On fitting the puzzle together

She gave me a piece of a Power-Puff Girls puzzle, inscribed with "You, Amanda, are a priceless piece of my master plan. You see but a glimpse. I see the big picture. Trust me. -eph. 2:10-"

Anna was my Bible camp counselor the summer before my senior year of high school, nine years ago. My two best friends and I were assigned to her cabin, along with a girl we didn't know very well, who had some special needs. (I'll call her M.) At the beginning of the week, we privately groaned that we had to share the cabin with someone so weird (awful, I know).

By the end of the week, we had witnessed Anna love on M in so many ways, helping her with her most basic needs. We started to treat M like the beautiful person she was. One night, Anna washed our feet, and I saw Jesus' sacrificial love shining through her sweet heart. And when M threw up on the bus ride home, I guided her to the restroom and cleaned her up.

After knowing Anna, I loved more like Jesus. I loved even when there was nothing in it for me.

This week, she wrote at (in)courage.me about all that God has done in us since then. About how we reconnected at last year's inRL event, which she co-hosted. (To think I almost chickened out because I would hardly know anybody!) Afterwards, we became dear friends -- took our boys to the park together, celebrated New Years' morning together.

When God put it on both of our hearts to encourage working moms, we dove head-first into serving together. We hosted this year's inRL event, our story coming full circle. And now, she's the (in)courage community groups communication coordinator! All because God chose to fit a few pieces of the puzzle together, all because we chose to say "yes".

Since I dedicated my life to follow Christ in middle school, I've struggled with the concept of doing "His Will". It seemed like this grand puzzle that I had to put together, without even being able to see some of the pieces.

But this story of Anna and I is helping me to see that doing His Will is just a matter of obedience. It's offering up my one little piece of the puzzle, reflecting the pieces of Him that He made me to be.

It's saying "yes" when my heart feels His Spirit's gentle nudge, saying "okay," even when I don't know if I can do it.

It's trusting that He knows what I need, and what the world needs.

It's trusting that He is good, even when He is disciplining me, stretching me, growing me.

It's trusting that He knows the big picture, that He holds it all together, so I don't have to figure it all out or do it all.

I just need to do take the next step He puts before me, and fit myself in with the pieces of the Body that surround me. And He will make us into the most beautiful masterpiece ever created, these broken, burned, messy pieces, all redeemed and made new.


On Spring Purging

It all started innocently enough, with hand-me-downs to help start out married life in a one-bedroom apartment: a green comfy chair, a gray bookcase, a dorm room lamp with adjustable "arms".

And then we had our first baby, and the stuff started coming in waves. When our baby turned into a toddler, the clothes, toys, books, and papers already threatened to overwhelm. Now that we have two little boys, I feel like I'm drowning in all of the stuff! I'm constantly stepping on or around toys, picking up, organizing. It's just too much.

It's kind of a strange problem to have, really, this need to deal with all of the stuff. In many parts of the world, an entire village could live off of the contents of our home. I thank God for the abundance we have been given, and I also recognize the need to be a better steward of it.

My favorite organizer (who is like a second mom to me!) says that disorganization is a result of delayed decisions. So I'm starting to make small decisions each day, to bring more order and peace to our home, to take control of our posessions so we can focus on more important things.

We're still in the early stages of de-cluttering and purging, but I'm already feeling like it's easier to breathe, like there is more freedom and peace in my heart.

Toy/book purging!

Here are a few tips I've learned so far:

1. Think in terms of numbers, and "need" vs. "want". We have four chairs in my office. I only need one or two, and I only want two, so two of them need to go. Our kids had about eighty little cars in a bin. They really don't need 80, especially since S loves dumping all. the. things. So now the cars have been pared down to about 30 of their favorites. Thinking through this logically helps me to separate my emotional attachment to things.

2. Think in terms of usefulness and happiness. Does that shirt get a lot of use? Has it been worn in the last year? Does it make you feel happy? If not, get rid of it!

3. Think in terms of beauty. Do your knick-knacks bring beauty to your home? Or are they just gathering dust and adding to clutter? Do your decorations contribute to the mood you want your home to have? Or would something else bring more joy?

4. Think about prevention. How can you keep extra "stuff" from coming in to your house? Can you say no while shopping? Keep a wish list to prevent spontaneous purchases? Ask for specific types of gifts for kids' birthdays or Christmas?

5. Think about whether someone else would enjoy the items more. Do you have friends who are just starting out in a new place? Is there a homeless shelter that could use your extra jackets, hats, boots, or mittens?

Have you gone through a season of "purging" your things? How did it impact your heart?