Tuesday, March 17, 2015


My husband says I spiritualize everything.  Everything. I guess he's right. This whole 30 Days of Dominion challenge was intended to be motivation to get on top of the clutter in my house. Instead, it has turned into a series of lessons about sin, humility, personal integrity, transparency, perseverance, repentance...

I finally tackled my bedroom closet. This closet:

This part of the clean-one-thing-a-day challenge turned into a clean-one-thing-in-a-couple-of-days challenge. It took me one day to haul everything out and begin sorting through the contents. It took a second day to wash the shelves, walls, and floors, and then return everything to its proper place.

Day 1 of cleaning the closet, the bedroom was a disaster. Stuff was piled everywhere - the bed, the ironing board, the floor, even on the dresser I had just excavated last week. I had to clear a path from the bed to the bathroom before I turned in for the night so I wouldn't hurt myself on my two-o'clock-in-the-morning potty run. All the dust in the air had me sneezing and blowing my nose. But here is what I learned...

Cleaning the inside sometimes makes the outside even messier than before. To get rid of the mess inside the closet, I had to move it outside the closet. If I'm afraid to drag the mess out and sort through it, if I just keep smushing it deeper into the closet, that does NOT make the closet clean. It just means there will be even more junk to wade through when the closet finally hits its max capacity and vomits its contents onto the bedroom floor.

If I want a clean closet, I must be willing to trip over and dig through and be disgusted with a bunch of mess, right out here in the open. Not only do I have to live in the middle of the mess, but others around me have to deal with it, too. One of the kids walked into my room during the clean-the-closet disaster, and stopped in stunned amazement. "Wow, Mom! Really?!" Yes, really. It is not fun subjecting other people to your mess, and it is scary not knowing how they will respond.

Talking about cleaning the closet is not the same thing as actually cleaning the closet. It is possible for me to talk like a Neatie and look like a Neatie, to be a card-holding member of the Neatie Club and to truly believe I am a Neatie, and yet to still have a closet that looks like a rat's nest. Even worse, I will probably tell you all sorts of tricks for getting your junky closet in order, all the while neglecting my own. Blech!

Now, read those last three paragraphs again, substituting the word "heart" for "closet."

Today is Day 17 of the challenge. I am wondering what else God has to teach me in the weeks ahead.

Monday, March 16, 2015


A few things I am learning during the 30 Days of Dominion Challenge:

Clutter is nasty.  It is not just junky or messy looking - it is filthy. When I tackled the sewing area last week, I found myself having to take frequent breaks to go WASH MY HANDS. You know how your fingers get all black if you handle a lot of newsprint? Yeah, that's how my hands would look after about thirty minutes of sorting and tossing out and putting away. If you have ever said - like I have - "My house may not be very neat, but at least it's clean!" - ummm, nope. I am testifying today:  that is a lie. It is amazing how much gross nastiness settles down onto and between and beneath the clutter. I am sure there are some spiritual lessons to be learned here...

This Dominion Challenge is not getting easier as the days go by. I kind of thought that as I cleaned out one closet, one cabinet, a pantry shelf...as I checked things off, I would see my To-Clean-Next list growing shorter and easier. Ummm, nope. What I find instead is that many of the "easier" tasks have been checked off, and I am faced with increasingly difficult, time-consuming cleaning projects. Sure, the cabinet under the kitchen sink looks great now, but the ominous reality is growing on me that sooner or later, I am going to have to face My Bedroom Closet. And The Bookshelves. And The Laundry Room. Instead of getting easier, this seems to be getting bigger and harder! I am sure there are some spiritual lessons to be learned here...

Life doesn't stop simply because I decided to address the health hazard in my bedroom closet. It's Monday morning, and I need to catch up on laundry from the weekend. Helen has finished working on Chemistry and is ready for me to go over a math lesson with her. A couple of writing assignments need my attention, and I have several emails to answer. Those tasks can't be ignored just because I think it's inconvenient to take off the hazmat suit every time my cleaning project is interrupted for the routine business of life. I am sure there are some spiritual lessons to be learned here...

I am not going to win any awards for having the cleanest house. This past weekend, I joked to the kids that if someone walked through the front door, they would have absolutely NO idea that I had been doing so much cleaning! There are boxes stacked by the front door, filled with things that need to go to new homes. As usual, the kitchen table is strewn with school books and craft projects. Muddy boots and shoes are piled along one wall. I need to dust the ceiling fan and take out the kitchen trash. In spite of the fact that I can now find scissors and thread and my oven is clean, to the casual observer - the person who doesn't know me or what's going on in my life - to that person, my house looks like a disaster. I am sure there are some spiritual lessons to be learned here...

