We spent much of the day putting away all of our Christmas decorations.  At our house, that does not just mean the tree, but also, it means carefully putting away almost 50 nativities (that is A LOT of baby Jesuses!) Christmas may be officially over, but the trash from the holidays is still here. 

God bless those who work in sanitation! We still have a few more days before the trash collectors are scheduled to collect the holiday shrapnel. It’s all the boxes, bows, wrapping paper, tape, ribbon, party hats, and recyclables accumulating over the past few weeks.  The trash bins are overflowing and overstuffed – far past capacity – with refuse.   As if that was not an unsavory enough thought, the truth is, the same thing can happen in my brain.

This morning, I woke up at 4:15 and could not go back to sleep. Why?  My brain was overfilled with the mental trash of 2020. It was full of the regrets, missteps, decisions, and negative thinking that have overburdened my brain. It’s just like those trash bins!

Taking Out the trash

When our kids were younger, we introduced the idea of “mental trash”. It’s when one hears or sees something that is inappropriate or unsavory – and how to get rid of it.  We would encourage them to “take out the trash” in their minds to get rid of the negative words/images. Then we encouraged them to replace them with positive ones.  Sometimes, it worked more effectively than others. But during a particularly difficult season,  I knew I needed to encourage our kids with a practical lesson.

I took the kids out to the trashcan in front of our house, opened the large, smelly receptacle and asked the kids to look inside the bin.  Both kids held their noses to try and avoid the pungent odor coming from the waste. We lived in a warm climate and that trash had been sitting in the sun for a few days.  Disgusting.   

I rifled through the trash on top and reminded the kids about the rancid, leftover food therein.  I asked both kids, if we should eat the food in the bin or make dinner from the moldy pile.  Their little eyes widened and their coloring turned a few shades of green.  “NO!” they stated with certainty.   I agreed with their assessment. I reminded them that once you take trash out to the can, that is where it should stay. Or at least until the awesome sanitation team removes it.   There is no need to revisit it.

When it comes to our thought life, one is well served to apply the same principles to the ideas and concepts floating around our cerebral cortex.  When we have identified a thought, pattern of thinking, or negative self-talk as trash, we should get rid of it – and not revisit it again.  If we have thoughts of doubt or discouragements, we should disallow it to plague our minds.  We should make amends for the things we need to and ask for forgiveness, if need be. Then we need to move on. 

Avoiding mental “Dumpster Diving”

In short, we should avoid mental dumpster diving at all costs. It undermines us and – at the risk of a terrible pun – it stinks.  Once we have relinquished our regrets, hopelessness, negativism, and defeatism to the feet of Jesus, we need to leave it there.

What would happen if we all decided to make 2021 the year that we choose to leave the trash? Throwing the doubts, fears and the spoken and unspoken words that follow them –  where it belongs- in the hands of Jesus.  What if we took the words of the Apostle Paul to heart and embraced Philippians 4:8?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.“ 

Instead of holding onto the trash of 2020, let’s focus on the potential of 2021. Focus on the plans that God has for us, the things that are true (His promises), the things that are noble (deeds done for His glory/our good). Meditate on the things that are right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.  Avoid the trappings of trash thinking (regrets, doubts, and unkindness) and focus on the positives. Meditate on the power, perfection, presence, and promises of God.  

I am praying for each of you this year.  May your thoughts be filled with His love, His peace, and His hope…and not on the trash from the past.


Amberly Neese is a popular speaker/teacher, comedian, author, and all-around encourager. She is dedicated to helping you become the joyful person you were created to be.

She helps people like you experience the freedom found in meaningful relationships with God and others. Her bible studies, “The Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to Thrive”  and “Common Ground: Loving Others despite Our Differences”  and her devotional “The Friendship Initiative: 31 Days of Loving and Connecting Like Jesus” were released by Abingdon Press.

Amberly is a popular women’s retreat speaker, and featured communicator for the Aspire Women’s Events. She is the main host and female comedian for Marriage Date Night.

She and her husband have two teenagers and live in Prescott, Arizona. Together, they enjoy the great outdoors, the Food Network, and all things Star Wars.

Amberly Neese

Author of “the Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to Thrive” (Abingdon Press, 2020)

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