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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Clearing Out Your Space and Schedule (Part 1 of 2)

Clearing Out Your Space and Schedule (Part 1 of 2)

Courtney Ellis wants to invite families to follow her example in decluttering her life, her home & her schedule. Courtney also described why too many screens & too much technology is a form of clutter — and how her kids would often see the back of her hand holding a phone instead of seeing her face. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: August 9, 2023

Woman #1: I would say the clutter in my life is probably social media. That tends to be so addicting, to just continuously, mindlessly scrolling.

Man #1: Either laundry that’s not folded, or all the things that I need to do that come into my head before I go to sleep.

Woman #2: For me, clutter is whenever my room is super messy and I get a lot of trash left in my car. And I begin to feel like my life’s cluttered, so I have to clean out my car, and clean my whole entire room, pick up every single piece of laundry.

Woman #3: Uh, well, I have too many pots in my kitchen, so we had to go and buy a new shelf.

John Fuller: Well, I wonder if you can relate? Uh, your schedule, your home, your job, y- there’s just way too much stuff, and life feels overwhelming. Maybe it’s time to purge, or downsize, or even simplify. Well, this is Focus on the Family. That’s our topic today. Thanks for joining us. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, I’m already smiling, ’cause everybody knows how much I love this topic-

John: (laughs).

Jim: … when it comes to my garage. So I’m proud to say-

John: It’s a perennial topic here.

Jim: … ironically, I just finished cleaning it. (laughs) So-

John: W- did you-

Jim: … I’m happy.

John: … w- d- was it because you knew we were gonna come up on this?

Jim: No, not at all. I didn’t know this was coming-

John: Okay.

Jim: … like three weeks ago. But yeah, we were out there, Troy and I, sweeping away, getting the boxes organized, putting up the leftover Christmas stuff up in the attic-

John: Yeah.

Jim: … in the garage there.

John: And it felt good.

Jim: And it was like, whew, I feel good.

Courtney: (laughs).

Jim: I feel really good. Do you know, one thing that’s so funny… I think about this, ’cause my laundry… I keep piles. So I got my dirty pile ready to go. And then there’s the sh- T-shirts I wore just once or twice, I can wear ’em again-

John: (laughs).

Jim: … in a separate pile. I’m not gonna fold ’em up and put ’em back in my drawer.

John: (laughs)

Jim: So today-

John: Alright.

Jim: … we are gonna talk about all these wonderful things and, spiritually, how they connect to your relationship with God. And you may think, wow. That sounds like such a small thing. Trust me, this is gonna be a big thing.

John: Mm-hmm, yeah. And Courtney Ellis is an author, speaker, podcast host, and pastor. Uh, she and her husband, Daryl, have three young children. And she’s written a book that will really be the basis for our conversation today. It’s full of great insights, and, uh, e- i- it has the Bible woven through it. Uh, the book is Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul. And we’ve got copies of that here. Stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or give us a call.

Jim: Courtney, welcome back.

Courtney Ellis: Thank you so much for having me back.

Jim: It’s good to have you. And, uh, boy, I appreciate the topic, I do. I make fun of it a little bit, but it, it… There’s a lot of spiritual application to this. I mean, the Lord said don’t, you know, worry too much about this or those things. Just go, right? That’s a paraphrase.

John: That sounds like a paraphrase.

Jim: Yeah, but I mean, the Lord basically was saying, don’t worry about materialism.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: You know? Your Father in Heaven knows your needs. And yet, at times, we just like overload on stuff. And then we got so much stuff, it starts to run our lives.

John: Hm.

Jim: So let’s start with that, the scriptural application to what we’re talking about. ‘Cause a lot of people think, eh… You know, that doesn’t really have a deep meaning, but it does.

Courtney: It really does. Our possessions, little by little… It’s always incrementally. None of us go to the store, and buy out the store, and bring home everything. But little by little, one pair of shoes at a time, one book at a time, one toy at a time, it can begin to take over. And the Bible does remind us to store up our treasures in Heaven. And the real heart of the issue is, the more stuff we have, the more time we have to devote to caring for that stuff, to, to paying attention to where we store that stuff, to going back to the store to get more bins so we can organize the stuff. And that takes away from time we could spend in a 100 other God-ordained ways.

