Tossing All That Clutters

     There’s a box in my carport destined for a thrift store. It is filled with a variety of items that are not easily discarded. A “fruit of the Spirit” cookie jar which was a parting gift from a friend when God moved my husband and I to a new region for ministry 20 years ago. A small jewelry box from my aunt that delighted me one Christmas morning when I was a child.

     The cookie jar I stored in my garage, intending to fill it with cookies. I wrapped the jewelry box in tissue paper and tucked it in a bin with other “keepsakes” when it became out of place on my dresser.

     My desire, as I pass on these two items, is that they bring joy into the life of a stranger. The purchaser considers them a “find.” This term is used by avid thrift store shoppers to describe a treasure they discover on a shelf.

     The Holy Spirit prompted the purge, placing it on my heart as winter approaches and I scramble to prepare the yard for the ice and snow that will ruin planter boxes, outdoor furniture, and garden décor. There is just not enough room in the garage. He revealed the need earlier as well.

First as I worked with my brothers and sisters to sort through my dad’s study following his death, determining what to keep and what to toss. There were boxes of committee papers documenting the years he served on boards that were no longer relevant. But the personal journals, binders of the river trips in the Yukon Territory he organized, and the harmonicas he played provide a personal link for generations to come.

A second prompting came after our return from an 18-day mandatory evacuation during the Dixie Fire this summer. We had gone through an intense time of preparation sorting through personal items to determine what to pack. I took all the photos, plaques, and certificates off my “writing wall,” which faces my desk. I frequently stare at this wall as I contemplate my next sentence. I wanted to be able to replicate the inspiration should my house burn.

After the fire, I dug through boxes in the garage and joined a friend for a yard sale parting with items I had held onto for years. Also, I gave a Twiggy magazine to a 16-year-old who was making clothes from that era. It was in my trunk. She framed it to hang on her bedroom wall. My wish to bless by passing on treasured belongings was realized this time. And now as I prepare for winter there is more to do.

Why has the Holy Spirit ushered in this season of purging?

     At times I feel overwhelmed by the mountain of “stuff” that has overtaken my garage, corners of the house, or closets. I slump under the weight and begin to slog through life. Often, I can’t find what I need, and I am frustrated. My thinking feels disjointed and so is my work and my ministry. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to shed those things that hinder our walk and our ability to serve: “let us strip off every weight that slows us down especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” [NLT].

     Then there are those keepsakes that tie us to the past. A season of life that has ended. In the past, I embroidered elaborate patterns onto jeans; authored short stories; went on press trips; spent time on the ski slopes. If I get rid of the jeans, the stories, the press kits and skis, do I lose a piece of who I am? It doesn’t seem wise to keep old manuscripts in a file drawer or jeans no one will wear in a closet. Again, Scripture brings clarity. Phil 3:13—14: “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

     And so, I am purging all the clutter. As I go about this work it becomes easier and easier to discard. My hesitation is dissipating. As the Spirit clarifies the process, I see clearly what no longer holds any value.