(This post is dedicated to my mom, because I know she can relate)
I just spent the last 4 hours of my evening cleaning my house. Unfortunately, I’m only half finished. That’s what happens when everyone is home for 3 days, everyone is sick with the stomach flu, and I was sick for 2 days too. Triple whammy. My house was disgusting. Half of it still is. Cleaning for that long gave me lots of time to think, though, and ponder.
Tonight, after dinner, my kids were begging to let them get out a new toy I had bought earlier this evening. I made them help do some chores and then I caved and let them open it. They wanted me to help them set it up, but I knew I HAD to start cleaning up. The mess was starting to make me go insane. I did, however, take a few minutes to watch them and snap a shot.
(I know I took a better shot than this but couldn’t find it on my phone later and the moment was gone by then)
I got to thinking about how many moments I give up with my kids to clean my house. I call it a necessary evil. Growing up, we always gave my mom a hard time because we would really want her to sit down with us and watch a movie or play a game, but most of the time she cleaned instead. I was bitter about it sometimes and wondered why she couldn’t just stop for a minute and have some fun with us. Unfortunately, I’m the same way with my own kids now. I’m still trying to figure out why. It’s like something was engrained in my brain that if my house isn’t clean, I am a failure as a wife and mother. Yet, something is engrained in my heart that when I don’t spend time with my kids, I’m a failure also. It’s a constant battle between the 2.
I like having a clean house for 2 reasons.
1. I hate it when people show up at my house and it’s a disaster. I can’t help but be totally embarrassed. If you come to my house, and I invite you in, it must be a good day. If I talk to you at the door, it’s because I don’t want you to see what’s behind door #1, and 2, and 3, etc, etc. It’s pride, I know. I shouldn’t care what other people think. That’s what my husband says all the time. I told him that was easy for him to say because it wasn’t his stewardship. I told him if his boss showed up at his desk, and he couldn’t find a very important report that was due because he had a mess on his desk, he would probably be embarrassed. Plus, why is its that no one ever shows up at my house unexpectedly when it’s clean? Earlier this year, when my baby was only 4 months old, I got an unexpected text that I had company coming over to stay….in 2 hours! I totally freaked. My house was a mess. I texted my friend to vent and then started flying through the house. 10 minutes later, my friend, being the awesome person that she is, showed up at my doorstep to help. We raced and got it all clean just minutes before my company arrived.
Why was I so stressed? Why did I care so much about what someone else would think? I think it’s funny that we apologize when our homes are dirty and we also apologize when they are clean. Like when we say, “Please excuse the mess.” or when someone comments on how clean our house is and we say, “Oh, it’s not always like this, trust me!”
Have you ever walked into a friends house that was really neat and tidy and thought, “Oh, I wish I could keep my house this nice all the time?” Haha. What you don’t realize at the time is that friend might have just spent the last 2 hours racing through her house before you got there to make it that way!
2. I love order. When my surroundings are in order, I feel at peace and I feel like I have more energy to conquer my life. When my home is clean, I feel happier. I’m nicer to my kids. I’m nicer to my husband. I actually invite people in, LOL. I know now that my mom probably felt the same way. There’s something to be said about a house of order. Things run smoother, you can actually find stuff when you need it, you’re not late getting out the door every time because so-and-so couldn’t find their shoes, or their pants, or coat. I once heard someone say that clutter was nothing but emotional noise. I believe it. When ther is clutter everywhere, I feel like I can’t function, the ‘noise’ is so loud.
I like shiny sinks…
When I was a kid, my mom would always make us scrub and shine the sinks when we were done washing dishes. She used to say, “The dishes aren’t done until the sinks shine.” It drove me NUTS, but it stuck. (I promise this rambling is all going to have a purpose…eventually) now, I love waking up to shiny sinks and a clean kitchen. Somehow, it just has a way of saying, “Welcome to your new day.” Instead of, “Welcome to what you didn’t finish yesterday.” (When I wake up to a dirty house) Thank you mom, for teaching me to shine my sinks.
I love the story of Mary and Martha in the bible. Christ comes to stay with Martha and her sister Mary. The feeling that is portrayed is that Mary immediately sits at his feet and listens to his words while Martha is stressed about serving and tidying up. She is frustrated that Mary is not helping her and says to him, “Dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?”
His response feels like it was meant for me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Oh, how I have always longed to be more like Mary, to know and care more for the eternal thing than the earthly. To be more open to the promptings in my heart than the distractions of life. Yet, I feel for Martha. She was just trying to make sure things were right in her home. Maybe she was frantically making preparations for company she was not prepared for. How many times have I gotten upset at my husband and children for not helping me and felt like the martyr because I was doing everything “myself.” Some people are good at following their hearts first. Some people are good at organizing and keeping tidy homes. I feel like I am good at neither, but always getting better. I feel like I am more like Martha and always troubled about things. If I were more like Mary, maybe my children would be more happy with me. Yet, life requires Martha too. Maybe it’s just trying to find a balance between the two. Either way, there will always be things to be troubled about, or stressed. Christ tells us to come unto him and he will make our burdens light. Perhaps Mary knew that. If he had been in my home tonight maybe he would have sat on the floor and played trains with my children. Or, maybe he would have realized my own stress and helped me tidy the house so I could be at peace.
There is a balance between this earthly life and the eternal that lies all around us, but it is for us to find. I know I am always learning, always making mistakes. I watched a mother today as she was rushing out of the store with 2 children in tow. Both children fell on their faces as she was trying to rush them out to the car as their little legs couldn’t keep up with hers. They quickly jumped up and kept going.
My little spiritual legs don’t always keep up with my Father’s and I feel as though I am constantly falling.
Last night I went to bed with tears because I felt so bad for my failings as a mother that day. I guess it’s important to remember that our Heavenly Father isn’t trying to rush us. He is patient and forgiving and willing to wait for us to learn from our mistakes. He knows that is how we will grow and become more like him. I’m so grateful for my mother and all the patience she must have had to muster to raise her children each day. She is always in my heart as I try to raise my own. I think of her when my children are throwing tantrums and I don’t think I can last another minute, when I’ve scraped Cheerios off the kitchen floors for the hundredth time, when no one wants to eat the dinner I’ve just spent an hour on, and when I hold a bowl for my little ones when they are throwing up. I remember being on the other end. I remember being the child. But I didn’t know then what I do now. Thank you mom.
I’m so grateful for my children. They are my reminder every day that Heaven is never very far away.