JOY for the Simply Complicated Life

IMG_4134Selling a house with little kids is like laying bricks in a hurricane.  Toys, games, shoes, dolls, and random plastic bowls with mysterious goo all seem to magically appear like Whac-A-Mole meets House Hunters.  When the house photographer came to our door on Thursday to take pictures, I welcomed him inside while panting with a perspired face.  I joked and said, “Ha. You caught me.  I haven’t really done anything much today.”  He chuckled.  I barely got the house ready for pictures.  I mean I made it to the final second with mop in hand when I answered the door for the photographer.

The idea is to make the house appear like nobody actually lives there, so that buyers can envision themselves living there.  Remove all clutter, keep kitchen counters clear with minimal appliances, and limit the number of family photos.  Shoving things into closets or under beds is a no-no.  So, I began packing early.  I boxed up appliances I will not be using in the near future, bagged our winter clothes and shoes (should have done that several weeks ago), gave some stuff away, and threw away a lot of unnecessary things like my babies’ umbilical cord clips.  Gross.  I know.  Maybe it was the hormones or the excessive fatigue, but at some point in time I thought those would be keepsakes.  Well, not anymore.  Chunked ’em.

When it was all said and done I no longer recognized my home!  How did I keep my kids from trashing it, you may ask?  Easy answer.  Outside play and Netflix.  Worked wonders for me.  I told them not to play with their toys for about two days.  I let them grab one here and there, but they had to put them back once they were through.  What a concept.  If the only thing I had to manage was clean up all day then I guess my house would stay clean, but then again no one would feel comfortable living in it.  I know I wouldn’t.  It took me all day to keep a clean house, and nothing else got done.  I should add that I washed and dried all of our laundry!  Every bit of it- towels, linens, clothes…that has never happened before…and probably never will again.  Ha! 🙂

Coming home after our house was shown was nice because my house was clean and picked up.  I diffused lemon and purification oil in the morning and the aroma was still fragrant.  It was quiet.  There was no need for kitchen clean up because we ate out (can I get an AMEN!).  And there were no toys in the kids’ rooms to pick up.  I thought, “This must be what it is like to have a housekeeper.”  Except I got nothing else done.  I ignored my kids all day to get my house to look like this.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  The house, by the grace of God, is now under contract.  Thank you, Jesus!  But, the truth is that I could not live like this day in and day out.  It isn’t real life.

I prefer things to be neat, tidy, organized, and in order.  I am a minimalist and I can usually part with things rather easily.  But, even still, life gets busy, messy, and frantic at times.  Life’s relationship status is always “It’s complicated.”  We cannot control it.  So when we can at least feel calm and at ease with what we can control like our wardrobe, diet plan, decorating, smartphones, and schedules we are able to focus on and manage the real stuff of life like relationships, work, finances, and family matters.

“Simple” is a buzzword today- “Simple Living,” “Real Simple,” “The Simple Show,” simple this, simple that.  I like the way it sounds and feels- no fuss and focused.  Maybe the allure of simple comes from our desire to find joy in the midst of a complicated life.  The Preacher in Ecclesiastes says, “And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8:15).  The struggle is real, but there is joy to be found.  It is not that our joy is found in escaping the toil (for we cannot escape it), but that there is joy in the midst of the toil, which is an important distinction for us.

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While getting the house ready to sell this week I was impressed to take my kids to the pool and splash pad to just watch them play.  I had a million things swirling around in my mind- things that needed to get done, calls to make, errands to run.  But for a brief moment I took it all in- my kids’ laughter, exuberant splashing, funny faces smashed in goggles.  Joy.  It was as if God was gently reminding me that this is the stuff life is made of- this simply complicated life.  It is not that this is the full measure of life- playing with my kids, spending time with my husband, personal interests, or going out with friends, but that this is the stuff that serve as welcomed, joyful interruptions in my toil.  Because life is not simple.  It is messy.  Difficult.  And at times disappointing.  But when we find joy in the Lord and in the blessings that He has given us, the simple blessings, then we don’t let the frustration that often comes with our toil own us.

I like this quote from Sally Clarkson: “Now is the time; today is the day. Own your life. Heaven will tell your story throughout eternity. May you live one worth telling. May you leave a legacy of vibrant faith and a pathway for others that is lavished with generous love and the kiss of God’s favor each step along the way.”
Sally Clarkson, Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love

I think leaving a legacy begins by living your legacy first.  I am not as concerned about who will remember me, but if what I am doing is worth remembering.  Was it that I had an immaculate home?  That I was always busy…with writing…with church…with teaching…with worry?  Am I even paying attention to the joy of life?  Sure, there are seasons of great pain, grief, and loss, but am I seeking to have a heart of gratitude in whatever season I am in right now?  We cannot be joyful and ungrateful at the same time.  So, let me encourage you to find joy in your toil.  There is much joy.  Sure, life is complicated, but if we pause, look intently at God’s Word, in His creation, and in all of His blessings then we will see beyond the toil and give God praise in the living, breathing, joy of it all.

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