The Sabbath Surprise

I don’t know why, but I’m often surprised when my parents are right.  If I’m in a cranky mood and complaining about a problem, I hate it when my mom tells me the remedy–my problem is too complicated, and she can’t possibly know how to fix it.  But sure enough, she DOES know how to fix it!  Whether the problem be sickness, stains, or food, Mom seems to know the answer.  My dad doesn’t offer advice quite as much as my mom, but when asked, he always has a suggestion for whatever financial difficulty I bring to him.  Between the two of them, they are a wealth of knowledge and experience, and the advice they offer is offered clearly to benefit me and for no other reason.

Likewise, my heavenly Father has given me tons of advice, and for some strange reason, I’m always a little surprised when He is right.  Now since He is God, I don’t doubt that He knows the answer; I just haven’t taken some pieces of advice as seriously as others.

For years, I have grown up knowing that God commanded we keep the Sabbath holy.  He rested after six days of creation, and likewise, we are supposed to take one day a week to rest.  However, I never really understood this command.  I thought keeping the Sabbath day holy merely meant going to church, and my family always fulfilled this command.  Whether we were at home or on vacation, we didn’t miss Mass.

As I grew in my faith and knowledge of the Bible, I began to understand that those I read about in the Old Testament followed burdensome, strict laws concerning what they could and couldn’t do during the Sabbath, one reason Jesus rocked the boat so often when He came on the scene.  Therefore, my view of the Sabbath changed; I realized that back then people weren’t supposed to work, but they were legalistic.  I could do homework or chores or whatever I needed to do, as long as I went to church.

Within the last year, I revisited this idea of the Sabbath.  A friend had mentioned to me that her pastor gave a sermon explaining the importance for everyone to take a true day of rest, no matter what day of the week that day may occur.  After talking to her, I decided that I, too, would take a true Sabbath.  The problem was that I could never decide on the day–sometimes it was Saturday, sometimes it was Sunday, and the day seemed to be dependent on everyone else’s plans.  The truth of the matter is that I didn’t do the preparation necessary to have my Sabbath day of rest.

A few Sundays ago, my pastor gave a sermon on the Sabbath, and I knew I needed finally to obey God.  God didn’t give me this command so that I would have one more rule to follow; He gave this command as a blessing to me.  I work hard all day long, all week, and normally, by the end of the week, I’m ready to hurt someone.  By resting, giving up laundry and other housework for a day, I’m enjoying my family.  I’m remembering why I cherish my husband and adore my children.  I’m approaching God with a renewed state of mind, ready to worship, when I go to church.  And I approach Monday, fresh, ready to begin again.

Matt and I agreed that we would take our Sunday Sabbaths seriously, and we’ve had to prepare in order to do so.  Sometimes I’m up late Friday night cleaning bathrooms, and on Saturday Matt and I work hard, but when we go to bed Saturday night, we can smile.  We know we are waking up for church and then a true day of rest with the family.  We make pancakes for brunch, and we do whatever is pleasing to us that day.  I’ve made bread the last three weeks, something that under a legalistic understanding of the Sabbath wouldn’t be allowed, but a task I allow myself to do because I enjoy it.

Sundays had never excited me before because it had always been a day just like the other six.  Now, I yearn for my Sundays.  And at 30 years old, I find that I’m slightly surprised at how right my heavenly parent is.

Enjoying the New Carpet

4 spit-up spots

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3 pee-pee accidents

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2 poop stains

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1 pink silver polish incident

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10 reasons why we should not have gotten new carpet!

Of course, Matt and I knew what we were getting into, and in fact, always said that we would NOT get new carpet until all of our children were housebroken.  However, when we decided to put our house on the market during this terrible housing crisis, we knew our only chance to sell without giving our house away would require our house to look as close to perfect as possible.

And our old carpet was anything but close to perfect.  We can’t take sole responsibility for it’s condition–the carpet was original to the home, and the home is 13 years old.  I will say that we did more than our fair share to speed up it’s deterioration in the last three-and-a-half years that we have lived here!

When I was scrubbing out the pink stain from the silver polish that my two-year-old so lovingly spread onto the carpet (this polish only appeared after getting the new carpet, of course), I began to cry.  That evening, I had a nightmare that I was having a party with a group of women that I didn’t know, and someone spilled salsa on the new carpet.  One of the ladies curtly spoke, “We couldn’t get the stain out.”  A huge pinkish red circle tarnished the beautiful carpet.  A few nights later, I had another bad dream, and one more involving marker all over the walls and furniture followed.

So a couple days ago, when I was cleaning spit-up out of the carpet, I thought to myself, “I wish I had my nasty carpet back.  This stress is not worth it!  This house better sell fast!”

A few minutes later, there was no evidence of the spit-up, just as the previous poop, pee, and silver polish stains vanished before it, and I scolded myself.  How could I even think that I wanted my old carpet back?  It was disgusting, and I had always looked forward to the day when my children would choose the commode over the carpet to relieve themselves so that we could live in a house that didn’t look yucky.