Jim: Yeah. Now, to make sure the audience understands your bona fides. You’re a mom of three kids, 10, 7, and 4.

Courtney: I am.

Jim: Seriously, you got time to think about decluttering? Are you serious?

Courtney: I think-

Jim: You’re busy.

Courtney: … honestly, I think the Matchbox cars make more Matchbox cars-

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: … in the middle of the night. (laughs) Wake up, and I’m like, “We didn’t have this many toys yesterday.” So it’s tough, but it’s tough in different ways at different phases of life. I think folks who are retired might look at their shelves and think, I don’t need half of this anymore. How did it even make its way into my house?

Jim: Yes.

Courtney: Right? Folks who have young kids, it’s really difficult… We have two boys and a girl. And of course, the girl, as much as we would love her to be interested in the trains, she is interested in the princesses. So we have now-

Jim: A whole nother inventory set.

Courtney: … additional… Right? We, we just add to the stuff.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: And so, to pay attention to it on the front end, so you don’t have to spend so much time organizing it on the back end is part of the key.

Jim: You’ll be so proud of us… So our boys are now in their 20s, and we finally got rid of the toy box in the basement.

John: (laughs).

Jim: I mean, it was a m- massive toy box. It had… We did keep the Nerf guns, (laughs) but-

Courtney: (laughs).

Jim: … everything else, out the door.

Courtney: You have to keep the Nerf stuff.

Jim: And, uh, I was thinking, wow. I think it’s about time. This is good.

John: Yeah.

Jim: So Jean took the bull by the horns and got that taken care of. Um, e- in a serious way, a few years ago, you were experiencing panic attacks.

John: Hm.

Jim: How did that connect to, you know, unclutter?

Courtney: I was. So we, my husband and I, have been in California now for nine years, but we moved from Wisconsin where we lived in this big, old farmhouse next door to the church. And it was massive. And then, we moved into a California condo. And we brought most of our stuff. And stuff can have effects on your spirit, effects on your emotional health. And living in this cluttered place really started to get to me. And the, the stuff was part of it. My overstuffed schedule was part of it. But I began to feel like I, I almost couldn’t breath-

Jim: Wow.

Courtney: … because my life had too much in it.

Jim: That’s a serious moment. I mean, again, a lot of people might… Let me speak for myself. I mean, I could discount that. I can feel like, ah, I’m not breathing. And… But I don’t necessarily know why.

Courtney: Right.

Jim: You know? And to connect that to your overstressed schedule, your clutter, all that… H- how did you make that connection that this is, I think, what’s causing me this problem?

Courtney: Yeah, my husband and I had a conversation one night where I, I said, “I just feel like it’s too much.” And he said, “What is too much?”

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: And I said, “All of it.”

Jim: Yeah, that’s right.

Courtney: “All of it is too much.”

Jim: Yeah. That’s helpful.

Courtney: The stuff-

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: … the schedule, the amount that we’ve crammed into our life, at the, at the point of… When I started this book, we had one child. Now, we have three. And it was just overwhelming. And so, we didn’t know where to start, so we started by stopping.

Jim: Wow.

Courtney: We stopped buying new things. We stopped putting things on the calendar that weren’t absolutely essential.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: You still do, you know, have to go to the dentist. I recommend it. Keep that appointment.

Jim: Well, let, let’s get into that a bit, to be practical for the people that are going, “Okay, you convinced me. I’m one of them.” Um, what’s the process, uh, that you use to declutter? And the big question… (laughs) Were your husband and your kids onboard with this? I could see your kids going, “No, Mommy. I like that toy.”

John: (laughs).

Jim: “Give it back to me, Mommy.”

Courtney: Oh-

Jim: “Mommy, don’t throw that away.”

Courtney: … for sure.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: We’ve had that conversation 6,000 times. Um, and you can’t really go in and declutter your kids’ rooms without their permission-

Jim: Good.

Courtney: … or that will be really rough on them. And every marriage tends to have one saver of things and one tosser of things. And so, there will be tension there as well. I have tried to throw out my husband’s high school prom, fancy shoes… We’ve been married-

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: … 16 years now, (laughs) at least 16 times, and they keep making their way outta the Goodwill pile.

John: Oh my goodness.

Courtney: So you start with yourself. You start with your own closet, your own possessions, your own schedule. And what happened was, as I started to have less, do less, experience the freedom that God offers when we’re not overburdened, my husband was like, “I think, I think I’m interested. Tell me about that. I think I’m interested in some of that.”

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: And h-

Jim: Bro, let it go, man.

Courtney: Right?

Jim: Get rid of the shoes.

John: (laughs).

Courtney: And the same was true with our children. And, and part of it for children is instilling generosity in them.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: We had a conversation about, look how many toys you have. There are other kids who could use toys, would need toys. We have friends who are, um, going to adopt a foster child. And h- they have girls.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: They’re adopting a boy. We have boys. We have boy toys. They said, “Could you spare some?” And of course, they first go to the broken things, the things they don’t like. And we say, “What toys would you want to play with?” And so, to begin that conversation with them, where it’s not, “We’re clearing it all out.” Which as a mom, when I get overwhelmed that’s the temptation.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: But instead to say, “Could you maybe pick five things today that we could gift to this family?”

Jim: Courtney, I know from the book, u- this wasn’t easy for you. It sounds like you almost mathematically figured this out, A + B = C. But speak to the mom, the wife, the husband who is not seeing this as an easy task. It looks overwhelming. So speak to your struggles with that as you went through it.

Courtney: It, it isn’t an easy task because it’s not just about possessions. Every possession has memories that are attached to it, feelings that are attached to it, nostalgia that’s attached to it. One of the hardest moments was, we had moved from Wisconsin to California into this tiny condo. And we brought this table that my parents had gifted to us.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: This was my childhood table. It had a little bit of paint-

Jim: Seats 24?

Courtney: … yes.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: It expanded. It literally could seat 18 people-

Jim: Whoa.

Courtney: … and we were in a tiny condo, so it was in our dining room.

Jim: I was joking.

Courtney: And it was in our living room.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: And people kept asking, “Are you going to host a banquet?”

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: And I said, “No, I just can’t part with it.” I’d feel so guilty. My mom gave this to me.

Jim: Hm.

Courtney: I moved it from Wisconsin to California. And finally, I realized, okay, I have to let this table go. It’s, it’s ridiculous. Like we can’t walk in our own home because of this table. And I called my mom, and I said, “I’m so sorry. I know this table meant so much to our family. I think I have to let it go.” And she said, “Of course you need to le- I was wondering when you were gonna. Like, it doesn’t fit the space.” I put it online for sale. And within 10 minutes, a pastor’s wife contacted me-

Jim: Ah.

Courtney: … and said-

Jim: That’s great.

Courtney: … “This is exactly what we need for our parish hall, so we can have our dinners with our deacons. Thank you so much. I’ll pick it up today.” And it was like the Lord Almighty said to me, “See?”

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: “See? It’s-”

Jim: I gotcha.

John: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: … right? It’s not even that it’s about me letting go of things. It’s about who else might be blessed-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … by these things I’ve been clinging to-

Jim: Yeah.

John: Hm.

Courtney: … that don’t serve me.

Jim: You know, so often a- as human beings, we chase the shiny thing. It could be a project here at Focus. That’s one of the disciplines you have to constantly put in, in organization. You know, we don’t wanna chase the shiny thing. What has God called us to do?

