Friday

My Cluttered Heart

I've been home from Africa for nearly two months. I probably should be "over" my trip now, back to my old self. Living the life I left.

But I'm not the same. I don't ever want to be the same again. I don't really know where God is leading me (and my family), but it's far away from the person I was two months ago.

In Africa I witnessed the simplicity of pure hearts. People who had nothing and everything. I looked at my own life, in my own heart and I saw poverty.

It was a terrible discovery.

I returned to my easy American life, so weighted down with stuff, closets bursting with clothes and toys, walls and shelves crowded with dozens and dozens of things. 2,000 square feet crammed with enough home decor to decorate several houses, a hobby turned into a distraction of accumulating more stuff.

Stuff that cluttered my home, but worse, cluttered my heart.

I held tightly to these objects, things I bought to fill empty places. Things don't fill empty places, they just hide them.

For the first time, I understood the rich young ruler's choice in Mark 10: Jesus said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me." The man's face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.

I looked at my own life, in my own heart and I saw poverty.

It was a beautiful discovery.

I decided to let go of the meaningless things that clutter my home and my heart:

(layer one)

I'm discovering that my materialism is like an onion...layer one has been removed, but I think I'm just getting started on clearing out the stuff (in my home and heart).

I thought I had stuff, it turns out it had me.

I want Christ. He is much greater than all the riches of the world. He fills empty places.

And cleans up cluttered hearts.

53 comments:

TDM Wendy said...

Beautifully said. Love to see God at work. And I love that part of you clutter accumulation was hooks that read "Simplify." Pretty funny an ironic. (Assuming that is actually from your hosue.)

Amy said...

I love this post. I feel like I am at the same spot as you. I am trying to get rid of all the extra stuff we have that keeps me occupied and not focused on the important things in life.

Thanks!

Amy said...

I love this post. I feel like I am at the same spot as you. I am trying to get rid of all the extra stuff we have that keeps me occupied and not focused on the important things in life.

Thanks!

Katie Bug said...

Great post. I am constantly trying to keep myself from stockpiling "stuff". It is definitely a challenge for me.
The "simplify" sign cracked me up, too.

Jill Foley said...

Amen...you very clearly stated what I've been feeling this week. Thank you for bringing clarity to my own mind.

Amy @ Finer Things said...

Kristen -- It's been amazing for me to watch your heart with this Africa journey. Keep posting! You're changing hearts all over the nation.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Amen... my husband and I were so surprised at how easy it felt to declutter our lives after seeing the extreme poverty that is rural China.

Myra @ My Blessed Life said...

I love how you share your heart. I've been feeling a tugging in my own heart to start getting rid of the "stuff" that is cluttering my life and my heart.

God is using you in a powerful way!

Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend said...

A beautiful post and one that reaches deep into my heart.....

bridget {bake at 350} said...

It sounds like you're right where you should be. Nice post, Kristen.

Rachel said...

A wonderful post. So true. I think you should start a linky called "peeling back the layers"...I'd join. :) I 've got stuff, clutter that I need to let go of.

Love your blog.

Rachel

Mrs. McFadden said...

Way to go! I think I might start doing the same tomorrow. It's amazing how we think we need stuff but really all we NEED is Jesus Christ to make us whole.

anna said...

Amen. Thanks for sharing your heart so honestly and allowing yourself to be so transparent. What a blessing! Btw, my hubs saw a book the other day titled, '500 ways to simplify your life" Uff da! :)

Angie said...

Amen! We cleaned out big time for our rummage sale (to help pay for our next adoption). Sad thing is, you'd never know we got rid of anything. I'm on a mission to get rid of more. And I'm currently reading A Hole in our Gospel...very insightful!

La Dolce Vita said...

Africa a few weeks ago has wrecked me as well. I can totally relate. God is doing a good thing in your heart. He is good. All the time!

LoveFeast Table said...

