Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Tea

This turned out longer than I thought it was going to so... have a pot of tea ready and a plate of scones. :)

Instead of tea, I was sipping coffee with a friend Friday morning. We were chatting about decluttering and such (that which I have done and the decluttering she is in the process of doing). As I shared with her, getting the house and garage organized this past Spring meant giving away and taking to Goodwill items I really liked. By parting with the contents of various boxes, I was also coming to the realization that I needed to give up those things for which I had been holding onto. It was silly to continue moving boxes from one area to another when the truth was... they didn't fit... not in my house or my life as it is now.

My husband had the TV turned on when I arrived home and a Canadian show was just beginning. The guest began talking about the changes God had made in his life within the past couple of years. He felt the call of God to begin cutting away, giving up, and getting rid of even good things in his life to prepare him for how God wanted to use him from that day forward.

I had to smile (been there!) when he said he actually had tears in his eyes when he gave away books, files, years worth of research, as well as cancel half of his ministry appointments already made for the next year. God was doing a new thing, was he willing to pay the cost?

Although physically (in my home and with what I own), the downsizing and "cutting away" process began in 2000, the roots of it started in the 1980s when I was on a business trip. Just as He would later cause me to leave my Dream Home, He asked me to leave my Dream Job... and the bright Corporate future it held. I was on a business trip to San Francisco and before leaving, had decided to see the giant Redwood trees with one of the sales associates.

It was there, among the majesty of His creation, that I heard the call to leave... just as certain as if a flesh and blood person was standing next to me. I was to leave not only my Corporate job, I was to return home full time. I sensed more than heard that the decision I made would decide not only my future but my daughter's. Was I to continue on the path I desired (which held the very real possibility of true Corporate success), or was I to plant that seed in the ground... let it die... to bring Life to His will for my life.

It took me a year to make that decision. In that year, the circumstances surrounding my job changed in such a way as to make it easier to leave. Oh, I was still a rising star but those things which made it very difficult to leave were changed. My decision to quit was the talk of that corporation for awhile but looking back, I did the right thing. It was terribly difficult and caused an economic setback for awhile (I made about as much as my engineer husband) but twenty years later I know without a doubt that the fruit of that decision is the person I am today as well as my children (Christopher wouldn't arrive until the end of that decade).

Now, as I can actually see the results of that decision so long ago lived out in the lives of my husband, my children, and grandchildren, I know that this is far better than any Corporate success could ever bring me. But my younger self did not know that. I could not look ahead twenty years and imagine grandchildren (or even another child of my own). No, many times... most times... He calls us to act in blind faith.

There have been other seasons since the Corporate days. I was very involved in conservative politics for a long season, as was my husband. I became a Bible teacher and Bible Study writer (on just the local level). My interest in emergency preparedness which I have had since the 1970s resulted in getting computer savvy and becoming one of the administrator's of an emergency preparedness website and forum.

I had been curious about homeschooling when Stephanie was younger but when Christopher was in first grade, we made the decision to take him out of the public schools for the next year. We tried the public school again in third grade but at the end of the second semester, knew we would be homeschooling for years to come... ending up through high school. We had no idea at the time what a blessing that would become in our life.

Various seasons... different preparedness for each one... for the most part, not so difficult to enter each time. Then there is the season I am in now... having been forced to downsize permanently but at the same time, God providing this lovely little home at the edge of a forest. (The journey is well documented in past posts.) I am thankful to live in a part of the county (the American Midwest) where rural land is still quite reasonable, even for those on S. S. Disability.

However, by cutting out the excess and getting rid of those things I have been moving around these past years... just in case I could have a wee bit of my former lifestyle... I wasn't accepting this new season. I could say to friends and family that I understood the physical limitations the chronic illness brought about. I could use words that would leave all but those who know me very well to believe I was at peace with my husband's Disability and our current economic level.

But by holding on to that "stuff", I was living something entirely different... I was not satisfied in the least. It wasn't until I spent weeks and weeks going through the entire house, and especially all the stuff stored in the garage, and then getting rid of it... that I felt I truly had that peace. Throwing out files of research and clippings about theology, politics, and social issues... gone. What came about by giving up everything I would need should I decide to once again take part... freedom.

