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My husband and I were blessed to attend the Sunday Morning session of General Conference in the Conference Center. We were there to hear the announcement before the broadcast of “Music And The Spoken Word” that this was to be Clay Christiansen’s last performance as the official organist of the Tabernacle Choir. We were there to be a part of the spontaneous standing ovation for him by the Choir and the congregation after the Conference session ended and the crowd was leaving.
(You can learn more about that from a link at the bottom of this article.)
While that was a thrill, far more important was that we were there to sustain our new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, and to hear him speak to all of us for the first time as the latest prophet in this dispensation! My heart burned as he spoke of “revelation for the Church and revelation for our lives.” He said, “My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. Let this Easter Sunday be a defining moment in your life. Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.” I will never forget that moment!
His words, “choose to do the work” may be a revelation in and of themselves for what we are to do individually as we seek to follow this counsel. While we are inclined to think of study, prayer, fasting, meeting and temple attendance as the direct path to increased spiritual capacity and personal revelation, there may be more to this counsel than meets the eye!
To illustrate, just a few days before he spoke, Meridian had published a very tender and beautiful article from columnist Anne Pratt. “Shift Your Paradigm and Spring-Clean Your Soul” talked about finding her surprising spiritual adventure in personal revelation which was in very specific and direct connection with a burst of spring cleaning her home!
Just a few days before reading that, I had been a part of a conversation at our Ward Institute Class where our teacher told us about Sister Wendy Watson Nelson’s book “What Would A Holy Woman Do?” After reading the book and following the suggested experience, many of the women who read it had expressed that one of the first surprising results of inviting the Holy Ghost more actively into their daily lives was a much greater desire to declutter and beautify their homes!
Is there a message here? It all reminds me of several things that are dear to me and perhaps worthy of sharing:
In the late summer of 2011, as our last child was preparing to leave for college and 25 years of raising children was ending, gentle whisperings of the Spirit whispered, “You’re ready for feng shui.” Feng what? It didn’t mean a thing to me, other than in a passing conversation with a friend who’d mentioned it.
Nevertheless, as Kelly left for BYU-Idaho, I went online and to the library. I quickly learned that feng shui is “the Chinese art and practice of creating harmonious surroundings that enhance the balance of energies, as in arranging furniture or determining the siting of a house.” Much of it was not of interest to me, and seemed strange with pictures of stark, unrealistic home environments until I found Katie Weber online. (A link to her website is at the end of the article.)
She is a syndicated newspaper columnist and American feng shui master who uses pictures of her own inviting home along with photos of other lovely rooms (that I would love to live in) to teach the principles. I quickly identified with her style and friendly writing approach. I signed up for her newsletter and read the articles at her website. The more I learned, the more I sorted, de-cluttered and rearranged, and really, really happy things started to happen! Eventually I got to meet her and found her as authentic and engaging as the articles she writes.
Although there are deeper aspects of feng shui that I do not have time or inclination for, the core basics of de-cluttering, clearing and arrangement of furniture, along with fresh paint and replacements of things both large and small over the years since to create new energy has been a lot of fun, and continues!
My husband joined me throughout that memorable September and it was amazing how often within just hours of “feng-shu-ing,” (we turned it into a verb and pronounce it “feng shway-ing”), there is, indeed new life! Just like Spring!
Our home became even more dear to us as many areas felt fresh and new. There was more time to do things that mattered as household tasks became easier with fewer belongings to take care of and priorities re-aligned. Our home-based business took off and prospered in an unexpected new way! A business problem (that seemed disastrous when it occurred) evolved into a critically essential business tool as we made required changes. Money that we’d forgotten about or never expected to see again appeared. Our health and vitality increased. In short, spiritual, temporal and physical blessings popped up (and continue to) like springtime blossoms on a sunny April day.
Furthermore, as we went to the temple, it was overwhelmingly obvious that our Heavenly Father, (whether He calls it feng shui or not), is a master of this principle! He expects and cherishes cleanliness, beauty, simplicity and balance in His holy home. Consider the rooms that are decorated with symmetrical lines and the use of decorating themes and color schemes that create harmony and peace. These principles allow for His spirit and positive energies to effortlessly flow, and how we all love to be there! That is a message in and of itself. We thrive and are at peace where there is beauty and order.
It’s important to acknowledge that yes, all the tools for computers and paper work, mechanical functioning and overall maintenance are also present in our temples, but they are carefully managed and tucked away so that nothing interrupts our experience of being there to serve and worship. Think of it: when was the last time you saw a cluttered temple office?
Of course, we all know that family living is very different than attending the temple, but the over-riding principle of keeping clutter to a minimum, cleaning and clearing as you go, and only keeping what you truly use is a worthy goal at every stage of family life that can involve the whole family in creating a place where everyone loves to be.