We once got rid of it all. I'd do it again. It's amazing how it all ties you down...adds weight to your life. After that, I hold it all with an open hand. Our favorite saying around here, "Nothing's (as in things) sacred".
~kristin

Tina said...

:)

oh amanda said...

Awesome, Kristen. I love that you have been forever changed. Thank you for taking us with you.

Jeannett said...

beautiful and so true. bah...looks like i have a major cleaning project coming up!

Laryssa Herbert said...

I'm feeling the same way. This is more than Spring Cleaning...it goes all the way to the heart.

CC said...

Thank you! Beautiful. Change is a wonderful thing, especially when GOD is in the centre of it. Blessings to you and your family as you furthur declutter your world. CC

Sheryl said...

This post is so where I am right now. We are a ministry family and my husband has recently been offered a position in a church in South Africa. No decisions have been made yet, but the thought of moving, while extremely exciting, has me looking all around my house at EVERYTHING. Every little thing comes under examination. Do I really NEED this? Is it worth moving around the world with? Kitchen gadgets? Art books? About 1000 action figures? Our wedding album?

Gina Conroy said...

Beautiful!

MainlineMom said...

Your posts, they keep poking me in places that hurt. They keep gently nudging me awake. They remind me of what I really want. Thank you.

Marcy - The Glamorous Life! said...

With my addiction to finding comedy in even heartfelt posts...

Let us all enjoy the giant 'simplify' sign in that pile.

Amen sister.

(real site is http://marcywrites.com)

Kerry said...

Kristen, I am so in awe of your experience and I love how you are allowing it to impact your "everyday" life. You are an inspiration.

O Mom said...

This is beautiful and painful. I'm going through some things too, with your help, and the message of "Live simply, so others can simply live" is like being burned into my heart.
Thank you for being an inspiration and conviction.

CourtneyKeb said...

I love your new movement, and the irony of your 'Simplify' decor.
God Bless you and your family!

Eden said...

We're in the process of simplifying our home too - going through and purging stuff. Money Saving Mom and The Lazy Organizer have really been encouraging me in my efforts. So now I can add you to that list! Apparently I need lots of pushing :)

I found it really funny that in your photo of layer 1 is a home decor item emphasizing this goal - "Simplify".

Erica said...

Everyone else has said it, so now I feel dumb. But I'll still say it, anyway; I love that you're getting ride of your "Simplify" coat rack thingy whilst you simplify your home. :)

Kristie said...

Your post is beautiful and I too am trying to simplify my life as well. It has been a slow process for me. This will help nudge me even more.

My family was hit really hard at the end of 2008 ~ both my husband and I losing our jobs, and then having to short sale our home that our 2 sons have ever known. We moved to a new state, and while our "things" sat in storage in California my husband and I realized that we really could get by with very little and that "The most important things in life are not things". It's has been very freeing to come to that realization. And though I wish once we have our yard sale we could donate it will be going back into our savings.

*Given Much Momma* said...

Amen. We felt the same after returning from India & Africa. The struggle for me has been KEEPING that perspective. :( One of my favorite quotes is by the founder of Gospel for Asia who wakes every morning and first things prays "Lord, today please break my heart with what breaks Yours."

I need that breaking of my heart anew every day.

Sharon said...

What a great post! And I, too, loved the "Simplify" sign in your pile. :-)

Gypsy Momma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gypsy Momma said...

You are meeting His challenge with grace...wonderful job. Your "layers" remind me of the book "Quaker Summer" by my favorite, Lisa Samson. Her protagonist recognized our cultural poverty. Thank you for words today. Many blessings!

Michelle said...

Beautiful, beautiful post.

It Feels Like Chaos said...

You know I haven't even been to Africa yet (will go twice this year to adopt and bring home our daughter from Ehtiopia), but I understand a bit of what you're saying. Somehow during the process of God leading us to the faces of true need and then to adoption, I have become so disgusted with all the stuff we have. I've always had packrat tendencies so I know my new resolve to get rid of the stuff comes only from God. I drove by a homeless person shivering in the cold this past January and went home so ashamed of myself for keeping 3 winter coats in my closet! Why do I need 3 when some people don't even have 1? We've done 2 huge clean-outs and I keep telling my husband there's still a lot more that needs to go!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I'm on a similar path. The truth of what you write here resonates in my soul.

