Treasures in Heaven

“So Kate, when are you going to write something else? I can’t wait to read it.” How many times have I heard that? And how many times have I felt shattered inside, knowing that all I wanted to do was just write, and how handicapped I felt when it came time to start? For some reason it is easy to waste hours on Facebook or playing solitaire when there are dishes piling up in the sink, and trashing falling out of the can and onto the floor, but it’s impossible to do anything productive. And so, for years now, once in a great while I would work on my two vocations, mothering and writing, but only part time. The rest of the time I was hiding. Hiding behind books and phone calls and social networking. Being the life of the party, but never being the one to HOST the party.

I’ve made small changes here and there, while failing to address the big picture. My environment is chaotic, and because of that I am forever chaotic inside. My concentration is almost negligible. I make a stab at being the woman I want to be here and there, reading to my kids, and doing crafts and cooking big meals from scratch, writing the occasional witty or emotional blog post, but the woman that I AM keeps tearing down my progress by constantly picking up random bits at the thrift store and struggling to part with the things I own, even as said things are constantly falling onto the floor till I am weary of picking them up.

It was only last week, after feeling like I had nearly hit rock bottom, that I begged people to pray for me. And I got my answer. No anti-depressant, or vitamin, or close friendship, or baby, or soda, or candy, or new dress, or old treasure would EVER be able to calm my savage breast. It’s a vicious cycle. I feel inadequate, so I buy something to make me feel better, which clutters my home, which makes me feel inadequate. And it has to end, before it destroys me.

My home was literally eating me alive. It was crammed with stuff. Mostly good stuff. Interesting antiques. Great Toys. Literature. Cool Clothes. Great music. But there was so much Good but Unnecessary stuff that it was gobbling up the Good and Necessary stuff. My house was becoming a cancer and I was rotting from the inside. But it has always been so hard to articulate. I knew I was a bad housekeeper, but even when I tried, I failed. And failed. And failed. And I couldn’t explain to my friends who were losing their children, their marriages, their homes and jobs why I felt like dying. Because I didn’t understand it myself.

So I did the only thing I could do. I cried out to the Lord, and asked those who loved me to cry out too. And I waited for my answer. When I had my answer, and realized that my worst enemy was myself, and what I had done to my environment, I also realized that like any addict I could not break this addiction alone. So reinforcements were called in. I have let near strangers and dear friends into these four walls we call a home, and have watched as people have, without judgement, thrown away my garbage, carted off my non-essentials, and treated me with respect and kindness that I find unfathomable.

It never could have happened without full disclosure. I have hinted for years that I felt like I was drowning, that my stress levels were astronomical, but the sympathy only went as deep as my confession. It wasn’t until I humbled myself enough to be completely transparent that suddenly I have offers to help pouring in, to the point where I feel almost guilty about accepting all the help. Guilty except that I know that I need it. The guilt usually starts when I start lying to myself again. When I am completely open with myself about my depravity, then I am able to freely accept this great gift.

I wish I could pinpoint exactly where it all started. Who knows how many generations of sentimental squirrels I descend from? I am a product of The Great Depression, The Fabulous 50s,The Me Generation, The prosperous 80s. When you combine a fear of lacking with the production of cheap goods you have the recipe for clutter. I sometimes feel like the stereotypical caveman. I love shiny things. My deeply nostalgic nature causes my heart to leap at the silliest plastic trinket.

My parents are natural historians. Everyone in our family is an amateur archivist or museum curator of some kind, albeit sloppy ones. We have a strong desire to connect to and preserve the past, yet we have very little skill in that area. Things cannot be discarded, but nor can the time be taken to store anything properly. That takes time and money away from accumulating more and more. Arranging can always come tomorrow.

I fell for the message of our society hook, line and sinker. I felt if I owned enough interesting things, it would make ME interesting. But there could not possibly be a lazier way to be interesting. Anyone can walk into a thrift store and plunk down 50 cents for a vase. It takes the artistically inspired to actually place that vase on a shelf and create beauty. No amount of admiration for human handiwork and creativity was making my mess beautiful. In my hands, it all became junk. But I persisted in believing that ownership was the answer to becoming a person of value.

And so comes the downward spiral. Hundreds of lipsticks, no time to put one on. Tons of dishes, but no room to cook, no place to hold a party. So many toys that just walking into the playroom causes ADHD. I even carried my attitude into my child-bearing. I think in the most secret place in my heart I felt I had to have a matched set of children, and the more I had the closer I came to winning. People say “How do you do it?” The answer...Not very well. “Low Standards,” I always say, and it was only half a joke.

But children aren’t like glassware. I can’t regift them, or send them away. When I obsessively collect “treasures” to the point where I can’t function enough to cook my kids a meal, or read them a story, then I am treating them like trash. My beautiful, intelligent children absolutely sparkle like jewels, and they deserve to be treated as such. And anything, and I mean anything, that interferes with that has to GO.

I was learning this lesson. My friends were coming in, and carting things away. I was brave! When Kara and Kim set aside a bag for Goodwill and would not let me look in it, I obeyed them. But I got cocky. Just like when I would read my Bible and pray until I felt better, and then give it up when things felt more smooth, instead of thankfulness I felt pride. Such a deceptive emotion. I decided to reward myself. “One sale won’t hurt...”

If I hadn’t gone someplace I wasn’t supposed to be, a girl named Lisa would have the storage cabinet for her sewing room. But I messed that up (long story, trust me on this. It’s my fault.) My daughter has already broken off the backs of one of the pairs of earrings I purchased. I am a few dollars poorer. But none of that was enough to shock me back into reality. That honor belongs to the sweater.

The vintage sweater was marked $3, but it was after noon so it was now $1.50. It looked like it would fit, and it was a style that few can pull off, but I am one of the people who can. It smelled a little funny, but I figured it was nothing that a little Woolite and vinegar couldn’t fix. It wasn’t until I attempted to put it on a hanger and watched the shoulder disintegrate that I recognized that I had been sold a sweater with dry rot.

Watching that sweater turn to dust in front of my face was like being splashed with cold water. “Wake up, stupid!” The revolving door has to stop sometime. Will I be trapped inside? Or will I get out? Who knows how many times I will climb back in? These words from Jesus have not stopped refraining in my heart since that day.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “ Matthew 6: 19-21