Going on seven years later, Katie Weber’s weekly feng shui newsletter is still a regular highlight for me. Her article “Is Your House Overweight? What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You” is so excellent and in keeping with President Nelson’s counsel to increase our capacity for personal revelation that I couldn’t help but share part of it with you. She writes:
Feng shui isn’t just about painting a wall a certain color and hanging a wind chime. Feng shui is more about understanding the way your house is representing your life.
(Carolyn here: And isn’t that true when you consider our temples? How they represent our Heavenly Father’s life? Back to Katie …)
There are signs, both subtle and overt that are telling you about the need to make changes in one to see improvement in the other.
Let’s take, for example, a house where someone is a hoarder.
A hoarder is clearly someone who’s lost control of reality. They no longer see the way life is and cling to a stubborn idea or emotion about something being taken from them or trying to exert their control in a life where they feel they have little.
Over time, the stuff and clutter accumulates. Their house is trying to give them a sign: let go!
When we aren’t able to let go of a situation, negative self-talk, or clutter and possessions that no longer serve us, we’re dragged down by that energy. The beautiful part of feng shui is that we are able to literally see what is surrounding us and telling us where our lives are being affected!
While you can read the rest of her enlightening article from the link at the bottom of this article and sign up for her newsletter, far more important than this careful look at our homes and a spring clean there is a careful look at where our spirits live, in our minds and hearts, especially so soon after Easter Sunday and General Conference.
Perhaps you love, as I do, Jeremiah 31:33:
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
The scripture has been beautiful expanded upon to create an uplifting “Spring Clean” check off that I now turn to regularly when I’m feeling out of sorts and wondering why at any time of the year. I will never forget the special Spring day it came into my life as part of a Stake Relief Society event. It is in such perfect harmony with President Nelson’s counsel that I am especially excited to read and share it now.
The House of My Heart
One day when I really understood what Jesus Christ had done for me, I invited Him to come in to the House of my Heart. As soon as I invited Him, He came, without any hesitation. Once He was there, He filled the house with joy. I wanted to run and tell all the neighbors about my guest and how wonderful it was to have Him with me.
When everything was settled, I said, “I hope you will stay and feel perfectly at home here.” He said, “I’m sure I will, and now since we are new friends, why don’t you show me around? I would like very much to see the library in the House of your Heart.” And so I did.
Now in my house, the LIBRARY is very small and has very thick walls and is filled with everything I have read.
Books, magazines, news articles, everything I have seen, like TV shows, movies, plays; all the Sunday School lessons I have listened to, the sermons, the lectures, they’re all there in the library. His eyes gazed over all the things that were on the shelf. I was a little embarrassed that there was so much trivia there. I wished that more scriptures and church books were really mine and on the shelf. I suggested to Him that maybe I could stand a little bit of renovation in this room. He agreed, that maybe we, together, could add more worthwhile things to the library. You see, the library is a very important room because it’s the study, so-to-speak, of the mind – a sort of control room for the whole house.
Then He said he would like to see the DINING ROOM. In my house, this is a very large room because this is the room of appetites and desires. I was embarrassed to see that it was stacked with all kinds of boxes and things. I told Him I was always hungry, but I never seemed to be satisfied. He told me that it was because I was eating the wrong things and said, “If you would live as I do, you would never feel hunger; for I live on the work of the Lord, my Father.” And, then He offered me a taste of it; and it was the most delicious flavor I had ever tasted. I agreed with Him that this alone satisfied, and I knew that I would spend less time in the dining room now that He was a guest in the house.
Next He asked if he could see my WORKSHOP, where careers, hobbies and God-given talents are developed. Well, I had a workshop; it was down in the basement. We went down and looked at the workbench and saw all the talents and skills that were there. But I hadn’t really produced much. He looked everything over and said that I had a lot of good equipment, but that I really hadn’t used it. Oh, there were a few gadgets and trinkets and half-finished projects but nothing really of great value. And I said, “Well, if I wasn’t quite so busy maybe I could do better. I know all the tools are there, but I’m awkward and clumsy and I really don’t know how to use them.” “Would you like to be able to use the tools in your workshop?” He asked. And I replied, “Oh, yes! Would you help me?” “I was waiting for you to ask me,” He responded with a smile. “They are a gift from God to you for the betterment of your life and to help you fill the measure of your creation.”
And, so He stood behind me and put His great powerful hands over mine and guided them, and He showed me how to use the tools in the workshop. With His hands directing mine, I marveled at the work of art that came out. I said, “Now that you have helped me, I am going to come into the workshop often, and this will be a fun and important room to come to. Will you always help me?” and He said, “Yes, if you invite me to but I never come unless I am invited.” And so we left the workshop and the next room we went into was the DRAWING ROOM.
Now this was a small, quiet, peaceful place in my heart for deep thoughts and meditation and He seemed pleased with it and comfortable there. And so He said, “Let’s meet here often at least twice a day and we can have long talks together, and you can tell me about all your activities and all you ambitions and all your problems – and we’ll talk it over together every day.” I thought that sounded wonderful. So, I made an appointment with Him every day that I would do that; and I did at first, faithfully. But then sometimes I would forget to come at night. And sometimes days would go by and we never had a talk at all.
