Friday, July 13, 2012

cleaning from the inside out

as many of you know, i have been quite busy in my house the past few weeks.  especially in these last several days.  quite busy.  honestly, i don't think i've ever spent as much time indoors in one summer. but it has been necessary -- oh, so very necessary.  i'm not sure though, that i have a lot to show for it at the moment.  this occurred to me a few nights ago when a friend stopped over and remarked how normal things still looked at our house.  i mean sure there was the usual chaos of ten teenage boys spending the night and two nine year old boys in the garage chopping up minnows and salamanders from the creek.  sure the cat had thrown up earlier that day -- possibly from heat exhaustion -- and the four year old had used an entire roll of scotch tape on her "art project" -- a kitchen chair.  but, for the most part, things were normal -- or as normal as they can be in a home like ours.  paintings were still on the walls and candles were still in their holders.  dishes remained in the cupboards and family pictures sat up on the shelves.  carpets, though dirty, still continued to cover the floors and table lamps were turned on.  everything looked kind of normal -- at least from the outside.

but it was the insides of my home which had changed.  dramatically.  drastically.  if you look carefully, look deeply,  you'll find that the inner parts to our space have been cleaned up and cleared out.  there's almost not a drawer or closet which hasn't been addressed by this wild mother on her wild mission.  every single bed in our home has virtually nothing underneath it anymore (is that even possible?).  closets have been emptied of the extraneous.  cabinets have been reorganized and at least 10,000 sheets of paper have been recycled or burned.  apparently, in 22 years of marriage, we've never thrown away a single thing.  i told my friend the other night, "i think i might be an organized hoarder."  i keep things pretty tidy and neat, labeling just about everything and anything that holds still, but it is quite possible, i have saved every piece of paper which has ever come my way.  seriously, if you happened to write to me between the years of 1968 and 2012, chances are, i still have your letter.  i opened up a tin a few days ago filled with notes and letters from my childhood school and camp friends...every one of them!  i even came across a stack of letters from my 8 year old pen pal.  i am 43 years old...why do i still have these letters from a girl i never even met in person?

the children have helped with our paper bonfire!
add to my inability to part with anything sentimental, my husband's inability to part with anything financial -- receipts, tax returns, expired documents, etc... -- and we had quite the paper mill here at the mcnatt house.  a bonfire was in order.  it was our only option.  the shredder would have taken us ten years and if we would dare to leave one more bag of garbage at the curbside, i am pretty sure there might be a neighborhood revolt.  it has gotten beyond embarrassing.  the garbage situation has grown so bad lately, that i have felt the need to bake for the kind men who haul it all away each week.   one morning, a few weeks ago on trash day, we did present them with a box of donuts,  but i am beginning to think i might have to up my bribes...maybe even bake them a breakfast casserole soon.  of course, all to allay my own garbage guilt.

so, we've cleaned from the inside out.  so far, none of the surface stuff has been touched.  everything still looks like it always has.  and for the moment, this feels right.  next week i will begin to dismantle the decorating. next week i will begin to crack wide the outer shell of our beloved abode.  next week it will definitely be time.  but this week i keep telling myself, just one more day with everything still in place.  one more day.

as much as i don't want to take our life apart, i have to tell you though, the deep cleaning has been wonderful, cathartic, in fact.  if we weren't moving cross country, i am not sure i'd ever have taken the time to really consider the stuff that we've kept.  because this house has some pretty good storage, we've been able to keep it all.  there's been room for the random.   i've tried to be good about weeding out what isn't being used... at least it seems like i am always heading to goodwill with a bag or two of stuff.  but still we collect.  and it is especially hard to part with the personal -- the letters and notes and pictures and child shaped pottery.  i have sat on almost every floor of our home in these past two weeks going through boxes of our treasures -- reading notes, laughing at old letters, studying pictures, enjoying memories.  it has been delightful and it has been heartbreaking.  my already fragile self has been flooded with remembrances -- little bits and pieces of what we were and where we've come from.  and though digging deep has been hard, even a little painful at times, it has done me some good.    i mean sure, i've had some teary-eyed moments, but i can't go through this process without being a little bit thankful that i've had the time and opportunity to linger a little over our life.  reflection: that's been an unexpected gift in this moving.  a favorite doll of my daughter, the soft scrap of a baby blankie, a handprint painting, the dried bouquet from my wedding, a journal from childhood, a love letter from my daughter...all of it precious -- all of it worth looking at again.

