Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, discipline, grace, margin, sin, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, trusting God

It all started with a “little” project

It all started with a closet project.  Little did I know that it would turn into so much more.  

Our home has more than ample storage, but the problem is we have dumped stuff there.  The stuff that is falling out of the closets and the basement means there is stuff everywhere in our house, as well.  Storage is of no value if you do not use it well. 

That brings me to our downstairs guest room’s closet.  It has looked like this for 3 ½ years. 

I would tidy the middle part of it when things were falling out, but I never took the time to tackle the big job.  It seemed overwhelming and time consuming, and nobody has time for that with 2 active boys, no headspace and a side of tired.  It wasn’t urgent, so it kept getting stuffed around what was urgent.    

This week has afforded a few days where there was no agenda.  It has been a wearying season where there has not been room to unpack my mind and heart let alone a closet that carries baggage that I have to sort through.  I found myself thinking of the closet, and it wasn’t a “should” but a “this would be healthy to do.”

What was in the closet? Letters, pictures, albums (nostalgic girl here), boxes that had not been unpacked since our move 3 ½ years ago, storage bins of art materials, boxes and storage bins filled with random objects where I had to “hide stuff” from company, random throw pillows, important business documents, etc.

I knew it would not be a fast job, and I knew I needed to be mentally and physically prepared to tackle it. 

So, I began taking stuff out which made a bigger overwhelming mess.

There were times I didn’t know what in the world to do next.  I thought—“what have I done? I could be watching Christmas movies, building a puzzle or taking a nap.”  (All my go-to escapes). I toyed with closing the door, and not using the room again.

However, it was time.    It took me a day and a half—going through every box, every paint bottle, every random notebook.  

Thoughtful examination was required to see what should be kept and purposefully used, what should be discarded, and what was worthy to give away.  I examined things that were unfinished projects and asked the hard question—“Am I holding on to this because I ‘should’ or is it a worthy thing to follow through with in this season?” I add, in this season, because that’s where I get myself bogged down.  I see the possibilities in all things, but I end up going nowhere.

Then, I began placing things that I found purposeful back into the closet with a rhyme and a reason.  They are accessible now.  I know what’s there—it is not a mystery.  There is room there to put other things that fit into certain categories.  There is room for a guest to hang clothes and put a suitcase (aka I could actually be hospitable to welcome others).

There was a lot of unusable space in there that can be used now for my art stuff!

As I was walking through the process, I thought, this would be an awesome blog post—there are so many life parallels.  Then, the Lord awakened me at 2 am in the morning and started really dealing with my heart, gulp. 

He asked me to look without background noise or distraction, without the sounds of the day at what I was storing in my life.  Jen, What is superfluous and crowding out what is truly life giving?  What do you think is a harmless habit that literally is stealing room in your soul to have margin and peace?  Where is the baggage that you just keep stuffing (like your closet and basement) that is literally encroaching on every area of your life?  Jen, do you feel peace and purpose or just a lot of noise?  It is time to look and to deal and to see what you want to expel from your heart and your head and what you want to pass on and what you want to keep in an orderly fashion. 

It is scary—actually terrifying—to ponder what is really in our hearts, huh?  It takes time, courage, grit, humility.  The real beauty though, is that the One who created, sustains and redeems us, will guide us in GRACE.  If we will take the time to truthfully and bravely tackle our stuff, He will meet us in the middle of all the piles that seem completely impossible and overwhelming.  He will teach us what to hold on to, what to let go of permanently and temporarily, and what to literally destroy in the trash.  God is not a God of confusion or disorder, but I will tell you, it takes time to sort through the things we have experienced and stuffed trying to handle it on our own. 

We think our fear is telling us the truth, but fear is a liar.  Fear tells us to throw it in there and ignore it—stuff it.  Fear tells us, “He really doesn’t know what He is doing—this is a much better plan to numb yourself or to take control on your terms.”  Fear says, “did He really say or mean this?”   Once we make a habit of listening to that fear, we become weary of substance.  We run out of space in our closets and basements and our junk pours forth into the public areas of life.  We cannot hide our stuff.  There is no margin to deal with it. 

When we walk (however TERRIFIED we are) with The Lord, He who calls you is FAITHFUL to walk with us and transform us.  It’s gonna look messy as we continually bring piles before Him, but it is going to be freeing in all the ways.  He calls us to draw near to Him to sort what is good and purposeful and life-giving and honoring in our lives.  There is space and margin and ROOM when we take COURAGE to go there with Him. 

So, I encourage each of us to look intently into His word and His purposes and lay our lives next to them.  Let us be brave, reach out to others when we want to hide and when we feel that our closet’s contents will literally suffocate us.  The truth is…they will, apart from Him. In the midst of our piles, the truth of the Gospel allows us to draw near to Him with confidence because Jesus has paid our debts with His life and death and resurrection.  He says “remain in me, and you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.”  

Posted in New year, suffering in joy

New year…entering the blogosphere.

Well, here goes.  I have been pondering about this for awhile, and what  better day is there to start blogging than January 1?  I have an obsessive habit of reading blogs, and so I thought I would give back. I have many hopes for the new year, but they are mostly cloudy at the moment.  Yesterday, I drove to my hometown to have breakfast with two dear friends, and on the way, I drove in complete fog.  As I passed over the bridge on the Tennessee River, I could see a few feet in front of me.  Fog encapsulated the whole bridge…over, under, around.  I was reminded of my future.  I can see shadows of where God is leading, but there is no clear sunny path.  He is showing me what is directly in front of me for the day.  Yet, I am reminded deep inside that He is the foundation of the bridge–He is the foundation of everything.  Fear and anxiety can overtake me, and then I am reminded of how little I am and how big and faithful He is.  There were brief snippets of sun yesterday that illuminated the way, and then the fog came back around.  It was not an audible voice that spoke, but an impression that communicated…”I will show you where you need to go…I am here with you.”  I am reminded of conversations of the last few days with people around me…those whose bodies are battling cancer, those whose marriages are under fierce attack, those whose hearts are broken by loss.  My heart hurts and I pray on their behalf.  And, I reflect on the fact that Christ is LORD even when we lose our hair or job or way or our husband.  In times of complete loss of control, I have seen the truest glimpse of Jesus and experienced Him in the fullest.  I thank God for the troubles He has brought into my life this year–for sleepless nights, deep heartache, uncertainty.  Those things did not feel good, but they have driven my heart and soul and mind to Christ.  They are the very things that call me to the cross and his mercy and goodness.  They are the things that cause me to cry out for help.  And, in that time, my heart is transformed.  My circumstances may or may not change.  Or they may change at such a snail’s pace that if I was focused on them, I would truly be driven mad.  But, something happens when I go to God.  He draws me to himself and shows me the beauty of who He is.  I come to experience the joy of the Lord as my strength and not the counterfeit joy of ego strokes or new clothes or cars or good food or a baby or a job promotion.  All of those things are not bad in themselves, per say, but when I put my hope in them, I put my hope in things that are the false comforts of this world.  In comparison to the riches and fullness in Christ, they are dead.  They are treasure on earth.  We are called not to store up treasures on earth but treasures in heaven.My prayer for this year is that He continue to grow me deeply in Him.  That is my prayer for those around me, as well.  I pray that the true gift of fellowship with Him grow.  I realize soberly that that means hardship in this world.  I swallow down my fear knowing who holds me in His hand.  I would not trade these last few years for comfort because I would have gloried in the comfort and not my Lord.  I pray that we not be consumed with comfort but consumed with the all surpassing greatness of His name and His presence.2 Corinthians 4:16-18 English Standard Version’So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  for this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ Jen