Family and friends have not reacted to this 30 Day Challenge in ways I could have anticipated. Rather than saying "Finally! Hallelujah!" or offering words of encouragement, some folks seem to think my new resolve is a storm to be weathered, one that will hopefully blow over quickly. Others have surprised me by how incredibly supportive and encouraging they have been:  I feel like I have a squad of cheerleaders helping me to press on, even when I want to forget the whole undertaking! But if I had been asked to guess ahead of time who would be a naysayer and who would be a cheerleader, I would have called it all wrong. I am sure there are some spiritual lessons to be learned here...

I had better sign off now:  I need to go hang a load of towels on the clothesline, and Helen is waiting for me to go over that math lesson. But before I go, because the sun is shining and because it is supposed to warm up to 70 DEGREES!!! today...

A poem.


A seed on the windowsill...


But, no!

Waiting for sunshine,
Hungry for soil,
Thirsty for rain...

Aching for spring.

(Have a wonderful Monday, Friend!)

Friday, March 13, 2015


In my current read through the Bible, I am in Deuteronomy. This morning I read in Chapter 28 about God's blessings on his people for obedience, and about his curses for disobedience. Something in this passage struck me as odd...

Beginning in Deuteronomy 28:1, I read about blessings:  "...if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God...Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle,..Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out..."

Then, in verse 15, I began the list of curses:  "...if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God...Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out..."

As I was reading through the Blessings list, I was reminded of a series of sermons by Dr. Jonathan Pennington at the 2012 Reformation Conference at Grace. Dr. Pennington was preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. You know, the passage that lists all those Blessed-s. Dr. Pennington explained that the term "blessed" is better translated "shalom-ness." Shalomness is bigger than the typical definition given of "peace" or "happiness," although it does encompass an aspect of those. Shalomness connotes the idea of wholeness, integrity, and consistency of person. It communicates something about being the same person - in thought and in deed, inside and out - regardless of circumstances.

Reading through the first part of Deuteronomy 28, it occurred to me that often, when I think of blessing, I think in terms of prosperity. All these blessings - in the city, in the field, my children, the produce of my field and my labor, my food, my travel, etc. - I was kind of thinking that God was promising to make all those endeavors prosper. He would make me fruitful, successful, comfortable.

But when I got to verse 15 and started reading about the curses, it hit me as kind of odd that the list was EXACTLY THE SAME as the list I had just read under the "blessing" heading. Was God saying he would make all those same endeavors UNfruitful, UNsuccessful, UNcomfortable?

I don't think so.

As I read through Chapter 28 again, it occurred to me that both groups of people - those who obey God and those who disobey - are all doing the same sorts of things:  working, having children, going about their daily lives. And there doesn't seem to be any promise (nor any indication elsewhere) that obedience guarantees physical, financial, or relational success or comfort. Consider Jesus, for example.

This got me to thinking about Dr. Pennington's explanation of the word "blessed" - which got me to thinking about all the hard work I've been doing this week in my 30 Days of Dominion challenge - which got me to thinking -

Sometimes, cleaning out a messy closet is a blessing. It teaches me something about God and something about myself. Cleaning a cluttered, nasty, long-neglected closet causes me to thank God for Jesus and for his sufficient, atoning work on my behalf: it reminds me that Jesus brings my sin out of the closet, and he washes me and makes me clean inside and out.

Sometimes, cleaning out a messy closet is a curse. I think I am being imposed upon - Why am I the one stuck with cleaning up so-&-so's junk?! I feel unappreciated - No one is even going to know how much work I've done, once I finish cleaning out this closet and then close the door! I turn into a crab, complaining about how there are so many other things I would rather be doing. I get angry because another person criticizes the work I am doing. Blah, blah, blah...

We all know people who groan and sigh at every little task they undertake. They walk around like Eeyore, with their own personal cloud of misery and discontent hanging over their heads. And we all know people who, like Pooh, are exactly the opposite - whatever they do, whether the sun shines or whether it is raining - their eyes are bright and their attitudes are pleasant.

It occurred to me this morning, reading in Deuteronomy, that the blessing isn't so much in the particular work that I am doing, so much as it is in the knowledge of the presence and goodness of God while I am at work doing whatever it is that God has given me to do. Likewise, the curse isn't so much that the work will be inordinately difficult or unfruitful, but rather that the work will be done without the comfort and joy that comes from a consciousness of God's love and favor.

That is the kind of blessing that I want: the blessing of shalomness. The peace, wholeness, integrity, and consistency of person that comes from knowing and living in light of the truth that I am God's, and He is mine...

