Finding Truth in Old Journals

I’ve been spending the past few months cleaning out my old room. I like to think I keep things simple an organized, but the truth is, I’m a pack rat who keeps just about everything.

Just before moving last year, I purged all my magazines. I had several that were more than 20 years old, and hundreds that I had from 5 to 15 years.

Anyway, magazines shouldn’t be a problem because I no longer buy them. The journals, on the other hand, are another story. I have at least 50, and many are either unused or half full. I recently found one from 2012 with ‘Brilliant Ideas’ on the cover. (I bought it specifically for that label)

I looked through it, and found something I wrote to myself, 4 years ago, about faith. After going through a difficult winter semester that included illness, anxiety, and stress, my faith was waning.
It’s one thing to know that God is at work in my life. It’s another to believe He is. I allowed my external circumstances to determine my spiritual condition, and I didn’t know what to do to change it.

I didn’t know that part of answer was in the journal. My past self, reaching out to my current self and telling her to stay the course.
The entry reads:

Last week, I decided that I am definitely not the type of person who wants just enough faith for the journey. I also want enough strength to take down anything that dares to get between me and my future. I don’t want to coast through a mediocre life. I want to live well. I want to fight passionately for the principles in which I believe. I want to fail miserably, and still keep trying. I want to be honest, vulnerable, and most of all, authentic.
I want to experience everything life has to offer me–even the difficulty –because going through trials is what teaches me the most.
I wasn’t born to be just average. I was born to be great. From today forward, I will work to achieve greatness in everything I do. I cannot be defeated, and I will not quit.

I don’t remember what was going on in my life when I wrote this, but I’m thankful I did because it was the kick in the butt I needed to move forward. There will be times in our lives when we feel uncertain, or alone, no matter how many people are there to offer us support.
I had to remind myself that these feelings aren’t new, and they will pass.

All it took was prayer and an old journal.



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Sharing Saturday: Cleaning House (Part 2)

When I requested this week off from work, I had three goals in mind. The first one was to clear most–if not all– of the clutter from my bedroom. The second was to find someplace else to live, and the third was to spend more time outside. My vacation officially ends on Monday, but I have only completed two of the tasks. The reason: I’m fussy, and I do not like any of the apartments I see. I have always lived in a house, so I will always have a bias against one large building with many people versus one medium-sized house for a few people. (I like my circle small, and apartment living equals many acquaintances)

De-cluttering, on the other hand, has gone well. (If I do say so myself) I am the progeny of two pack-rat parents. I used to make fun of them until I found out that I inherited that gene. I found so much junk in my bedroom that I was completely overwhelmed. I seriously contemplated sending organizer, and interior designer, Peter Walsh an email, asking him to help a sister out.

To the casual observer, my room appeared to be neat. In the past, my way of cleaning was to shove all the stuff I did not want to deal with into a nice box. Needless to say, I found several pretty boxes in my room filled with things like old curling irons, odd socks, receipts, kitchen utensils, and most shocking of all, the Walkman that I purchased in 1997. I also found every card that anyone has ever given me, from 1997 until now. I’m a sentimentalist at heart, so I will most likely take them with me wherever I move. Especially the cards I received from my dearly departed grandfather.

I also found lots and lots of nail polish. As I mentioned before, I collect it as one collects stamps, baseball cards, or vintage ornaments. Yet the number of bottles I had still shocked me. My mother tried to guess how much I had and said, “I bet it is at least 100.” Well…no. I have more than 100. Keep in mind that I have been collecting since high school, which means I have 14 years of purchasing at least 10 bottles per year. (Sometimes more) My sister-in-law was trying to talk me into leaving part of my collection behind. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

In a week, I learned what most neat-freaks have known from the start. It is much easier to keep track of one’s belongings when there are less of them. Clutter is a distraction. Now that my bedroom is mostly clutter-free, I can see where everything is. Most importantly, I can see when things are out of place. My mother told me that, if I spent the week cleaning out my room, (versus lounging around the house) it would help bring clarity to the rest of my life.

