We can put down our tools. We can close our computers. We can forbid those thoughts about that next meeting or those emails waiting for a reply or how the numbers aren’t as high as we’d like. We can stop and trust him who justifies the ungodly. We can trust that when Jesus died in our place on the cross, he died to destroy all the anxieties of our lack, to still our ceaseless striving, to hush the winds of our self-justifying labor, to irrevocably connect us to the abundance of his grace we possess by his work, not ours.
We can trust the Lord of Rest who came to give us rest, and say, because of who he is: Stop making bricks — you can stop.
Jonathan Parnell's words strike a chord in my heart. For some time now blogging has seemed like work. Not that it's a work I've been good at. 10 posts in 2015 hardly qualifies as blogging. I haven't done much more at Out of the Ordinary. I'm not sure where my interest in writing has gone, but it has most definitely vanished. I am deeply saddened that the words, which have always been a dear friend, are failing me.
Pondering this has brought me to the realization that I've been overwhelmed for the last five years. I spent 2008 getting rid of junk, organizing my home, and pursuing peace and simplicity. I was still reaping those benefits in 2009. Then my husband lost his job and returned to college. Three months after he graduated, my mother suddenly passed away. Nine months after that we left our church home of 18 years to find another.
During all of the turmoil, clutter stealthily crept back in. Books, knick-knacks, paperwork, clothing, shoes. The stuff of daily living, used up and put aside or relegated to the attic to "deal with later". Last month my attic looked as bad - if not worse - as it did before I first tackled it in 2008.
Aside from the obvious physical clutter, I've also been overwhelmed by mental junk. Three unbelievably hard years took their toll. At the same time, social media exploded. All of a sudden, blogging became big business. Facebook, Twitter & Instagram entered the picture. Each diverted my mental energy from blogging. In the middle of all of that, I began to wrestle with the pressure to have a perfect home, a perfect diet, a perfect family. I succumbed to the gospel according to Pinterest.
All of it has left me slightly off-kilter. I've been worn-down. Tired of trying to keep up. Weary. Feeling like I'm back in 2008, when I was desperate for change. That desperation has led me to once again reevaluate my home. It has even driven me to the attic. Of course, purging physical clutter is only treating the symptom, not the disease. Still, it's freeing to burn three boxes of old paperwork, take a truckload of junk to the dump, and donate a car full of stuff I no longer use. It's restful to see empty spaces on countertops and shelves.
I continually battle my tendency to leap without looking. When I decide to do something, I typically rush at it full speed and immediately dive in over my head. In my current state minimalism is appealing, but I know that getting rid of everything I own isn't the answer. Instead I need to take stock of what I have, assess its value to my family, and determine if it is worth the place it occupies. In short, I must learn to balance.
The same is true in many areas of my life. Social media comes to mind. There is a space between being completely consumed by the virtual world and giving it up entirely. I know it's there. I just need to find it. Then there's the constant question of what to feed my family. I've spent more time reading real food blogs and pinning recipes - not to mention more money at Whole Foods - than I care to admit. I beat myself up for not making my own condiments and for eating foods with too many ingredients, too much sugar, and too many pesticides.
I'm taking up the mantras from my reading:
It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. I want to make my home a place of love and nurturing for my family. I've often been so bogged down in trying to obtain perfection that I lost sight of that very goal. Reading Myquillyn Smith's struggles with wanting a perfect home freed me from my own pursuit of that mirage. I'm slowly working toward having the home of my dreams. Not overcrowded and not minimalistic, but balanced and meaningful.
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I like Michael Pollan's approach to food and I'm seeking to implement many of his suggestions. At the same time, I'm learning to accept my limitations. You're not likely to find grass-fed beef in my freezer, but you won't find convenience foods there either. I'm reading labels but not obsessing over them. Moderation is the new word for the day.
The truth is, there is always someone who has more and someone who has less. I've preached this to my daughter her entire life, but I've forgotten that it applies to grown-ups as well. Maybe moreso. Some people have the money to have a showplace for a home, while others spend the night in glorified cardboard boxes. Some have a larger food budget or more time to invest in cooking, but others have significantly less. The key is to acknowledge the boundary lines the Lord has placed around my life (Psalm 16:5-6) and to acknowledge the truth of 1 Timothy 6:6-8: Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (ESV)
I'm tired of toiling and spinning for nothing. I want to rest in His finished work and stop feeling overwhelmed. It's time for me to stop making bricks.