Thursday, August 4, 2016

How Cleaning a Closet Can Teach Biblical Truths

I cannot believe how fast the publisher got the print book out to me. My brand new book is now in print as well as e-book format. ( HERE.)  I love the cover, made by Perry Elizabeth Designs. I painted the cover painting, but Perry turned it into a lovely book front and back. She also did the formatting which is a job I LOATHE. Thank you Perry.

It came at a perfect time. While in general, I am upbeat and hopeful on the breast cancer journey, I start radiation August 8, and I was having a minor melt-down day. This happens now and then, when what I am facing overwhelms me. God sent me a message to lead me through this stormy day. It involved cleaning my closet.

This is my newly culled and cleaned closet. I am sure you cannot tell by how crammed it STILL is, but picture it with DOUBLE that amount of STUFF and you get an idea. Those upper shelves were stuffed to the ceiling with clothes and odds and ends. I really thought I would NEVER get through it all, but I did.

There were many lessons in downsizing to move into a home half the size of our current home. Cutting in half the impossible accumulation of things is not a task anyone wants to tackle, let alone someone just five weeks out of her second major surgery for breast cancer, with lifting and stress restrictions. However, I discovered the key to doing any terrible, overwhelming task.

Just get started.

I am serious. If you are like 99.9% of the people on earth, you have a whole bundle of things you are avoiding. You procrastinate and find other ways to fill your time and sidestep the task because you cannot imagine tackling such an impossible ordeal. I know. That is how I have felt for years as I walked by my closet. It is how I felt facing cancer, raising children, house-training the dog...sometimes even rolling out of bed to face a particularly difficult day. All of us have those bury our face in the sand moments because the picture on our screen is chock full of angst. Easier to turn it off.

So. The closet. Everything that didn't have a good place to be stored went in my closet. Yet, if we are ever really going to downsize and follow the dream of a waterfront home where I can kayak right off my doorstep, I had to stop avoiding the closet.

Is there Biblical advice on doing instead of avoiding? LOTS.
Here are a smattering:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1: 23-25

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:18

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3:18

Now in general, these verses are talking about faith being put into action. I don't think it is a huge leap to generalize this to action tackling hard things in the way I am suggesting. If something must be done, you cannot pray it away. No matter how much faith you have, if you are able to do what is required, you should do it.

I have an excellent example. I have spoken to countless people who tell me how important the work is that Cities4Life volunteers do on the sidewalks of the abortion mill.
"But I could never do it," they tell me, "I will pray for you."
"There are many things you could do to help if you feel you can't be on the sidewalk. You could be a mentor to the mamas, send them Bible verses, help organize the baby showers, help galvanize churches to walk alongside these mamas, help us find food and clothing resources, donate to the organizations actively helping these moms make a decision for life..."
"I will pray about it."
Then I never hear from them again.

Now don't get me wrong. Prayer is pivotal in our relationship with God, but I can't help but feel sometimes we are hiding behind prayer. Action is too scary, and too messy. Easier to sit back and pray...and hope someone else will do what needs doing.

So. Back to my closet.

I took a deep breath, and launched. I emptied the entire top shelf of one side of the closet. Piece by piece, I separated the items into save, garbage, and donate. It took a long time. I am the queen of forcing things into every nook and cranny, so words can not give a full picture of the hopeless state of my overfull closet.

For three full days, this was my strategy. Take one section at a time and separate the contents into the three piles. As soon as that section was complete, throw out the garbage pile, bring the donation pile to Goodwill, and neatly return the save pile, or store in neat bins, clearly marked. If I didn't do it immediately, my save pile mysteriously returned to full size again. At first, I was certain I would spend the rest of my life cleaning my closet.

Gradually, the joy of a neat, orderly, organized little room began to grip me, and what had been impossible became achievable.

On top of that, emptying my closet led to so much unexpected joy. Look at some of the things I found:

Asherel was 5 when she painted this frog. I found tons of her artwork from her youngest years through young teens, some of which are below.

I had so much fun looking at her old school work, art, and her diaries. She was five when she wrote the duck-dog essay above. If I hadn't cleaned my closet, I wouldn't have found it. I wouldn't have laughed and remembered parts of life that I had long ago forgotten.

When I had had all the dust and memories I could stand, I loaded my bicycle in my van. I drove out to the lake shore where one day I hope to live.  I wanted to see if we really did move to the tiny lake condo, would I enjoy biking in that area?

Yes. It was heaven. All this cleaning and purging of possessions will be worth it. I'm glad I forced myself to get started. You should stop avoiding whatever it is you have to do and just don't know how to begin. BEGIN. Honestly, you will feel better in the long run.

And don't think I don't want prayer for the six full weeks of radiation I am about to endure. Please pray. This is one of the areas where prayer is totally called for!

Proverbs 14: 23 
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

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