Clutter in our homes is only the outward manifestation of clutter in our hearts. We are not satisfied. We need the stuff to remind us of who we are, where we have been, where WE want to go. That doesn't mean everyone who has extra stuff will be asked to get rid of it. Some people are only temporarily passing through a smaller house. Many will once again need the extras in the boxes and the files in the cabinet.

But for others... like myself... I realized I am at that stage where all of it is behind me and as long as I held on to the clutter... I couldn't see what was ahead. Just like the guest on the Canadian show (who was the head of a Christian ministry), God would have to pour new wine into old wine skins and that does not work.

The world is changing, we are entering perilous times where the cause of Christ and the peace only He can give will be needed as never before. How thankful I am that I have cut the clutter from my heart as well as my house so He can speak to me today. In His goodness, He has left me with plenty of beauty, books, more than enough dishes, family... memories. He didn't ask me to bring before Him a vow of poverty as He did my friend, Freddie. Compared to many in the world, I still have more stuff than I need. He only asked me to get rid of those items which showed I was hanging on to the past... remaining in the old wine skins... not ready for the new.

It wasn't easy, it wasn't quick, it wasn't painless... but the clutter is for the most part... gone. Now I just need to make certain it doesn't return. :)


Daffodil Hill said...

Thank you for this post! I, too, am in a season of decluttering my home and my heart. Having walked through deep waters myself, I feel the need to let go of everything there isn't a real reason to keep. It's going to take time, but I'm getting there. Thanks for encouraging me along the way!

Adrienne said...

Oh dear Brenda, thank you for sharing your journey. This is exactly where I am right now. Three years ago God led me to leave the corporate world and a very well-paid position with prestige to follow Him into a nursing home chaplain ministry. My support would come from people who believed in what I was doing. Co-workers thought I was CRAZY!! They said I was 'shooting myself in the foot' financially. Losing thousands of potential retirement dollars, etc. But I knew His voice! Now, three years later, we still have a roof over our head, our car is paid off and God provides for us each day. He has blessed in ways I can't even comprehend. And my ministry is expanding with more open doors than there are hours in the day to walk through them.

We are decluttering, tossing, donating and letting go of much from our home and lives. As I do this I am finding such incredible freedom. There is much more to do before it's complete but it feels so good to be moving on. On toward whatever new things He has for us!

Susan B said...

What a powerful post Brenda. Thank you for sharing your heart, and your journey.

Daughter of the King said...

I cannot tell you in words what this post is meaning to me and how on target it started last year when I gave up thousands of dollars of rubber stamping items ...sold them..I still have 10% left...and now I have much more to get rid of...much more to downsize, to simplify.....I am finding myself so much more happier with my thrift shop treasures and a book or embroidery in my hand....I am trying. The firbo has been taking a toll lately so it is baby steps and often a lonely road.
I am encouraged by posts like these to press press make my little 960 square foot house, little Narrow Way Cottage as it is now named.
Brenda, keep writing things like this...we as women need to wake up...and smell the coffee or tea...and realize that life is not is about the Lord ,
Thank you again.

cheri said...

In preparation to move from WI to TN, we got rid of a lot of clutter. Once here, in a much smaller home, we realized we still had too much stuff.

I agree, getting rid of clutter and even meaningful stuff can be very freeing.

And as you mention, we need to be vigilant about not letting it back in to our homes.

Shopping has lost its allure for me. Forget the mall. Most of the time I don't even want to go to the thrift store!

Sharon said...

Loved this post immensely!!!Husband and I have been down an extremely similar path and in some ways are still on it!Stuff and clutter no longer holds the same allure it used to.Followed God from CA to OR in 1991 thus leaving behind a good job and all that was familiar.Met my husband and gained a family here in OR.Been a huge walk of faith but oh the joys I have experienced!Like berry picking for the first time,catching my first fish,seeing God's provision in so many ways...and I still believe that the best is yet up ahead of me/us.Blessings~Sharon G.

Carrot Top said...

