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Read an Excerpt
Finding Your Spiritual Clutter and Using Organization to Clear It Out
By Shannon Upton, Brad Pauquette, Emily Hitchcock
Columbus PressCopyright © 2016 Shannon Upton
All rights reserved.
Building Your House
So how organized are you?
Maybe you're a really organized person, and you pick up books like this hoping for some fun tips to make your household run a little smoother. Maybe you're a woman who's not totally satisfied with the state of her home, and you're hoping for some inspiration to get you going. Or maybe you're a mom who's looking at the utter chaos surrounding her, thinking, I hope this book can help me crawl out of this mess.
The good news is, it doesn't matter which of those women you are. This book isn't really about that. I'm not going to tell you how to "get organized" with some rigid system you'll never be able to sustain. I'm not going to give you any quick fixes to help you "get by" without going crazy, either. Jesus didn't save us so we could struggle with perfection, or merely survive this precious time with our kids at home! He came so that we could have life, and have it abundantly.
An abundant life in Christ doesn't require perfectly organized closets filled with neatly labeled boxes, or even a fabulous, color-coded family schedule. I asked a misleading question up there. Whether you love being organized or struggle with structure, the real question this book challenges you to answer is this: how organized are you?
No matter how organized — or disorganized — your home is, you have a separate, inner sense of how organized you are. Yes, you want your household to be functionally organized, but even more, you want to feel the peace that comes when you have things running smoothly. As a mom, you want to feel organized enough to really enjoy the family God has given you; as a Christian, you strive to grow closer to Jesus and live in His joy.
Well, get ready. You're about to take a deeply faith-driven journey toward a down-to-earth, Jesus perspective on running your home. As you read, you'll learn to view organization, not as an end unto itself, but as a tool to help you clear out the clutter in your mind and heart. Slowly but surely, you'll be eradicating spiritual clutter — the white noise of negative thoughts and fears that keeps us distracted from our families and distanced from God.
So often we mothers walk through life hurried, hassled, and distracted, our hearts filled with worry and our minds cluttered with to-do lists. Have you ever been carrying a load of laundry up the stairs and paused impatiently while your child tried to show you a crayon masterpiece? I know I have, and then felt guilty about my attitude afterwards. When I'm trying to load the dishwasher and my husband pins me in a surprise hug, I'll admit that sometimes I feel my frustration more than his love.
When I don't stop to fully appreciate these moments, I imagine God shaking His head and saying with a sigh, "Oh, my daughter, you missed it." God didn't lovingly create us so we would scurry around like ants, feeling uptight and stressed out. He gave us beautiful lives filled with moments to cherish. It breaks my heart to think of all the blessings we're missing in our quest to be great moms and runners of households.
After all, it's an awesome, meaningful mission! Wonderful, loving homes don't just happen — we moms have to be intentional about making them happen. We read books like this because we know we need to be somewhat organized in order to build the homes our families deserve.
But while we're doing our best to stay organized and on top of things, our spirits can become more cluttered than our coffee tables. We have so many blessings we stress ourselves out trying to discern how to make the most of them! When we try to "get organized" in order to reach our own unrealistic expectations, we're bound to miss the point: Jesus. What our husbands and kids really need is a mom living in the abundance of Christ, not a "supermom."
You know Supermom — at least your version of her. In my mind's eye, Supermom has a gorgeously decorated, immaculately clean home, with a place for everything and everything in its place. She is beautifully groomed, and her kids are always dressed and pressed and perfectly behaved, engaged in some kind of brain-stimulating activity. While supervising the kids (and the dinner in the oven), she's diligently working on some kind of Christian charity work. Her husband finds her to be a competent partner, a sympathetic listening ear, and a great cook. And dare I say sexy? Now, she is organized, right?
Organized, and really superficial. Supermom's all about appearances. There's no guarantee that her "success" gives her happiness, and she certainly doesn't sound very fun to hang out with! The fact is, we can organize our homes until each and every item has those neat little labels I mentioned, and we still wouldn't be the perfect supermom. There's no such thing as "perfect" unless you're Jesus, and let's face it, we aren't!
Here's where I have to admit to being a recovering perfectionist, a first-born kid with a Type A personality. Part of me would love to be Supermom ... or at least like Mary Poppins, Practically Perfect in Every Way. I'm the kind of mom who struggles with the tendency to pick up my kids' toys while they're still playing with them. At a church potluck, I want to have the best dish in the food line and the best-behaved kids sitting at the table (with my sweet husband, Travis, at my side, saying I look skinny today and so I should absolutely go get some of that chocolate dessert).
Of course, the Lord knows all about my control-seeking heart, and several years ago He started a great work in my life to help me change for the better. So before you start thinking, Oh no, she's one of those moms. I'm not going to be able to learn anything from her, let me tell you a little story.
