Spring Cleaning for the Soul

By on April 15, 2011

By Nancie Carmichael –

It was time to plant again, but first I had a job to do, one I’d put off too long. So yesterday I spent the whole day in the yard, raking out last year’s pine needles and dead aspen leaves. Then I tackled the dead petunias from last summer, pulling them out of the flower bed in order to allow fledgling green sprouts to breathe, creating space for new plants.

It was such a mindless, good thing to do. I burned the dead leaves, needles and branches in the back yard and when I was through, my clothes smelled of smoke and my arms and neck ached. But it was good, satisfying work.

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I came back in the house, too aware of cleaning that I needed to do inside the house. You know, the deep cleaning: getting the dirt that accumulates behind and on top of things, like the refrigerator. I glanced at the dusty beams and silently promised them attention in the near future. Then I walked past a filing cabinet, full of projects I’d worked on years ago. Why keep those files, all those papers? I also have two closets bulging with clothes we never use, but might. On the shelves in the attic are dozens of family pictures and interesting objects like fans and slide projectors. Tucked below is the accordion my dad gave me on my thirteenth birthday. (I certainly can’t part with that, even though most in my family would say “Let it go!”) Someday—maybe next year—I’ll courageously face down our storage unit in town that’s filled with boxes of very important things that somehow we’ve managed to live without for ten years.

I sighed and decided that instead of starting a cleaning project inside the house, I would have a cup of coffee. Trying to decide what to keep, what to save, and what to give away seemed too weighted. That’s why a day in the yard was so refreshing: There was nothing complicated about getting rid of dead leaves, needles and branches. Just get rid of it, clean it up, burn it.

I confess I hold onto things more than I should, especially things that represent people (“Mother gave me that”). I still want my children to come home weekends and holidays, and even though our grown-up children are establishing homes and families of their own, I want them here. That means I want their stuff too—beds and furniture and bikes and games. And the maintenance of stuff takes so much time and work. . . And yes, cleaning.

But as much as the outward things of our lives define us and dictate the way we live, the subtle, inward things do as well. A friend told me today of an old wound she experienced 35 years ago. She’s spoken of it several times to me lately, each time assuring me she’s let it go. I wonder. If she’s let it go, why is there still a sting to it? Why does it keep coming up?

Sometimes, smoldering beneath the surface, are old wounds that cannot heal until we bring them to the surface and allow the light of God’s truth to cleanse them. Only God can heal our deepest wounds, and only we can allow Him to. It’s time now to let go of regrets. Let go of guilt and old disappointments.

It may also be time to let go of the good stuff—of what worked for me even a decade ago. It’s hard to let go, but it’s freeing to cleanse our lives of clutter that keeps us from living our lives more effectively…more true to where we are today.
Spring-cleaning my life can mean taking another look at the calendar. What am I spending so much time on? Does it fit where God is leading me now? Maybe it’s Yes, but it could be No. Letting go in order to grab on to the next step where God is calling takes waiting, and listening. And choices about how to order my life. In A Place for You, Paul Tournier wrote, “Life and faith always insist on moving forward—and I cannot move forward without leaving something behind.”

As I dug around in my flower bed, I saw that the soil was now richer and better than it was a few years ago…partly because of the decaying compost in the soil. And so it is with our lives. Our past enriches and deepens us, but periodically it’s good—as on this beautiful sunny day—to take a clear-eyed, hard look at what needs to go and what needs to stay in order to let new life burst forth. Paul the apostle said it well: “Forgetting those things which are behind, I press toward the mark…”

Nancie Carmichael is a speaker and author of several books, including, “Lord, Bless My Child” (with her husband, Bill) “Selah—Time to Stop, Think, and Step into Your Future”, “Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning”.
Contact her at [email protected] and visit her website, nanciecarmichael.com

About Nancie Carmichael

Nancie Carmichael and her husband Bill have been involved with the writing and publishing field for many years as they published Virtue Magazine and Christian Parenting Magazine. They now own a book publishing company, Deep River Books. Nancie and Bill have written several books together including: Lord, Bless My Child; and Seven Habits of a Healthy Home. Nancie has written: Your life, God’s Home; Desperate for God: How He Meet Us When We Pray; The Comforting Presence of God; Selah: Time to Stop, Think, and Step into your Future; and her latest book, Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning. Bill and Nancie make their home in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and are parents to five married children and grandparents to ten. Nancie received her Master’s of Spiritual Formation from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2012, and in 2005, received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Western Baptist College. Website: nanciecarmichael.com

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Spring Cleaning for the Soul