As usual, she was right. Getting rid of the non-essential things in my room helped me to focus. It was almost as though the physical act of getting rid of clutter was the catalyst for me getting rid of my mental clutter. I took a self-inventory of my life and priorities and changed my approach. I found out that living is not just about acquiring pretty things that look nice on shelves. Life is about the people I interact with, and whether I choose to be a positive force for change in the world, or a negative one.

I found out that each person is important, regardless of whom they are, and what they have done. It is not up to each person to rank people based on shallow and often changeable criteria. (Yet we do it all the time.) Everyone, from the President of the United States, to the criminal on death row, is worth something, simply because their birth. What a person chooses to contribute is down to them and their circumstances. At the end, everyone has a choice.

I choose to be a force for good. That does not mean that I will always do or say the right thing. I will miss the mark often. However, my mistakes help me learn what not to do in the future. I will use what I have learned to help someone else. I choose to live a life with standards, not of perfection, but excellence. I will use what (little) I know to help teach others.

I identify as Christian, but I am aware of the fact that my faith does not make me any better or any worse than anyone else. If anything, my public declaration of faith in God, is the epitome of acknowledging my weakness. At the end of my life, I want to be safe in the knowledge that I gave more to society than I took away from it. I want to secure the family legacy of philanthropy, and social activism that I am so proud to have inherited. Most of all, I want to fulfill my assignment.

American Pastor, Creflo Dollar once said in a sermon, “Whatever makes you the most angry in life, you are tasked with changing”

Finding what that is can take a lifetime, but it will be worth the search.

But first, get rid of the clutter.



Sharing Saturday: It’s Cleaning Day

As a kid, no three words could strike more fear in my heart than “It’s cleaning day”. My mother is the type of person who, when observing you in the middle of a leisure activity, will say, “Oh good, you’re not busy. Help me paint the dining room.” And just like that your day of watching Saved By The Bell  reruns while eating potato chips is over. Naturally, cleaning day was Saturday, the only day my very busy mother had time to clean the house thoroughly. (And the one day that I had absolutely nothing to do)

I was almost always enlisted to help, whether I agreed to it or not.

It isn’t that I hate having a clean space. I’m fastidious when it comes to tidiness and order, and I like to be organized. However, I also like to rest, and I am willing to overlook a mountain of unfolded clothes if it means I get to sit down, drink a cup of tea, and read a book. (Always)

My mother doesn’t understand because she grew up during a time when kids were basically one step up from indentured servants. They were working to pay off the debt they caused by being born, I guess. She had a heavy workload as a child that included homework, and she works hard now because she has always worked hard.

Me? I was given three household duties that I did poorly until my mother intervened. I dusted all the wooden furniture (we had a lot of wooden furniture), cleaned the bathroom, and swept and mopped the floor. Every weekend I had to be reminded to do them, even though I did the same three jobs each week. The first few times I did them, my mother had to go over and clean them again. Taking the time to explain how she did what she did so I wouldn’t forget.

Needless to say, I soon learned what her standards were and adhered to them. As per usual, I found a life lesson in this. (Leave it to me to make connections between things that are totally unrelated)

When I turned thirty, I made a vow to “clean house”. Anything that was not useful or productive–relationships, habits, belongings, etc… was thrown out. Simplicity was my new buzzword, and anything that added chaos or complication was rejected.

The way I see it, there are already too many things that are out of my control without me adding new ones. If I hadn’t simplified my life, I would still be clinging to relationships that were not going anywhere, and hoarding possessions that I never use.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote,  “Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

By refusing to be encumbered by excess baggage, I’m free to do whatever God wills. Being weighed down by possessions only looks appealing. The truth is the more you own, the more you feel the need to protect. That’s why I have such admiration for people who are monetarily wealthy but live modest lives because they aren’t defined by what they have.

Having a clean house means that you always know what you have. There’s a place for everything and everything is in its place. If dirt accumulates in a clean house, you always know where it is because it stands out.

I would say the same goes for your life. So, whenever possible, live clean, pack light, and get rid of the dirt.

Live Well 🙂