Monday, September 29, 2008

Doing Dishes and Loving God

"Lord of all pots and pans and things . . . Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates! . . . The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen . . . I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament." --Brother Lawrence

I have this quote printed on a plain piece of white paper and taped on the wall near my kitchen sink, which is where I spend a great deal of time during my days. (I'm there now, actually.) Some of the words are smudged, because the water in the sink tends to splatter pretty badly. I think it gives the quote even more character, though. I've had this up in my kitchen for several years now, and while the prayer is a desire of my heart, it is very often forgotten in the daily grind of washing clothes, picking up toys, scrubbing toilets, and cooking meals.

I know for a fact that I am not alone in this. There are a few stay-at-home moms who take great joy and pride in cleaning their houses (my sister Christy, maybe?), but I am not one of those. I take that back. I do take pride in a clean house; I just don't take joy in being the one to clean it. I feel bogged down and held back from doing "more important" things. Hold that thought--I have to go put a new load in the washer . . .

I'm back now. Just had to get supper going, too. What was I saying? Oh yes, that I get bogged down sometimes in the dailyness of life. Some days and some chores don't seem to bother me as much as others; it's mainly when there's something that I really, really want to do that is postponed because the carpet needs to be vacuumed or the furniture needs to be dusted (HA! I'm totally just saying that. I never dust.). The point is that I can get really whiny about it sometimes. It may not always reveal itself verbally, but it's definitely going on in my head. Now I will give myself some credit here. My longings to do other things besides chores do include activities with my children, so it's not a completely self-indulgent yearning.

But back to the prayer. Even when I'm feeling more whiny than joyful about keeping house, I do at least try to remind myself that I am serving both my family and God in it. How? Well, some days it's not very clear to me, either. But then last week, I had one of those "Aha!" moments as I was preparing the house for our Small Group to come over. You see, I have no problem seeing how opening our home up for friends and neighbors and even people we've never met before to come in and feel welcome and safe is done for God's glory. I long for our home to be open to everyone, to be known as a house of peace. It's just hard to keep it clean. Actually, nevermind clean--it's hard to keep an open walkway in each room!

I've kind-of gotten over the fact that my house just won't be picture perfect--probably ever. I'm even comforted by the words of those who come over and say that they actually feel more at home when there are toys all over the floor and dirty dishes on the counters. I don't think they're just being nice; I think they really mean it. So my heart problems aren't coming from other people's comments. It's more of a self-motivation problem.

During the "Aha!" moment that I mentioned, it suddenly occurred to me that it's not just the end product of my service that is to be for God's glory; it is the entire process. I should be "working as unto the Lord, not unto men" (Colossians 3:23). With every pot that I scrub, every shirt that I fold, every tile that I mop, I am serving God. I am taking care of my family. And while I may never experience utter happiness in doing the work, I CAN experience both joy and satisfaction in understanding why I do what I do and in using that time to commune with my Creator.

This is a concept that I know I will probably never consistently grasp, but it is one that I hope to never lose sight of "in the noise and clatter of my kitchen."


Amanda Wells said...

I'm a clean freak, but complain about being the one to take care of it constantly. Although, if my husband pitched in, I would most likely go right behind him and reclean. My OCD is something I need to let go. It's a problem.

Carrie Partridge said...

I used to be somewhat of a neat freak (never a clean freak, unfortunately), but marriage and then children changed that. Kevin and I met in the middle on the tidiness issue; then the kids came along and, one by one, they just destroyed it! Oh well . . . I've heard I might can have a tidy house in 20 years or so. :)

Amanda Wells said...

After baby 1, I was pretty good, baby 2, a little worse, so if we go any further, it's a lost cause, I'm sure.

So you were at Van's bday party?!?!?

Carrie Bevell Partridge said...

Yes! Isn't that funny? Earlier that day, my sister-in-law (Jessie) told me that you were published in the same magazine; then you commented on my blog that afternoon; and then we were in the same room that night! Really funny, I thought. We are good friends with the Hardins and also the Krasons. My husband Kevin said he had met you when he did some video work with JBHM.

Katrina said...

Thanks Carrie for this post! Several weeks ago I was getting bitter about this ongoing task...and one day I just realized that it's my ministry. Thanks for the great quote. I think your quote my have a twin on my kitchen window sill.

jcbullock said...

Thank you for sharing these thoughts! I always value your wisdom. And yes, I do take joy and pride in cleaning my house. Unfortunately it is to a fault! I have been struggling a lot more lately with not being so absorbed in "doing my chores" and just enjoying my children! I'm also realizing that I believe that Tyler is indirectly communicating to me that I am not paying enough attention to him! He's been acting out a lot. He's doing GREAT at school, but not so much at home lately. I need some help letting loose of my OCD (or whatever it really is!). Thanks for sharing. I have always felt that this type of service has been my ministry. Service is certainly how I speak love.