Spring Cleaning: Start With the HEART
Hello and good afternoon friends!
Today Mrs. Midwest is reporting in from a coffee shop in suburban Detroit. I'm about to meet a friend for coffee, so I thought I would pass the time by writing our Mid-Week blog post!
It's the first day of our "Spring Cleaning" Series, and I feel like we need to begin with Spring cleaning out our HEARTS.
As I always say, the heart is fickle and the heart is wacky. It will throw you up and down, along with your experiences, emotions, and the events surrounding your life.
I view our hearts kind of like our homes. Just like our homes, they can become cluttered and unmanageable if we don't take the time and energy to properly clean them out and purge the clutter.
I know that for me, a good heart clean-out is essential to living a positive and God-glorifying life. My heart can become intensely burdened by the stresses of life and the expectations of other people. Sometimes I will even find myself ruminating about a past hurt that happened many years ago!
I guess I just have too many feelings jammed up in all the nooks and crannies of my little heart. So today, I wanted to share the FIVE ways I go about cleaning out my heart.
1. Get in touch with what's going on in your heart.
Do you ever have the sensation that something is bothering you, but you just can't put your finger on what it is? Or maybe you feel like you have no current problems or issues: whatever your story, I still think it's helpful to our lives and souls to do a little "inventory" of our heart-clutter.
I tend to collect a lot of "heart-clutter" because I'm a feeler. So whenever I'm trying to take stock of my heart, I start by writing down everything that's bothering me. This can be really helpful, because sometimes we don't even know what's going on in our hearts until we begin writing down and processing our feelings!
Writing, talking, and thinking about our problems out loud are all really good ways to figure out what's going on in our hearts. Don't feel like anything is too small to write down. My "Heart-Clutter" lists have seen it all: everything from breakups and lost friendships, to tiny problems like acne and split ends.
Sometimes when a ton of tiny things build up, we can begin feeling totally overwhelmed and cluttered. Let yourself feel whatever you're feeling, and write it all down! Big or small. Resist the temptation to judge yourself for your negative feelings and problems. Release it all on paper, or speak out loud.
2. Be gentle with yourself.
Next, we need to be gentle. This step is really difficult for me: I've always struggled with thinking poorly of myself, and I'm very quick to assume things are my fault. So when I'm struggling in life with burdens or pain, I get caught up blaming myself for my problems and getting mad that I can't "get over" things quicker.
Yeah, I know I sound like a total ball of fun right now! LOL! But seriously, this is an issue in my life, and I know I'm not alone. Many of us can be our own worst critics.
While a good amount of self-criticism can be effective in our journey towards self-improvement, it's important to remember that we should be discerning about WHEN we apply that criticism. Oftentimes when our hearts are feeling especially tender from a wound, a ton of stress, or a lot of anxiety, it's important to be gentle with ourselves.
Being gentle with ourselves IS different than "going easy" on ourselves. When we are gentle, we are still pursuing the truth and attempting to better ourselves, but we are doing it in a compassionate and soft way. Be careful when you are dealing with the matters of the heart. If you are going through a hard time, or a period of grief, piling on the pain and criticism won't help.
Actively decide to clean out your heart, but remember that it's important to be gentle with yourself. Always remember that if you would not speak to a friend that way, then you should be softer with yourself.
3. CLEAN IT OUT
Alright: this is the PINNACLE of our blog post today. How can we actually clean out our hearts!?
Well, this stage is all about letting go, big AND small. Cleaning out our hearts requires an acknowledgment of our feelings, an acceptance of our situations, and a vow to let go or improve.
If you have control over a situation, work on improving that area! But remember, that many times we will not be able to improve our situations, and our only choice is to accept or move forward. For example, many of us carry bitterness in the hearts against other people due to past betrayals. Resentment, frustration, and bitterness can all cause our hearts to be heavy and our souls to become defensive, frustrated, and downright nasty.
I know it can be difficult to forgive people who've wronged you; forgiveness is truly one of the most difficult things in life. But for believers, it is an essential component to our faith. The truth about unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment, is that it actually hurts US more than the person we are bitter towards.