How this book was born (and Oliver, too)
After my daughter, Karly, was born, I developed a postpartum anxiety disorder. Postpartum anxiety is much like postpartum depression, but instead of being sad all the time, I was scared all the time. Suddenly, I was living in a perpetual state of panic, and the control I thought I had over my life was gone.
I was afraid to leave the house, afraid to climb stairs, afraid to eat things I thought might choke me. I was afraid to see my family and friends, or even talk to them on the phone, because then they would know I was going crazy. Above all things, I feared for Karly's life, and for the life of my older son, Spencer. I became convinced that if I didn't give Spencer and Karly my constant, vigilant attention, they would die and it would be my fault.
By the time Karly was just a few days old, I knew something was very, very wrong with me, and I sought help. I saw a therapist and then a psychiatrist, trying different behavioral modifications and medications without much success. And I prayed — a lot.
I gave my fear to God day after day. I asked Him to protect my home and my kids from the spirit of fear that filled me. At first I prayed for healing, but after a time I began to ask for clarity and wisdom instead. I opened my heart, trying to understand why God was allowing me to have such a horrible experience. And I clung to His promise that He works all things for good, even this short-term time of misery.
I mean, it had to be short-term, right? I assumed that after nine months or so, my postpartum time would be over and the anxiety would fade away ... but I was wrong. Karly turned one year old, and then eighteen months old, and then two, and yet every day brought a new struggle against irrational worries. I began to realize that I wasn't just trusting God with my fears until the anxiety disorder ran its course — I was trusting Him to help the new, anxious me live a life that would glorify Him regardless of my fears.
Then, while pregnant with my third child, the Holy Spirit inspired me to pray with renewed fervor that the Lord would lift the burden. Each day I prayed for the baby to grow healthy, strong, and happy ... and then I prayed for the healing of my spirit. I prayed that God would be gracious enough to use those special nine months to reset in my body whatever had gone out of whack in my last pregnancy.
My husband, parents, and friends all lovingly told me that I shouldn't get my hopes up, and I agreed with them. My psychiatrist politely listened about my prayers, and then gently told me that he had never heard of a pregnancy being curative for an anxiety disorder — in fact, pregnancies usually make things worse. I told him that I understood and would keep it in mind, but I still prayed.
Every time I prayed I told God that I knew He could heal me, I just didn't know if He would. If He didn't, then I would accept it as part of His plan and design for my life. But I had so much hope.
Almost four years to the day after Karly was born, little Oliver entered the world and I knew God had healed me. In the hospital I was cautiously optimistic, those first few weeks at home I was just plain optimistic, and by the time Oliver was a few months old I was jubilant! Our Lord, who is gracious and mighty and merciful, gave me such an amazing spiritual blessing. He lifted that constant, irrational fear from my heart, and I will be thankful and grateful to Him forever.
Now that mom has it together. Doesn't she?
Now, this doesn't mean my life is anxiety-free. I still have days when my heart races and I worry that a bad moon is risin'. I know I had these moments before I'd ever heard of an anxiety disorder, before I became a mom, even before I became an official grown-up. But because God allowed me to have that horrible clinical anxiety experience, I learned to recognize these fears for what they are: irrational and baseless.
During my anxiety struggle, my fears were constantly shouting at me, SOMETHING IS WRONG! YOU ARE NOT OK! Those thoughts were urgent and overwhelming, often paralyzing me into inaction or sending me off into panic attacks. Now I've realized that those feelings stemmed from more pedestrian, subtle feelings of inadequacy. Those thoughts haven't gone away, oh no — they're just more insidious.
As I reached out to other women during my time of deep anxiety, God revealed to me that this kind of thinking is sadly prevalent in the hearts of Christian moms. One by one, the caring women with whom I shared my troubles empathetically told me about the similar fears they face. We all have irrational thoughts and fears that keep us from being the women of God we want to be, even if we don't always consciously recognize it as the spiritual clutter it is.
We find ourselves thinking that we should be doing this better, that we should be better moms and wives and daughters of God. We worry that things aren't quite right, that we're not doing this whole mom thing the way we should be. Are we letting down our families? Or worse, our Lord?
In one of my first tentative forays into social life after Karly was born, I made a new friend named Tara and invited her and her kids over for a playdate. I had the kids do a craft together, and then got out some fun toys. I made a simple pasta lunch that I thought both the kids and the moms would enjoy. I asked Tara great questions about her husband, her kids, and her career.
In short, I tried very hard to let go of my anxieties and appear as though I were a "normal" mom who had things together like Tara and my other friends did. And it was working — I thought the playdate was going really well. Then I noticed that there was a knife out on the counter, and that little Karly was toddling around just a few feet away.
