Yesterday I wrote about keeping house rather than waiting until the house was so bad that you need to devote a whole day to cleaning house. Today I want to address the other end of the neatness spectrum.
My grandmother says “life is too short to waste time cleaning.” She washes dishes and laundry, and there aren’t things scattered all over the floor. But sweeping, dusting, mopping, and cleaning out cabinets are not in the list of things she enjoys. This always bugged my mom when she was growing up. Now my mom is a meticulous house keeper. They live on a farm and I would still eat off her floor! She sweeps at least once, if not 2-4 times a day. If there are 5 dishes on the counter she washes them. The floor is mopped weekly. And Laundry is done religiously. I fall some where in the middle. I like the house clean, but I can survive in a mess too. I really think there needs to be a balance between preparing to be on the next episode of hoarders, and keeping your home so clean that the work of cleaning becomes stressful.
There is a story in the Bible about Jesus visiting the home of two sisters (Luke 10:38-42.) Mary and Martha had the honor of hosting the son of God! That’s a big deal!! But they both had very different opinions of what it meant to have Jesus in their home. Mary sat down at her savior’s feet. She wanted to focus her heart and mind on what was being said. She was attentive; the kind of person you want to pour your heart out to. She was the one friend who holds eye contact while you tell a story, when everyone else has gotten distracted and walked away. Martha, on the other hand, was busy. She was pouring water or wine for guests. Checking on supper. The towel she used for washing feet was dirty so she went out to wash it and bring in fresh water for the basin. Martha was the friend you call when you need help painting, or when you are sick and need some one to bring over some soup.
After a while, Martha got angry. She was busy cooking, cleaning, serving guests…missing out on enjoying the presence of Christ and the others who were gathered in her home. I can just see her grumbling under her breath, getting more and more irritated. Finally, she’d had enough; she burst into the room where Jesus was speaking and fellow-shipping, and demanded that Jesus make Mary help her with all the work! And I love what Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.”
Wow! That must have come as a punch in the gut to Martha. In her mind she was serving her guests and that was the best thing she could do. Instead, Jesus told her she was worried about things that weren’t important — not eternally important, anyway.
I think as moms we can turn into Marthas if we are not careful. We can be so worried about sweeping up messes, and keeping toys in the perfect place that we forget what is important — our family! Your children will never remember the time you went 2 weeks and didn’t get the bathroom scrubbed. They won’t worry about the time the yard didn’t get mowed for 2 weeks. It won’t matter to them in fifty years if you washed and changed the sheets every single week.What they will remember is that mom used to stop in the hall and sit down to read a book (or that she was always too busy to read.) They will remember the time you started a water fight (or that you yelled when their clothes got muddy.)
Be a Mary. When your parents drop in for a visit; stop. Sit down and talk to them. Don’t talk over what you are doing. Stop, and talk. When your child has a looooooong, long…long story about something. Stop. Don’t sweep and nod. Don’t rush them to “wrap it up already.” Stop. Be the friend who looks the other in the eye and listens to the story long after everyone else has gotten distracted. The cleaning will be there tomorrow. Our children grow up and leave. Our friends aren’t a guarantee. Some day you will attend a funeral for your parents and grandparents. Your spouse needs to see you listening. Don’t be a Martha-mom.
(The washer stopped 10 minutes ago…but Skeet just brought me a book so I’m fixing to read The Fire Cat.)