33 years ago I moved from my parent's house into their sideyard apartment...FUNNEST move ever!
30 years ago I moved from that sideyard apartment into my first starter home as a newly married woman....most intentional, lovest, treasured time ever...my HAPPILY EVER had arrived.
26 years ago we moved into our new-to-us country home with two babies...my FOREVER had arrived.
13 years ago and 5 kiddos later life derailed us...we packed up and moved into my husband's CHILDHOOD home. Life has a way of recentering us.
For a year, with the help of family, we cared for a father who had always been there for us. I learned a thing or two about home and hearths and hearts and kitchen tables and living in a house with aging parents, toddlers and teenagers.
For a year we lived out of boxes stacked under the carport as family came and went, taking family items with them and I meshed my stuff alongside my mother-in-law's stuff. It was a year of STUFF. Medicine bottles were religiously locked up in a safe box and dispensed at night and in the morning. We never had a young one get a hold of a loose pill. Tonight I had a nine month old choke on a candy wrapper. Family, as a community of shuffling feet, is not for the faint of hospitality.
Then the year shifted. That father left a bedroom empty and our three girls who had slept together in the same room all their lives, three headboards back to foot, slept together one last time.
There is always one last time.
Then a few years later a son moved in the backyard mini-apartment and that helped with polar-opposite brothers who bunkered together long enough to rub off traits (both good and bad) onto each other.
Fast forward 13 years later...we're remodeling the last room of this old house...the KITCHEN. It's taking longer than when we remodeled with four kids under the age of 10 in our FOREVER home. I find myself no more at home fulltime than I was back then; I'm still chauffeuring kids to ball and dance and schooling opportunities and church work and doctor appointments and orthodontist appointments and grocery store runs.
Today three kids have gotten married and moved out and there is no new house to run away to or spacious carport to put boxes under. One would think I'd have already weeded out by now, but the past 13 years have been the toughest 13 years of living I've ever lived. I'm living in the middle of it.
I've watched my parents declutter their lives and box themselves into our backyard apartment (about the size of the one they let me live in 30 years ago). In the decluttering and life transition they are perfectly content.
Perhaps when I'm their age I'll be content too; for today I write about the deep longing for contentment...yet being grateful to be living life in the middle. I have to find the balance, no one can find it but me. I have to be committed to finding it. I have to find it in the midst of the living. And I have to be grateful when I find it, even when it doesn't look like what I thought it would look like.
And so...why not start with an old homeschool cabinet since my last student is in high school and this cabinet has lived for years with conveniently closed doors.
This cabinet has too much of yesterday's junk in it. Today I went through piece by piece, enjoying yesterday's school work, reminiscing over unit studies and field trips, flipping through old nature notebooks, observing history notebooks, sorting and cleansing and boxing even more, bagging unused craft projects and puzzles.
On days like today I'm not sentimental at all. I found it draining, mentally and emotionally draining. I also cursed the sum of money being thrown away or given away that could have been better used and I'm "as-God-is-my-witness" serious not to mis-spend or mis-use or mis-manage our funds to the point of cluttering our lives again.
And it was at that point... at my clearest point of discouragement today (because the cabinet is still a shelf full and nothing has a place to call home)...I realized (in a Scarlet O'Hara moment of defeat) that I still have two children living under this roof and I'm fighting a loosing battle called life. And life comes with STUFF. It's known logic. We create lives of stuff to fill up our existence.
The reality came as my girls beat egg whites and shifted flour to the beat of Disney's "Be Our Guest". Their attempt was to make birthday macaroons for me in a kitchen that had no sink, no plumbing, not stovetop vent, and countertops that are not fixed in place under the drawer slides can be attached. The initial onset was joyful and upbeat. I knew the reality. There would dishes to organize and a mess to clean. But they proceeded onward with the flair of youthful hope and dreamy buttercream on their lips. When I shared with a friend what my girls were doing she bravo-ed them with, "You will never forget this birthday or these memories with those girls! Remember that time we made mom macaroons for her birthday in the kitchen with no sink or countertops. What were we thinking."
Hearing my own ideals spoken through a friend's voice does not sound as peaceful as it does when I give a friend that same advice. But I decided it was in my best interest to cling to it today.
As almond flour dreams spun through my non-functioning kitchen and tasty sweet ideas of macroons deflated and got dumped into the trash can and life's vanilla sugar got repurposed, I realized that houses are only catatonic when they are unlived in. There comes a time in life you don't need stuff to make you content. Having good health as a birthday rolls around, holding a warm cup of coffee (with or without macaroons) in your hands and listening to the rain fall with a roof over your head are blessings of the fullest. The fact that this clutter and living aren't going away any time soon is as fine as almond powder...and perhaps just as heavy.
It's life...from dust you were made, to dust you shall return. There is no getting away from life's dust and clutter. Life brings it to us and settles it around us and coats us in it. It's a life my husband and I willing embraced and conceived and created and cultured. It surrounds us in a fine layer of clutter. I can't escape it, nor do I want to. Gaining control of it all is a different matter. At some point we realize that as Americans we have too much stuff. And too much is too much. It swallows us. It gnaws away our peace. My husband and I want to have days ahead of us to enjoy family and not work to accumulate stuff, nor clean up after the stuff. We don't want to constantly swim above the clutter. I certainly don't want to have to weed out life every 13 years. Macaroons are nice, but they are not necessary.
Still, for peace, I must find the gift that is in the clutter...
* The cake box my brother-in-law left in my kitchen with the half-eaten birthday cake in it is gift.
* The baking supplies found in boxes all over the house, then dirtied and cleaned in the bathroom sink and the evidence of forsaken macaroons treats is gift (though at one point I declared it a mess that best be cleaned up and not left on my watch).
* The stained coffee pot with constant coffee grounds is gift.
* The paper plates and plastic forks by the microwave are gift.
* The avalanche of stuff and junk in that cabinet, bought on a promise and a prayer, were gifts...some of it to be gifted to others.
* The macaroons were gift...the clean-up afterwards was an even bigger gift.
We are constantly trying to rise above everyone else's "stuff." It's engulfing and it's a brutal reality of how greedy we, as individuals, are; for, in complaining about everyone else's "stuff", we overlook the baggage that we carry into the kitchen.
Good stewardship then!
Yes, this Holy Week cries for me to declutter and dejunk. Holy Week brings me to my knees in contrition for all the times I've mis-spent, mis-used, mis-managed our household income. Holy Week whips me into addressing my sinful nature, my greed, my want, my wasted desires. Holy Week begs me to realize that I will never be satisfied this side of heaven; I will only desire more and my heart will be restless until it rests in Thee. That is how God wants us: spent, used, deflated, raw, void...realizing that nothing on earth will grant us the peace and fullness that He alone can give. He is Gift. He alone. Do we come to the table with empty hands open wide? Thankful for the gifts but knowing we don't need them in our search towards contentment.
The gift I make to myself this Holy Week, even as I admit defeat, is to accept it all as gift and pray that I find the contentedness in life's messes and clutter as much as I find it in the peace and stillness..all the while knowing that everything I receive is His gift to me yet my emptying of self is my gift to Him.