...in the city and in the field, in my children and in my work, in my "basket" and in my "kneading bowl," when I come in and when I go out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


All this tidying up around the house got me to thinking...

Long, long ago, in that galaxy far, far away where I used to keep my drawers organized and the bathroom fixtures polished, my husband asked me once why I thought it was such a big deal to have clean closets.

"It's okay for closets to be junky. That's what closets are for," he explained. "That's why they have doors. Close the door, and then you don't have to worry about the mess."

I am sure Steve was trying to make me feel better about my growing inability to stay on top of all the clutter in our house.

Well, since tackling this 30 Days of Dominion Challenge, while struggling to dig out from under decades of just "closing the door," I finally have an answer for why it is - YES, it is - a big deal to routinely clean out and organize the closets:

Because, if I neglect the closets, sooner or later, inevitably, the mess is going to take over the rest of the house.

This is what my closet looks like right now:

This is supposed to be a walk-in closet. You might be able to "walk" into this closet if you planted the soles of your shoes firmly on the hardwood and pushed really, really hard against all the junk on the floor. You know, kind of like wading into a pile of construction debris.

Now, maybe you're thinking, "Well, that closet is not so bad, Camille. After all, if the mess bothers you," - never mind the health hazard of having to climb over all that stuff when I need something off the top shelf! - "you can always just shut the door."

Except that, if you've been keeping up with the Before and After pictures on Facebook, you know that the mess in my closet is not confined to the closet. It is ALL OVER THE FREAKING HOUSE.

Why do I need to keep my closets clean? Because if I don't, pretty soon I won't be keeping anything else clean either. There's no room to put this in the closet - I'll just stick it here on the dresser. Oh, the top of the dresser is full? Well, I can stash this on the bookshelf...

Before long, the mess that was hidden in my closet seems to be taking over my entire life.

In fact, the mess gets so big, so out-of-hand, so everywhere, that I give up trying to deal with it at all:  It's MY house, right?, so I can pile junk everywhere if I want. I'm not trying to impress anybody. If you don't like the mess, you can just leave.

You can already tell where I'm going with this, right?

This past week, it has humbled me to realize that my closet, my dresser, the bookshelves, the not-sewing area, all of these are a reflection of myself - of my heart:  there is crap all over everywhere.

In fact, there is so much clutter and garbage that I don't think I can muster the will to even begin to deal with it.

On top of that, there are those who tell me, "It's not that big of a deal. Just ignore the mess." (That's why closets - and hearts - have doors, right?)

And there are others who get a panicked look, like they are afraid that if I start dealing with MY mess, I might uncover some of their mess in the process. They start running offense:  "Don't even think about going there. Step away from the junk. Haven't you ever heard that it's better to let sleeping dogs lie?"

There is too much garbage, more than I can deal with. I should ignore it. Even the people around me say I should just close the door and walk away.

I am defeated before I even begin, both from within and from without. Sigh.

People, I need a really BIG, indefatigable, Muscle Man Jesus with a front-end loader and a 50-gallon drum of Clorox solution to come in and save me before I suffocate under the weight of all the garbage in my life.

Guess what?!!!

Big, indefatigable, Muscle Man Jesus does just exactly that...and more.

He comes in shoveling and scrubbing and hauling trash to the burn pile. I see the thinnest sliver of light slice through the gloom of all the clutter. I catch my first breath of fresh air.

All the while that He is digging through my mountain of mess and yuckiness, He is singing and smiling. Pretty soon, I find myself smiling, too. He hands me a shovel, and invites me to start digging alongside Him. In spite of the sweat and the dirt and the sore muscles in my back, I find that a sweet melody begins to play over my lips, too.

It's the song of a prisoner set free. Free of the junk. Free, and walking freer every day.

I almost gave up on the 30 Days challenge when I considered
tackling the Not-Sewing area. I sat on the floor and cried.

Today, however, I feel like a party is in order!

Monday, March 9, 2015


If you have mothered several small children, you are probably not unfamiliar with the following scenario...

Little Bobby has reached the age of potty training. One morning early in this new adventure, you sit on the edge of the tub while Bobby perches on his little potty chair. You read books. You sing songs. You count the square tiles on the bathroom floor together. And, finally, something magic happens.

Bobby poops in the potty.

You - Mom - are all ready to do a happy dance and to dole out "I went potty!" stickers and treats. Bobby, on the other hand, has a completely different reaction when he sees the piece of poop in the bottom of his little potty chair.





If you didn't know better, you would think someone had just amputated an essential body part. Without anesthesia.

Yes, saying Goodbye to one's own poop as it swirls down and out of the toilet can be rather traumatic.