Now it wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to Him. It was just that I was so busy and had a lot to do. Then, one day as I went to leave, I noticed Him standing in the doorway of the drawing room. I said, “Have you been waiting there every morning for me?” He said, “Yes, we had an appointment and you haven’t been here for a long time.” I replied, “You’re a guest in my house and I have neglected you and I’m sorry.”
I had called on Him when I was in need, to come and help me and he always came, but that was about the way I used Him. When things went well, I didn’t really think we needed our chat so much as we did when things were bad. So I decided that it had been a very one-sided relationship and I also realized that He missed me. I told him “Maybe there’s something I could do for you; you’ve done so much for me.” I was so grateful when He said, “Yes, there’s a great deal you could do for me. I was wondering when you would want to help me.”
“I have so many projects and so many things that need to be done,” He continued. “I could use a good friend like you. There are people I just cannot see. I could send you with my love. Would you do that?”
And, of course, I was happy to, and found joy in being His friend and servant.
Then one day, He told me, “There is a peculiar odor in this house and its coming from that locked closet. And although you’ve let me go into every room in the house, that one door has always been locked and you’ve never let me in.” Now that made me mad! I had let him into every room in my house. I wanted something to myself, so I said, “I hold the key and I will not let you in that closet. It’s very small, only about 2 feet by 4 feet. The rest of my house is large enough and is perfectly presentable, so it shouldn’t make any difference.” He told me “I cannot stay in this house it you do not give me the key to the closet.” And He left.
Oh, I was sad. A great despair and gloom and depression came over me. Because you see, once having had Him as a guest in my home, life was unbearable without Him. And so I went and tearfully pleaded with Him and begged him. “Come back and I will give you the key to the closet and I will withhold nothing from you. I cannot stand to live without you.”
At last I gave Him the key and He opened it. Quickly and efficiently, He cleaned out those things that were dead and rotten that I wanted to feel were not there and wanted to ignore. He cleaned the whole closet out, fumigated it, painted it, and he made it perfectly acceptable. Then, with love in His eyes, He said. “Now I see only a house that it totally acceptable to me.” It was then that I knew why I loved Him so! Of all my biggest of brothers, only this one could love me enough to clean out my closet. And then he said, “You know, I’ve cleaned out so many closets, but it’s a strange thing, I can never remember afterwards what was in them.
After a few moments, I said, “I get so tired of cleaning all the time, I go from one room to the other trying to keep up in the drawing room, in the dining room, the workshop, and in the library but I always seem to be behind. I was wondering if you could take over the whole house like you did the closet and you could be the owner and I would be the guest and sort of a helper or servant. And we’ll switch positions. Instead of me calling on you to help me, you can call on me to help you. It is possible?” He replied, “Why yes, that’s why I came the first time you invited me.” So, I ran and got the deed to my house and I signed it over to Him and said, “It’s yours! It belongs to you and I withhold nothing from you.”
After I gave Him the deed, He immediately started remodeling the house because He was not content to own a cottage. He was the architect, the planner, the builder, and told me eventually we would end up with a magnificent castle. It would take a while to build, but we would build it together. So He started the remodeling. He was the master of the house and I was the servant, and I did whatever he bid. There were times when clouds came and gathered around the house, clouds of war, hate, and sin. They beat on the house and demanded entry. But, because he was the Lord of the house, it was a firm foundation and none of it was allowed to enter. Inside the house there was warmth, peace, and tranquility regardless of what was outside.
He told me as time went on that he would move my house to another city. He would take care of all the arrangements and I wouldn’t even have to know the day it took place or when. He said that it would be in a city where he had the deed to all the houses and there would be no storms or darkness and I would like the neighbors. It sounded wonderful and I looked forward to it with eagerness.
I looked back so long ago when I first invited Christ to come into the house of my heart as a guest, and thought about the many years it took to have the courage to give Him the deed to the house. I wondered why I had been so reluctant to turn it over because He showered me with gifts and took care of all the remodeling and I was always the debtor.
Always the debtor. Yes, always the debtor.
As April blossoms and President Nelson’s counsel swells in our hearts, while the blossoms and spring are still in full bloom, while the rest of Spring and the year, and our lives stretch ahead, isn’t it time for a little feng shui Spring Clean for our homes and for our hearts?
Katie Weber: www.redlotusletter.com
What Your Clutter Is Trying To Tell You:
What Would A Holy Woman Do
Find Sister Wendy Watson Nelson’s Book on Amazon.
Deseret News reports on Clay Christianson’s retirement:
Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been a columnist for Meridian Magazine for 11 years, providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success and happy living both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999. She has presented for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of a growing number of darling little ones. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox. CLICK HERE