Y’all, I am so excited to introduce you to my friend April Lakata Cao! I first met April nearly 25 years ago in 8th grade chorus class. I was the new girl — socially awkward and going through an unfortunate “Blossom” phase. But I remember April as the beautiful girl, with quiet confidence. Even back in 8th grade she seemed to have a wisdom beyond her years. We shared many classes throughout highschool, but never really got to know each other well. After graduation we lost touch, but thanks to Facebook we reconnected a few years ago.
April shared her writing on Facebook and as I started to read some of her blog posts I was instantly moved. I felt a sisterhood for this fellow wife and mother, and like I’d found a kindred spirit in this woman who wrote her heart, and openly shared her struggles in order to encourage others. April’s passion and love for the Lord comes through in everything she writes. She has a gift for weaving words into a beautiful tapestry of truth, encouragement and conviction. This post is no exception! When I first read it all I could think was “Yes! Me, too!” It’s a message I think so many of us can relate to.
So now, without further ado, some encouragement for living life with an uncluttered heart:
The closets are being emptied and the hallways filled with bins of stuff we’ll never see again. How is it possible to have accumulated so much? Things we spent money on only to have thrown in a corner to collect dust. I look at it all; piles of clothes spilling over. A tangle of faded colors and worn knees and outgrown elbows pushed aside.
I look at it all and mentally add up the cost. An invisible, growing receipt that could have paid for a future semester of college or the meager beginnings of a down payment for our first home.
Stuff cluttered and taking up space in the house as much as in my heart because I see the things I’ve held on to hoping they would fill me; remain a constant reminder of those early years in love or rocking babies.
There are preemie clothes stuffed into Ziploc bags and his first outfit home folded neatly. The toys we sent across the world and the red dress with cherries for her first birthday that she wore that first time we saw her walk through that door. The white plastic bands that circled identical newborn wrists, our claim to them in that place before going home.
This past Sunday, our Pastor talked about how easy it is for children to move on from the hard things. The bickering and arguments that seem impossible to mend are over and forgotten before they’ve had time to take root.
But as adults we cling to the things that hurt us or remind us of the past. Whether it’s a blanket sewn lovingly with their name or an offense cultivated in quiet moments, we refuse to loosen our grip on the memories. We become owners of dog-eared books and bitter grudges.
In some ways I envy the childlike ability to cast things aside-even the good stuff they beg for yet manage to quickly forget. As adults we’ve learned to hold on tight to everything. We take more ownership of what shouldn’t matter and we proudly stake our claim to trophy homes and family feuds.
We react to a child’s ability to treat their things as disposable with great frustration because we automatically associate it with an utter disregard for what we’ve selflessly provided. And while that is often true of children (they must learn to care for their belongings respectfully) we unwittingly teach them to take greater pride in material possessions before lasting gifts such as integrity and honesty. We often stress the pride and care of possessions before the care and feeding of their soul.
I will be the first to admit that I have been more upset over a messy room than a messy heart. I have fussed and scolded for the way they’ve abandoned expensive Legos before grabbing a Bible and praying with them after a lie told or unkind words exchanged. I realize I have been more proud of how they behave in a group of strangers than a moment of tenderness between them after a scraped knee or that first, unassisted back handspring.
We reprimand for the littering of toys and scribbled walls. We praise for character that spotlights our well-done parenting. Ours is a death grip on the things of this world when the world cares little for us and eventually, this becomes their legacy, too.
I look at these growing piles and stretched thin plastic bags and the desire for them to be gone is overwhelming. Just hauled out to the curb with no care for where they go but just gone. Gone away where they can no longer remind me that I haven’t always been a good steward of the blessings we’ve been given. Gone so I can start over with empty drawers and maybe this time only fill them half way.
The long road paved with good intentions might be smoother but it’s not without steep hills and sharp bends. I wonder why it’s taken so long to feel overwhelmed by the clutter. Why I worry needlessly about their good manners and rigid obedience when clearly the time should be spent nurturing a humble heart longing to be close to Jesus.
When Christ called the Twelve to Him, when He spoke about them going into the world to proclaim the Good News, He told them to go with nothing. No bag filled with a change of clothes or toiletries. No staff to keep their back upright as they walked one dusty, rocky road to another. No leather, designer bag to prove their worth or validate their societal hierarchy. Not even bread to sustain them when they journeyed from one town to another.
They traveled with empty hands but full hearts. They needed nothing outside of what God would graciously provide. And isn’t that the blessing? That nothing carried or accumulated can ever fill the cracks in our hearts? That perfect love doesn’t just cast out fear, but fills the void left empty apart from God?
How much easier the journey must be when we’re not weighed down with stuff, but heavy and spilling over with the love of Jesus.
April Lakata Cao is the homeschool mom of four beautiful kids and military wife of sixteen years. Wannabe morning person by day and freelance writer by night, April is currently writing her first book while blogging her heart into words at www.aWellDoneLife.com