Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An Uncluttered Life

I'm on a mission to clean out some of the clutter in my life, one closet or dresser drawer at a time.  I've been meaning to get to it for months but the task was put on hold for various reasons.  This past weekend, I found renewed energy and focus to finally start the task.

As with any decision to start a new project, many questions arise.  Where to start? What to keep?  What to throw away? What to donate to a worthy charity?  I decided to start with my clothes closet.

I believe that my closet is a good example of my gift for organization.  Most of the time, my shirts are lined up by short sleeve and long sleeve. Solids are grouped together as are the striped ones.  Flip-flops are in one place, brown shoes together, black shoes together.  Tennis shoes and golf shoes sit side by side.  Sweaters and sweatshirts are arranged on a shelf together.  However, the closet was in disarray for months, but it's back in order now.

Dresser drawers are similar - t-shirts in one, pajamas in one, shorts in another and socks are organized by color, of course.  I'm beginning to think I'm a little OCD.  You think?

Well, don't let my closet and dresser drawers fool you.  There are other places in my little home that are not so organized.  Take all this stuff in the middle of the floor that was once hiding in other places.  There are yearbooks from high school and college.  One box holds many notebooks, complete with all of my notes from Old and New Testament, Systematic Theology and Christian Education classes from my time at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in the early 1980s.

Another box holds all of my team planning notebooks from Caswell Youth Conferences, 1996-2001.  One container holds many years worth of youth ministry files. Some boxes are filled with slides and photographs. Two containers hold bill and medical receipts, tax returns, and other financial records related to my mother's care over the past few years.

In my kitchen cabinets there are containers without lids and utensils that I never use. In my closet there were clothes that were only being worn by the hangers.  I've run across clothes in sizes that more closely match my shoe size rather than my hip size.  I had to part with them.

Doing some much need cleaning and clearing out has also made me think about other areas of our lives that may need to be uncluttered.  Perhaps we need to give up some bad habits and take up some good, healthy habits.  Maybe we have found ourselves in a relationship that has become toxic and we need to mend it or end it.  Perhaps our mind is filled with negative thoughts or we find ourselves being too judgmental of others. What is cluttering your everyday life, your thoughts, your soul?

In all my cleaning and clearing, I've tried to focus not so much on what I want to get rid of or throw away (though I've bagged up lots of stuff), but more on what I want to keep.  What will be life-giving for me?  What gives me joy?  What do I really need and what can I do without?

I hope you might consider a cleaning and clearing time for yourself. Organizing your mind, your heart and your life can be done - one thought, one choice, one step at a time.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Psalm of Lament

For the last six weeks, I've been participating in a grief group at my church.  The small group was led by Rev. Lauren Efird, Minister of Youth and Congregational Care.  Tonight was our last meeting and I didn't want it to end.  The time has been good for my soul.

The weekly sessions provided intentional time for reflection, talking, crying, singing and writing.  It became a safe place and space to talk about all the feelings that have surfaced since the death of my mother two months ago.  There were various opportunities for faithful remembering, dealing with unfinished business, expressing gratitude and finding hope.

One of the most meaningful times for me was completing the weekly homework assignments which provided a creative outlet for expressing my grief.  One week I created a mixed media piece in an attempt to describe what my grief journey looks and feels like.  Another week I wrote a letter to my mother, expressing my feelings, telling her things I was never able to say, how much I miss her and how my world is different without her.

For the last session, my homework assignment was to write a psalm of lament.  I chose to first spend some time coloring a mandala, which I found to be a very creative way of illustrating my grief experience.  After completing the mandala, I wrote this psalm of lament.

I'm sitting here, O God, in this pile of ashes, waiting for you.
Where are you?
I'm listening for you, God, as I sit here in the darkness.
Do you have anything to say?
You know I want some answers.

I've been sitting among the ashes for a very long time - since I was eleven to be exact.
But you know that, right?
Was it not enough that my father died at a young age?
Was it not enough that my daughter left the world much too soon?
Was it not enough that I watched the cancer slowly take my mother away?
What more do you want?
How much more do you think I can take?
How long must I bear this pain in my soul?
Will this dark night of the soul ever become well with my soul?

All around me is grey and my world smells of death.
I am standing knee-deep in this pile of ashes.
My heart is broken.
I lift my eyes to the skies and all I see is darkness.
Even the stars have grown dim and sometimes it feels as if
  they have left the sky - much like it feels that you have left me
  sitting here alone with these ashes.

Is it okay if I raise my voice at you?
Is it okay if I yell and scream?
Is it okay if I raise my fist to the night sky, to the moon, and to you?
Much like Job, I feel as though you have given me more than my portion of grief.
It's not fair, you know.

Nevertheless, I sit and wait for you.
I trust that you will come and be with me.
I trust that I will let you be present with me.
I trust that the stars will shine brightly again in the night sky.

As I stand knee-deep in the ashes,
 I will wait for the peace that passes all understanding.
I will wait for you to wipe the tears from my eyes,
 to heal my broken heart.

Help me to trust that even when I can't feel your presence (or even want your presence),
  you are here, knee-deep in the ashes with me.
I can only pray that this time of barrenness and darkness
 will be made new in the springtime,
 the time when ashes will be placed on my forehead
 and I will remember that I am yours and you are mine.

One day I will rise from these ashes, and with strength renewed,
 I will soar on wings like eagles,
 I will run and not grow weary,
 I will walk and not be faint.
 I am waiting for that day.

The grief group provided a place and space to grieve, but it also became the catalyst that helped me start writing again.  Stay tuned for more regular posts here. I think Cottonhead Confessions has made a comeback.  Thanks for reading and sharing the journey.