Monday, February 11, 2019

Creating Space

I came across Marie Kondo one night when I was flipping through Netflix shows.  I had never heard of her, but I guess I happened upon a newly launched show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondothat grew out of her books and popularity.  In fact, she was named one of Time’s “100 most influential people” in 2015.

Her Japanese-influenced method is very calming, although as a Christian, I would not get into talking to my house and possessions. She speaks hardly any English, which is why she takes a translator with her to the homes of the people she helps get organized.

If you don’t know who she is, you can look her up online.  She is fast becoming a very popular home organizer.  But, more than an organizer, she calls what she does “tidying up” in order to bring joy to your space.  She understands that the clutter people have in their homes causes them stress, so she strives to help people make their living space more enjoyable.

Although she is not someone I would watch very often because I tend to find shows that repeatedly go through the same pattern quite tiresome, I did watch a couple of her shows and was very inspired.  I have her to thank for sending my family on a mission this winter.  Every single room in our house has been touched, or is in process.

We are not what you would call clutter bugs by any stretch of the imagination, especially not anything like people you often see on television, but we do have a few areas that needed a little work.  I suppose maybe you do too?

I think Marie’s first show was the one I happened upon.  It was where she helped a couple who were really struggling under the weight of their lack of clutter management skills.  They could be any busy couple with kids today, simply struggling to find the time to do what they needed to do.  You could say they were getting buried under the weight of everyday living.

Marie’s tidying process is one she created herself and calls KonMari.  Her idea is to clean by category, rather than room.  Pull out all of your clothes, for instance, and deal with them, so you can see how much you really have and decide what you actually need.

Is your kitchen out of control? She suggests that you pull everything out of your kitchen drawers and off countertops and go through it.

Inspired as I was, I started with my closet, which led to one of our daughters’ closet (who hasn’t lived at home for years) and then to my dresser drawers, my slight book/magazine piles and then our basement “classroom” (we were homeschoolers) which I can now officially call an office.  To clean out the office, though, we had to attack our storeroom shelves. On and on it went.

Admittedly, I adapted and did one room at a time, as much as possible.  Doing it this way just comes naturally to me, and personally, I would be too overwhelmed to have every room in the house in chaos, but Marie does have a good idea with her method, because what I discovered is that working on one room requires working on the others almost at the same time.

Because of my enthusiasm, my husband got on board (and naturally, he was officially on spider duty in the basement), and one of our daughters got infected with the cleaning bug as well.  As my husband and I attacked our office/classroom, our son walked in and decided to attack his room as well.

So here we are, the cleaning Cassidys, and I must say, Marie is right.  It feels great!  I just love walking into our spaces now, knowing what we have and where to find it.  I think our local Catholic Charities likes us as well for the mounds of donations we have made.  That place has been a lifesaver for me because I am more willing to let things go if I know someone is going to be able to use them.

When you begin this process (which you will NEVER regret), a good thing to do is ask yourself, “Can someone else use this, instead of it sitting in my closet?”  The answer is almost always Yes! (It is hard to hold onto a nice sweater, that you don’t wear, when the temperature drops and you know it might keep someone warm.)

One of our daughters pointed out to me that for her, it is time to stop saving things long term for one day, for someone who might need it.  She put it beautifully when she said, “It’s time to turn my apartment into a home instead of a storage place.”  

Amen to that!  I have recalled her words often as I have had to mentally and emotionally let go of things, along with the physical purge.

I have highlighted above a link to get you started and I do really hope you will make a commitment to start the process.  Marie is right that it does bring joy to be able to use your space and it just feels good to get organized and lighten up. 
You know, the other reason I think I am so inspired—not to sound morbid—is because a few years back when my mom went into a nursing home, we had to go through everything to sell her house, and now, my mother-in-law just made a move as well.  

As I look to the future, I am always asking myself, “What do I want my kids to have to do when I am gone?”  I see it almost as our gift to them that we are not going to leave them with an overwhelming amount of stuff to clear out.  (Of course if I live to be 100, I will have a few more years to collect more stuff!)

I ask myself as I am going through things whether it is something that is meaningful just to me, or if it will have any sentimental meaning for them.  If it is shoved in a box and only has meaning for me, then I make hard choices and keep only those things I just can’t part with, but the rest, I get rid of.

Whether we clean out our physical home or our spiritual house, it is very freeing and opens up great potential for the fresh air to pour in.  In our spiritual life, a good cleaning can be letting go of long-held anger against the church (or others) and embracing forgiveness, or letting go of baggage that weighs us down and clutters our emotional state.

When our spiritual house gets in order, we make room for learning and personal growth, something we need to be doing throughout our life, and something that not only benefits us, but those around us as well.

Working through spiritual clutter is a different kind of work than a physical purging of our house; spiritual cleaning requires an open dialogue with God, where we ask questions and listen carefully for guidance.  What needs to be held on to, what needs to be purged.  Sort of like the KonMari method!  Put everything on the table and deal with it.

