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Let's go back, back to the beginning.

In true new year's fashion, I have spent the past few days cleaning up and cleaning out my house. Clothes, toys, books, and decor were purged. Trash bags were filled, tied, and delivered to their appropriate destinations. I sat in my candlelit living room at the end of my conquests and basked in the glory of the de-clutter. Sadly, there is still plenty left to do.

But, there's a saying that has been circulating social media (and life) these days: "If you don't love it, get rid of it." I guess whoever is behind marketing this idea is doing a pretty good job because I couldn't wait to begin this de-cluttering process in my own life. I eagerly grabbed items off of shelves and walls that I knew I didn't love. A sense of relief swept over me as I removed the "unlovable" items from my presence and rearranged those I deemed "lovable." While I organized and reorganized the "lovables", this thought replayed in my head: "I can't wait until I can get rid of this _________ too and finally buy a new one." This happened more than I would like to admit over the course of the de-cluttering days.

On the drive home from picking Son up from school yesterday, Son requested to have quiet time in the car and subsequently fell asleep. I was more than happy to have a little extra quiet time too, so I turned the music down and immediately got lost in my thoughts. Since moving to a rural town, I have learned that driving time = thinking time. And, for me at least, thinking time (sometimes) = irrational/distorted thinking time. Thankfully, Counselor has been talking with me about checking-in with my thoughts periodically throughout the day and correcting them. Being in a counseling program, one would assume I would already be doing that regularly. Oops. But, I digress...

On this particular drive, I did as Counselor has recommended and checked-in with my thoughts. Here's what I was thinking: I hate everything in my house (including the house itself), and I want new stuff (including said house) ASAP. (To think, these were my "lovables" I was talking about! Geez, even writing that is embarrassing!) After checking-in with that thought, I immediately saw a red flag. The mental red flag read this message:
All of those things were gifts. 
(Side note: I feel like I am learning that these "red flags" are actually the gentle nudges of God's voice and the Holy Spirit's conviction. I am currently wading through quite a warped mess of confusion regarding the difference between guilt and conviction, but I am hopeful that God will distinguish the two in His grace and mercy, both of which I also have a warped understanding. More on this later...)

This is the truth: almost ALL of our furniture, except for our bookshelves, were given to us - freely given at that! This statement seems like an exaggeration even as I type it, but I am astounded by its validity. And, these gifts, freely given to us by friends and family, have proven useful and faithful over the years...
And the list goes on. (Yes, even the dog's crate was given to us!)  As I think about each piece of furniture, I consider how fortunate we truly are. Not because we have these things, but because we have this love in our lives. I think of the individuals who gave us each item, how hard they must have worked to purchase or build the gifted item, and how some were also given the item and re-gifted it to us. And, not one gift-giver ever asked us for payment or repayment, nor did they ever treat us like we were undeserving of their gifts. In fact, when the gift-givers visit our home now, most delight in seeing their gift still used and accepted by our little home. I think about the times in our lives when each item was given to us. The timing of each gift was seemingly perfect and satisfied our immediate needs. I remember how beautiful each piece looked the first time I saw it. Beautiful because it was our provision - the free gift of provision.

Upon pondering the implications of this red flag, I can't help but consider how often I have a similar thought process in other areas of my life. Especially in the most important area, my salvation. The truth is that I have received the greatest gift of all, and it too was freely given to me by the Ultimate Gift-Giver. How often do I treat the gifts of my salvation, my chosenness, my journey, and my brokenness like the furniture in my house that I long to replace? Daily I forget that my Father gave everything He had to purchase these gifts for me, He does not require repayment or see me as undeserving, and He delights in seeing me use them. How often does discontentment and ungratefulness distract me from the beauty of the gifts in my life manifest in family, friends, colleagues, educators, healthcare professionals, supporters, and even enemies? Daily I forget to see the beauty beheld by my gifts, the precious gifts of lovable beings in my life. So, with that, I leave this quote from a painfully beautiful book, which I also posted on my Instagram sometime in 2016:

"We are forgetful people - forgetful of our purpose, forgetful of who God is and what He has done. We need symbols of remembrance to be embodied in people and objects and visuals so we don't forget what certain experiences in our lives meant to us." - Katherine Wolf, Hope Heals

Lord, please forgive me for being so forgetful of Your gifts. Thank You for freely giving me the gift of salvation as well as being the Gift-Giver of ALL good things. I want to be continually content and deeply satisfied, despite my circumstances. Remind me with Your "red flags" to be mindful of the present and to embrace the symbols of remembrance You have provided me. Help me to understand Your nature, who You truly are and not a warped construct of my mind. Teach me to grasp Your love for me and to love you wholeheartedly in return. Strengthen me to give the free gift of Your love to others at every opportunity. Please continue to be patient with me in this process. Amen. 


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