The Christmas tree has been undressed and de-lighted.
The Nativity scenes, nearly twenty of them, are packed away.
The treats and goodies have been given away or nibbled up.
Calendars for the new year are in place.
And niggling at the barely perceptible conscious level, the word “Simplify” continues its murmur.
Tally the hours spent decorating, baking, wrapping, shopping. Balance the accounts of Christmas expense and REAL charity.
The beginning of this journey goes back a generation, in the house of my mother. As a teacher, she trained me well: to spot a bargain, to wait for sales, to keep ingredients and supplies in stock, to find uses for things that others found useless. Noble, necessary, needed skills in her childhood. Useful, supportive skills for a young wife whose husband had only a tractor and baler and his sweat to build a farm.
Time marches on. The farm is bought, expanded, productive. Wise decisions, hard labor, conservative life-styles bring them to retirement on comfortable means. But the habits of many years control choices. Bags, “Cool Whip” containers and junk mail continue to accumulate. Newspapers, magazines, books, and printed-off emails cover horizontal surfaces.
As children grow up and parents grow old, the care-taking role smudges. We began to realize that Dad had helped her control the piles. When she wanted to use the wood-burning stove, it was an opportunity to clear the debris surrounding it. During the time she grew unsteady as she walked, we cleared papers into tubs for her safety.
When she could no longer live in her home, we thought she said we could clean. But we soon learned that one large bag of plastic grocery bags was not enough. During the remaining days of her life, we were reminded that we discarded the other two bags. And we learned to leave her things as they were.
Eventually, the brain tumor claimed her life. Four floors of nearly twenty years accumulation stared at us. And I learned things about my mother that I hadn’t known. Some things I understood; some remain a mystery.
The eleven months of sorting revealed her school report cards, multiple letters from ministries and their “thank you” gifts, nearly one hundred Bibles that she had not used regularly, bags of polyester clothes she planned to make into “cushy” rugs. And as I worked down through the layers, the questions formed and the litany began—“Simplify.”
As I began to sort through my things, the mantra wormed its way between the boxes. For nearly three years, I have struggled and sorted and shared and pitched from my hoarded treasure. Yet, as I packed away the Christmas decorations, the refrain has become insistent, urgent, unavoidable, there at the edge of consciousness.
So how many days this year will be used in organizing my “stuff”? Oh, it is good stuff, useable stuff, discounted, “someday I’ll craft with this” stuff, but what is it really? Will my daughters know why I kept it, or will they joke about my “collecting” tendencies?
Do material things crowd out relationships? What choices can I make this year that will make me more of the woman God plans for me to be?
The idea “simplify” is a magnet that attracts, yet repels. Walking in simplicity eludes me. Learning to walk by faith might mean learning to walk in simple grace.
Join me as I explore the practical ways of de-cluttering in order to leave more room for my relationship first with God and then with those around me.
Creating space for God to work in and through me. And you.