Monthly Archives: March 2014

Clean it out

There has been a janky smell coming from our fridge recently.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened and when I noticed it a *cough cough* few weeks ago, I groaned and thought, I don’t even want to deal with that. I knew there were things in there that had been made and sealed in tupperware, waiting to be eaten with the best of intentions. There were vegetables from our CSA box that we didn’t know what to do with and left them there to rot (literally). I hate how wasteful this makes me, but what can I say, life happened and I got lazy and ate out more and left the country for a bit.

Then before I knew it, I was avoiding my kitchen or even opening the fridge because of that. smell. I didn’t want to know exactly where it was coming from, I just wanted it to go away.

But it never does, does it? Things don’t go away on their own. Bad smells and messy rooms and dirty laundry don’t clean themselves. They’re 1) made by me and 2) waiting patiently to be dealt with. I almost wish things would actually grow legs and walk out on their own, as mothers are known for claiming. Goodbye soup-from-two-months-ago! Have a nice life, don’t forget to write.

Last week I was kind of in avoidance mode, just trying to survive 12 hour days at my internship, getting caught up at work and taking a midterm. I bought food meal-by-meal almost everyday and reveled in the immediate gratification it brought me. Who has time to cook anyway.

But enough is enough. I knew this was the weekend – this was the weekend I was going to get my head right and clean some things out. I knew I needed to be wise and go grocery shopping so that I wasn’t spending all of my money on coffee and muffins and pre-made salads from Whole Foods (seriously, can’t get enough). But I didn’t want to go shopping and put the new stuff in the fridge until I dealt with whatever was going on behind that closed door.

So Sunday night, I made my (fairly) routine trip to Trader Joe’s for my weekly groceries, came home and opened the fridge. I braced myself, squatted down and reached in the back and in the drawers and started pulling things out. Oh, there were definitely groans and gags and maybe some choice words. But all the bad stuff came out and the fresh stuff went in. Afterward I stepped back, sighed and relaxed. All is well in the kitchen.

After, as I was cleaning up, I started thinking again about how metaphorical it all was. This isn’t the first time I’ve mused over the fact that my messes and hidden smells relate to the messes and hidden things in my heart. There are most likely things inside me that have been ignored and not opened in a while, not even with the Lord. Things like feelings about relationships, my romantic desires, annoying habits and real fears. Sometimes I just say, nope, let’s leave that one closed for a little bit longer. It’s sealed nice and tight and I don’t want to know what it will smell like when it’s opened.

But cleaning things out is a healthy process, and the Lord is gracious and abounding in steadfast love. He listens and counts my tears when I finally open a messy drawer in my heart and admit to what’s inside.

I also thought about my desire for consistency and how I struggle with it. I want to be a consistent, committed person. I want to have a clean fridge, a clean room, a clean heart, but life happens. I get distracted and tired. I love to cook and definitely do it more than I used to, but sometimes I go weeks without turning on the stove. I love spending time in the Word and reflecting on Him who made me, but sometimes I choose to do other things and push Him aside. This year I decided to wake up each morning and spend time with the Lord, to continue and further a discipline I started last year. But sometimes I’m groggy and can’t make out the words on the page. Sometimes I just don’t do it and choose to sleep later instead.

Even though it drives me crazy that I’m not perfect and don’t always do or finish the things I set out to do, what matters is starting again. Thankfully the Lord looks at my heart, and in it I hope He sees my desires to know Him and love Him more. My actions might not always reflect those desires, but they are there. I just can’t be consistent on my own. I need help and I’m learning a lot about this. What is the line between discipline and grace? Where do I end and where does God begin?

Maybe the point is to keep trying, keep being aware, keep coming back. When I stumble, I just want to recognize it and ask for help back up. I want to reach out and feel that Strong Hand grab mine and pull me up to my feet and into a warm embrace.

My fridge will probably stink again. I will get overwhelmed and start eating out more than cooking again. I won’t always wake up and carve out intentional time for Jesus. My heart will get stinky and messy again too. But maybe I won’t take as long to clean it out next time.

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Categories: celebrating discipline, musings | 2 Comments

training ground

“I tell you, families are definitely the training ground for forgiveness. At some point you pardon the people in your family for being stuck together in all their weirdness, and when you can do that, you can learn to pardon anyone. Even yourself, eventually. It’s like learning to drive on an old car with a tricky transmission: if you can master shifting gears on that, you can learn to drive anything.” (Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies)

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness and grace and family recently.

My sister Jill and I just returned from a week in England where we visited some of our extended family. Our maternal side is English, and our grandmother and aunt reside in a quaint village in the county of Suffolk. It’s one of my favorite places in the world and I love that the land over there feels like home. There’s something incredibly comforting about being in my grandmother’s home, letting her feed me crumpets soaked in butter and eggs and sipping tea in her cozy living room.

We were there because my aunt is sick. She was recently diagnosed with cancer and so we went to spend time with her while we still have time. The best way to describe the visit was bittersweet. I loved being there, but of course I wondered if it was Goodbye or just See you later. I hope it was the latter.

Not only was I trying to make space (mostly unsuccessfully) to process feelings about my aunt and her illness, but the trip was also hard at times because of family dynamics and tensions that have been present for years. Most of us were tense, stressed and sad – at times it felt as if each of us was hanging on by a thread. There were some shouts and tears and hurt feelings. I had to wrestle with my own anger and confusion regarding my relationships with certain relatives. I wanted to point the finger and say It’s all your fault, you made things this way, you don’t deserve a relationship with me.

Yep, that’s gross and real.

When my anger and hurt subsided and some of the dust settled, it occurred to me that maybe I was blaming and judging people for doing some of the very things I was doing. I was holding on to bitterness and waiting for someone to deserve my forgiveness, while mentally chastising others for doing the very same thing. I could look at someone and say, Why can’t you just move on, get over it? Why are you running away? And here I was, holding on and wanting someone to pay.

Now, let me say I am a huge proponent of letting myself feel what I feel. I can’t help when I experience hurt, sadness, pain, anger, confusion, joy and happiness. No one can tell me, or anyone, what I am feeling is wrong, and I try to encourage others to just feel what they feel. So I know these things that came up in me last week were real and okay. I tried to let them be there and accept them for a minute, while keeping the thoughts of what I should feel at bay.

But then…forgiveness.

In the end, there is always forgiveness. We’re family. Maybe families really are the best place to practice forgiving and letting go. At the end of the day, my family will always love me, will always accept me. I want to do the same for them and truly see them. No matter how I’ve been disappointed or hurt, they are my flesh and blood. Maybe if I learn the art of forgiving with these loved ones, where I am safe to make mistakes and ask for forgiveness myself, I will be more quick to do this with others.

I love my family, I really do. They’re quirky, nerdy, hilarious. They can make me laugh and cry and scream, sometimes all in one conversation. They bring out the real Kate. It’s incredibly refreshing and I am reminded all the time of how blessed I am.

Family relationships – relationships in general – are hard. We can hurt each other because, if left to our our devices, we will always default to selfishness, to our flesh, to sin. It’s only through grace from our Creator that we become something different. It is through Him that we learn how to forgive and say I’m sorry, because He forgives us over and over. He makes us new.

When I step back and remember the grace I’ve been given, when I forgive and let go, there is freedom. There is real life. When I get back in the car and try shifting gears on that tricky transmission again, I realize that this is the training ground and I will probably mess up. And it’s okay if I stall, because my family will let me groan, hit the steering wheel, say a little prayer and start the car again.

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