Most of my life up until I was about 40 I was not really organized. I wasn't necessarily disorganized; I just didn't have any special organizing abilities to speak of. I felt disorganized, raising 3 kids in a 900 square foot home, but I think that was because there wasn't enough storage and therefore not enough places to put everything away. Seriously, is there ever enough storage for all the items you need with babies and children?
Two distinctive things happened within a year before and after I turned forty: First, two months before my 40th birthday I had a life-changing, crying and sobbing on the floor God experience when I gave Him my heart. From that moment on, at 12 noon on Oct. 31, 1994, I have never been the same. Second, about a year after I turned 40 I lost my brother and my mother within 3 months' time.
This was a traumatic time in my life. My brother died on Dec. 3, 1995 at only 55--too young to die. It was devastating to my mother, who was 77 at the time. I don't think she ever really recovered. Not quite 3 months later, on Feb. 28, my mother died suddenly. Even though she was in ICU already from a heart attack a couple of days earlier, they were unable to revive her.
And so I was left the sole survivor of the family I grew up in. My dad had passed in 1983, so I was the only one left. I didn't see how I could possibly get through this and bear these losses. It didn't occur to me until recently that He knew I could bear these losses. He sustained me through it all and gave me the grace I needed. It was all part of His master plan.
This brings me to the point of this post. He got me through this difficult time emotionally with a peace that passes all understanding. I can't explain it, I just knew I would come through ok. What I didn't know was how much God was about to change my life.
Suddenly, I had about three weeks to get my mama's apartment packed up and moved to storage until I could get a yard sale together. No pressure at all.
I remember walking into her apartment and looking around the room thinking "where do I start?" And then God spoke to me. It was life-changing to me, but some of you will have heard this if you watch reality TV shows by professional organizers or read their blogs. Bear in mind, though, that this was 20 years ago; internet was just getting started and there were no reality shows on TV. Professional organizers were not really a thing yet. So even though what I felt He was saying is very basic and logical, it had escaped me my whole life. I had never thought of this or heard it from any source. I felt strongly impressed to do the following:
"Focus on one thing at a time. Do not worry about all the other stuff in the room. Just deal with what's in front of you."
That may not be earth-shattering to you, but it was revelation knowledge to me back then. Essentially what the Lord showed me was to start at the doorway and move clockwise around the room until everything had been dealt with. For instance, I took a dresser drawer in the bedroom and focused on its contents using the "keep, toss, sell" directions like the organizers do. I boxed it up or threw it away and moved on to the next dresser drawer.
You may be thinking, "wow, she's cold-hearted and unfeeling." However, I am very sentimental. This was a daunting task, and if God had not helped me I could not have done it! But by the sheer grace of God, I was able to detach myself emotionally from my mother's belongings so that I could sort through it and get it ready to give away, sell, or throw it away. Some of it did go into storage until I could decide, but I was able to decide on most of it during that process.
It took me 3 weeks, going after work and on the weekends, to box up her apartment. We rented a storage building and stored her furniture to put in a yard sale when I had a chance to get that together. I had some help at times from my husband and kids, but I had to make all the decisions about the stuff. No one could do that part for me. It was mine alone to do, and I knew it.
Because my dad was a photographer, and both he and my mom kept virtually everything, there were a lot of pictures. A LOT. I was finding random pictures in every drawer, nook and cranny and I began to feel the need to organize them chronologically.
Then I felt strongly--probably the urging of the Holy Spirit again--that I should put the photographs in plastic containers. Maybe this would seem like common sense, but it had never occurred to me until I was in the middle of it. I went and bought large clear plastic storage boxes and sorted the pictures into them. In April 1996, three weeks after I turned in the key to my mom's apartment, an F-3 tornado came through our town and ripped part of the roof off the storage building where her furniture and personal belongings, including all those pictures, were stored.
It was over a week before we were allowed to go in and check on our storage, because the storage building was in a heavily damaged part of town. Trees and power lines were down and houses were reduced to splinters. When we finally got in there, a lot of the furniture was ruined due to the rain that continued all night after the tornado went through our area, and a lot of the boxed items were, too. However, the pictures, safe in their plastic containers, were unharmed. Every one of them. I'm so thankful I listened to that still, small voice that told me to put the pictures in plastic containers.
It's been 20 years this month since I was in the middle of cleaning out my mother's apartment, but through the years I have retained my God-given ability to organize and deal with all manner of "stuff." There are times when I still walk into a room and wonder where to start, but I simply ask God to show me and He does. Every time. Maybe He allows me to feel overwhelmed sometimes to remember that He is my source, I don't know. I do know this for sure: I give Him all the glory for my organizational abilities. I could not do it without His guidance and His all-sufficient grace.
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT.