Clearing the Clutter to Make Room for Something Better

The holidays have passed. The kids are back to school. The Christmas décor is sagging, reflecting the hurried pace of the last few weeks. Sigh. Time to pack them away for next year.

It’s ironic that in the rush of the preparation for the big day (Christmas), the peace of Christ can seem illusive and slightly out of reach – lost in the crowded malls, long lines, overcrowded schedules and unrealistic expectations. The voice of God that should be preeminent this time of year can too often seem distant – drowned and muffled by the voices telling me to “go”, “do”, “eat” and “spend”.

The week after Christmas is one of my favorite weeks of the year because the pace of life slows down dramatically.

This year in particular, our family made a conscious decision to hit “pause” to create space to rest, reflect, refresh and enjoy relationships.

No schedule. No commitments. I didn’t cook. Didn’t do laundry. Didn’t clean our house. I bought a ham, a palette of Cup of Noodles, made sure we had cereal, juice and milk and called it good. (In case you’re wondering about vegetables, there are a small handful of freeze-dried peas and carrots in every cup of noodles.)

Don’t judge me. It was only one week.

As the pace of life slowed and our scheduled enjoyed some much needed breathing room, I began to realize how easy it is to substitute activity for relationship. Spending a lot of time with someone doesn’t guarantee that you’ll truly see them, intently listen to them and authentically connect with them.

Could the same can be true regarding our relationship with God? Can we become so consumed with our Christian activity that we overlook the necessity of pausing long enough to hear His voice? Stopping to appreciate the nuanced beauty of His creation? Lingering to enjoy His presence?

We can go to church, serve in ministry and even read the Bible, yet still fail to see Jesus, hear His voice and connect with Him intimately. Time with God isn’t a box we check off every day. It should be a delight, not an obligation. Yet, when our schedules scream it can easily be reduced to a task in a long line of duties and expectations.

In a culture that values how fast we run, how much we do, how full our schedules are, Jesus, during His ministry on earth, modeled something quite different for us. He exemplified an unhurried life that valued and delighted in spending time alone with His Father. The book of Luke gives us a glimpse into how Jesus handled the delicate tension between the demands of His schedule and His relationship with His Heavenly Father:

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16

Jesus was unquestionably a busy man whose time was in great demand. He also possessed God’s perfect love and intense compassion for people, feeling the weight of every need, every heart break and every loss. Yet, He wasn’t driven to meet every need and demand.

Jesus’ schedule wasn’t dictated by the circumstances surrounding Him. He made time alone with his Father His first priority and that is what fueled the rest of His decisions and charted the course of His day.

The clutter of activity and over-commitment wearies our soul but doesn’t take us very far. 

Jesus knew this.

Jesus knew that He couldn’t meet every need and make everybody happy.

Jesus knew that true worth and value are found in intimate relationships, not in big crowds, productivity and packed schedules.

He knew that clarity for his life could only be found through spending time in the presence of God.

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Jesus knew that clarity and rest are only found when we create space for the presence of God. 

Jesus knew that to hear the voice of God, you had to clear away the noise and clutter.

And Jesus knew that it’s in the silence, in the space, where God begins to transform us. 

This year, let’s make a commitment to pull away, create space, be present and listen to God who’s desperately longing to speak to us.

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God’s Presence, The Best Present

Christmas season… The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. A time of thankfulness, a time of celebration, a time of gathering with those we love, a time of giving and remembering what God has done for us.

It’s ironic how a season centered around a little baby born to a simple teenager on a quiet night in a small town can easily become the busiest and most stressful season of the year.

For me, it can easily become the season I find myself overdoing everything. Instead of “peace on earth good will towards men” I overcommit, overschedule, overextend myself, overeat and overspend.

What I envision for the season – quiet nights at home sitting around the tree drinking hot chocolate with the family easily evolves into…

Stuff, fill, cram, shove, pack, hurry, rush, dash, run, stress, worry and strain to create the perfect Christmas with a beautifully decorated home, neatly wrapped presents and artfully designed cookies. *Sigh*

But running at this pace, I find, leaves me disconnected from the people I love, weary, frazzled and resentful for overstuffing my schedule.

Our hearts long for connection and significance and when we run, work and go non-stop, we can end up feeling drained and unsatisfied. Can anyone relate?

I hate to admit it, but there have been some years when I looked forward to the day after Christmas – the day I felt I finally had permission to rest and stop.

