From February 1998

This column is about clutter. It wasn't supposed to be about clutter. I had several other ideas- some practical, some heartwarming and spiritual, even one humorous- but clutter has overtaken my life. So here it is in my column. My house is cluttered, my calendar is cluttered, my mind is cluttered, my very soul is cluttered. It is time for spring cleaning.

    I do not think it is a coincidence that we get the urge to undertake spring cleaning during Lent. Our environment mirrors the state of our souls. The peaceful order of the Shakers and Quakers were a cornerstone of their worship. Order, in our homes and our lives, is necessary for spiritual peace.

    I have confessed that my life is in disarray. Within the course of the past few weeks, I have cluttered my life considerably with things which at first seem unrelated but are actually conspirators to rob me of my fruitful prayer.

    First, as I write this, my husband is, euphemistically speaking, between jobs. My mind is awhirl with "what ifs." What if he takes a job out of state and we move? What if he doesn't and we can't find what he wants here? Where are we going? What will we be doing? Am I going to leave the familiar for the foreign? It is difficult to drive the doubts and the fears from my mind in order to leave it empty. And emptiness is what my soul craves. Because only when I am empty can the Holy Spirit pour Himself into me.

    Secondly, I splurged on a new planner (before we were in between jobs). At a glance, a planner would appear to be the perfect tool in creating order in my life, but I'm afraid all those blank spaces have just called me to fill them. I have been playing with setting up everything that "Franklin-Covey" devotees promise that it can do. I have spent so much time researching the system that I see little squares when I close my eyes at night. Unfortunately, I have been so busy planning to plan that I haven't found the time I'm sure I will have when I use this thing the way it was intended.

    The third conspirator is a new computer. What fun we have had with this machine! We have e-mail and the Internet and wonderful games on CD-Rom. I have waited year to take this technological leap. It has been heartwarming to watch my son build a long distance relationship with his godmother as they send e-mail back and forth. I have thoroughly enjoyed "surfing" with my eldest and even delighted as the baby says "bye bye" to the voice when we sign off.

    So what's the problem? Information overload. Every time there is a quiet moment, I am tempted to check to see if I have messages or to find a new site. My mind is hopping, jumping, flying through cyberspace And God still requires stillness. I had trouble being still before. Now I can be in constant motion without leaving my seat. Pretty scary.

    The final conspirator is the junk in my house. It seems that while I have been busy worrying about jobs, planning my life, and playing with the computer, "stuff" has multiplied in my house like mushrooms in the rain. It is with the stuff that I will begin my Lenten penance.

    I have resolved to spend a day alone, without the computer, or the telephone, or the myriad of details of daily life which crowd my mind. I will sort, throw away, give away, and scour from top to bottom. Believe it or not, I will relish this work. When I am finished, I know that I will find peace in a well-ordered home.  But I will also find something more.

     I will find that having spent my day alone, working with my hands, in the quiet of my home, I have cleared a space for God. I will have had time to think and to cast thoughts aside. The dust and debris of daily life that had crowded my mind will have been purged. And before the children return and I turn the ringer for the phone on again, I will spend some time in prayer. I will pray that God grants me empty spaces and stillness. I will pray for grace to discipline myself to quiet my soul every day. For the remainder of Lent, my resolution will be to plan time for stillness in my soul. I will use that wonderful new planner to commit my time to the Lord first. It is time for spring cleaning. It is time for Lent. In my house, they go hand-in-hand.

The other day, I happened upon an overstuffed envelope filled withmy old columns. Most of them pre-date my time on the internet. I enjoyed some quiet time, re-acquainting myself with the young wife and mother who wrote those columns. And since I'm in need of a bit of a blogging break, I'm going to share her with you in the next few weeks. I hope you are blessed.