joy

Can You REALLY Clear Your Head Through Cleaning?

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“Want to hear something that’ll either make you smile or cry?”

Who asks a question at such a moment? Seriously.

I had just left the airport, saying goodbye to my eighteen-year-old son who was leaving on a two-year mission trip. I held it all together at the airport. In fact, I was pretty proud of myself. I’m not one who is inclined to a lot of emotion, but I kinda like the kid. And two years is a long time for him to be away.

As I sat in McDonald’s drive-thru (gross) for my husband to fill the void with a rubbery egg and cheese McMuffin, I received that provoking text.

You know that invisible force field we put around ourselves . . .? The one that help us keep up a delusional facade that we’re okay? The one that . . . if it has even one minuscule opening . . . it completely comes down? Yah. That one. 

That rotten little text from my unsuspecting daughter obliterated my wall in less than a millisecond. The floodgates opened, and my forty-eight year reservoir of tears came rushing forth with unbelievable force. Embarrassed to be in the drive-thru and crying, I had to hide behind my dark glasses and pretend I was interested in something out the passenger side window. 

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This was only the beginning. When my husband dropped me back home and left for work, I was the only one in the entire house. I’m not sure that has happened since my first child was born, almost 30 years ago. I laughed the funniest, loudest, most heartfelt happy tears I’ve ever experienced. I was overwhelmed with joy by my son’s decision to dedicate two years of his life to God. Yes, I will miss him. But the tears really were just built up emotion and love that had nowhere to go but out through my tear ducts. And come they did. For a full thirty minutes. That’s a really long time for someone who doesn’t cry. 

And then . . . I was done. 

Feelings of relief and calm washed over me, and I felt more like myself again. Still tender . . . but more like a normal me instead of the tear-stained, stuffy nosed, laughing/crying me from moments before. 

Now what? 

I said a quick prayer for direction, “Okay God. I’m done crying. I’m all yours. What would Thou have me do?”

Immediately the words came into my mind, “Clean the house.”

What was that?

“Clean the house.”

Rather startled, but willing to be obedient, I tackled my long-neglected home. The house that had patiently awaited attention for a couple months while we packed the two youngest for a 5-week pageant trip, moved a daughter out with roommates, moved another daughter and recently-graduated husband out for his new job, and now this son for his two-year adventure.

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I devoted every minute for the rest of the day organizing, scrubbing, washing, cleaning, and shining our home. I then made a list of every deep cleaning project that still needed to be completed, and I assigned myself one thing per day for the next month. I have made tremendous progress over the last three weeks, and I feel wonderful!

Yes. I like a clean house. Yes. I like to be organized. Yes. It’s been very rewarding. But what has actually affected me the most is what it has done for my mind. My mind is finally clear again!

I have had the mental and emotional space to start dreaming again. To set new goals. To make a new chore chart for the family. To write. To create a new event. To update my website.  www.stephaniefrancom.com To tweak my Instagram account. @stephaniefrancom I literally went from chaos and confusion to clear and calm. All from cleaning my house. 

God’s message to me that day was timely. In His omniscient understanding, He took my despair and heartache and traded it for purpose and peace. Just because He can. 

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What little shelf or drawer or corner could you put in order today to start moving into that refreshing place of peace? 

GUILT TRIPS: How to ROCK a Totally AWESOME Summer

“Heads!” 

“Okay, that means go right Dad.”

“Who gets to flip it next? Hand it to your brother.”

“Heads! Right again.”

Our family was on a Guilt Trip. We drove to the bottom of our gravel road and flipped the coveted coin to determine our route. Heads - right. Tails - left. On this particular adventure we ended up at a community park twenty five minutes from home and happily spent time with its modest offerings. With childhood abandon our feet pushed the autumn air as we swung into the sunlit treetops. We numbed our tongues with frozen chocolate goodness, we felt the pulse of concern in our chests at the sound of a menacing siren bellowing through the little town, and we were chased home by an ominous black sky and churning wind. 

The kids agreed, this was our best adventure ever. 

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The idea of a Guilt Trip was inspired by an unplanned ten day summer vacation my grandparents took with friends in the mid 1950’s. Spontaneity was their companion, and with eager anticipation they tossed the coin that would determine the course of their holiday. The coin announced a northern route, and their 1950 Dodge began crawling up the map from the Wasatch Front. As they approached the outskirts of Brigham City, Grandma suggested a stop at Maddox for a much-talked-about salad. The decision to pause their drive was unanimous, and the food was delectable. 

After stretching their legs and filling their bellies, they meandered through beautiful Cache Valley, crossed the Idaho border, and entered the relaxed and peaceful city of Preston. They were met with irresistible signs that enticed them to come together with the locals for a small town celebration and rodeo. The foursome joined in the festivities and stayed the night. And then they stayed another. 

They leisurely continued westward and stayed in a couple other spots in Idaho, but then Grandma’s friend suggested going to Oregon to see a relative of his. Grandad had a brother living in Seattle as well, and from that point on, they had an agenda. Their once serendipitous road trip turned into an ordinary visit to relatives. Freedom was exchanged for a timeline, and the magic that had accompanied them at the trip’s beginning slipped through the open windows of the automobile. 

How can such spontaneous outings be so attractive? Maybe it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. I saw myself in my grandparents’ story, but it wasn’t in the exciting, adventurous part of it. Perhaps we have all frantically rushed to and from our day trip destinations, as well as our week long ones. Maybe we have grabbed food from the drive-thru while the wheels were still rolling, taken only one minute bathroom breaks as the gas tank filled, and we’ve raced the ever ticking clock as though the Interstate might disappear if we blinked too long.   

I believe we can enjoy a more passionate and fulfilled life.

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I’ve learned a thing or two from my kids. My daughter and son-in-law naturally found pleasure in their journeys from the beginning. They set out on their honeymoon with an intention to live in the present moment. Instead of hurrying to their destination, they stopped at scenic outlooks, historic buildings, and even an aquarium. They happened upon a charming vacation rental in Cascade Locks and stayed there a night. They walked across the “Bridge of the Gods” from Oregon into Washington, attended a local carnival with an antique wooden carousel, ate blackberries, and visited Shoshone Falls. Each impetuous stop nurtured cherished memories of their new life together.

My heart slows down to a nice peaceful beat and the corners of my mouth turn up when I imagine a trip like this. It invites both me and those around me to be totally present. To beat with the same heart of anticipation and look forward with eyes shining full of curiosity and excitement. It enhances our ability to connect with each other and to strengthen our feelings of belonging. It’s a good place to be!

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Why do we call it a Guilt Trip? Well, in all honesty I have felt some guilt over the years for a lack of enthusiasm and missed opportunities. And do we really have to schedule our Guilt Trips, you ask? I wish I could say no, but it wouldn’t be true. But I choose to be gentle with myself, because when I make a plan to be spontaneous, I still get the results I want. Embracing the unexpected generously feeds our souls and nurtures our most treasured relationships. In this warm and beautiful world and with boundless opportunities, I will let go of the senseless guilt, and instead choose a Guilt Trip.