God will lead you to the freedom you need, so that you can move forward every day with increased joy as the space in your heart, and the space in your head, are cleared to make way for the Word of God that is being offered to you.

Janet Cassidy

Friday, February 8, 2019

When was the Last Time You Had a Memorable Lent?

I hope you will join me for my talk on how we Live out Lent!

If you only view it as "giving something up," you will enjoy this presentation that goes beyond the basics. We will look at the traditional practices of Lent and explore how you can have a deeper, richer experience of those 40 days before Easter.

How do the external sacrifices we make set the stage for an inner conversion?
Can we find joy in Lent?

We will talk about all of these things, and more, on Monday, March 11, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the Family Life Center at 1227 East Bristol Road, Burton, MI 48529. (Contact Emily Arthur at Holy Redeemer for more information at 810-743-3050.)

Come, and bring a friend or two!

Also, if you enjoy reading these messages of faith and think your group would enjoy an engaging presentation, contact me at to book a date today!

God bless,

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Say a Prayer For Me!

I was with my mom in the nursing home when two ladies from restorative therapy stopped in to check on her, as she has not been working out lately due to illness.

We had a nice visit and as they got ready to leave, my mom waved her hand and said, “Say a prayer for me!”  to which the ladies immediately responded, “Why don’t we do it right now?”

One of them offered the prayer, which to my Catholic ears, was different from how I pray, but very beautiful.  As is sometimes typical, her prayer was sprinkled with a lot of “Father God” addresses.  But what was most striking to me was her confidence in God’s power to heal.

As Mom has been quite sick, she coughed a little during the prayer.  The woman immediately brought that into the prayer, asking God to heal her entire body and restore her breathing to normal function and so forth.

The prayer solicited the power of God and beautifully expressed a deep faith and connection to our Lord.

Coming from a background of rote prayer (which is extremely reliable and helpful, especially in situations where I cannot think clearly), I have long since come to adapt my prayers to a more personal style, but still, nothing like I heard out of this woman’s mouth, a spontaneous response to a call for prayer.

In addition to this blessed moment, I cannot fail to mention the concern my mom expressed after they left:  “They could get fired for that, you know.”

I said I didn’t really think so, but the truth is, they did not hesitate to pray and did not seem to care if anyone saw them.  Now, admittedly, they may have seen the bible on the bed which I have been using during my visits with mom, and her religious placque on the wall (“The Family that Prays Together Stays Together”) but that’s not the point.  Here they were, in a secular work place, unhesitatingly calling on God for healing.

At that moment in time, not one of us cared which church any of us belonged to, because we all recognized that we belong to God.  These are moments that break down walls and bring God’s children together.  

As I was leaving later, I inquired of the faith of her roommate, because she frequently joins us for our morning scripture reading. She told me she is a Baptist.  A couple of days ago, she had been singing hymns to us.

Also a few days earlier, another resident came in to visit my mom, and he said his daughter is a pastor and he started singing.  There we were, singing together the gospel song Soon and Very Soon.

On that particular day, my mom’s roommate was in a lot of pain and felt like giving up. I have no doubt his singing raised her spirits.  Since I have seen her over the last couple of days, she is much, much better.

God penetrates every moment of our lives, often in surprising ways.  I was so lifted up by the two women praying with us, and by the singing of the other resident the day before.  These moments can bring light to some dark days.  They can transform us and bring such joy to times of struggle.

And as if that wasn’t enough of a blessing, one of the ladies that brings *holy communion to my mom during the week stopped by.  She gave such attention to my mom and her needs; she clearly was the presence of Christ with us on that day.

Although I was confident my mom would be open to listening to scripture, it is not a practice we have had much opportunity to do in the past.  She was not raised in the church and converted when she married my dad, so much of the teachings and events in the bible are new to her.

I would encourage you to never hesitate to bring the Word of God into a situation if you have a loved one who is sick.  Even if it is something you have not done before or may feel a little uncomfortable introducing.

As the woman’s prayer revealed, the power of God is tremendous.  As I read to mom, sometimes I wonder if she is tiring of it, so I ask her if I should quit.  She has always told me to continue, and as I watch her and her roommate, you can see tangibly how comforting God’s Word is.

It doesn’t require a background in theology or even a deep understanding of scripture to be able to take in the Word of God and let it soothe you.  Nor does it take either of those things to offer it to someone. Trust in the power of God.

Mom is beginning to recover from her pneumonia, but she will have plenty of challenging days ahead of her.  How amazing is our God who moves us by the Holy Spirit to be open to all that he can give, filling our hearts with the greatest joy in the midst of suffering.

Janet Cassidy

*Holy Communion is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ given under the appearance of bread and wine that unites us to Jesus.