It’s usually not until the first rays of spring sunshine come streaming through my window, until I feel the first bit of warmth on my skin, that I realize just how low my spirits dipped during the winter.
I tend to let my home get a little dirtier in winter because I just don’t have the energy or motivation to keep it all together. The darkness hides the dust anyway, right?
But what about my heart? Does the darkness of winter hide the cobwebs that creep into my soul? Or do I just choose to ignore them, hoping that no one else can see them, pretending it will get better? Because as much as winter is a season of celebration and coziness, by the time February rolls around, it’s all lost its luster and I’m slipping into old habits. Discontentment. Criticism. Clipped words and clipped wings.
Just like I do a few rounds of purging and spring cleaning for my home, I’m finding that I need to do the same kind of cleaning for my soul. Of course, I can’t do this without the help of Jesus. The light of the sun illuminates the filthy parts of my home, and the Light of the Son illuminates the filthy parts of my heart. He’ll help me banish the stains, the dust, the clutter. He’ll restore me to newness.
If you’re in need of some soul-level spring cleaning, I hope you’ll find these practices helpful.
1. Take stock of what you have.
A good spring-cleaning purge starts with figuring out what you have that’s useful and beautiful. At the soul level, this means taking stock of the things you’re grateful for: relationships, a hobby, a ministry, moments with God, upcoming events, a way you’ve grown. These are just a few things I’m grateful for as I surface from winter.
- My husband, Dan. I’m always grateful for him, but my heart is bursting with love for him right now. It was a rough winter with his injuries and hospital visits and ACL surgery, but it also gave us tons of quality time together. He’s been supportive of every big and small milestone in my writing and the launch of this blog, and the way he cheers me on every day is so much more than I deserve. And as we look forward to what spring and summer hold for us, we couldn’t be more satisfied with our little life together. Marriage isn’t always easy or pretty, but right now it is. And I’m soaking up every moment.
- My home(s). My childhood homes. My mom’s house. The apartments I’ve shared with friends and Dan. Even in the direst of financial circumstances, I’ve always had a home—physically, with a working roof and protection from the elements, and figuratively, a place where I’m known and valued. Each place holds a whole lifetime of memories because of the people I’ve laughed, wept, and broken bread with in each one.
- Work that fills me. I know what a rare joy and blessing it is to do work that I love and that gives me life instead of taking it. It’s a beautiful thing to have enough energy left after work to pour into Dan and my own creative endeavors. And bonus: I get to work with talented writers and editors all day, which has helped me refine my own writing.
2. Purge the things that are weighing you down and clean the dirt off your heart.
Just like you’d purge the items that are broken, no longer used, or taking up unnecessary space, do the same thing with your life. Consider your schedule, your work, your relationships, your hobbies, your kids’ activities, your habits, your sins. What needs to go? What is sucking the life out of you? What are you doing that doesn’t have a purpose for God or for your family? Which thorny sins are stuck in your skin? Here’s just a small picture of what I’m purging.
- Checking my phone constantly to see what everyone else is up to, instead of being present to create memories of my own.
- Making excuses for why I don’t have time to read. It’s my favorite thing. I need to do it more.
- Seeking to be heard and understood before seeking to hear and understand.
- Assuming intentions instead of praying for what could be under the surface.
- Worrying that God will take away blessings. (Truth-telling time. This one is so difficult for me.)
3. Notice what’s missing and take steps toward closing the gaps.
When you purge the old from your closets and your cabinets, it’s often apparent that there are holes to fill in and things that are missing. Getting rid of the old helps us to see where these gaps are. As you let God sweep away the broken pieces of your soul, notice what you need to fill up with instead. It could actually be nothing, just silence. It may be directly related to what you purged. It could be something new altogether.
I know there are many holes that we often can’t fill ourselves. You may be dreaming of a husband or a baby or to be debt-free, and you know that these things are not entirely within your control. That said, consider what small steps you can take to move toward your good desires. You may want to step out of your comfort zone and talk to someone new once a week. You may want to change your diet or have a conversation with your husband. You may need to talk with a financial planner. These are not solutions or quick fixes, but they are healthy steps that are within your control.
Here are the steps I’m taking to fill in some gaps:
- Choosing a few words each day to speak encouragement to Dan.
- Asking my people: How am I doing? Am I exhausting or life giving to be around?
- Reading for at least an hour each weekend.
- Saying out loud, “I trust You. Help me trust You more.” I’ll say the words thousands of times if that’s what it will take to make me believe them and live them.
It’s spring. It’s the season of lightness and brightness and freshness. Let’s do the work necessary to refine our souls, not just our homes. Let’s stretch our limbs and our comfort zones. Let’s turn our faces to the sun. Let’s let the Lord make us new.
What do you have that you’re grateful for today? What’s weighing your soul down as you come out of winter? What small steps do you need to take to fill in your gaps and get a little closer to the life you desire? I’d love to hear from you.