A little over a week ago, I was sitting on my mother’s couch telling her how I felt I needed to completely purge my house, declutter every nook and cranny. Now, I am sure some of this is nesting, which begins very early for me, but I also know myself well enough to know that *something* was stressing me out.
I declutter to de-stress. Oftentimes, the decluttering mode goes hand-in-hand with a need to feel in control of something. But, for the life of me, I could not figure out what it was that felt so out of control.
My mom, who thrives on tidying up, gladly offered to come help. So, bright and early Monday morning, we hopped to it. She would be spending Monday and part of Tuesday here and then return on Thursday and stay until Friday. The reason for this is that I am rather pregnant and she tires rather quickly due to post-polio syndrome. We both knew we would both need a break.
The grand plan was to tackle the upstairs the first part of the week and then tackle the downstairs the latter half of the week. We worked ourselves silly and almost met our goal by the time we tired out on Tuesday. The house looked great, I knew exactly what lurked behind nearly every door and drawer, and I thought my feeling of discontentment would disappear as the clutter left the house in boxes and trash bags. But, it didn’t.
As I looked around at my neat and orderly home, I still felt uneasy about something. I felt there was still too much stuff in my house. I felt as though I could get rid of everything and still not feel satisfied. WHY?
Mom left and I found myself mulling this question over and over in my mind as I continued to work, hopeful that when she returned, we would be able to go straight to the basement and not have to finish anything upstairs.
Suddenly, it dawned on me. An epiphany! Yes, my house DID need decluttering, but what really needed to be decluttered was ME!
For months now, I’ve felt this uneasiness. I kept thinking when the weekend gets here and Daddy is home, THEN all will be well. But, really all the weekend did was create a diversion from reality. Monday morning all was back to the way it had been. And what, pray tell, was so wrong within our home? Well, no one really knew. We had all talked about it and brainstormed and even considered that it was Emily’s death that was causing all of us to feel irritable and discontent. But, I kept telling my husband I just didn’t think that was it, and I felt like all the strife was somehow linked to me.
Then came the catalyst that tipped off my need to declutter ~ my 7 year old daughter. Day in and day out I watched her melt down. Day in and day out I continued to press forward with a homeschool curriculum that left her a screaming, raving, page-scribbling mess. Every day had become a struggle. Every day I wanted to scream right back at her. How come she couldn’t be like everyone else and make my life easier?
But, wait a second…
God doesn’t make mistakes. He didn’t accidentally put her in our family. He didn’t accidentally make her the way she is. He wasn’t trying to punish me by giving me a high needs child. The mistake was in how I was reacting to her and how I was training her. I was messing up the most important job God had given me! But, I felt completely helpless. I knew I needed to change something, but couldn’t figure out how.
Then yesterday, it all began to make sense to me. I am the one who is cluttered. I am cluttered with worldly thinking. I am cluttered with feeling like I have to do things a certain way or else. I am cluttered with to-do lists and scope and sequence charts that blind me to who my child really is and what she really needs. I am cluttered with the label “teacher” to the point that “mother” has been shoved to the back burner.
It isn’t just my daughter who is suffering from my clutter. I am losing touch with all my children because there is so much stuff in the way. For months I have been allowing seemingly little things to crowd my world. I have writing projects, sewing projects, school projects. I have expectations of myself and those around me that are forcing me to push harder, do more, be more, accomplish more.
I am the frog in the proverbial pot of water. The temperature is rising little by little and I know something seems different, but I literally cannot see the rolling boil taking place all around me. It took my daughter coming to her own boil to wake me up. It was God’s way of shaking me to my senses.
I am mom. I am the only mom these children have. God has a Handbook that tells me exactly how I am to teach these precious little ones. Deuteronomy 6 ring a bell? How about Proverbs 22:6? Yes, academics are important, but only in light of the way God’s Word commands us to gain knowledge and wisdom.
I had lost sight of my higher calling…not that of teacher, but of mother. Losing a child did not make me immune to letting the world creep in and steal me away from those little ones I hold here on earth. I was not truly enjoying them because the cares of this world were burdening me to the point I felt I could handle nothing else save for surviving each day. I was living by a perpetual to-do list. A list always undone. A list of priorities out of whack.
And somehow I believed that pushing through my to-do list was going to make life better. It was the perfect plan. How could I fail? But as the plates began to spin out of control, I found myself decluttering everything but the plates.
Now, taking those plates down required a drastic paradigm shift. The Lord was gracious enough to put me in the company of a fantastic group of homeschool moms as I worked through the taking down of the plates. They gave me the courage and motivation I needed to start over.
You see, not all those plates are cracked. Some of them most definitely are, but there are others that are simply out of order. Being able to see that you must start over is only half the battle. From there, you must actually begin to place the plates in the right order and discard those that don’t belong. This is where godly counsel and diligent reading of Scripture come in. We know NOTHING apart from the Lord. I was ordering my day according to anything and everything EXCEPT what the Lord would have me to do. In the end, everyone suffered from my mistake.
So, I start at ground zero. I clear the rubble, and I begin with the basics.
Titus 2:4 tells the older women to “teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children.” There is more in the next verse, but what really catches my attention here is that we young women must be “taught” to love our children. God knows that our hearts and minds are easily pulled away from the things that truly matter.
So, the starting point is to LOVE my children. Loving them means I spend time with them. It means I get to know them. It means I share with them what truly matters for their lives. It’s not the times tables or the parts of speech that matter. It’s not even how they act in public or how well they clean the table after dinner. These are surface issues, peripherals, exteriors. The heart of the matter is the heart of the matter.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov 1:7)
How do I teach them the fear of the Lord? Go back to Deuteronomy 6, verses 7 through 9 to be exact. There is no way to do what these verses command except to spend copious amounts of time with my children. I have to be diligent. I cannot be diligent to my to-do list and expect to seize those moments when my children are most needing to learn the Lord’s commands. In fact, even if my to-do list involves schooling the children, if I am beholden to a list of subjects and a timeframe, I will be hesitant, if not downright negligible in taking the opportunities to truly teach the fear of the Lord. My daughter’s meltdowns were not my cue to press on and just get through it, yet that is the way I had been handling it.
What my children need most is a mama who is following the Lord’s leading. Simply put, they need me. Not me all cluttered up with worldly advice and skewed ideas of what life should look like, but me…decluttered.