Clearing Space

For the past couple of months I’ve been cleaning things out. We moved from one storage unit to another which is about 1/3 of the size of the original one! But in spite of the frustration of it, it’s been good to make space in our lives.

At the same time, I’ve been reading some books all on the same theme: finding mental space in our always-on world. And I realized that I needed to find a way to clear some space in my brain as well, in order to be able to think clearly about the things I deem most important, not most urgent.

So these two tasks have been occupying my life. And they’ve been good. But the other day as I was cleaning the house (something that doesn’t get done when I have too much cluttering my house and my head!), I suddenly noticed again the square tile I keep on my coffee bar. 

This doesn’t sound remarkable in and of itself, but let me tell you about this tile. My youngest sister gave it to me years ago. She bought it while on a mission trip in Holland. I love the traditional Dutch winter scene. A little girl feeding ducks on an almost frozen pond. Geese and a sturdy farm horse looking on. The sky is cloudy gray with just a little blue peeking through. A stone barn and house with snow on their roofs. And, of course, a windmill.

From the moment I received it, it has occupied a very visible place in my kitchen. In our condo kitchen, that place has been on our coffee bar, both as a useful trivet for spoons, etc, and as a spot of color to break up the black granite countertop.

But as I swiped my rag over that countertop on that particular morning, I noticed that not all of the colors in my tile were original to it. In amongst the browns and grays, whites and greens, were other spots, tinged just a shade darker. I took the tile to the sink and gave it a good wipe with soap and water. And what do you know! Those darker shaded spots were gone! How many days–weeks, months!–those coffee stains had been there, I had no idea.

As so often happens, I felt a Holy Spirit nudge to consider the larger application to what I had just seen and done. I realized that the “clutter” of the painting on the tile—beautiful as it is—had disguised the dirty parts. I couldn’t see them at a glance. And I hadn’t taken the time to do more than glance for awhile. I saw its charming scene, not the foreign substance marring it.

I think that’s the way it often in our lives. The clutter—be it physical clutter in our homes or mental clutter in our heads—often obscures the dirty parts. The parts we would definitely clean up if we noticed them. But we don’t notice. Sometimes it’s because our clutter is truly a mess and we are paralyzed at the thought of all that needs to be done to bring order to chaos, like my storage unit. Sometimes it’s because our clutter actually makes a beautiful picture, but we’ve stopped looking closely at the individual pieces. We see the whole picture and it’s good enough, like I so often think of my spiritual life. But there are stains and spots easily wiped away if I would only take time to find them.

Part of my “clearing space” this year is once again finding time to blog. Because the truth is I’ve missed putting my thoughts out there. I’ve missed connecting with people in a space outside of the frenzy of social media. So look for me around here more often in 2020. Even if I don’t have any actual post for you, I will also post the links each month to my posts on the Inspired by Life . . . and Fiction blog. Either way, I hope we can renew our friendship and give each other encouragement for this journey of life.