I realized that I did a lot of looking forward and not enough looking around.

When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to get out of college and get a job.  Then I couldn’t wait to get married.  Once married, I would wonder how life would change with children.  When I had my two-year-old, I looked forward to retirement, and then when he hit three, I changed my mind and looked forward to him starting school so I could have a little break during the day.  Then his sister turned two, and his other sister was born, and I looked forward to Matt’s retirement again.  How fun to enjoy marriage without kids and travel the world!

Right now I look forward to moving to Alpharetta and lessening Matt’s commute so that we can enjoy more time as a family.  A husband home earlier in the evenings to help with the children means a wife with fewer gray hairs! And, of course, to make all of this happen, I have to keep the carpet spotless!

Except I don’t know that we’re moving to Alpharetta.  God never promised me that everything I plan will happen as I hope. In fact, He hasn’t promised me tomorrow: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:13-14).

If it is God’s will, we will move to Alpharetta, but if it’s not, we better figure out fast how to make more family time with the time we have.  I better smother my two-year-old every day with hugs and kisses because when she’s 22, I might not see very much of her when she starts her first career.   I better find a way to treasure the stains on the carpet because they are a reminder that I’m blessed with healthy, rambunctious little children.

I better enjoy my new carpet.  If we don’t move, I know very well that the carpet won’t look this pretty in a year, and it will be a looooong time before we buy any more.  And I better not lose any more sleep over it; there are far more important things in life than stainless floor coverings.

Cleaning House

My struggle to get the house ready to put on the market illuminated a fact already well-known to me:  I’m not a good homemaker.  I want to be and know what I would need to do in order to win the approval of Martha Stewart, but it’s not going to happen.  As much as I’d love to make scrubbing the baseboards in my home a regular chore, doing the dishes, throwing in a load of laundry, and taking a shower at night (if I don’t take it at night, there is no guarantee I’ll get one at all) is normally all I can accomplish before I go to bed.

My failings as a domestic goddess were already known to me before this process began.  The  depth of my failing, however, was quite the surprise.  The more I cleaned, the more I discovered needed to be cleaned, and the absolute grotesque nature of some of these areas needing a good cleaning completely overwhelmed me.

I started to doubt my ability as a mother.  What was I doing when my children splattered some kind of sauce all over the blinds?  And more importantly, why had I never noticed this sauce that was splattered all over the blinds?!  I did notice that it was not fun to try to remove….

Into the playroom for even more surprises!  Crayon all over one wall, crayon on another, did my children ever use paper?  And, again, how did I not notice this crayon?!  Our walls are a dark color (thank goodness) camouflaging some of my kids’ most brilliant work, so I probably didn’t pause long enough to see what was really on the surface….

Maybe the gazillion toys before they were neatly organized in matching bins distracted me from the horrific gunk that I found on the blinds in this room, as well.  What is it with my kids and the blinds?  And what was that gunk?!  Seriously, I do not know. It was gross and gooey, and I have no idea what it was.  Although this post might lead you to believe otherwise, I am not a total slob.  My kids are supposed to eat at the kitchen table, and I do not allow food fights, so how this sticky resin-looking substance ended up on my blinds, I do not know.  All I know is that I had planned to smooth away some dust with a rag and instead had to scrub with all my might.

Even the den, an area of the house that saw regular attention, was a disappointment.  Marks on the wall that I hadn’t noticed, dusty blinds (no gunk, amazingly), scuffed baseboards–no room passed the inspection.

When it was all over, it hit me:  I will never be finished.  The baseboards I cleaned a week ago looked dingy again.  My heart sank a little.

And then another realization hit me:  If I clean it now before the other areas of the house start to go, I won’t have to do them all at once again.  And so I have tried to stay up on these tasks that I neglected previously.

I won’t say it’s easy–I still have three kids, and they still consume almost all of my waking moments–but starting fresh and maintaining rather than doing a major cleaning overhaul is a lot easier.

One final thought, more important than all those related to my home,  hit me: “Your house looks great, but what about inside you?  How are you doing?”  For the next few days, I began to ponder this thought, and I realized I wasn’t the best housekeeper inside, either.  I had neglected some areas of my spiritual life, and the fine layer of dust had become a little thicker, requiring more attention to wipe clean.  Then there was one area of which I was so proud; I knew I had done so well in the past, and I rested on my laurels over time.  It wasn’t until I gave myself a good look that I discovered the nasty gunk marring this area of my life, as well.

Perhaps all the distractions in my day had kept me from noticing what I was really like, much like the distractions in the playroom kept me from noticing the writing on the wall.  Maybe I was so focused on eventually getting to the dusting that never got done in my struggling areas, that I didn’t keep up the one area that started out looking pretty good.  It, too, began to look dingy from neglect.

So, in the spirit of spring cleaning, I gave myself a good inspection,  going from room to room, dusting where I needed to dust, removing cobwebs, and hosing down with soap and water, when needed.  And if I learned my lesson well, I will spend more time maintaining day-by-day, which is much easier in the long-run than cleaning gooey crap off the blinds.