Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Religion and Housekeeping

If- "The outcome of religion is either pride or despair."
Then. "The out come of strict scheduling is either pride or despair." as well.

I see so many similarities in this as I try to manage my home. Oh, and when I say "religion" I'm not talking about the "true religion" that the Bible talks about, but the pharisee type religion. The kind of religion that puts rules to things that the Bible doesn't make rules about or isn't clear on. The kind of religion that takes cultural diversities and labels one as holy and one not. Here's a good example. No dancing. Dancing is bad so just don't do it. That would be a religious rule that someone made that isn't straight from the Bible. For some people though they might need to make up this or that other rules for themselves. And that's where we get into housekeeping.

So, how do you run an orderly home and get things done yet not fall into pride or despair?

Some people can, through sheer will-power, be able to make a schedule and stick to it. They get angry when their schedule is interrupted. They snap at their children or husband and constantly bow to the schedule. In a way the schedule rules their life like a god.
Of course, they could be working the schedule and NOT be quick to become angry, but it still could be an issue of idolatry if it's all about the schedule. They might look perfect and have it all "together" .. I'd like to submit the idea here that what comes of that is pride.

Right. The sin of Satan. Pride. This is not something to aspire to.

Or you might fall on the side closer to where I end up. I never CAN get things together enough to get to the pride point because I inevitably fail. Any kind of "rules" or "schedule" that I try to make happen can't last long for me and my tendency is to despair.
All of my highschool years were in this pit of despair with my schooling and other things that I wanted to do I constantly failed at.

At the same time that I've been learning (again) about how to organize and simplify and schedule through-out the past year and a half to get my household running smoothly, God has been teaching me more and more about grace and what that is and means.

Some people will argue that we can't live our Christian lives on grace alone because we will just sin all we want and not grow more like Jesus. We HAVE to make rules to follow to keep ourselves from sinning right? Well, no we don't, but I won't get into all the Bible verses on that one because I want to go straight to talking about housekeeping.

You see... housekeeping can look the same. As if the house is either in chaos and we are always "running behind" or we are a slave to our schedule. Either we throw up our hands and give up, or we work harder at making those "rules" to follow and either end in pride or despair which manifest themselves in anger and judgment or guilt and shame.

Amazingly similar to the rules of "religion" as apposed to living in God's grace, no?

Right, but how PRACTICALLY can I manage my home in a grace-filled way? How to I keep the schedule from ruling our home?

There isn't anything wrong with a schedule of course, but for me... right now.. I can't have one. Perhaps when my baby isn't so unpredictable I can implement a few more "set" things, but right now it's just too frustrating. SO! Here's the part where I can give you some ideas that might turn into those "10 things that you can do and it will all be fixed" sort of things, but that would be more rules wouldn't it???

Instead, I offer this idea. Create habits. Not my habits or habits that other people think you should have (like so much time of reading the Bible at a certain time of day) no, this is about what YOU need, and it's not about the time spent or WHEN it's spent. It's not about checking it off a schedule or list (though both can be helpful) it's about living.

I'm really excited to report that several months ago when I was struggling SOOOO much with doing my dishes every night and clearing the table it's finally become easier. Might not seem like a big deal to some of you, but six years of married life has had a struggle with dishes for me. I often left dishes on the table (not even taking them to the sink.. because it was already full!) all the time. I constantly felt behind, but I took that one little thing and worked on it. Not so I could check it off my "list" with ALL the other things that were on there as well, but just to work at it like a habit.

It's erroneous to think that any of us could ever get our house perfectly organized or cleaned or "fixed" just right... as every good theologian knows. It will all just fall apart again! Dishes will get dirty almost as soon as we finish washing them up. I had to realize that my goal shouldn't be to have the dishes "done" but to simply get into the habit of "doing" them. How like sanctification in our lives, don't you think? We can never be sinless on this earth.. we can never be "done" understanding the Bible or have the most perfect understanding of Scripture and doctrine. All we can do for sure is keeping learning it. Keep doing it. Keep growing.

