The Great Purge of 2014

It was a bitterly cold winter the weekend that I set out to rid my house of unwanted clutter, trash, and all traces of un-organization. Matt left me for the great state of Colorado in order to perform a wedding. And there was never better timing as we had just come off a great Christmas break toting home a few wonderful new treasures with no place to put them. We live in a modest 1 bedroom apartment with two closets. It goes without saying that we don’t exactly have the luxury of keeping what we “might use later down the road”…although I’ve tried. We’ve stuffed things in all sorts of nooks and crannies of our little home and it has been driving me nuts for a while.

Well, inspiration came and it could not be tamed. I was home with my mom for a whole week and once again noticed her efficiency of keeping just what they need, everything having a place, and living an overall simplified and de-cluttered life. I truly want to imitate that. It’s hard being the sentimental person that I am. Things possess memories and meaning and that makes it difficult to throw them away even when they are no longer useful. But it’s not always the sentimental things that get me. Clutter piles up. I really don’t need 14 bottles of lotion with just a drop left. I don’t need to keep all those bags that I never use. And we don’t need to hold on to clothes that don’t fit anymore. It was time for me to live in the present and I wanted to ride the waves of motivation and inspiration as long as I could.

I developed phases of the house that I would tackle. Phase one: kitchen. Phase two: bedroom and bathroom. Phase 3: living room/laundry closet. Phase 4: front closet. Phase 5: desk area. It was one of the most exhilarating things to complete a phase. (I’m easily entertained.) I think my favorite was the kitchen. I seriously kept going back into the kitchen to stare at my beautifully organized cabinets and see how everything had the perfect place to live. I kept piling things into the living room as I tossed them. I was amazed (and horrified) at how it kept growing. Who knew how much you could collect in less than 800 square feet?

I was telling a friend about my eventful weekend and she asked me an interesting question, “is this one of those ‘get rid of everything and regret it later’ moments?” I stopped and it only took me two seconds to reply. “NO!” I have been needing to do this for a while and then was convicted that we really don’t need all the stuff that we keep acquiring and we really do need to live more organized. And honestly, if I did get rid of something that I really regret…I can always go out and buy it later. I’m not worried. I am, however, thankful every time I come home now. I breathe a sigh of contentment knowing that I have just what I need where I need it. It’s freeing really.

So here are some pictures that might just inspire you to do the same! Take it from me; you won’t regret this… if you are serious about it. Did I mention that I made it through the entire Anne of Green Gables three part dvd series while cleaning? Yeah, it was a good weekend.

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It started out looking like this.

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And this.

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And ended up looking like this.

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And this.

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Our fridge filled with friendly faces.

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It’s beautiful.

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organized on the man side too.

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Yes.

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Room to spare.

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This was a very cluttered space before. And so tiny!

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This was the phase I was least looking forward to. Craft supplies are a beast to go through!

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To give away.

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To throw away.

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Found this gem while cleaning out some of Matt’s things.

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Sentimental things.

5 Christmas Do’s and Dont’s

It’s that time of year. Matt and I are gearing up to make the long 11 hour trek back home to Arkansas. It’s been a long seven months since we’ve journeyed that far and I’m really excited to be back in that familiar place. As much as I’ve been preparing for Christmas with all the present buying, advent reading, trip planning, and party attending, I was reminded that I need to take a few minutes to prepare my heart to see my family.

This may seem strange, so let me preface by saying that I think I have the best family in the world and God has seen fit to let me marry into a wonderful family as well. But, it doesn’t matter how wonderful or godly or loving or caring your family is, there is always a potential for tension, arguments, hurt feelings, and resentment when you go home. I think back to my first Christmas three years ago after being married for all of 5 months. It’s like I went home and completely reverted back to my annoying, selfish, dramatic high school self. That didn’t make for an entirely pleasant break.

I’ve learned some things since then about myself and how to love my family well now that I’m a married adult living on my own. I know that my situation is not exactly like everyone else out there but I’m sure most people can relate to spending time with family over Christmas break. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom that I’ve picked up on and I pray they will continue to take root in my own heart as I prepare to go home this year.

