If April showers bring May flowers, what do torrential May showers bring? Lots of flooding! As I attempted to finish my article on Spring Cleaning for our marriage, I was interrupted by thunderstorms with large hail and driving sheets of rain.
As I watched the rivers of water flow through my back yard, I thought of my poor friends whose basements get wet in a regular shower and I wondered what damage this kind of rain would do. I began to see a parallel between the storm and my topic…In the course of normal living, clutter can build up over time. The longer we leave it unkempt, the bigger the mess. Then, when the torrential storms of life come…and they will come…the things we let pile up can be destroyed in an instant. Back to my friends-
When I spoke with them, I found that the strong winds and rain had indeed flooded their basements. The friends that had their “clutter” under control and their precious keepsakes protected didn’t have as much of a mess to clean up. However my friends that had not taken the time to organize and protect the cherished keepsakes were devastated when they found some special mementos in the flooded debris.
I was sad for their loss, but the analogy works in my article because it’s the same in our marriages. If we let life’s clutter (unforgiveness, anger, bad attitudes, and hurt feelings) pile up instead of taking care of it right away, then the precious things (our love, friendship, trust) can be destroyed. So how do we eliminate the “clutter” and protect the “precious things” in our marriage? Here are some suggestions:
When I do Spring cleaning in my home, I use a method I learned from Emilie Barnes. She developed a six week program called More Hours in My Day to de-clutter your home. In it she taught a system using boxes (or bags) to de-clutter. She told us to label them “Put Away”, “Throw Away”, and “Give Away”. We were to make a list of what we had for safe storage (ie, the attic, basement, closets, etc). Next we made a list of the areas we wanted to de-clutter. Then we made a list of what we would need to do the job (ie, bags or boxes labeled “Put Away”, “Throw Away”, “Give Away”; marker to label things; and boxes for storage items).
Next, you decide which area you will work on first. She recommended starting in the front hall closet. She told us to allot enough time to do the job and schedule it in our calendars. She told us to turn off our phones and not answer the door. (That was over 25 years ago! Today I’m sure she would also say to stay off Facebook!) Once we began the job we were to take everything out and examine it, then decide which box it belonged in. Once everything was out and in its proper box, then we could put the closet items back into the closet. We were to stay there until it was completed. When the closet is back to order, we take the trash out, and take things in the put away box to their proper location. And put the give away box in the car to take to the donation store or to the friend/family you are giving things to. Then and only then were we to move on to the next area. She suggested our last area to be the kitchen since it will be the biggest job.
So how can we relate the above to our marriage? Here’s an idea . . .
When my husband comes home, do I greet him at the front door with a smile and a hug or with complaints and problems? Is he glad to come home or afraid to walk in the door for fear of what he’ll see or hear? Have I created a loving home atmosphere for him? Or is it cluttered and chaotic? How did I welcome him home when we were first married? Do I show him how happy I am that he is home? And that I missed him? Or how much I appreciate what he does for our family?
Throw away: Crabbiness. Bitterness. Selfishness.
Give away: Smiles, Love, Appreciation, Service, Hugs and Kisses.
Put away: Topics and problems that can be discussed after he has had time to eat and relax.
Is my mind clean with good thoughts? “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things,” Philippians 4:8. Our mind is the battlefield. The good news is we can choose what we think about. Instead of thinking about how “he” didn’t take out the garbage or fix that faucet, I can think about all he does do for us. Am I letting our dirty laundry (stinkin thinkin) pile up, or am I taking care to clean and repair it as needed?
Throw away: Stained items like arguments, bad memories or non-loving and negative words.
Give away: Cheerful service. I remember when Sherry Meyer had to iron MANY tablecloths for her daughter’s wedding, and instead of complaining she prayed as she ironed for each person that would sit at that table. I try to remember to do the same when I fold each item of clothing.
Put away: Clean thoughts, memories of loving times together and encouraging words spoken. My son is getting married the end of this month and in my search for good ideas, I found a great one on Pinterest. They suggested that the bride and groom each write a love letter to each other. In it tell the other what they love about them. Then on their wedding day, they put the letters in a box with a bottle of wine and nail it shut. When the “storm” of a big argument comes, they are instructed to open the box, pour two glasses of wine and go to their separate corners to read the letter their spouse wrote to them to remind them of their love for each other. Isn’t that a great idea? You could replace wine with cocoa, coffee or tea if you are a non-alcoholic home. The point is; put away good memories and reminders of the TRUTH of your love for each other so you can pull it out in case of an emergency.
Our bedroom should be a place for privacy, rest, and intimacy. There are some really great Christian marriage books on the topic of intimacy. One thing that I know for certain is that the bedroom was meant for a husband, wife and the Lord – that’s it.
Throw away: Baggage from past abuse or incorrect information about the marriage bed. If I find that issues from my childhood may be contaminating this area of my life, I need to seek help. If I never received good Godly advice on marriage or intimacy, or didn’t have good role models, then I need to seek advice and look for role models from people with loving, Godly marriages. Not from my friends who are struggling with issues of their own. Which by the way, intimacy between a husband and wife should be kept between a husband and a wife and not discussed with friends or on Facebook.
Give away: Myself to my husband. Emotionally, spiritually and yes ladies, physically!
Put away: Anything that distracts you from each other; ie; TV, phones, computers, etc.
The living/family room:
This area of most homes/marriages might contain habits as a couple for entertainment, hospitality and daily interaction. Is there something that needs to be cleaned out of this area of your life?
Does the TV distract me from my spouse? While the Bible never says “thou shalt not watch TV,” we would be wise to watch out that good things don’t become distractions from the great things. Paul said “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything,” 1 Corinthians 6:12, 13.
What kind of books am I reading? Spicy Novels? Or books that will help me be a better spouse? Or the Bible?
What kind of movies or shows do I watch? Would I want to watch it with my children? Or my parents?
Well, you get the idea. I’ve written this from my perspective, as a wife. But I believe both husbands and wives should be diligent to not allow ‘clutter’ destroy the precious–the spouse God has given you, the home you share, the special memories of your lives together and the shared dreams for your future together.
Here is a list of some great marriage spring cleaning tools I found on the internet:
Take time to ask God if there is anything you need to forgive your spouse for. Release any hurt feelings that could lead to bitterness.
If I have hurt my spouse in any way, take responsibility for my words or actions. Ask God to help us not let pride get in the way of our apologizing. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” James 5:16
Some times we need to take time to have some difficult discussions about money, work, relatives, children, health, etc. Be open with our spouse. Talk about your concerns, don’t keep them inside. This creates a wall of distrust. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
Remember how you used to spoil your spouse when you were first together? Sometimes we get so comfortable in our marriage we forget to demonstrate how much we really love and appreciate our spouse. We begin to take them for granted. Don’t do it. Romance your spouse with love notes, cards, flowers, favorite meals, massages, foot rub, kind words, holding hands, etc. “Let us not love in word or talk [only] but in deed and in truth.” 1John 3:18
Are we putting our spouse before ourselves? Sacrificing needs to be intentional. Its easy to get caught up in what we want without any regard to what our spouse might want or desire. Take time to ask them. Make what they love one of the ways you love and appreciate them. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4
Spring cleaning our home requires time, hard work, focus, proper tools and a good plan. So does “spring cleaning” our marriage. If we have let things pile up or have “swept them under the rug”, it’s time for some Marital Spring Cleaning. Does your marriage need some spring cleaning before the next torrential storm hits? As I write this, I see some areas I need to spruce up! I’d better get busy!
In Joyful Surrender,