Cleaning out our hearts means releasing grudges, bitterness, and resentments we've been carrying. It's about laying down our burdens and moving forward with our goals. It's about letting go of toxic relationships and getting real with ourselves if we need some tough love.
Letting go of that pain and choosing to forgive will ultimately set you free and allow you to grow into greater intimacy with the GOOD and SAFE people in your life.
Forgiveness will bring you joy and unburden your heart. It will allow you to reach into the blessings of the future, while leaving your painful past behind.
Work on forgiving the people who've wronged you. Work on forgiving yourself. Work on accepting yourself. Work on accepting the situations you cannot change, and improving the situations you CAN change.
Remember; a peaceful heart doesn't mean a perfect heart, and it doesn't even mean a completely healed heart! It just means that we are actively working on improving our hearts, forgiving others, and releasing our brokenness. The journey is truly where we can find much peace and personal growth. Do not fall into the trap of resenting yourself for the pain and burdens you carry. Everyone carries pain, but it is up to us to release it.
4. Go back and clean "heart" AGAIN
Just like our homes, our hearts will often return to a state of clutter, disturbance, and frustration. Don't treat this as a one time thing! A "hurt-heart-attack" can and WILL revisit you. This happened to me just this past week! I thought I had dealt with the fear and frustration in my heart, only to return to those same feelings and frustrations not even a day later.
Don't become discouraged if your troubled heart returns: simply pause and realize that it takes time to heal!
Returning to a state of peace isn't a onetime thing. It often takes many attempts. But each push towards improvement, forgiveness, and release will result in more growth and peace. Don't give up just because you don't feel better the first time you "release" your pain. Keep doing it until you DO let it go.
I once had to say out loud every single day for six months that I forgave my ex boyfriend. I had so much bitterness in my soul towards him (teenagers are very dramatic LOL.) But I did eventually forgive him, and it honestly feels so good to not harbor resentment.
Remember: grudges like to cram themselves very tightly into the corners of our hearts. They're not going to flee willingly! You must overpower them with forgiveness so that you can move forward and feel true peace.
Also remember that many times we cannot simply pause and feel better. We must make continual improvements and changes in our lives so that our hearts can thrive. For many, this might mean including some professional help, medication, or psychotherapy into your life. I went through some counseling in college and it truly helped me!
Don't try to overpower your problems by yourself. Rely on the resources in your life and the people who love you to help you. Especially if you are dealing with a lot of grief: don't go it alone. Make a strategy, and include others.
5. Share in the joyful side of life
Hearts are fickle and they can be tricked into a joyful state of life. Ignoring our problems is certainly unhealthy, BUT sometimes it can be wonderfully effective to take time to laugh, experience life, and think about other things.
When I went through a particularly troubling grieving period in my life, I decided to spend a lot of time watching stand up comedy. It honestly helped me cope with the troubles I was going through and helped me keep life lighter. Laugher doesn't fix our problems, but it reminds us that there is more to life than our problems and pain.
This step can also be highly effective in situations where we are just kind of feeling cluttered and crappy, but we're not dealing with any specific problem. Sometimes we just need to lighten up and come back down to earth. Remember, life should be filled with many fun and life-giving moments.
Try not to take yourself too seriously; let yourself breathe and enjoy the sparkle of life.
I also want to add here that another way I let my heart "breathe" a little is by adding some "whimsy" into my day. I like to do this by listening to happy music, getting in touch with nature, and enjoying my adorable dog, and cuddles with my husband. I take some extra time to watch the squirrels from my kitchen sink window, and I let myself wear a funky colorful outfit. Sometimes I even cook pancakes for dinner!
Yes, we're adults, but we still need to take time to enjoy life and have fun. Add some laughter, add some whimsy, and remember to come back down to earth. You won't feel cluttered forever.
Thank you so much for reading dear friend! I know this isn't all the advice out there, but I hope it will help you as you get into your spring heart cleaning!
Sending you love and blessings today dear friend.