Monday, February 15, 2010

Purging, Lent, and Donald Miller on Farming

I had a miraculous thing happen to me the other day. But first I need to introduce you to my friend, Joy:

Joy is a breath of fresh air, a voice of truth and beauty, that kind of friend who speaks life into yours. I can only hope I give some of that back to her, but I'm afraid I mostly just stand there with my mouth agape, randomly assenting with a nice, "yeahh!" Joy is an amazing mother of five kiddos and we have had the privilege of trading babysitting favors with their family on a few occasions. So I know she is not intimidated or frightened by our family. She keeps it real, she's direct, and doesn't waste time with insecurities... and that is something important when you are trying to have a friendship around 10 kids. I have really been loving getting to know Joy better this year and I will miss her much after their forthcoming move to Whidbey Island to run Island Framery.

So she's standing around in my kitchen with nothing to do while I try to whip up some wanna-be Asian food for our big "Chinese New Year/Valentines" party with the kids (I'm not good at letting people help in the kitchen), and she starts going through the junk on top of my microwave. She's like "what's this? do you still need this?" And I'm like, "no, yes, no, and no..." And that was it. It just snowballed from there. And I'm talking the kind of snowballs you roll in Portland when they call a Snow Day: all picking up leaves and mud and dog poop because it was barely enough snow to turn the ground white (and shut down the school system). We had a lot of conversations that sounded like this:

"What's this for? Do you use this?"
"I don't remember. I don't know where that came from." (Toss.)

"Why do you have this (and this, and this)?"

"I hate that thing! I never use that!" (Toss.)

"What about this?"

"Ok, that's just gross. Throw it away."

It was embarrassing to have someone else pulling off all the rubble I was buried underneath, but I knew it was saving my life, so I had to let it happen. We ended up with five bags of stuff, two appliances, and a huge stack of books to get rid of, not to mention the stuff that went directly into the trash. I also filled up the glass recycling with stupid stuff I don't even want to talk about, but my husband has never been so happy to take the bins to the curb.

I'm having a total Oprah moment. I've been recounting to David all the axiomatic things Joy said, like "if you hate it, don't keep it!" and "you spend most of your time in this kitchen, this is YOUR space". I feel like proselytizing about the joys of getting rid of junk! I'm liberated! I'm free! I'm validated! Thank you, Joy!

Fast-forward a couple of days to Lent. Lent is the forty days before Easter, intended for preparation and anticipation of the Resurrection. What it means to prepare for the Resurrection is different for everyone inclined. I've just been figuring it out over the past few years, and my best understanding is that it is a letting go of what's holding you back from worshiping God and following Jesus. So at dinner I'm explaining Lent to the kids, and I tell them, "see, you guys probably can't even see the little marble I put on the table because of all the stuff (plates, glasses, dishes of food, napkins, a candle)." I motion to the center of the table and they all start looking for this marble. I let them look for a minute, to realize how hard it is. Then I tell them there's really no marble (sorry kids, I didn't plan this speech)...but imagine! What if there was a marble? If we cleared everything off the table, well, you'd see that marble plain as day! And by the time Easter rolls around, we don't want to be taking it all for granted. We want to be all cleaned off and ready to see God. And not just for Easter, but for every day!

So: our family plan for Lent, inspired by the Miracle of Joy and My Kitchen's Redemption, is to get rid of all our junk. Or as much of it as we can in 40 days, although I doubt it will stop there. You've gotta understand how much junk we have. I mean, there are 7 of us, and we've been living here for almost 7 years, we have an open attic and garage/shop area and it's all just been piling up! Somewhere deep inside me is an artist who swears she will "do a project with that someday", and our house needs so much work we are definitely going to "someday need all that wood on the side of the house and in the garage." But the thing is, that's not where God has us right now. He's got us pretty busy with other projects, except it's super hard to hear His directions in the middle of all this "noise".

We want to see God more clearly, without distractions. Unburden our minds and hearts with all the projects and chores we've created for ourselves. Free up our schedules, so to speak.