I had a friend many, many years ago who lived with her husband and her six children in a small, three-bedroom house. Amazing, isn't it - How on earth did so many people fit in such a small space?! Well, they were very deliberate about not having a lot of stuff. I don't ever remember Mary's house feeling cramped or crowded when I visited.

Mary had another friend, Susan, a single, professional woman in her mid-30's. Susan had to sell her 3-bedroom house and upsize to a 4-bedroom McMansion, because she did not have room in her old house for all of her belongings. I guess Mary's family spent most of their income on food and shoes, while Susan had discretionary income to spend on furniture, decorations, a huge wardrobe, etc.

I remember at the time, thinking how odd that Mary and her big family fit so well into their tiny house, yet Susan barely fit into twice the space.

I have a friend who travels a lot. She is the queen of packing light. Her travel wardrobe consists of a few garments that are really great at multitasking and that launder well in a hotel sink. One modest-sized carry-on can get her through a week quite nicely. I'm not very travel savvy and I don't know if I could pack as efficiently as Sarah, but I am definitely awed by her skills!

Last week I wrote about my 30 Days of Dominion plan to knock out some serious spring cleaning. I'm at Day 9 - so far, so good. This challenge has not progressed, however, without causing some stress, for me as well as for other people in my family. There is a definite atmosphere of tension in the house as folks wonder, "What will Mom clean out today?!"

What things have I discovered I have difficulty parting with?

Gift bags and boxes. I save these, thinking I can reuse them in the future. How many gift bags are enough to have on hand - one dozen? two dozen? Even if I have fifty gift bags crammed into the storage box underneath my bed, it just about kills me to toss out even one.

Books. Our shelves are groaning under the weight of books that are stacked bottom to top, two books deep. Even books that I KNOW I will NEVER read again - it pains me to part with them.

Clothes. The slacks that are so big now that they will quite literally fall off into a puddle around my feet:  what if I take them to Goodwill, and then I gain all this weight back?! The jeans that are so holey even my kids are embarrassed to see me wear them? I want to save them - right here in this big pile of other holey jeans - in case I decide to tackle a painting project next summer.

Pet supplies. We have dog collars and leashes, but no dogs. And you never know when you might need a mouse-eaten, moldy old saddle with a rotted girth strap, now do you? Better hang on to it, just in case.

If you didn't know better, you would think I was Little Bobby, freaking out about flushing my own poop.

At fifty years of age, I should be able to demonstrate a little more maturity.


So, Dear Reader, what things do you have a hard time letting go of?

Thursday, March 5, 2015


"God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life and convenience."
- John Locke, Second Essay Concerning Civil Government

Yesterday, Helen and I read the above quote in our study of the United States Constitution. John Locke asserted that life and liberty are secure only so long as the right of property is secure. Locke then pointed out that, in Genesis 1:28, man received the commandment from his Creator to subdue the earth and have dominion over it.

Our textbook, The 5000 Year Leap, states concerning property rights:

It is obvious that if there were no such thing as "ownership" in property, which means legally protected exclusiveness, there would be no subduing or extensive development of the resources of the earth. Without private "rights" in developed or improved property, it would be perfectly lawful for a lazy, covetous neighbor to move in as soon as the improvements were completed and and take possession of the fruits of his industrious neighbor.

Locke makes the point that all property is "an extension of a person's life, energy, and ingenuity...to destroy or confiscate such property is, in reality, an attack on the essence of life itself."

Without protection of basic property rights, individuals quickly learn that the fruits of their labors may be taken away by unscrupulous neighbors. This, in turn, produces a culture devoid of any incentive to work or to improve one's situation.

Yesterday's lesson seemed timely in light of my recent resolution to subdue the clutter taking over my house. In the 30 Days of Dominion post, I confessed to having once been a "cleanie." Now, however, I am a definite "messy." What happened? Well, what happened was something very like what John Locke described, only on a small-scale, domestic level.

Over the years, I learned that if I cleaned out a closet or work area, someone else would notice the extra storage space or tidy work area and decide that it perfectly suited their own needs. Eventually, I lost the incentive to try to stay on top of the mess. Why put time and labor into tidying things up, if someone else was just going to come along and pile their clutter everywhere?

The home was supposedly my "domain," but, in reality, it was mine mostly insofar as it needed cleaning. How the "cleaned up" space was used usually seemed to be someone else's prerogative.

Of course, that was clearly a bad attitude on my part. Just because someone else is inconsiderate, that does not free me from the mandate to endeavor to "exercise dominion" over my little corner of the world. But, that said, can I offer a bit of advice to those of you who live with someone who is responsible for the day-to-day running of a home?

