What’s in your way?

The Wood-Pile


Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day,
I paused and said, ‘I will turn back from here.
No, I will go on farther—and we shall see.’
The hard snow held me, save where now and then
One foot went through. The view was all in lines
Straight up and down of tall slim trees
Too much alike to mark or name a place by
So as to say for certain I was here
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
A small bird flew before me. He was careful
To put a tree between us when he lighted,
And say no word to tell me who he was
Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.
He thought that I was after him for a feather—
The white one in his tail; like one who takes
Everything said as personal to himself.
One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
And then there was a pile of wood for which
I forgot him and let his little fear
Carry him off the way I might have gone,
Without so much as wishing him good-night.
He went behind it to make his last stand.
It was a cord of maple, cut and split
And piled—and measured, four by four by eight.
And not another like it could I see.
No runner tracks in this year’s snow looped near it.
And it was older sure than this year’s cutting,
Or even last year’s or the year’s before.
The wood was gray and the bark warping off it
And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis
Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.
What held it though on one side was a tree
Still growing, and on one a stake and prop,
These latter about to fall. I thought that only
Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks
Could so forget his handiwork on which
He spent himself, the labor of his ax,
And leave it there far from a useful fireplace
To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
With the slow smokeless burning of decay.

I’m not sure if I’d be the speaker in this poem, off on a journey I’m not even sure is a good idea, or if I’d be the one who left the woodpile behind because I moved on and forgot about it. I mean life gets pretty hectic at times, and I am easily distracted from tasks. I don’t remember leaving a woodpile neatly stacked in the woods, but I can’t swear I didn’t. I’ve found that when I’m not intentional about life, things have a way of getting left unfinished, and the way I pile up clutter can be quite architectural; not in that it looks beautiful by design, but in that it seems structurally sound. Sometimes, however, there are structural issues and an impending avalanche is waiting for the first sign of stress on the delicate structure. Clutter is not only unattractive, I believe it can also be dangerous. Allowing things to pile up creates snares, or self-made traps. At times, I’m late because I can’t readily find the things I need in the midst of the clutter, and being late can cause all manner of stress. It’s a chain reaction, causing me to drive too fast putting myself and others in danger, or causing me to trip over things in my way causing personal harm, and making me feel bad about myself and my home.

What is your stumbling block? In this life, we all have time vampires that act as stumbling blocks. For me, the main one is the Internet. I can get lost on a rabbit trail for hours; it’s like the Land of the Lotus eaters, where time slips away unnoticed. I’m a former English teacher, turned librarian, so research seems justifiable in my work, but SQUIRREL… I’m off topic, and what should have been an hours worth of work turns into three because I followed a YouTube link I came across in my reading, and that caused me to either watch several more videos on the topic, or go off in search of information about something I tripped over in the video. Yes time management has been a struggle for most of my adult life. I’m fully aware of the list of things that need to be done, I just go off course and before I know it, I’ve wasted so much time, that I don’t have enough left to get to the things I’d planned for that day.

My prayer has been, “God help me keep my eyes on You.” I know I keep talking about focus, but for me focus is the biggest problem. Life itself is noisy, and it is so easy to get off task if I don’t set some parameters for my day. I used to think people who made lists were just silly, but God has shown me that because I’m so easily distracted, lists can serve as a daily goal sheet, and can give me the parameters I so desperately need. He is the change. I’ve started moving anything I didn’t finish today, to tomorrow’s list. I don’t make long lists that are overwhelming, I make a new list of things I can reasonably get done in the time I’ll have to do it, and if I get off track and some of it doesn’t get done, I’m bummed, but I forgive myself, and just add it to tomorrow’s list. I don’t make tomorrow’s list the day before. I can only focus on one day at a time. I make my list each morning after I’ve had my quiet time with the Lord, because I want to give my day to Him, and if He has things for me to do, I want to make sure I put those on the list, and I want to make sure I get to them on that day. The days I don’t take the time to make a list are far less productive than the days I make and follow a list.

The way I’ve started to conquer clutter is to focus in on one area at a time. I fully deep clean that area, throwing out anything that is not useful, and donating things I don’t use, but others could use. I’ve learned to let go of things I don’t need; I’ve not perfected this art yet, but I’m working on it. Once an area is fully cleaned, I focus on another area, but try to continue to maintain the areas I’ve already cleaned. This is the only way I’ve determined to keep the clutter under control, because my family and I actually live in our home. God has been showing me that cleaning my house and cleaning up my spiritual life can use the same process. In cleaning up my spiritual life, my thoughts, and my actions, I have to maintain the areas that God has gotten into the cracks and crevices of, and continue to allow Him access to deep cleaning all of me. The cleaning is a process, and once I’ve gotten an area of my life cleaned up, I can’t let the devil creep in and make a mess of it again. Just like house cleaning, spiritual cleaning is not a one and done; it is a continual battle with my flesh, and I have to be committed to continually being open to allowing God to work in me and through me. In this battle, I’ve learned that praise is a weapon. Music is powerful, and I listen to music that reminds me of who God is and of His promises; worship music has become a great weapon in my life. Perhaps the most powerful weapon God has show me is guarding my mind, which can be tricky because I’m exposed to so many people and opinions each day. So no thoughts about clutter would be complete without pondering the people in my life. Jesus commands us to love one another, but He does not command us to spend our time with just anyone who comes along. People can be a stumbling block, and sometimes it is wise to take the time to evaluate relationships. Those people who try to suck the fun out of everything with their perpetual negative monologue, those who plant seeds of corruption, and those who lie cheat and steel, do not have to be allowed into my friend circle. It’s certainly not kind or loving to dump people for making a mistake, none of us are perfect, but if a person always leaves me feeling irritated, angry, or tempted to do things I know are wrong, I need to pray for that person, and I need to ask God to help me evaluate that relationship. Psalm 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” The world is full of clutter and people who would love to see others fall. I know this is true because I’ve seen it too many times, and I know I must be diligent in my walk, and in my quiet time with God. I’ll close with Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

Pray with me. Father I am so thankful for all the good in my life, and I pray that You will help me to keep an attitude of gratitude. I pray that You will keep my quiver full of weapons to fight off the plans the devil has for my life. I pray against every evil plan he has for me, and I pray that You will help me to meditate on every good thing that comes from You. I am open to You oh Lord, shake me and cleanse me, and give me strength and guidance to maintain my clean heart and right relationship with You. I love You Lord, and I am committed to following Jesus all the days of my life. I pray in the holy name of Jesus. Amen and amen.

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