Courtney: Yeah, it can be hard to get ahold of it. Especially, a lot of folks who have trouble over-purchasing are bargain hunters. And so, there’s the justification of, but it was only $4, but I got it on clearance. And it’s like, that’s okay, but your closet is still filled to bursting.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Or your shelves are still filled to bursting. It’s, it’s not about value, ultimately. It’s about, what will this possession take from you in the time ahead when you have to care for it, you have to store it, you have to deal with it? And people medicate by shopping, but they also medicate by being busy. And those are two sides of the same-

Jim: Wait a minute.

Courtney: … overstuffed life.

Jim: Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

John: (laughs) Ye- yeah.

Jim: Being busy’s a good thing.

John: That’s good. Yeah, yeah.

Jim: (laughs) That’s my problem.

Courtney: Mark of pride, yeah.

John: (laughs).

Jim: Okay, thanks for taking my legs out from under me.

Courtney: (laughs).

John: Yeah. Hm.

Jim: But in that way, u- you and Daryl, I mean, you set out on this adventure, I’ll call it that. It’s, you know, a mountain you needed to climb.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Did the two of you, um, find healthier alternatives? Was there ever kind of a strong disagreement between you about these things? How did that work out in your own marriage?

Courtney: Yeah, for sure. It’s a journey we undertook together. But also, it’s a journey we are still taking independently. And we have different, uh, thresholds for acceptable amount of possessions. And that’s just part of being in a marriage, is, is God will speak to me. God will speak to him. We will walk this journey together. But when we have a disagreement, it’s… Okay, ultimately, who’s going to wear these shoes? They get to make that final decision. And that’s been, that’s been a good way for us to navigate.

Jim: I have a terrible confession. So I, I am a thrower.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, if it’s in arm’s length, it’s gone. And so, I got a big, big trash bin to come in. And, you know, they set it down for a week in your driveway, and so I start cleaning out the garage. And I remember, I think there was a sticky with a phone number and a name on it that was stuck on our ATV. And I’m thinking, okay. This has been here for like a year. I don’t think anybody needs this sticky. So, boop… In the trash it went, in this gigantic disposal thing. And later that afternoon, Jean’s going, “I had a number on that ATV.” And, you know, I-

John: Oh, no. (laughs).

Jim: … somehow, she knew I threw this sticky away.

John: (laughs).

Courtney: Yep.

Jim: And she goes and gets it. And I’m like, okay, maybe that was too much. So I mean-

Courtney: It is risky.

Jim: … you gotta be a little respectful of-

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: … things that may be important to your spouse-

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: … like a phone number.

Courtney: Absolutely. It’s risky to declutter on behalf of someone else.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: You can do it together, or you can do it for you, but you need to partner if you’re going to do it together, whether it’s a child, or a spouse, or an aging parent. You’re helping clean out their house. You may not know what is most important to them.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: And so, those-

Jim: Okay.

Courtney: … conversations take a lot of time and a lot of energy. But I will say, on the other side of them, you are much more hesitant to bring new stuff into that house. (laughs) ‘Cause you’re like, I’ve seen how hard it is to pare down, and I wanna live in a new way on the other side.

John: Mm-hmm. Well, this is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And our guest today is Courtney Ellis. We’re talking about freeing up your life to have more space for the, the things that matter. Her book is, uh, terrific about this topic. It’s called Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul. And we’ll invite you to call us for a copy, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Courtney, I- I- I wanna shift to an area that I don’t think we think about when it comes to being uncluttered, technology.

John: Hm, mm-hmm.

Jim: And as I was reading the book, your emphasis on managing digital assets… I’ll use all those big terms. Um, you know, it’s really important. And one of the most heartbreaking elements that you had in the book was that children, the observation that children that were born, um, you know, around 2010, about the time the smartphone came out… They’re competing for their parents’ attention ’cause the parents are looking at their digital things. And, you know… I- that just, that picture really broke my heart. S- speak to that and how, how do children compete with the phone to get their parents’ attention?