What I am learning (I’m a work in process mind you) is that…

Hurry is the great enemy of my spiritual life

and the health of my soul.

When we hurry, rush, run, cram and do, even the things we love can become burdens and obligations. And when we live a loud, hurried life, the one thing that tends to get squeezed out is the most important thing.

But when we choose to make this most important thing a priority in our life, we thrive. We thrive in our workplace, in our community, in our relationships and in our family. We thrive because it’s how God created us to live.

What God created us for – what our souls really crave – is space. Space to reflect, space to rest, space to connect with God and other people, but the volume and activity level of our life can be so loud and frenetic that it’s impossible to accomplish.

Psalm 131:2 gives us insight into David’s ability, amidst a lot of activity and a busy life, to maintain a quiet and restful soul.

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You may think, “David doesn’t understand how busy my life is. Life back then was simpler, easier, quieter. They didn’t have all the social media, expectations, traffic, stress we have today.”

However, David had a lot going on. His life was busy, stressful, fast-paced and loud.

  • He was a warrior and military leader in Israel who had to hide in caves and run for his life to escape  a crazy king for about 15 years.
  • He was king of Israel and undoubtedly the most influential and affluent person around with a role that carried more responsibility than we could imagine.

Not to mention, David also had,

  • A minimum of 19 sons and one daughter
  • At least 8 wives!

Can you even imagine how loud, busy, hectic David’s life was?! Yet somehow, with all of the demands on his time, all of the people needing his attention, all of the people demanding decisions, all of the children needing affection, David made the time to calm and quiet his soul.

He was intentional about it.

David likens the state of his soul to that of a weaned child. Those of you nursing mamas know that to a nursing child, mama means “food”. Babies will fight, sometimes even claw, for their right to eat and if they’re denied they’ll squirm, fuss and cry.

But a child who has been weaned is content to just be with his mommy, enjoying her presence and love without needing anything. David had discovered the value of quieting his soul and quietly coming into God’s presence. He didn’t see it as a duty or requirement. He didn’t demand anything from God. He learned the value and necessity of intentionally caring for his soul by creating space for the presence of God in his life.

This is so important for us to get right.

David knew the importance of having a healthy soul. He knew that…

the outflow of his life came from the inner state of his soul.

If your soul is frazzled and stressed and chaotic, it will bleed into your relationships and all of the areas of your life. Instead of imparting peace, you’ll impart anxiety. Instead of imparting a calm presence, you’ll impart chaos. Instead of connecting with others, your relationships will be shallow and disconnected.

If David was able to create a calm and quiet soul in the middle of the demands, responsibilities and chaos of his life, I believe there’s hope for you and me.

But how? David doesn’t give us “three easy steps to having a quiet soul”. He doesn’t teach on “five keys to creating a calm heart”.

When we’re stretched and stuffed and over-scheduled, we only see the “to-do” list. We can’t see anything beyond the chaos of our life.

Throughout Scripture, throughout Jesus’ ministry, He gives us an invitation. It’s an invitation to declutter our souls and come to Him.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”     Mark 6:31

Jesus intentionally creates space for His disciples to pull away and be present with Him. The crowds are pressing in on us and we’re weary. Our schedules are stuffed and our souls are drained.

We need space. We need space to be in His presence. We need space to create rest for our souls.

To receive God’s strength and feel his presence

you have to come close.

God invites us to come to Him and in His presence He calms and quiets our soul. And when we do, He fills our heart with His peace and presence.

This Christmas, receive God’s greatest present to us – an invitation to be present with Him. Give yourself permission to pause long enough to calm and quiet your soul and experience the refreshing that only comes through time in His presence.

 

 

Six Steps towards Creating Peace in Your Home

As a mom, you learn to multi-task. Changing diapers and feeding kids while responding to emails – bring it on, moms, you can handle it. God gave moms the incredible ability to do many things once. But sometimes (perhaps, too often) we push too far, attempt too much, exceed our limits and squeeze too much into a short window of time and it backfires on us. And when it does, it affects, not just us, but those little ones whom we love so dearly.

A couple of nights ago, I found myself (at 5:30pm nonetheless) unpacking groceries, cooking dinner, helping kids with homework, while also consecutively doing laundry and breaking up a fight over a video game.

Then, something went terribly wrong. Just when I though I could handle it all, just when I thought I had everything under control, our computer started acting up. Our brand-new-only-three-days-old computer.

