This first week of September feels momentous, whether you are engrossed in the upheaval of back-to-school routines or not! The darker nights, cooler breezes and search for the perfect autumn shoes propel us into autumn. New ‘year’ resolutions are easy to make. Memories of sand and sea seem unreal as we wonder how many more nights we can go before switching on the electric blanket!
My husband and I spent a few days this summer trying to manage the increasing amount of junk now accumulating in our bedroom ever since we turned the spare/junk room into a bedroom for my eldest child.
We did the usual promising trip to Ikea, looking for the perfect, low-cost storage solution; enjoying the experience until we reached the checkouts (where you stand and wonder why you need three packs of napkins, a cute watering can, yet another cool bag and a cuddly rat). At least nowadays, we have all become experts at balancing our purchases in our arms in a precarious tower as we struggle to the car.
I got to choose the colour of the boxes that went into the storage frame (hooray!), but I also got to fill them. I did the usual ‘7-year-old tidying their room’ technique of sweeping all the random stuff into one box; then I went through some drawers that were fit to bursting and shoved a load of that stuff in another box. As I was filling the boxes, I had what felt like an epiphany. Humour me if you have already realised this, but I worked out that I am only going to solve the piles-of-junk-in-the-bedroom problem if I leave a few boxes empty! If I fill each box, label it and have everything tidy for a day or two, what happens when the next consignment of items waiting to be sold on eBay or passed down to younger children appears by the side of the storage unit?! I am going to end up with the same problem I have in the kitchen, where my inbox is too full for things to go IN!
Trivial though this discovery may be, the concept of leaving space in these storage boxes stuck with me over several weeks. It spoke to me regarding my relationships, to-do lists and calendar. If we don’t block out some blank space in our diaries, how are we going to have the chance to catch our breath and enjoy the journey? How are we going to sit and listen to a friend in need when we have already accounted for each hour of our day and week? Most importantly, how are we going to hear God’s prompting and act on it?
The ‘limiters’ to our overstuffed lives are forced upon us during times of illness, a change of location, or a holiday. One thing I love about camping is that there is only a limited amount of ‘stuff’! You can’t go and tidy out the airing cupboard when you are camping. You can’t spend time arguing about which DVD goes on whose shelf when there are no shelves and no DVDs. (Also, it gets so cold at night you just want to crawl into your sleeping bag and get the proper amount of sleep for once.)
So now we are back to reality after a holiday season, I need to impose ‘limiters’ on my activities and plans so that I have the space I know to be so necessary. How to do this? I’ve not quite figured this out yet. But I know blessing comes from rest and blocking out space to rest seems a good place to start.
This is what the Lord says:
“Be just and fair to all.
Do what is right and good,
for I am coming soon to rescue you
and to display my righteousness among you.
Blessed are those who are careful to do this.
Blessed are those who honour my Sabbath days of rest
and keep themselves from doing wrong.
Isaiah 56 v.1-2
(Just so you know, I had to move an unpacked holdall, a pile of clothes, an Elsa doll and three baby sleeping bags before taking the picture! Work in progress!)