I looked around my house one day, just last week, and thought, why don’t I have any pictures of my family sitting out? Where is that small postcard of the ships I framed from my trip to Washington last summer? What did I do with my Precious’ ashes
? I know I haven’t buried them yet. Because . . . well, I haven’t.
If someone walked into my house and had to guess who lived here, they’d be hardpressed. It looks like an empty life.
But I did it on purpose, a few months back. When I put my house up for sale, I had just read an article about decluttering, about removing personal items so that potential buyers could imagine their own photos and memorabilia lying around on my counter tops and end tables. So I went for it. I grabbed a crate in one hand and pulled down every picture, every vacation trinket, and especially all the books and journals and ink pens and emptied this house right out.
My sister told me at the time, “Decluttering
is actually for people who are cluttery to begin with.”
She thought I had gone too far, but I was convinced that it would help me sell my house.
Except no one has even looked at my house, and some days, now that I have help with my lawn and the new countertops look so good, I don’t even want to sell this place.
But still, it’s so empty.
I’ve been sitting in front of a computer for most of the day. In my day job, I look at spreadsheets and queries and databases most of the day. When I get home, I answer emails and scan blog posts and make comments and tweets about the beautiful work my friends are doing online. I connect with family members and contact authors and look at my Klout score to see if anyone notices.
I also write most days.
I emptied out my life
so I could do that. I stopped teaching Bible study and dropped out of small group and say “no” more than seems healthy so I can have time to sit longer in front of this laptop. Some nights I forget to eat; weeks go by and I forget to call a friend. I let laundry collect in the utility room and dog hair collect in the corners of the dining room, and I think I have emptied my life.
But here I am staring at the same screen again and forgetting to water my garden.
Last week, I opened the closet to find the crate filled with evidence of this life I lead. I pulled out the framed pictures of people who have my same freckles and nose and people who are connected to me even though we don’t share those traits. I found the ashes, and the painting. And there was the bowl from Hawaii a friend brought back, just about the time I was listing my house.
I pulled a few things out and laid them around in the usual places. I saw the faces of the people I love fill my house again, and I felt full. If my realtor needs to show the house, I might put these things away again, or maybe I’ll just add a note, “Imagine your family here,” to the edge of the frame.
No one wants to live in an empty place. No one wants the burden of having to fill a place left void.
Tonight, I am writing in the kitchen, typing words between stirs, and stopping here and there to check the sweet potato, flip the veggie burger. I am getting ready to make muffins. Blueberry. Not from the berries I picked – those are already in the freezer. But berries from the other side of town.
My time was running out and I hadn’t finished writing. But I also hadn’t eaten again. I need to do both.
I need to write. But I also need to eat. I need time alone, time to think and read and plan. But I need people in my life, too. I needed to declutter, but I also need flowers on my counter, books next to the bed, and art in process.
Jesus asked me to empty my life, to empty it of idols and broken dreams and selfish ambition. I’m still working on that. But He asked me to empty my life so He could fill it. And I need to let him fill it with what he will.
Otherwise, emptiness is just another idol, another broken dream, another selfish ambition.
Supper’s nearly ready. The muffins are in the oven. The sweet potato has carmelized along the edges.
I’ve made this meal a hundred times, or a least a hundred meals almost like it.
But I don’t mind. It will still taste good.
And it will definitely fill me up.