Less to clean, they say, right? 🙂 Yet I am happy to say that we now actually have more room, and our house literally feels bigger.

The bad news is that I didn’t finish. I went through many books,papers, clothing items and more, but a summer vacation and now homeschooling has thwarted my progress. The good news is that I can take the course again! Free! In fact I can take it as many times as I need!

Because of this course I have found freedom in ways I never thought possible. You may think you can never change. Maybe you even tried this course once and didn’t find freedom. One of my favorite movie scenes is between Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz in “My Best Friends Wedding.” Trying to convince Cameron that she is all wrong for the prospective groom, Julia tells her that the groom needs “jello,” but Cameron is “Creme’ Brûlée.”

“I CAN BE JELLO!!” Cameron declares. But Julia counters with, “Creme’ Brûlée can NEVER BE JELLO!” Maybe you feel like you too can never change. I know I often do…except unlike Cameron, I am definitely Jello. And more than once I have looked up to the heavens and declared to God, “I can never be Creme’ Brûlée!” Until one day I heard a still small voice in my spirit say, “But you are forgetting Who I am. Don’t you know that I can turn water into wine?” And I knew in that moment that He also had the power to change me. One of my favorite songs is “I’m not who I was” by Brandon Heath. I know that to be true. I may have a long way to go, but I truly thank God that I’m not who I was.

So I decided to tell everyone that I’m a minimalist. And that is basically how I became one. When my children ask for something in the store, one of the siblings will remind them, we’re minimalists. (which is infinitely more fun then saying we don’t have the money!) They even remind me! Stopping to look at a sale rack one day I was reprimanded by my 7 year old son who explained to me “We’re mimimists mom…keep walking…were minimists.” It’s amazing the power our words can have. I had convinced them we were minimalists too!

Please know, however, that if you just bought more and bigger, this is not me “shaming” you. This is me experiencing freedom in a way I have desperately needed my whole life, and simply wanting to share that with anyone that needs it. And if that is you, I highly recommend this course. Right now you can even use the code FF25 to get 25% off at http://my.becomingminimalist.com The deadline to sign up is Sept. 4th.

Knowing what I know now, I would gladly pay for this course. It is worth every penny. Literally. While decluttering, I found money! I also found items I had planned to buy. But beyond the monetary value, the sheer freedom from being buried under stuff is priceless! And if you need someone to do it with you, count me in! I am going back for seconds!

I will conclude with a couple before and afters shots and pictures of some of what we gave away:

And some of our giveaways:

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I LOVED many of the following pieces, and truly wrestled with giving them away. But at the end of the day, I love my family and sanity more! Hooray! So I fought through the anxiety and fear of getting rid of stuff and haven’t regretted it one bit. As Dr. Zasio from Hoarders always says, “You can still love your dear deceased Uncle, even if you get rid of whatever he gave you.” And the irony is, that in giving away one of our beautiful family pieces, we got a visit from a family member that drove 11 hours to come get it since they,unlike us, had the space for it in their house. And since we had gotten rid of so much stuff, we actually had room for them to stay with us when they came to get it.)

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The chair, not the child! 😉