Every day, the email shows up …
“Create the perfect pumpkin landscape!”
“When stripes and paisley collide …”
The headlines, the stand-up-and-take-notice headlines, greet me every single day.
I subscribed to these emails because I adore my friend who is sending them. She is crazy-gifted, super creative, and incredibly generous with her time and talent.
The whole package, really.
I love to open the emails and look at the projects she’s working on, the colors she’s chosen, and how she is growing her business.
Until one day, I didn’t want to open the email.
I felt a poke. Not a pang or twinge of envy. Just a poke of … something …
I knew it wasn’t jealousy. I don’t enjoy painting bookcases or haunting garage sales for the next perfect piece of milk glass. As the Clutter Free girl, I’m not into any of that. I didn’t covet her living room (we have very different decorating styles) or even her laundry room (which is adorable).
So what was it?
I realized that I did envy her.
I wasn’t jealous of her stuff, but I envied her life.
Why does she get to be the make- it-cute girl, while I’ve struggled with clutter my whole life?
Why does she get to have a house that is inviting and adorable, while for decades, I was the one that you needed to give a week’s notice before coming over for a cup of coffee?
And for a while? I stopped opening the emails. They made me feel less than who I was.
And then I figured out, it wasn’t the emails making me feel that way. It was me.
It was me rejecting this path that God had sent me on. The path of recovering from clutter, which taught me so much about myself, about who God is and about how to serve his people.
If you asked me if I would trade in my journey, I would tell you, “No! Not in a million years!”
But if you compared it to someone else’s journey, I start to think, “Well, maybe I could just try it on for a while …”
I was jealous of what it must feel like to have a house that people walk into and just fall in love with.
So, what did I do?
I bought a new throw pillow.
I bought a decorating book.
I bought a few decorating magazines.
(Oh, don’t you hate when old habits that you thought were dead spring back to life?)
Nothing earth-shattering. It wasn’t exactly a binge.
But it was a blip … A definite indication of something being off in my life.
Buying stuff out of discomfort is familiar territory. So now, when the pangs (or pokes) pop up, I have a plan to get me back to a place of peace and joy.
Here are the steps that get me back to where I need to be:
Identify the feelings for what they are.
Understanding that I’m feeling envy used to send me into a spiral of shame (and I would envy women who didn’t have these feelings). Now, I recognize that feeling for what it is: a dissatisfaction in my own life.
When I realize it’s not about the object of my envy, but about what is going on for me, I instantly shut down anything that comes between me and that person. It is not about our relationship, it’s about how I’m relating to the world around me.
Feast on some truth.
When I get to that place where my heart is bruised, it’s time to get some truth in front of me. My favorite verse when it comes to envy (one that I can quote you on the spot – that’s how much I need it) is 1 Corinthians 10:13:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
Lately, I’m also loving Seeing Green: Don’t Let Envy Color Your Joy by Tilly Dillehay. She says the way the way to the jealousy-free life is not by suppressing envy, but by embracing love. Not by shaming ourselves, but by loving others.
Practice being happy that someone else has what you want.
In Seeing Green, Dillehay talks about our reactions to other people’s blessings. She asks, “What if your first response was joy?” I love that question.
In the book, she talks about how to change the direction of our first impulse, response, and reaction toward joy for others. This is where I strive to be: genuine joy for others before calibrating the event to my hopes and dreams.
And if we wrestle to love deeply even when our initial reaction is to feel our feels, what we will see is that our reactions, for ourselves and for others, moves to a place of joy.
A place our hearts long to dwell, no matter where our circumstances may take us.
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She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with her puggle Jake, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.
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