Spring clean-up. Right now, that is a loaded phrase and one that could send me running from the room screaming, holding my head. It always feels like this at this time of year. It is the end of April and we have had just enough warm days to raise our hope that winter is over and spring will prevail. And that lasts about two days and then it is cold, rainy and windy again. So we rush back indoors to wait out the last pushes of winter.

While I am awaiting a warmer day to work outside in my landscaping (yes, I am a fair weather landscaper!), I begin indoor spring clean-up. Now this year we have an especially big project going on inside. We decided to do a little updating which included selling all the oak end tables, coffee table, wall mirror, etc that have graced our living space for most of twenty years. But there has been a delay in the new items, so most of our living area is nearly empty and it has been for a couple of weeks. It is chaotic.

I have a sewing area in one end of our family room that has been begging for attention as well. Saturday Dave agreed to help me reorganize the haphazard assortment of tables and desk I am using to configure a more usable sewing area. In order to reorder the grouping, I had to deconstruct what I had going. It is chaotic.

My daughter is expecting her second child in just a few short weeks. In preparation for her arrival (she is having another girl!), I spent a day helping her declutter the play room and the girls’ bedroom in their house. We worked in the bedroom first so we would be finished by Finley’s nap time. During nap time, we worked in the play room. Finley said it perfectly when she woke up from her nap. Walking into the playroom, she gasped and said, “Oh no! What happened?” It is chaotic.

Twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, our town has clean-up days. That happens to be this weekend. It gives an opportunity for people to go through their stuff and get rid of what is broken or not useful any longer. I want to participate and get rid of things I have held onto because maybe it will be useful some day. That day has not come yet so I am purging.

As I ponder spring clean-up, I can’t help but notice how similar it is to taking stock of what is going on inside our hearts. The first similarity is simply the need to do a regular sweep of what is happening. Just as we regularly sweep through our houses to monitor accumulations of stuff, we do well to regularly take stock of our hearts.

There are two kinds of clean-up we need to consider, just as there is spring clean-up and fall clean-up. In the fall, we cut back what has grown throughout the summer and prepare the landscaping for a period of inactivity. Old blooms, leggy growth and annual plantings are removed and discarded. In the spring, we remove the sticks, leaves and other debris that has collected and uncover the perennial plants that lay dormant, ready to burst through the cold soil again. In this way, we assure that the true, natural beauty of our landscaping will thrive and bring joy to us and to others.

As we take stock of our hearts, we do well to consider these two areas of clean-up:

  1. Have I accumulated anything (habits, thoughts, feelings) that do not bring joy to me or to others?
  2. Is there anything that is no longer useful to me? This could be a hobby, an activity, a relationship – anything that I have devoted time to in the past. There is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) so it’s okay to let things go that no longer serve us well.
  3. Combined, the two questions might sound like this: Is there anything to add, change or rearrange in order to make my life more fruitful in this season?

Accumulations: Just as our houses and landscaping accumulate debris throughout the various seasons, our hearts do as well. It becomes second nature to hold on to events, or feelings produced by those events, that keep us from growing well and producing fruit. Our houses and hearts can only hold so much so we need to recognize that and make changes.

Usefulness: When I had small children, I needed all the small children things. And then a time came when I didn’t need that anymore. And for years and years that served me well. Now I have grandchildren and I need a Pack-n-Play for the girls to sleep in and toys for them to play with.

The same is true in our hearts, our activities and our relationships. After I stopped teaching I needed something to do, so I started volunteering at the local hospital. I worked in several different areas, but recently left those responsibilities. I am in a different season and I knew it was time for me to let that go.

Clean-up, especially in our hearts, is always a tough job. So many times it is difficult to let go of the activity that gave us so much pleasure. Other times, it requires the hard work of forgiveness or letting go of expectations or recognizing that we have a soul wound. In the end, the work and tears are worth it. But it is difficult.

One last similarity to make note of in the clean-up process – it’s going to look worse – a lot worse – before it gets better. You might just exclaim like my granddaughter did, “Oh my! What happened?”

Tonight we are going to work outside to make sense of what winter has left behind. The sticks and leaves won’t move themselves and I imagine it’s going to look worse before it looks better. But in the end, I know it’s worth it.

The work of the heart is equally rewarding. It has been a long journey for me, and one that I am surely not finished with, but I am so glad for the work I have done. Some days it looked really discouraging, but the end product is really quite satisfying.

As I listened in worship yesterday, I did a mental recap of the last three years. They have been some of the most difficult, but the most rewarding at the same time. I don’t know if I would fully appreciate where I am today if I hadn’t experienced the difficulty first.

Just something to think about…

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

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