Courtney: Yeah. Digital technology is a wonderful thing when it’s used within bounds. And, uh, there was a picture in a magazine of, uh, a woman’s hand holding a phone, and a baby laying below it, and the woman looking at the phone. And I was like, “Oh, that’s, that’s me.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Like my kid is seeing the back of my hand, and the back of my phone, and my distracted face as I’m changing a diaper. Because there are portions of parenthood that are pretty boring, and I was (laughs) looking for a diversion. I was reading articles. (laughs) I was listening to podcasts. But when we can keep digital technology within its proper bounds, it’s a tool that we use, rather than a tool that uses us.

Jim: Let’s talk about that. What, what are some things that you did that you were able to corral that digital beast?

Courtney: I did a bunch of things that failed, first of all.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: I, I tried to just be better, and I tried to… You know, and I’d have a good day, where I barely looked at my phone, and I felt great. And the next day, I looked at my phone 6,000 times-

Jim: (laughs) Made up for the day before.

Courtney: … before lunch.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: Right? Exactly. And, and what I realized is, there are thousands and thousands of engineers behind this screen that get paid if I click, if I scroll. Like it’s, it’s not a fair fight.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: And so, we’ve developed tools as a family that take that fight out of our hands. So we have this wonderful lockbox that we put our phones in during dinner and bedtime, and we just can’t access them. And every once in a while, something happens and I’m like, “I wish I could take a picture of that.” And also, it’s okay. So to have tools to, to use the settings on your phone to limit screen time for yourself, for your kids, to take some of that fight out of your own hands-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … so that you can rest in that peace and in that space. We take a digital sabbath. We have at least one week a year where we’re off our phones. One month a year, we sign off of social media because we don’t do things halfway very well.

John: Hm.

Jim: Interesting, yeah. No, that’s really good. Jean was terrific at like dinner. We always had dinner. Um, and then, no ph- no phones at the table. She was really good and very insistent-

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … upon that. And, you know, it fell into a quick place where nobody questioned it.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: The boys were fine. And, you know, it wasn’t… They didn’t even bring their phones to the table. And they held that all the way through, so I think… That kind of leadership in the home is really good as well. You know? This is the way we’re gonna do it. And nobody really pushed back on it, which was good.

Courtney: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Um, in that regard, uh, today’s tech, you say, uh, has eliminated that space for downtime.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: You know, you think about that… Boy, what a different world we live in compared to 100 years ago. Just 100 years ago-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … when there was quiet time. I mean, you… W- people were probably working hard-

Courtney: Hm.

Jim: … at doing everything by hand, and we got all those wonderful conveniences… Washing machine, for example. But, but there was quiet time, too.

Courtney: Hm.

Jim: And even in doing those routines, they weren’t distracted by things. How do you think technology has really soaked up those in between spaces where we don’t have downtime?

Courtney: Yeah, it really has. It fills all the cracks and crevices of our day. And one of the healthiest things for human brain is boredom and silence. That’s where a lot of creativity happens.

Jim: Huh.

Courtney: You ever notice you have some of your best ideas in the shower?

John: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Because your phones (laughs) not in there with you.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: But now, we have waterproof phones. You can bring your phone in the shower. (laughs) But we, we need those spaces.

Jim: It’s true. That’s bizarre.

Courtney: Yes. Children need those spaces. Adults need those spaces. But the easiest thing to do is always to look at a screen, so we have to make it less easy for ourselves so that we have those holy spaces where we can hear from God-

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: … where we can look into the eyes of our children, where we can remember that we’re not just producers (laughs) and consumers. We’re, we’re human beings.

Jim: Yeah, and it’s so good. I mean, again, I don’t think most people would think of technology as a uncluttering effort, but your book is packed with these great insights and ideas. Uh, we often complain… Moving to the schedule now, I’m gonna bear my soul-

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … in a very busy moment in my life right now.

John: Yeah. (laughs).

Jim: I’m leaving this afternoon for Montana. (laughs) So… To meet with folks. But, um, you know, we often complain about having overloaded schedules. E- w- I think many of us, if I could say it, we wear it as a badge of honor.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Yes, I’m busy. I flew here yesterday, and I’m going there, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Courtney: It’s a, it’s a humble brag.

