A simplified mind

Ah, January. It is time for us to start filling in a blank calendar. Time to shed some pounds. Time to tweak our budget, make long-term goals, and organize our homes.

Basically, it’s time to get organized.

I was recently listening to one of my favorite radio programs, Midday Connection, and heard an author speaking about this lofty and lovely goal. Marcia Ramsland, known as “The Organizing Pro” was speaking to Christian women about using the scripture found in Proverbs 31 (yep, her again) as a guide to simplifying their lives.

My ears perked up, and my interest was captured, so much that when I returned home (from what I felt like was a simple and well-organized grocery shopping trip), I printed off her worksheets and requested her book from my library. When it came in a week later, I began to read and nod and smile…

I am an organized person. Some might call me a neat freak (namely, my husband and kids). I had to surrender this characteristic for awhile to the chaos of a young family, but now that we’ve had our house up for sale (with many random showings) and the babies are pre-school age, I’ve been able to teach neatness to the rest of the family. It makes me feel good… a lack of clutter puts my mind at ease. And when I began reading Marcia’s tips for “two minute pick-ups,” morning and evening cleaning, and having the front two-thirds of the kitchen counters free, I was pleased with myself – maybe even a little smug, because I am already doing many of the things she suggests.

And then I took her “How Organized Are You?” quiz…and scored a four out of 10, which meant: I am actually disorganized.

This bothered me a little. Now, I will take into account that our home is not a conventional one. We have two small children as well as two teens living in it. Both adults work from home, and now we homeschool as well. All of that does not mean we are busier than most people, but what it does mean that unless we are traveling, everything we do – meals, office hours, school hours, take place there. It’s the epicenter of life, and there’s a lot of life in our house!

But when I looked over some of the quiz questions, I could start to see why I had ‘failed’ them.

–          Do you lower your stress by arriving on time or early for your appointments? Uh, no…though I really want to!

–          Do you return calls and e-mails the same day? Not really, though I usually have time to play a game of WordFeud and check Facebook on my phone.

–          Do you know how much money you have in your purse and bank accounts? Well, I never have any in my purse, but bank account…no. Rod pays the bills and I buy groceries and pay our tithes… not by design, just because.

This quiz wasn’t really asking how organized my home is; it seemed, instead, to be asking how clear my mind is. And I can admit, lately, it’s been pretty cluttered. I might have bags of trash for the curb and stacks of boxes to donate, I might have a shelf of “to-be-ebayed” items and a modularly-laid-out counter, but if my mind is racing all the time about what I should be doing, what still needs to be done, what I forgot to finish, what I need to start, how much do I owe to who and when, what is next… well, maybe I haven’t been as organized as I thought.

What I have seen by looking objectively at how simplified – or not – my life is, is that I use the act of organizing as a coping mechanism for stress, which means I can make things look tidy, but I am doing little to actually de-clutter my mind. Sure, it might make me feel productive and temporarily peaceful to clean out the hall closet rather than return those three calls, but in the long run, what was more pressing? I might have the kids’ dresser drawers neatly compartmentalized, but then what is actually stopping me from getting them to dance class or Sunday school or Grandma’s house on time?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps what keeps the modern American Christian woman from being THAT woman (Proverbs 31) is not a lack of desire, organization, or even commitment, but rather, it is over-commitment.

We think we need to be all things to all people…but the truth is, we can’t be. We don’t have to measure up to Sister So-and-So or someone we heard on The View or even on our favorite Christian radio show. Maybe the woman who cooks for the elderly and the new moms and feeds her kids homemade bread and fresh veggies from her garden is not the same woman who can speak at a Bible study or put together the church newsletter; maybe the woman who plans women’s events or runs a successful small business is not the one who sends birthday cards to every church member or sews costumes for the Christmas program; maybe the woman who sings like an angel hasn’t cleaned her bathroom in two weeks and had to dig for socks out of the hamper this morning (Note: no, these are not real life examples!)

And maybe, just maybe, some of us are so good at being good at “stuff” that we forget to be the one God made us to be: His daughter, who delights in His presence, who takes time to appreciate His creation, who counts on Him for strength and provision when it seems we are lost in the clutter of tasks and expectations.

I challenge you, fellow gospel wives and Christian women, to look at Proverbs 31 as I looked at the “How Organized Are You?” quiz. Ask yourself what God is really speaking to you through these words. I believe in my heart – and hope to sink it into my everyday existence – that it is not, “Be wonderful at everything. Make it look easy to everyone else.” I believe it says, “Daughter, I made you beautiful, strong, and noble. Live up to that in the things you choose to do in your life. Glorify me as you serve and love others, and I will bless you and your family.”

And now, I share this prayer with you:

“Dear Lord, Thank You for the promises in Your word and Your presence to guide me. Help me to remember today and daily that before I belong to anyone, I belong to You, as Your beloved daughter. Help me to use the talents You gave to me for Your glory. Clear my mind of distractions and help me discern where and when to give of myself. Help me to serve the family you blessed me with in love and patience. I exist for Your glory! Amen.”