We have started the decluttering process ourselves. We had a garage sale this weekend. It was so nice getting rid of stuff and seeing others excited about what they were finding! I found myself running through the house thinking, "what else can I put out to sell?" Now we have the freedom to walk through the garage without climbing over or under junk we didn't even use! That's freedom! Moving things from room to room, closet to garage, trying to hold onto what we don't use is just bondage!!

freetobeme - Anita said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. You have a way of encouraging your readers. It always pays to be obedient.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful post and the music on your blog is GREAT.

Kelly said...

Oh Brenda, how so many of us needed to read this post!
I too am in the process of decluttering and was struggling with the fact of the should I or shouldn't I's of getting rid of things. When you let go it does give a wonderful sense of freedom!
Thanks for sharing!


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

So much to think about here. You were obedient, yet the obedience didn't mean Easy Street. It meant that your children became different people than they otherwise might have been and that your grandchildren will have better parents as a result. Just so much to think about...

lady jane said...

Seems many of us are in the midst of a 'season of downsizing', of reconsidering our current situations in favor of 'new wine'.

Thank you for this post. I know it came from your heart - and is speaking to the hearts of many who read your blog, including me.

Bles syou.

Iva said...

Brenda, I have to say that God is speaking to my right now. Yesterday, my Sunday school teachers were unexpectedly out of town, so I visited another Sunday School class for the hour. Our lesson was about the journey that Abram made after God gave him instructions. Abram left all that was comfortable and followed God's will and was blessed many times over for doing so.

As a Christian woman, I do not believe in coincidences. God is speaking to me.

And it here I should point out that my family is in the middle of a move. Packing is always an opportunity to get rid of clutter, but this time it just feels different.

And rightly so -- after your post and the School lesson yesterday, God is leading me in a new direction. I am feeling a conviction stronger than I have ever felt before.

I put a book on hold at the library over two months ago - Getting More Done In Less Time by Donna Otto. I just got notice this last week that it came in.

Isn't it wonderful how God speaks to us if we just hush our minds and listen?

freddie said...

dearest Brenda,
thank you so much for your post. I'm almost speechless... sounds strange to me too...
Anyway, I'd like the idea of all you're doing in your house and life; yet... I don't know how to explain... you know in the evening here I have my time and before spending my favourite time of the day in the chapel, all alone, in front of the tabernacle, I have a look to different blogs. There are so many people saying "God's telling me" or "God wanted from me" or "I know God would like me to do..." and so on... well I hope not to disappoint but I've never been sure at 100% on what God wants from me. I have His word, the Bible, I believe in His word made Flash in Jesus Christ and I DO NEED HIS LOVE! I WISH ALL THE WORLD WOULD NEED HIS LOVE TOO - I'm pretty sure there's enough for everyone... eh eh - but how can I say "God wants this from me?" I put my total trust in Him and "hope" - hope as christian virtue - that my desire, what i do feel inside me, it is Him who put it there. What confirms me in my vocation, of living in poverty, chastity and obedience is that when I go to sleep I feel such a joy within me that it cannot come from no one else but from Him and I do my best to please Him, everyday.

What I actually simply wanted to say is that I'm really scared when I hear people say, even if with all their joy "Oh I God wants..." Have you read Mother Theresa diary, or other Saints writings? I believe there's no one who was not scared of fully understand God's will, and in my very very "littleness" I got scared too just when I see God fully accomplish my prayers.

hope again not to have disappointed you and hope you've understood my poor English.

God bless you always

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I am in the process of releasing the items I have held for far too long. I am hoping by September of this year I will be able to enter the garage and breathe a great sigh of relief :)



Debbie in CA : ) said...

Another deeply personal post ... thank you. I feel as if I know you (having read from your blog for quite some time now). The blog really can knit hearts together like the good old pen- pal days. I appreciate your visits to my blog to supply words of encouragement. Some days I am just overwhelmed with it all and other days I just smile and thank the Lord for the opportunity to meet so many people worldwide. Blessings come in all forms, don't they? : )

Firefly Nights said...

"I realized I am at that stage where all of it is behind me and as long as I held on to the clutter... I couldn't see what was ahead."

So very true. I have so much more decluttering to do, but I am slowly chipping away at it. It always bothers me when I come home from our little places in Michigan to realize how little we need to live there during our vacation weeks and how much excess stuff we have at home. Whenever I get back I end up throwing things out or giving them away, at least for a few days.