i walked yesterday in cool air. no snow in atlanta this year and i almost wished there was. believe it or not, i kind of wished for the white crunch and the crisp cold of a northern january. when we lived up in ohio, i would walk our two big dogs, bailey and madison, through the white woods along the chagrin river and i remember the simple and stark loveliness of those afternoons. the school bell would ring, signaling the day's end, and i'd leave lesson plans and papers behind on my desk, pick up the dogs, and head for my solitary path along a sleepy winter river. the black trees emptied of leaves seemed charcoal sketched across a silver sky. black and white and clean. except for my bounding and barking golden retrievers, everything still and quiet -- a snow covered blank canvas. in these empty afternoon woods i found almost an ethereal and pristine kind of beauty.
now my home, here in the south, stripped of the merry and bright looks unsettlingly spare this week. furniture moved back into place and pine needles picked up. candles taken from the windows and the holiday hoopla shoved back into boxes in basement storage. i sat last night on the couch writing and felt completely uninspired with the absolute lack of christmas. no white lights to warm the room, no pine to remind me. i finally got up and added wood to the dying fire in need of something warm. that helped a little and i thought, "i don't quite like it, but it's time." time to empty things out and clean things up. and this is good. it is not the good of Christmas, but it is it's own kind of good. there's a special beauty in paring down and putting away. a fresh face like the stark black against clean white.
as much as i hate to see it all go, i know the time has come. we have all grown a little weary of vacuuming pine needles each day and unplugging strands of lights every evening. this morning, i light a single candle nearby in my kitchen and it will be enough. warm clothes empty out of the dryer and i fold slowly while bella colors close by. no other sound than the dishwasher's hum and her occasional comment. the chaos is remarkably gone. i just have to get used to this new kind of quiet. this new kind of simple. this new kind of empty.
i am always amazed at how christmas seems to disappear from the aisles of target almost overnight. gone are the must-have trinkets of december and in their place the allure of an organized life: boxes and bins and crates and containers. they truly make these displays a work of art. how can we resist the purchase of rubbermaid? nothing says happy new year like a well ordered life. resolutions and recommitments. life was messy before...but as january empties out and the clutter clears i have renewed hope for pulling it all together. pantries and attics and basements and closets and cabinets...the sky is the limit.
standing in target, i stare at all these empty bins stacked on end caps and am reminded of empty pots. empty vessels. the rubbermaid is nowhere near as lovely as earthenware and fire-glazed ceramic, but the picture is the same: empty and waiting. and i am reminded of how necessary it is to empty ourselves on occasion so that we can be filled with Him. filled with something good, something better. if we are crammed full of our own stuff, we leave so little room. and isn't it Him and His light which truly fills? which truly warms? there is something to be said for a time of emptying out.
when we empty out our stuff... our busy-ness... our bustle...our burdens...when we empty out our very selves, we become open. space is created. margin is made. simple beauty. stark contrast. emptied vessels waiting to be filled with something better, more beautiful.
"empty vessels may be filled; but vessels that are full already can receive
no more. The man who knows his own emptiness
can receive abundance of knowledge, and wisdom, and grace, from Christ;"
~ charles spurgeon
and whether in the crunch of white snow, or the quiet of warm sand, or on the (almost) needle free carpets of our christmas-less homes, we can choose this time to walk emptied of us. embrace the open beauty of something still and the quiet lovely of something clean.
and be filled.
"you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." ~psalm 16:11