Monday, October 29, 2012

Sweep Around Your Own Front Porch

This weekend, I got an overwhelming urge to Fall-ify our house.  Our curb appeal has had a split personality since September.   The oversize mum and collection of pumpkins combined with the leftover summer wreath have been a very eclectic mix.  Something overcame me on Saturday, and with the scent of pumpkin pie and the anticipation of Thanksgiving family gatherings at the forefront of my mind, I decided my home needed some autumn attention.

As visions of Pinterest projects danced through my mind, I convinced my wonderfully accommodating husband to journey into the attic.  :)  Once again, I'm thankful that he loves me unconditionally, even if he occasionally rolls his eyes at my requests.   Armed with boxes having yet to be unpacked, I tackled the tablescape in my dining room before journeying to the front porch. (Note: this no longer resembles a homeschool table and all further studies will convene to the desk in the schoolroom where they belong instead of trickling over to my Better Homes & Gardens least until after Christmas!  Now my kids are the ones rolling their eyes.)

I suppose a sliver of my desire to nest came from the sudden realization that I completely missed the homey decorating of my favorite season last year.  At the peak of fall, we were in full travel mode, spending maybe 3 or 4 days in our temporary home the entire month of October.  In fact, last October, this same weekend, we were here in Cumberland interviewing for the position we are now serving in.  I remember whispering quietly with Kevin late Sunday night in a hotel room with the kids sleeping nearby as we searched the internet and newspaper for available homes.  I remember finding the perfect home for us on a less than perfect street...and wanting to turn my head and cover my children's eyes as we drove down that street to view the house.  The elaborate..and frankly, scary...Halloween displays on many of the houses made me want to immediately do a U-turn.

Just a few days ago, those Halloween decorations came back to haunt me.   This is home now, and I still want to turn my head and cover their eyes when we drive home each day.  But this is the season we are in.  And, truth be told, although I am not a fan of Halloween, I adore Autumn.

As I stood on my porch giving it a Fall makeover, I thought about those houses.  I wished their porches could be free of skeletons, spiderwebs, tombstones, and scary faces and instead could reflect the beauty of the mine.  And then,  moving things around,  I discovered an intricate spiderweb in the corner.  It was a masterpiece...and it had obviously been there for some time, receiving no attention from me.  As I looked closer, I saw that though my porch was being decorated with beautiful things, it was in desperate need of attention that a new wreath on the door would not solve.    As I picked up the broom and begin to rid my porch of the cobwebs, dust, and debris, the Holy Spirit whispered quietly to me "Sweep Around Your Own Front Porch".

My broom stopped its motion as the words began to penetrate my heart.  I thought about how I might have judged who was living inside the houses down the street by what the exterior looked like and the decor they chose to represent them.  My heart filled with sadness as the more I cleaned, the more I realized how much had gone unnoticed on my own porch simply because the pretty wreath on the door had drawn my eyes upward.  As I walked around the exterior of my our house, I found more tell tale signs of neglect.  Don't judge me, but I found Christmas wreaths from last year still leaning on one porch.  Granted they were no longer hanging, but they had never made their way to the attic.  I said don't judge me :).

In the beautiful way that the Holy Spirit writes parables for me to understand, I realized that if I'm not careful, it is so easy to fall into this same trap when relating to others outside the realms of seasonal decorating.   I'm talking to myself here, but I know I'm not alone.  We are quick to find fault in others for the inadequacies or bad choices they wear like a billboard on their chest.  But all the while, beyond our smug got-it-all-together exteriors lays a neglected heart corroded with debris that needs our attention.  Jesus address this in Matthew 7:5 when he instructs us to remove the beam out of our own eye so we can see clearly to remove the speck from our brother (or sisters) eye.  It's so easy to ignore what we need to fix when our vision is clouded and our attention diverted by what annoys us most about others.  We need to examine the hidden places on our porches, the nooks and crannies, where it is easy for things to creep in unnoticed when our focus is in another direction.  Things like jealousy, bitterness, busyness that leads to lives out of balance, mediocrity, and pride can cause nasty, sticky spiderwebs when left unattended.

When I am offended by others or pass judgement on them in some way,  I need to look at myself and make sure my curb appeal is all that it can be.  I need to let Jesus sweep away the dust that has clouded my eyes from seeing the truth.  Upon closer examination, I may find areas like the trail the birds left on my doorstep..that take more than just a broom and need a deeper cleansing.  Like my porch needed a pitcher of water, my heart may need the cleansing river of the Holy Spirit to saturate it.

In a few weeks, the ghosts and goblins and all other signs of darkness will vanish from the porches of my neighbors.  I hope they are replaced by more festive decorations as we journey into the true Holiday Season.  But my primary responsibility is to make sure my entryway is swept, welcoming, and maintained regularly.  I'll make sure the glass on my door is sparkling clean to reflect the light of the season.  I'll do the same with my heart.  May I sparkle enough to reflect His light clearly to a world in need of hope.  And may I always, when tempted to complain about the neighbor's landscape, get out my broom and sweep my own front porch first!

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