Jim: A humble brag.

Courtney: Yeah.

John: Yeah.

Jim: Yeah. Aren’t I important?

Courtney: (laughs).

Jim: But we, we kinda fail to acknowledge most of that’s our own fault. I mean, my assistant, Teresa, is so good. She’s like, “Well, you said yes to this.” (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Jim: Well, why didn’t you say no?

Courtney: (laughs).

Jim: Sh- well, you- you’re the boss.

John: You’re the boss. (laughs).

Jim: (laughs) I mean, she’s so good at pushing back, but gently reminding me that, uh, I created this mess, not her. Um, but h- how do we, one I guess, get ahold of that? And then, how do we control that out of control schedule so we have time for family, and weekend, and-

Courtney: Hm.

Jim: … how do we do it?

Courtney: It’s, it’s a tricky thing, for sure. The, the best practice that we found… My husband and I serve a church. We have young children. You know, there are always more good things to do, and there are always more crises on the horizon. And that’s why God gives us the gift of sabbath.

Jim: Hm.

Courtney: Every week, once a week, to rest from our labors and remember that the work ultimately is the Lord’s. And it’s not a reward for good behavior. It’s not great you finished all the things, so you can rest and worship. It’s even with things left undone, which they always will be-

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: … the work is the Lord’s. Rest, worship, pray, play.

Jim: Yeah. U- u- there’s a story you had in the book that I wanna pull out. You wrote it, so I’m not embarrassing you.

Courtney: Bring it on.

Jim: Someone’s going, “How could you ask that?” But there was something about a class pet.

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: And you were pregnant. So connect all the dots for us. How was this an aha, that I should not say yes to this?

Courtney: Yeah. So our kids attend our wonderful church preschool. And the teachers are amazing. They each have a class pet. It’s a bird. It’s a little parakeet. And a- all the children get to take it home for a weekend, or for spring break, something like that. And I’m in the line. I’m like 100 months pregnant, it feels like at this point.

Jim: I’ve gotta ask you though. Are you saying there’s one parakeet in the class or like 20?

Courtney: Every class has a parakeet.

Jim: Every class has one parakeet.

Courtney: Individual… Yes, one.

Jim: Okay.

Courtney: One.

Jim: Good, good.

Courtney: Um-

Jim: So anyway, you’re pregnant. Set that up again, sorry.

Courtney: So I’m, I’m eight-and-a-half-months pregnant. My due date is in just a couple weeks. And my oldest son is three-years-old. He’s in the class. And the teacher meets me at the door with the parakeet clipboard. And I haven’t signed up yet ’cause I’ve been a little busy. And she says, “You know, Lincoln hasn’t signed up. Will you please sign him up for the parakeet?” And I look, and there’s only one slot left available. And it is the spring break, which is in two weeks, which is my due date for our second baby.

Jim: Yeah. (laughs).

Courtney: And, and in that moment, my unborn son kicks me in the ribs.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: And I drop the clipboard, and I say, “You know, I- I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” And I go home and share the story with Daryl. And Daryl goes, “Absolutely not.” And I said, “Well, we have to. Everyone takes home the parakeet.” And he goes, “Courtney, you can tell her no.”

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: “The parakeet will not survive.” Like-

Jim: Are you looking at my face right now?

John: (laughs).

Courtney: … (laughs) you’re gonna be-

Jim: I’m like, “Duh… Way to go, Daryl.”

Courtney: … you’re not gonna remember to feed-

Jim: I mean-

Courtney: … the parakeet-

Jim: … did-

Courtney: … when you’re in labor. Like this is-

Jim: … did this teacher look at your tummy?

Courtney: … (laughs) this is a no-go.

Jim: My gosh, that’s like self-evident.

Courtney: (laughs).

Jim: You know, I’m having a baby next week.

John: (laughs)

Courtney: I- I’m a person who looks nine months pregnant for four months.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: So she had no way of knowing how close I was to my due date, but, but it was this revelation that you don’t have to say yes to every invitation, even a good invitation… Even an invitation that everybody else has said yes to.

