Yesterday, I had two of my sisters over our house. It was long overdue, and I was excited. But there was another thing that was long overdue: the cleaning. I had been ignoring my floors and bathroom for over a week (eek!), and you could definitely tell. So, I pretended my daughter was taking a nap as she talked to herself in her crib, put on Breakfast at Tiffany’s (in hindsight, not the ideal choice), and went to it.
I grew up in a house where you clean before company comes over. Like, intensely clean. I have backed off a bit since owning my own place, but floors and bathrooms are a must for me. What I did not take into account this time around was that three kids were about to come over bringing the house total to 5 kids under age 6. You can only imagine…
Five minutes in, toys and banana muffin crumbs are everywhere. Since I just cleaned, I am picking up bits and feeding them to my son. 😮 An hour in, macaroni and cheese has made a trail from the den to the living room. My cat has social anxiety with guests, so she is absolutely no help. One child has peed on the floor. I am sweeping and wiping things, telling my sisters I am not worried and to be comfortable. We are chatting over the sounds of “Mine!” “Stop that!” and “Mama!”
We did have a great time. My sister with no kids played the guitar, and the kids danced. At one point, she took my niece Shalom to pick up popsicles and ice cream. Shalom was lit up for the one on one time (and the Frozen theme popsicles she picked out). While they were out, I told my other sister that I didn’t know why I was cleaning so much. “I guess it is to avoid conversation more than anything,” I admitted.
Here’s the thing. I love having people over. Money is super tight right now, but everyone brought something and made it work. The kids love each other; so it is the highlight of my daughter’s day. Still, I had spent so much time cleaning that I ignored my kids most of the day. I had focused all my energy on that so I was exhausted when everyone came over. I couldn’t focus on a conversation for all the smashed food on the ground. And even if I could, I hadn’t invested time with the Lord to have anything to give, conversation-wise. My comments felt empty and sometimes even whiny.
You know those standardized tests where they have two words and you have to know how they relate to one another? Doctor :: Patient as Vet :: Animal etc. Well, I didn’t think that cleanliness was godliness or anything, but I guess I used to think that they were related. Like Cleanliness :: Godliness as Gentleness :: Godliness, as if it is a fruit of having the Spirit in your life. You will be a better person, therefore, a cleaner one. Yesterday disproved that for me.
As I cleaned up after everyone left last night, I am pushing my Bona mop and rubbing at goop spots on the floor. One spot was particularly rough, so I came back to it later with a disinfectant wipe. I could tell then from the smell- it was dog poop from a kid’s shoe. Yep. And now I had probably wiped the rest of my floor with it. Awesome.
That is just it: sometimes our greatest efforts are just wiping around dog poop. So, what is worth investing in? Receiving love- from our kids, our God, our beautiful creation so that we have something to give and share when we are with others. I hate the story of Mary and Martha because Martha seemed so productive, helpful, busy, and right! But now I know, Jesus didn’t tell Martha that Mary chose the right thing in order to condemn Martha. He wanted to spare her some wasted effort and time. Her effort was only going to end up like mine, making her tired, empty, and smelly. He said Mary chose the better thing and it would not be taken from her. My efforts were taken every five minutes by a bunch of toddlers. My sister sat and enjoyed her nieces showing her their paintings, her nephew dressing up as a knight, and seeing my baby smile constantly. That kind of thing won’t be taken from her.
Anyways, no condemnation here. Just revelation that is blowing away that pressure to do, clean, and produce, where only presence is needed.