On the walk to school, my rurally-raised neighbor (who knows everything about the land) comments upon the beauty of various trees’ habits. She informs me that a tree’s habit refers to its overall shape.
She identifies trees by their habits. Some trees squat and spread lower to the ground:
Others rise tall into the sky as perfect vase shapes:
Some grow into beautiful ovals:
And some unfold against the sky like Japanese fans.
But as I look around me, I notice something astounding. Some trees in the forest don’t squat or unfold. Some don’t rise up and spread their arms wide.
I learn that if other plants or objects crowd a tree, the intended habit changes. It diminishes. Stunted and pressed upon, the tree loses potential somehow.
I think about the simple and natural need for space. We have an intended shape–our best habit–but when crowded and pressured, we change.
I think about making room for my husband, children, friends, students–and myself–to unfold, to stretch wide. Do I stifle? Do I crowd? What would it look like to give everybody some breathing room?
Today, I’m making space for my best habit to take shape. I want to unfold like a bright yellow fan.
Journal: Do you feel like you’ve taken shape into your best habit? What allowed this?
I’m standing in my daughter’s room, and we touch every item and decide whether we need it anymore.
We are making space. Saturday cleaning day means deep cleaning for Spring. We pile up books we never read, clothes we never wear, and toys we don’t use into one big heap to donate. Afterward, the room seems to open up into this beautiful expanse. The older daughter can actually turn cartwheels all around the room with that kind of space.
With space like this, the girls create and imagine. I can’t get them to leave that room.
We release objects from our grasp. We let things go to make room, not just for more stuff, but for an emptiness we need in order to thrive. For example, I learn that most folks only wear 1/3 of their wardrobe on a regular basis. It’s true. My youngest has four or five outfits that she wants to wear over and over again. She chooses between those alone. The rest? We donate.
Her choices are now clearer and her decisions less stressful. She thrives with less.
I look at my life today and think about reducing down to the important 1/3 of it. What about this clutter in my mind? All the worries, all the stress?
I wonder if 1/3 of what I think about actually matters for eternity.
I want spacious places. When I get to those places in my heart and in my home, I barricade my life against the onslaught of more that we seem to suck in, like a vortex, as soon as space clears.
1. Find the 1/3 that matters.
2. Give away the rest.
3. Keep the spacious places open.
That’s how I’m living with flair on this Saturday Cleaning Day.
Journal: What needs to go?
For the first time in 9 years, I’m going to have space. Space and time. Both my daughters will attend elementary school from 8:30-3:00 PM.
Already, I’m filling up those future days. I work part time and help coordinate ministry events with my husband. I write novels and design college writing courses on the side. Saturday morning I clean the house. If you read this blog, you know that I keep busy. I’m driven by some unseen force to produce, to achieve, to be recognized. That’s my dark side.
And it’s showing up again as this new school year approaches. I’m already thinking about new projects and new campaigns. I’m wondering what group I can organize, what new courses to teach, and what new novel I’ll conceive.
My husband, the wise Eagle Scout that led me to the still water on our anniversary hike, said this:
“Just because there’s space doesn’t mean you have to fill it.”
I stare at him, mouth agape. Whatever can that mean? I don’t even know what that would look like.
This morning in church, I talk to God about my drive to fill space with as many things as I can. What am I doing? Whose affection am I trying to win? What prize am I racing toward? I ask God to show me how to be led and not driven. I ask God to show me what it would look like to have so much space in a day that I could rest, listen, and respond to my life rather than reacting in a rush of furious energy.
So I’m not filling space this fall. I’ve turned down 3 offers for more work this week. I even said “no” to a teaching offer and a writing project. Cheers! High-fives! I’m going to feed my soul and practice not filling space.
I need space to be led by God and not driven. I’m still not sure what it looks like to slow down and sit in empty space. But whatever it is, it’s a new thing. It will be my less frantic form of flair.