We want to make room for
God's plan. By getting rid of all our projects-in-waiting, we are giving up our plans and are ready for His. I think God will be stoked by this act of submission.

We want to allow for His providence.
We want to show God that we trust Him to provide the resources we need if He calls us to build another fence or remodel a room or whatever. He always does.

This same day, Donald Miller posted something on his blog that just drove this whole thing home for us. I highly recommend reading it. He asks,

"So my question to you is, what’s your field, and are you plowing it? Are you plowing too little? Are you plowing too much? What’s your sweet spot, and in ten years, will you have a small orchard that can feed your family and some of your friends? What’s your land to toil?"

We are already going through some major weeding and soil amending in our personal lives. But we've got so much baggage and clutter complicating our home that we haven't even been able to get close to our sweet spot.

Roll up the dumpster. I'm ready to get purging.


rae ann said...

this is SO, SO good! i've often felt waves of what you call the "oprah moment," but never has it resonated the way it has for you guys. i'm jealous of that. i think i need to be more open and ready to let go.

friends like joy are priceless! i have a friend who is totally OCD and should be a professional organizer. she's the only person that can get me 'dig deep.'

you should do a photo-documentation of your transformation! this is going to be such a great lent for you guys!

donnasuewhite said...

WOW...very inspiring!! I am so moved...thank you Wendy!! What a way for me to start the day. I am blessed by you, and I know this all might sound cliché but i really mean it!!

CeAnne said...

Lent is such a wonderful time, I'm excited to hear how it goes ... must have an updated Easter post! Hopefully we will get to see you at Judy's then, I miss everyone!

The Catholic church also promotes 'purging' as you call it. We abstain from eatting meat but one time a day during Lent and no snacking( except for Sundays) and then everyone is encouraged to add extra things or remove things from their daily lives during the 40 days. In past years we usually give up tv but since our move we haven't had tv any way. This year I'm giving up meat altogether and putting us on a whole foods plant based diet. And I'm adding things like playing games with the boys, reading to them daily... I spend more time cleaning than playing, time to work on that!

It feels so good to get rid of clutter doesn't it?! We got rid of van load after van load when we moved and when spring gets here and garage sale season hits more will be leaving this place! It is truley easier to hear God with out the noise.

Sarah said...

that's what we should do! declutter for lent! nice idea!

loving these long awesomely written posts...that last book review one was golden.

Michelle said...

You are amazingly wise.
I am totally inspired.... I think I may have to follow suit over here.

Deb said...

Wendy, I usually read and don't comment but I am totally loving this post. I think this is a fabulous way to celebrate Lent. I hope you take photos and blog more about the process! And maybe, just maybe, I'll be inspired enough to follow suit.

(I wish I could give up cleaning for Lent. Wouldn't that be swell?!}

Jessi said...

Wendy, I found this post inspiring and moving. I think its a great way to celebrate Lent. I have thinking about how I will particpate in Lent this year and maybe now I have a better idea. I hope to hear more and see photos! And even if you don't want to post photos of clutter because I know I don't like doing that, you should still take them for yourselves as a reminder of what you lived with before... it might help to maintain the de-cluttered look after Lent

Laura Mo said...

I really enjoyed the post, Wendy. Its so nice to see what is inspiring other people this lent season. I think this is the first year I'm taking it seriously. I hope you keep your blog updated about your lent process.

CC said...

awesome! Come do mine too!!

I know another Imago family also purging for Lent. Was that the sermon this week or something????

Barlow Family said...

Very encouraged by this post!! Im taking the marble analogy and running with it:)

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

You and me both, baby. I am cleaning out things, left and right and it feels so great. Hope you are having a good getaway and for heaven's sake, stay off the beach if the warning's still in effect.


Juli said...

Well said Wendy! I wholeheartedly agree with purging and being free and trying to do same for our own reasons! I love the questions. I wish you luck and miss you much. xoxo