Pray: Come Holy Spirit, open my eyes so that I may see You clearly, open my ears so that I may hear You soundly, open my mind so that I may understand You more, open my heart so that I may love You fiercely, open my hands so that I may give generously and receive humbly. Fill me with Your fire so that I can be more like You. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD. 2 Chronicles 24:4
I have a confession to make, I’m a neat freak. Well, at least I was. I just spent the last two hours cleaning our house, trying to get it all done in two hours. I NEVER would have been able to do that before. I’m the type of person where if I can’t do it perfectly then why bother doing it at all? The problem with that mentality when it comes to house cleaning is that then it often doesn’t get done at all! Then things pile up and before you know it, to get the house looking the way I want it to look takes days!
The idea of perfection is something that I have had to learn to let go of. My family deserves a warm, welcoming, happy, comfortable home. For me, that doesn’t translate into a perfectly white-glove clean home. Now, keep in mind, it’s taken me a long time to be able to say that. Especially since it goes against what a lot of other people out there are saying; that as women and mothers our first priority needs to be our home. I always took that to mean serving my family by taking care of our house and their meals. I don’t know what God has called you and your family to so I can’t speak for you; but as for me and my household it means quality time with my family, not a neat house.
I had to laugh when I “finished” cleaning just now, I literally left the vacuum out in the middle of the living room floor to truly finish vacuuming later in the day. Again, I never would have done that before! I would have tenaciously kept vacuuming despite the fact that it was time to stop and move onto other things. I would have made sure to get all the crevices and corners and wouldn’t have stopped until the entire job was finished. My thinking was that if I didn’t finish it at that moment I would forget and do other things and then it wouldn’t get done. And as I write that all down God says to me “And what would be so wrong with that?”
LOL!!! Seriously! He’s right! (* head shaking at myself*, of course He’s right! He’s GOD!) What difference does it make if the entire house doesn’t get vacuumed for an extra day or even two? Will my children die? Will my cats give me scornful looks because they are being forced to walk and sleep on dirty floors? Siiigh… Lord why did it take me so long to get to this point? What made me think that because I’m a work at home mom my house had to be in perfect order all the time? My kids don’t need a perfectly clean house, they need ME! And even more than that, they need for me to teach them how to keep the house clean on their own! I’ve started having my kids (9 & 4) do their own laundry even! *Gasp* I know, I’m a mean mom aren’t I? Of course not! How else will they ever learn how to do laundry if they’re not doing before they move out? Yes, they are young, but yesterday my nine year old amazed me. He put a load of his laundry in without ever being asked to do it!!! I about fainted! He went into the laundry room, pulled all the dry clean laundry out of the dryer and put it into a basket, switched the wet laundry to the dryer and started a new load of his own!!! I didn’t even realize he was doing it until he was almost finished. Talk about a proud mama! But then to top it all off, the load he had pulled out of the dryer was all his clothes that I had put in earlier in the day so I told him to move it into the living room so that I could fold it for him. And as he was walking it in there I had the thought, “Why does it have to be folded?”
Why do clothes have to be folded? Here I’ve been spending hours upon hours every week folding all our clothes when we all have nice long drawers that can easily hold clothes that can be laid neatly into the drawers or hung up! I had never thought of that before! I mean think about it! Most clothes these days have “wrinkle-free” on their labels anyway, why fold them if you don’t have to? And on top of that, why was I folding his clothes for him when he was just unfolding them in his drawers to see which shirts were which! So I stopped him in mid-stride toward the couch and said “Gabe, take it to your room instead and put them into your dresser.” And he said incredulously, “But Mommy, they’re not folded yet!” I explained to him that it was OK and he could just lay them neatly into his drawer and they would be fine. Both of us were thrilled! It took less than half the time to put his laundry away than it normally does!
Then, as if that wasn’t great enough, this morning Anna comes to me with the Swiffer sweeper in her hand and asks if she can mop the kitchen floor! Are you kidding me Lord? So I got her a little bottle of bleach water and an old towel to put on the Swiffer and set her to mopping the floor. She was happy as a lark spraying the water on the floor and then mopping it up with the Swiffer that was now just her size by taking one of the sections out of the handle. After only a few months of teaching the kids how to help clean they are doing it on their own! Now, I’d love to say that I had something to do with this, but I know better, it’s a plain and simple miracle from heaven.
God is helping me do what He’s called me to do! God had to bring me to the end of myself by allowing the Enemy to frustrate me with my inability to keep our house clean on my own. Sure I could keep up when it was just Sean and I, and even when the kids were tiny and didn’t really make much of a mess, but now that they’re older and making huge messes, well, even that wasn’t so hard. But when I started writing I had to choose write or clean. And I about drove myself to madness trying to keep my house spic and span all by myself while at the same time writing the way I felt God calling me to write. I was staying up until all hours of the night trying to get it all done. Notice I said “trying”, I didn’t say getting. Even when I was spending extra sleepless hours I still couldn’t keep our house clean the way I wanted it to be. In fact, it was just getting worse! (Check out “Rest” for more details on this time.)
Slowly, step by step God helped me let go of the idea of a perfect house. And He did that by whispering “You can’t do this all by yourself” every time I would try and get frustrated. He was pointing out my need for Him in my life; my need for His direction and wisdom. And that’s just it; I wasn’t asking Him for His opinion! So I just kept getting more and more frustrated until finally (praise God) I broke down and told my family “I can’t do this by myself any more. You have to help me.” And do you know what happened? They were thrilled to help! The kids had been craving the responsibility of chores, which is obvious by the fact that they’re now ASKING to do them! When they do a chore they are so proud of the fact that they just did something for themselves and for our family and it helped me. All that time that I had been doing those things for them, I was denying them that privilege and honor to help me. I was too proud to admit that I needed help and I was too hungry for the feeling of power that I got from keeping things MY way around the house. As if my way was the only way to do things or that it was the right way even! Who am I to say that the way the kids put the dishes away is wrong? If the job is done does it matter if it’s perfect?
God knows that we’re not perfect; He knows that He would do things way better than ours, yet He still allows us to be part of His plan and do work for Him instead of doing it Himself. Not because He can’t do it, but because He knows that it’s good for us and that it blesses us to do things on our own and for Him. So if God is OK with things not getting done perfectly so that His children can be part of the plan, then why can’t I be like that too? I am still discovering things that I need to let go of, I probably will for the rest of my life, but I’m thrilled with the control that I have let go of and allowed my family to be a team. Where we all work together to keep our house running smoothly and not just me doing it while they watch TV and make more messes for me to clean up.