Thank you for continuing to share you story, Kristen. I believe God is blessing your authenticity.

Ginny said...

I know this is a serious post, but I had to laugh at the Simplify sign. It totally stands out in all that "clutter", LOL

Tori said...

Lovely post! My husband and I are also working on clearing out all the clutter. It really is freeing.

Blessings!

Sam Akers said...

The sentiment of your blog reminds me of Anne Graham Lotz's book "Just Give Me Jesus". He truly is what our hearts hunger for the most...yet we seek to fill up on other things, and we soon forget what it was we were hungry for in the first place. Praise God, he renews our hearts with a desire for Himself, then He helps us de-clutter.
JUST GIVE ME JESUS, AND WHAT HE DESIRES FOR ME, THEN AND ONLY THEN WILL I BE SATISFIED.

Debbi Akers

ksmedgirl said...

I am 5 years down the road from my Africa trip. I so completely understand where you are.

annaehoward said...

Amen! Thanks for this post! Reminds me of my own cluttered heart and life.

Charla said...

I know what you mean that you'll never be the same. We've been working with a drug and alcohol recovery ministry the past couple of years. My eyes have been opened! I try to remember that I never know what someone's been through until I've walked in their shoes.
I've also been working with two local church food pantries the past ten years. What some people have been through brings tears to my eyes!

Jackie said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. While I didn't go to Africa, I feel like the clutter has taken over my life.

The more I give away, the more I realize what we can live without. I have given away 1031 items from my home so far this year and I feel like there are thousands more I want to give away. I think many people wouldn't see my home as cluttered, but if they looked in our storage rooms and closets they would see where it is hiding. Multiplying, waiting for the day when I will use it. That day never seems to come for most of it. I am tired of spending time cleaning up the clutter when I could be making more memories with my children.

Again, thanks for sharing and keeping me focused on my goal.

Nony (A Slob Comes Clean) said...

I've been decluttering like a madwoman for months now, and still have more to go. But I totally agree with you that your stuff and your "heart clutter" are completely related. The more stuff I get rid of, the more I feel able to breathe, relax and enjoy the true gifts that God has given me.

oursafehaven said...

Amen!!!

Lea said...

Jumped over from "The Finer Things Blog" and am so glad I did. WOW!! how convicting and how true. Thanks for sharing your hearts convictions, it has pricked my heart as well. Abundant blessings to you!

Melissa said...

Thank you so much for this post. It really spoke to my heart. I haven't been to Africa, or anywhere else that could be considered a mission trip, but the Lord began to speak to my poverty-stricken heart back in October when we were a host home to two little orphan girls in the Children of the World International Children's Choir. Everything they own fits into one big suitcase. Talk about conviction...ouch! We've made a little progress in the area of letting go of the "stuff", but we have a LONG way to go! But I am confident that the One who began a good work in me will complete it!

Thanks for sharing! I really enjoy reading your blog!

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carolinecollie said...

Amen Kristen -- 8 months into my time in Africa, I am also walking through this same thing. I am amazed at the fact that I haven't bought a new article of clothing in 6 months, and somehow at the same time ashamed to be proud of that -- like really? Is that an achievement? After walking through townships and seeing kids who only have what's on their backs, I know if I do go back to America, I don't ever want to go back to the materialistic way I used to live. I trust the Lord will keep peeling back the layers for you and for me! xCC

Young Wife said...

Beautiful post.

JennyRain said...

we just got back from Burundi Africa last Friday. It has been a week of processing, blogging, praying, writing some more... sigh.

I've been to Africa twice before, but this trip has been different... it will not let me go.

Jenny
www.jennyrain.com