Now, rest assured that Karly was nowhere close to the counter, and she couldn't possibly have reached that knife even if she'd wanted to. My head knew that, but my heart didn't. Tara saw my obvious panic as I quickly moved the knife to the relative safety of the sink (and then, after a moment's hesitation, into the even safer dishwasher). She would've let it pass, but in the spirit of new friendship I briefly shared that I was struggling with an anxiety disorder, my main fear being that something would happen to Karly.
I was in the early stages of sharing this with friends and had received mixed reactions, ranging from empathetic to curious. I was unprepared for Tara's reaction, though. Her shoulders drooped as she sighed with relief and said, "Well, there you go. Everyone has something, don't they? Nobody's perfect." As she said "perfect," she made a sweeping gesture with her hand that seemed to indicate my house, my kids, and me. (It was at this point I realized I might've overdone the playdate just a bit.)
Tara's reaction just underscored for me how we moms tend to compare ourselves to each other. Other moms seem to have it "together" — wasn't that the standard I was trying so hard to meet by hosting the perfect playdate? We see other moms doing their jobs seemingly without effort, and deep down in our hearts, we suspect that we don't measure up.
We all hear those thoughts telling us that we should be doing our jobs as mom and wife and homemaker better. And while striving to be better is good and worthwhile, striving to be perfect isn't. No mom is Supermom. We need a more realistic goal, a different finish line to strive for as we run this mommy race for our families and for God.
The Jesus Mom
So instead of the Supermom, let's try to picture the Jesus Mom, a what-would-Jesus-do woman who's doing her best for her family. She's a modern-day Proverbs 31 gal, working hard in the home and possibly out of it (though probably without servants). She runs an efficient yet relaxed household for herself, her husband, and her kids. She's organized, but balanced. Her home isn't spotless, but it is clean and tidy. You can feel the warmth and love when you walk through her door.
She doesn't hurry through life, but she and her family members are usually on time and prepared for whatever's next. Her husband wants to be home more than he wants to be anywhere else, and he's proud of her for the wonderful job she's doing with the home they're building together. Her kids understand structure and feel stable at home. They can always feel just how much they are loved, because the love of God is purposefully woven through every moment of their days.
The Jesus Mom is filled with peace that things in her home are running smoothly. Her chores get done, she remembers appointments and her friends' birthdays, and she's spending her time on things that are important to her. Best of all, her spirit is peaceful enough to feel the presence of the Lord throughout her day. She is using every aspect of her life to bring glory to Christ her Savior.
Hopefully, there are parts of my Jesus Mom description that resonate with you. When you picture her, your image will probably be a bit different than mine. The Jesus Mom is not cookie-cutter, and she's not perfect either. The Lord's grace covers her imperfections, because the Jesus Mom lives with intention. She does her best for her family and her God, and her heart is satisfied.
Your heart can be satisfied as well. Whatever she looks like to you, you can become a Jesus Mom. In fact, since you're loving your family with the love of God, you already are one — your spirit may just be too cluttered with stress and worry to realize it. You're a great mom, and when you use organization to clear out your spiritual clutter, you'll be an even better one.
Being organized or "together" isn't an inborn talent, it's a skill you can learn. With prayer and consideration, you can make your home run smoothly — most of the time! — and clear those negative, worrisome thoughts out of your spirit. You can cultivate an organized lifestyle that works for you and your family, one that's just organized enough for you to be filled with God's peace.
Just who's in charge here?
Our goal is to gain that sense of peace by choosing to live a more organized life, but as we embark on this journey, we should talk about control. We are The Moms, the runners of our households, and we make innumerable decisions each day about how the members of our family live their lives. This is our one chance at life, our children's one chance to grow up, and we don't want to blow it. So we get organized, trying to take control of everything that might affect our family's well-being.
Excerpted from Organizing You by Shannon Upton, Brad Pauquette, Emily Hitchcock. Copyright © 2016 Shannon Upton. Excerpted by permission of Columbus Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1: Building Your House,
Chapter 2: Having a Plan,
Chapter 3: Getting Stuff Done — and Enjoying It!,
Chapter 4: Chores,
Chapter 5: The Big Five,
Chapter 6: Chores, Again,
Chapter 7: Planning for Fun,
Chapter 8: Loving Lists,
Chapter 9: Fun and Jesus Lists,
Chapter 10: An Uncluttered Spirit,
About the Author,
Study Guide: Steps along the Journey,
Appendix A: Prayerful Planning,
Appendix B: Example Goals,
Appendix C: Your Daily Planning Space,
Appendix D: Chore Card Ideas,
Appendix E: Monthly List Examples,
Appendix F: Scriptures,