Jim: Yes.

Courtney: That sometimes, God is calling you to something greater. And that is the secret. Besides sabbath, the other secret for uncluttering your schedule is remembering your deeper purpose.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: And in this season, my mission, my deeper purpose was to get this baby safely from one side to the other, into the world.

Jim: No kidding? I- the big question though, someone’s thinking it, so I’ll ask it on behalf of them… How’d you explain that to your little boy?

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: What’d you say to him?

Courtney: You know, he was, he was okay with it. And we switched with another parent.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: And we were able to bring the parakeet home when the new baby was a couple months old. And we enjoyed the parakeet rather than forgetting to feed the parakeet.

John: (laughs).

Jim: Right, right. So it didn’t-

Courtney: But we could have-

Jim: … turn into some disaster, emotionally, for your son.

Courtney: … e-

John: Hm.

Courtney: … he was okay with it. He’s not a big pets kid, but-

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: … we also, we could have just said a full no.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: We, we took the parakeet later because we had space. We had room. We were looking forward to it, but you can just say a full no.

Jim: Yeah, you took the parakeet for the summer. That was nice of you.

John: (laughs).

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: You know what? We took the parakeet… This is funny. We took the parakeet two days before the pandemic began. So we had the parakeet… That, that joke about the person-

Jim: Oh-

Courtney: … who brought the class hamster home for the weekend, we had that parakeet for seven months. (laughs).

John: Oh my.

Jim: … oh my goodness.

John: (laughs).

Jim: Oh, that’s funny. That is a little retribution for the parakeet.

Courtney: (laughs) It was yeah.

Jim: Say no to me, huh?

Courtney: And it lived.

Jim: (laughs).

John: (laughs)

Courtney: It lived the whole time.

John: Yeah.

Courtney: We brought it back healthy.

Jim: That’s incredible. Uh, y- you know, for those that don’t know, um, and this is on the serious side, a scriptural, uh, point to make, that, th- uh… Jesus modeled boundaries and pulling back. E- so often, we think busyness is next to Godliness. Some people, I think 80% of people in America think that’s in the scriptures somewhere. It’s not. But describe that blurriness, that somehow we equate busyness with Godliness. And then, take the example… What was the example that Jesus gave us saying no?

Courtney: Yeah, busyness helps us feel important. Uh, I have things to do. There are many people who need me, so I’m very, very important. And, and the truth is that busyness often separates us from our neighbor. It separates us from God. It can separate us from our own spiritual need, our own spiritual hunger. And it’s a sign that we are not clear on the mission that God has called us to.

John: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: And this is what we see Jesus doing over and over. It’s fascinating if you flip through the Gospels. Jesus says a variation of, “I am going to Jerusalem,” dozens of times. He knows what his mission is. He’s going to Jerusalem. He’s going to die on the cross for the sins of all humanity. And if he had been diverted from that mission, it’d be very bad for all of us. So when he says no to the crowds, it’s to go spend time in prayer with his father to prepare him for this mission because he has to go to Jerusalem. When our mission is clear, it becomes much easier to say no to things.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: What is God calling you to do? What is God calling you to be? How is God calling you to care for your family, to live into your vocation? When these things are clear, it becomes much easier to say no to the things that are not part of that.

Jim: Well, and I think it’s an interesting observation. When He says, the Lord says, “You know, my yoke is easy. My burden is light.” For a lot of Christians, they don’t feel that.

John: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: It still feels heavy. I’m so busy. But this is exactly the area of your life that you need to take a look at then, if, if you’re not able to get that margin to spend time in prayer to understand what your mission is with, your own mission, and then your family mission with your spouse, et cetera. In fact, you and Daryl, e- e- I think it was in premarital counseling, you were challenged to think about your marriage mission. You know, we didn’t cover that in our premarital counseling. I think it would’ve been a good addition to what Jean and I did. I mean, we thought about what we wanted to do to serve the Lord and-

Courtney: Hm.

