What I caught began with an innocuous call, or so it seemed, mid-morning on Monday. An insurance agent needs a digital photograph of our geothermal heat pump by Friday, a formality for our file and his job. Which compels Dutch Farmer on Monday evening to remove every boxed up memory, Christmas wreath and invoice from the last 7 years out of the storage room to begin reorganizing afresh so that aforementioned agent will not injure himself getting his photo of said heat pump. I join the late night lustrating.
Come Tuesday morning, I slip into the storage room to file a gift bag, and am met with open floor, empty shelves — space. Throughout the course of the morning, I find several excuses to crack open the door, just to steal a peek at the wonder of it all, and, now, in hindsight, I think that in fact the wonder of it all was contagious, for by noon on Tuesday I begin stripping down bookshelves, sorting Thorton Burgess, G.A. Henty, Wilder, Montgomery, Dr. Seuss, Flaubert, Teale, Porter, and Richard Scarry, discarding, purging, releasing, and reshelving. Which leads to the rearranging of three desks, two children's tables, a puzzle box, a piano, and 5 bookshelves. And so the dominoes continue to fall, with the dividing up of toys, labeling of tins, arranging of baskets.
I wake Wednesday morning, still feverish and deep in the throes of it, and before breakfast, empty out our bedroom closet of corduroy shirts, maternity swim suits, packages of ping pong balls. I fling overalls I once wore to the zoo, bag skirts I wore with cowboy boots, and toss cowboy boots I don't wear. I gather for the thrift store an old suitcase I hauled around Quebec for three months when I was fourteen and can't now zipper shut; but I write my name on the dust it wears and smile and think of the memories. Gone too are pants that never did fit in spite of all my wishing, a pair of shoes that pinched my little toes red, a sweater that itched and irritated whenever I foolishly wore it. And soon, through a tangle of clothes hangers and a knot of old ties, it emerges: open floor, empty shelves — space!
Calling shoes out from the shade of dresses, I align them on a shelf, and they blink, adjusting to light of day. So I stand back. Stretch. Breathe. Revel.
Dutch Farmer, in from the barn, searches me out and I seek his face, reading for multiplied delight. And trip on this,
"You put your shoes on my shelf?"
Your shelf? My mind scrambles: I sent the ping pong balls, rolls of scotch tape, race car trophies, and batteries that merely squatted there, and moved them all into rightful residences! I reclaimed neglected territory! I enlarged our boundaries with the removal of unnecessary tonnage! But my tongue lies, thankfully, barely, still.
I mumble something unintelligible, collect an armful of clothes for the thrift store, and retreat. But changing over the laundry, indignant retorts roar through my frontal cortex, hardening heart arteries. I let them.
Iron heart sharpens razor tongue.
I set out breakfast dishes, and this heart tail snaps and whips subtly, quietly ... stingingly.
"Are you planning to go with us into town this afternoon?" he asks, buttering bagels.
Feeling less than buttery, I crack out a sharp "No!"
They eat, and I return to the closet. Another shuffle gives my shoes a bruised home elsewhere. Mainly because I haul, rather unceremoniously, my wedding dress, crinoline, veil, out of the closet and down to capacious storage room. I flick out the light, close the door.
At the close of breakfast, and before we step out into the day, we pray the day's Scripture. It's my turn, and I read:
"Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12 NIV, emphasis added).
In my spring cleaning furor, how had I purged out the only attire necessary? Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. And how was that I would pray this verse, this day, with this ugly, naked heart? But He knew.
So come Wednesday at noon, a wedding dress once again anchors the corner of the closet, he and I wear happy, sheepish, forgiveness, and our shoes mingle intimately in the shadows of a top shelf.
And maybe this house, heart, is cleaned a bit deeper.
For grace is contagious and love a spacious, wide open place.
Lord, wash this heart clean.
Editor's Note: Article and image courtesy of ANN V. @HOLYEXPERIENCE. I've been blessed to meet a great group of Christian bloggers as we traveled to Uganda together with Compassion International. One blogger that wasn't on this trip that has repeatedly blessed my life with spiritual refreshment is Ann V. of Holy Experience (see link below). This is a brief glimpse of Ann's heart. Be blessed.