Put your stuff away. When Mom spends all morning decluttering the kitchen counter, and you come in that afternoon and pile your books, mail, car parts, computer, and snack bar wrappers on the freshly-cleaned counter and leave all that mess there indefinitely, you are communicating that Mom's work did not have any value. That is so demotivating, folks.

If Mom devotes a week to cleaning off the bookshelves in the living room, do not - when you discover two feet of free shelf space - I repeat, DO NOT immediately commandeer that space to display your collection of owl pellets. A better response when you notice that the shelves have been cleaned would be to simply say, "Wow! That looks great!" - without turning your mind instantly to how you can fill up that extra two feet. Please, let Mom enjoy some "dominion" over the clutter for a few days!

When you discover that Mom has cleaned out the junk drawer in the kitchen - that she has thrown away two years' worth of fingernail clippings, a dozen dried up markers, an empty tape dispenser, and something that looked like a petrified Tootsie Roll - DO NOT start anxiously digging through the trash can. Just don't do it. Trust me:  it is okay for Mom to be Queen of the Junk Drawer.

Many women choose to "exercise dominion" in jobs outside the home. Me, I'd be thrilled if I could figure out how to "exercise dominion" as far as the edge of the porch.

I think a little respect would go a long way toward helping me do just that.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion...over all the earth..." -  Genesis 1:26 

Caroline asked the ladies at exercise class this morning if any of us have plans for major spring cleaning projects.

I don't do spring cleaning.

I don't really do summer, fall, or winter cleaning, either.

I used to clean. Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my closets were always organized and the bathroom faucet never had water spots. I kept up with the ironing and vacuumed under the beds.

But then life got so BIG and HAIRY that there was no way I could keep up with it all. As fast as I picked up laundry and pushed it into the washing machine, seven backyard archaeologists created more. If I mopped the floors, the cat got diarrhea.

And I learned that being the "picker upper" made me the bad guy. "Do you know where my good writing pen is?" "No." "You haven't seen it anywhere? I thought I left it right here on the counter." "No, I haven't seen it." "Well, you were cleaning up in here yesterday evening..."

Of course, nobody would come right out and say it, but there was often the not-so-subtle suggestion that a person who cleaned up around the house couldn't be trusted. Like I had ulterior motives or a sinister plot to make whatever was precious simply vanish into thin air. (Maybe this was because of my Black Bag escapades.)

Anyway, I got discouraged and I gave up. I hated the mess. I hated the clutter. No one else seemed to care if stuff was piled all over everywhere, and I finally decided that staying on top of the housework was a loosing battle. Besides, I was tired of being the bad guy.

Except that now...

A friend on Facebook posted last week about a challenge she had accepted from another friend:  40 Bags in 40 Days. The challenge is simple:  every day for 40 days, declutter one area and throw out one bag of trash.

Merry is doing the 40 Bags-40 Days challenge in observance of Lent. One day last week, she cleaned out the junk drawer in the kitchen. One day, she cleaned out the cabinet where she stores small kitchen appliances. Every day on Facebook, she has been posting Before and After pictures, because she is techno-savvy and cool like that.

Merry has inspired me.

After years of not-spring-cleaning and not cleaning in general, my house is a disaster. If I think about all the cleaning projects that need my attention, I'll end up on the floor in a fetal position. But one drawer? One bag? I think I may actually be able to manage that.

Since I don't "do" Lent, and since the 40 Days thing leading up to Lent has already started anyway, I have created my own challenge:  30 Days of Dominion. I have resolved that for 30 days, I am going to exercise dominion over the clutter in my house, one bag at a time.

And because Merry's pictures have been so inspirational, I am going to share some of my own Before and After photos on Facebook. If I can figure out the technical aspect, that is.

And if I miss a day, no sweat. I'll just pick up the challenge the next day, or the next.

Kitchen Pantry - Before

Here is what the closet/pantry in the kitchen looked like this morning, before I began the 30 Days of Dominion challenge.

Kitchen Pantry - After

Here is what the kitchen pantry looks like now.

Actually, I cleaned the cabinet under the kitchen sink first, but I forgot to take a Before photo. Since I reallyreallyreally wanted to do the Before/After thing, I tackled a second project, the pantry closet. Don't expect a repeat of the 2-projects-in-1-day thing. Just think of this as sort of an inspirational,  kick-start bonus.

Hmmm, what do I want to clean tomorrow? I can't wait to see what I'll be able to accomplish in one month!

(For 30 Days of Dominion updates and photos, click on the 30 Days of Dominion link under Previous Blog Topics in the right-hand column.)