Jim: … u- you know, be faithful followers of Christ. But h- h- how did that stretch you, and what was that mission that you created?

Courtney: Yeah. We had these wonderful premarital counselors, husband and wife. And we were kind of insulted by their question-

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: … how will you serve God better together? And we’re like, “We love each other, (laughs) and we love God.” And just do the wedding, okay? And-

Jim: Say… The, the question’s really good.

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: ‘Cause it was, how could you serve the Lord better together than separately?

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: That’s a, that is a profoundly good question.

Courtney: And they said, “If you do not have an answer to this, we will not marry you.”

Jim: Wow.

John: Hm.

Courtney: And we were like, “Wow…” You know, we’ve been volunteering in a youth group for years. And we love Jesus, and we love each other.

Jim: Which is to their point.

Courtney: Right.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: That they really pushed us on it. If… And they said, “If, if you’re not gonna serve God better together than separately, then God may not be calling you to marriage at this time.”

Jim: So you ran away for a couple days-

Courtney: (laughs) We did.

Jim: … and said-

Courtney: I was in tears-

Jim: … yo- you had a date night.

Courtney: … in the car on the-

Jim: And what’d you come back with?

Courtney: … Daryl’s, Daryl’s taking me back to my apartment, and I’m like-

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: Um-

Jim: We’re not getting married.

Courtney: … (laughs) right? This is… I, I-

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: … can’t believe they asked us this question, and they asked it because they love us.

Jim: Yeah.

Courtney: And because they love the Lord.

Jim: Well, it made you think about it.

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: And, and come up with a family mission, right?

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: Statement.

Courtney: Yes.

Jim: And what was it, basically?

Courtney: Yeah. It was that God is calling us to provide opportunities for hospitality, and respite, and discipleship. And God has used that every step of our marriage. We now serve a church together, and we see that on multiple friends.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Courtney: Rest for the weary, and a meal for the hungry. And so many folks within our community are just hungry to be in a place, and with people, who genuinely love each other and have space for them.

Jim: Yeah. And this takes us all the way back to the beginning… You shouldn’t have gotten rid of that table.

Courtney: (laughs).

John: (laughs).

Jim: You need 18 places.

Courtney: We do.

Jim: (laughs).

Courtney: Now, we go in the backyard. We all sit-

John: Yeah.

Courtney: … we all sit in the back here.

Jim: Now, we’re saying, “Save everything you’ve ever had.”

Courtney: Yeah.

Jim: No, that’s not the message today.

John: Hm.

Jim: Courtney, this has been so good. Uh, let’s come back and keep the discussion going. I think we can hit some of the other topics that you cover in the book, Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul. It’s a big, big promise. But there’s so many good elements here, I’d like to come back and do that. Can we do that?

Courtney: I’ll be here.

Jim: All right, let’s do it. And, uh, man, I hope we can get this into your hands, especially if you’re that person going, “Either me or my spouse seems to live in a cluttered environment. And-”

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: “… we need help.” This may not be the book to put on his or her pillow, but certainly get it and read it together. That’s something Jean and I have done with a variety of books.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And we enjoy th- the audiobook of something. And, uh, we wanna get this book into your hands, so make a gift of any amount. Be a part of the ministry. If you can do that on a monthly basis, it really helps us do ministry better together. And if it’s a one-time gift, we’ll send it to you as well. And, uh, John will give you the details on how to get ahold of us.

John: Mm-hmm. Just give us a call, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or, uh, stop by our website. We’ve got the book and links to, uh, to donate. That’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And on behalf of Jim Daly, who is right now tied up with his technology-

Jim: No, I’m just looking at my schedule.

John: … I’m John Fuller, inviting you back-

Jim: I’m looking at my schedule.

John: … (laughs).

Jim: It’s really packed.

Courtney: (laughs).

Jim: I’m really important.

John: Join us next time. Maybe Jim will be here… That said, we once again hope you and your family thrive in Christ.

Courtney: (laughs).

Today's Guests

Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul

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