but we all know, it can sometimes be hard when we have to look inside.  not just in our homes, but in our lives as well.  the older i get the more messy corners i find hidden within me, the more dirt i discover deep down.   there's always something buried inside needing to be addressed.  i know often i seem to spend more time on the outer shell:  clothing, hair, lipstick...that kind of thing.  i spend time worrying about that extra five pounds or that unwelcome blemish, when really what God wants is for me to keep looking inside.  certainly i've gotten better since my teen years -- let's, at least, hope so.  but, still...  i can't quite shake my eyes from the scrutiny of those outside things.  not only is it distracting, but it's also a little bit easier to stay on the surface.  it's easier to worry about the business of beauty and the busy-ness of life.   a good plan of action can attack most anything superficial,  but it takes something more to go deep --  to look inside and underneath and within.  it takes great time.  it takes great energy.  it takes great devotion.  and sometimes it takes being moved. yes, that's right, moved.  i want to be a woman who is known to care more about the insides of herself and her loved ones and her life... but i have to be honest, it is sometimes easier to cover it all up and just pretend we aren't moving.  just pretend nothing's changed.  just pretend no re-ordering is necessary.

sitting here on this rainy thursday morning, i am certain these past few weeks of cleaning from the inside out have been good for me, for my family, for our house. they have certainly been good for the bottom line of our moving bill.  without doubt, i am a little more raw and maybe even a little more vulnerable from dragging out the innards of our life,  but i am oddly confident there's been blessing found here.  and whether we are peering deep in the corners of our homes or deep in the corners of ourselves, there's something good to be gained in our daring to look.  maybe, though, we have to be willing to move a little.   maybe we'll never choose to do it on our own, but if we are willing to sacrifice the comfortable, then, maybe then, we can study the contents.   there's no one reading this who would disagree.  i know all of us would shake our heads acknowledging what really matters is on the inside. no one would argue otherwise.  and what's more, it is the inside stuff which takes the most time.  even with this move, i can already tell, it will be no big deal to strip the house of the wall hangings and empty a room of its decor.  but what has truly taken some blood, sweat and a few tears, is going deep into the recesses of what we have...of who we are. 

what happens in your life when you feel God beginning to stir? to move?  to move you?  that can be something harder.  sometimes He shakes us up.  sometimes He empties us out.  sometimes He dismantles our facade completely -- just like i am doing in my own home this month.  and as frustrating and stressful as all that can is also quite possible that a little treasure can be unearthed.  

maybe, just maybe, we occasionally need to be moved.

"for the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,
 but the LORD looks on the heart.”  ~ 1 samuel 16:7

inside out
In my heart, in my soul
I give you control
Consume me from the inside out
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love you from the inside out

Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise
From the inside out
Lord my soul cries out


gonzofamily said...

As frustrating as that shaking up and dismantling can be, I also find it like coming up for air out of the mundane. Seeing the important. Funny how when God is just beginning the stirring, that is the hardest part. What is He going to strip away? What will I have to give up? That is the moment we are in. What will He unearth and where will it take us? Funny how resistant I am to it, just makes it take longer, sort of like my 6 year old eating broccoli, even though I know how freeing it will feel on the other side. Thank you for your beautiful words! Katie Gonzalez

Aus said...

You're brilliant - just so you know. Thanks for the glimpse into your heart of hearts.

hugs - aus and co.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jody:

I realize that Uncle Al and I will be facing just such a move in the not too distant future. Not out of the state, but a move nevertheless. The Lord has helped me to realize through your insights that I need to "set my affection" things above. I, too, am an organized hoarder! :)

jodymcnatt said...

aunt elaine ~ look closely at the pile of letters in the photo at the top of this least one of them is from beth! you'll see your old address. =) also, so lovely that you included the "set my affection" snip it in your comment. i was in the middle of writing about exactly that in my latest post -- "you can't take it with you." we organized hoarders are thinking alike! love, jody