I began to rant express some of my less-than-kind thoughts about this computer, the internet and everything techy, and then quipped to my daughter, “And how to you plan to get your homework done now?!”

My precious child looked at me with tears pooling in her eyes and sobbed, “I don’t know! I’m so sorry!”

Her distraught disposition, panicked expression and innocent face quickly brought me back to reality – back to what really mattered.

Might I add, that this occurred merely one day after I spoke to our entire church on the necessity creating room in our schedules for life’s inevitable interruptions and the importance of viewing many of those interruptions as invitations to be used by God.

Ouch.

As my kids would say, “Mom, you just got schooled.” 

Yup. So after profusely apologizing to Jessica, I assured her that my frustration was directed towards the computer, not her.

Why do I so quickly forget the importance of not over-committing ? Why do I so easily slip into “stress mode”. Why do I clutter my life with stuff that robs my heart and home of the peace I’m longing to have?

Getting a lot of things done isn’t worth it if comes at the expense of peace in my family. While it’s obvious that space in my schedule is critical so the inevitable interruptions of the day don’t spill a barrage of frustration and stress on my family, I can quickly lose sight of that.

But true peace begins at a much deeper level before it buds and blooms in our family and home. I must be diligent in cultivating an atmosphere of peace in my heart if I truly desire to experience it in my home.

As the Apostle Paul encourages us,

-POP

Moms, the temperature of your heart will determine the temperature of your home.

  • If you’re frustrated, your home will be filled with stress.
  • If you’re angry, your home will be filled with fear.
  • If you’re constantly complaining, your kids will whine and grumble as well.
  • If you see your children as an inconvenience, they’re going to feel rejected.
  • If you feel hopeless, the atmosphere in your home will be discouraging.
  • If you see everything as an interruption, your family will feel like they’re a nuisance.
  • But if you see your children as a gift, you will feel grateful, even when your mommy days are long and the load is heavy.
  • And if you are diligent to cultivate a heart of peace, your home will be a safe haven for your family.

But where to begin?

How do you practically create an atmosphere of peace in your heart and home? Here are just a few things that help me. And when I’m not faithful to consistently do them (as I was reminded the other day), I feel the stress levels rise, my patience wears thin and the peace that I crave and desire is elusive.

  1. Declutter. I truly believe that clutter creates chaos in a home. When my kids can’t find clean socks, when the dirty dishes are piled high, the stress and frustration weighs heavily. While I rarely have a house that is completely clean, I find that by cleaning just one room, one area, or even one drawer a day makes a big difference.
  1. Natural light and fresh air. Dark, stuffy rooms are oppressive and not very peaceful. Open your windows, burn a candle, buy another lamp, take your kids for a walk outside. I think you’ll find that sunlight and fresh air will lift your spirit, lighten your mood and energize you.
  1. Make some room. Don’t over schedule your day. Plan for the unexpected interruptions that are bound to happen. Then, when they do happen, you won’t be pushed over the “stress edge”. You’ll also find that you’ll be able to be fully present with your husband and your kids because you won’t be frazzled, distracted and depleted emotionally.
  1. Encourage one another & laugh together. Managing a family, raising kids and maintaining a home is no easy task. And if you work outside of the home, the pressure to get everything done can seem daunting. Your kids won’t remember the elaborate meals you cooked or the immaculate house you kept. You can make sure that they remember your home as a happy place where they were encouraged, loved, affirmed and inspired to be everything God created them to be.
  1. Set the temperature of your home. Don’t rise to the intensity level of your kids. Babies will cry, toddlers will throw tantrums, teenagers will roll their eyes and blurt, “Whateveh”. You have the ability to infuse the situation or defuse it. Your kids will take their cues from you.
  1. Read your Bible and pray every day. Jesus endured pain, stress and intense suffering. Yet, regardless of the pressure being placed on his life due to His external circumstances, He was consistently able to respond with love and compassion. He didn’t react to the demands of His day. The strength of His life was His internal character and depth of relationship with His Father. As you devote time everyday to spend time with Jesus, you’ll find that this will be the strength of your life as well.

As you cultivate the peace of Christ in your heart, you’ll be better equipped to handle the daily joys – and strains – of motherhood. You’ll still have those moments, but in the midst of them, the peace of Christ ruling in your heart will overflow and spill into your home, filling it with the tangible presence of Jesus.

How about you? What do you do that helps to contribute towards creating a peaceful home?