  1. Get to know your family all over again. I do stay in touch with my family fairly regularly, but it’s different when you can’t always have those heart to heart talks in person. It’s good to sit down with parents, siblings, and grandparents and ask THEM what’s going on in THEIR world. So much of growing up had to do with me and my world. Now that I’ve grown and (hopefully) matured, I’m amazed at how much I can get to know my family as FRIENDS rather than “mom” or “dad” or that annoying little brother. (Who’s now a senior in college and has facial hair. Yikes!)
  2. When you are present with either side of the family- be all there. Don’t be looking at the clock or talking about what you will be doing with the other side in a day or two. Give undivided attention to those around you. Join in all the fun that is to be had without abandon. When you leave, you can then switch gears and the family that is left behind will feel like they received good quality time with you.
  3. Act like the adult you are. Don’t all of the sudden revert back to your old habits just because you are home. Let your family see you for who you are now. If there are old feelings of resentment for who you used to be, those feelings will start to die away once your family sees all that God has been doing in your life since you last met.
  4. Give them grace. Your family has missed you probably more than you will know. They will want to spend as much time with you as possible. When it feels overwhelming just remember that this probably won’t happen again for a while and in a few months you will be wishing you could grab lunch with Aunt Susie.
  5. Don’t talk bad about the other family. When you are with your parents, don’t talk bad about what so and so did on the in-law side and vice versa. This will only create tension where there doesn’t need to be any. Don’t bring up negative experiences or compare Christmas gift exchanges, or complain (or apologize) about having to leave and spend time with the other side.

Let me reiterate that I don’t have this all figured out and I’m sure to make mistakes. But I know that even spending a few minutes in prayer asking God to give me grace to love well and fully engage in the holidays with my family can go a long way. Let’s join in imitating the humble Christ-child who gave of himself so that others could know true joy, peace, and forgiveness found only in the good news of the gospel.

A Legacy Left

1For anyone who has ever experienced the death of a loved one, that grief is a weird thing. Sunday my grandfather breathed his last with a smile on his face. He was ready to go. And we all are left with such good memories with Pap whether it was riding 4wheelers, hiking through the woods he knew like the back of his hand, fishing in the pond, or checking out a new baby calf. I learned what I know about living in the country from Pap. He taught me the best places to look for chicken eggs in the old barn. He taught me about the different bird species traveling to and fro throughout the seasons  in the early mornings- just to two of us- him sipping his coffee looking out the big sliding glass doors. He taught me about fishing, and gardens, and deer tracks, and trees.

He was a walking encyclopedia with incredible eyesight and a love for the outdoors. He knew everyone and everyone knew they could count on him.  He always told his granddaughters how beautiful we were…and there are a lot of us. And my brother made him laugh like no one else.

He and my grandma would have celebrated 55 years of marriage today, the day before we plan to bury him… the kind of marriage that when his tea glass was empty he would jingle the ice a little and she would hop up to fill it for him. The kind where he called out for her in pain in the middle of the night just a few days before he died and she came to faithfully and lovingly sit by his bed holding his hand while he slept. The decades he lived through shaped him. He was a hard worker who provided for his family, enough to get by. He was tough after having served in a war. He was proud of his kids who always came back to the family farm year after year to celebrate Christmases, birthdays, and good ol’ fashioned summers.

He worked with his hand, always fixing things, growing things in his gardens, caring for things like the albino deer that they rescued and raised. The grandkids hated her for all the attention she got but he built her that pen and kept her alive and drew quite the crowd. He was protective too. We had to beg and beg to ride the horses. He didn’t want any of us to get hurt. And the times we got stuck in the mud on the 4-wheeler, he would just laugh and say how crazy we were but be glad we didn’t flip.

He was a mountain man, content in his little house on the family farm. He will have lived, been raised, retired and died all within a mile of the original Bell family home on Hilltop. I was able to have some sweet moments with him when we went home last and even over the phone. Seeing his eyes well with tears as I walked in at Christmas was special. We had made a pact that he would do his best to make it to Christmas if I would too. We both made it! And God gave him several more months after that but Sunday was his time.

He told my dad just the other day that he was ready to go to Heaven and that he knew his hope was in Jesus alone. And that he was proud of us. I think that’s what makes death and grief so weird. Loved ones are left with memories that make us happy and sad all at the same time. But we are left with a joy knowing they are finally with their Savior. And God is so good to give us that hope, even when we don’t deserve it. Because none of us do. And when I think about Heaven, both my grandfathers there now together, it makes me long for it too. I want to be wholly made new in my Savior. I want to know my joy fulfilled completely. Sunday, while dad preached, that happened for Pap. We never grieve as those without hope. And in that we rejoice.