Another small thing that felt like such a heavy burden when I started it, was to set the table for dinner. I laid out place mats and filled the cups of water and put the food in pretty dishes (instead of what I'd cooked them in) and at first it felt like SO much more work. (I started doing that when Youssef was first without a job in Feb. to help make our meager meals feels special and help us to be thankful.) Yet, it's been so fun to see the girls be excited about helping. They really do help with it too! And it keeps them busy instead of bugging me because they are so hungry for dinner. This little thing of setting the table nicely has turned dinner into an event that we look forward to every day, and I've learned to enjoy doing it rather than see it as "So much more work." Because it's not. It truly is a delight to do for my family now.

Slowly, oh so slowly I'm learning to develop habits. A habit is not something that starts out easy, but eventually it will become so. What I once thought was almost unbearable to force myself to do, I find enjoyment in! Why did no one explain housekeeping to me in this way before? The rhythms of life and habits that must be developed and allowed to grow. It doesn't happen over night or in one huge event where it's learned and then done with. It's something that comes in sweetly and stays there because we make a home for it.

There are many other things that I'd like to bring into my life. House hold chores and personal disciplines, but I finally (after over HALF my life trying to figure this out!) understand how to make these things happen. Slowly, oh so slowly, add something into my day. Move it from here or there if it doesn't quite fit at one time or another and develop a habit. Not according to the clock so much as what is around it. After waking up this thing happens.. after making breakfast my day flows into this other thing. If, for whatever reason, I missed a day it won't depress me or bring me into despair because the next day will come and life will flow and move and each day that habit can grow stronger and fit into the folds of my life. I can be aware of how I can make a place for the habit that I want to become apart of my life. Reading to my girls at night was one little habit that folded into my life without me totally being conscious of the effort to give it room. Lily now cheers when it's time to read her Bible and my own natural impatience is being squeezed out of me by the love for them that comes from this simple act of reading for 15 or so minutes.

So often when my babies have been young (especially) I feel scattered and lost. I start to do something and the baby needs me. I forget what I was doing and start something else and someone asks for a drink of water. I'd planned to clean the bathroom at such and such a time, but the baby is gassy and didn't stay asleep.

There is always SOMETHING right? It can be frustrating. It truly can be! We don't like our plans messed up, right? People don't want to have children because it will mess up their plans. Humans are naturally selfish. People are too unpredictable anyway. Relationships... friendships... people in need... conversations we hadn't planned on... they all mess up the careful plans that we make, right? Most often the one who messes up our own plans the MOST is God. Yes, we want to go this way and He has us go that way! We think he wants THIS from us and then through much toil and heart ache we find out that we really didn't know his plans and from our point of view his plans were to just teach us to wait. How lame is that, right?

It is until you see the grace in it. It is until you look for the blessings.

I was reminded of that this evening. We had finished dinner, Youssef had taken the girls out to the pool, I'd just laid the baby down to sleep, and I was just starting to form some "big plans" to make some amazing gluten free chocolate chip cookies and tidy the disaster that we call our house and possibly even have a little time to myself --- when.. the baby wakes up.

Apparently, I hadn't burped her well enough and so she woke up wiggling and not able to settle down for quite a while, but in that moment when all my plans were falling through and I was on the verge of being annoyed, my little Grace smiled at me. A big huge confidential "I only have eyes for my mommy" as only my own baby can bestow on me, and I realized that what I thought was an "interruption" to my plans was actually God's gift to me. I took the moment and "talked" with her as she gurgled back at me and smiled as if she were telling me all the important secrets that she'd dreamed about.

This sweet happy moment didn't last very long since she was so tired and really did need to sleep. I was faced with another moment of choice and adjustment to my "plans" I held her and swayed to settle her down and pulled out my book to read till she was asleep. I got to enjoy a few things that were entirely different than what I thought I'd be able to enjoy, but they were no less valuable and held just as much joy and peace when I allowed them to (instead of being annoyed at my "ruined plans.")

Lately just throughout my days I've been meditation on what worship is . Worshiping God in my everyday acts of life. Worshiping Him as I clean and help the children and live day to day. If everything that I do can be a worship act, it makes a pretty big difference what my attitude is as I'm doing the thing. Giving something grudgingly or joyfully feels entirely different to the person we give the thing to. Also, if I can do the same thing and- depending on my thoughts- be worshiping an "idol" or be worshiping Jesus through that same thing, then my thoughts are pretty important. Am I enjoying the chocolate because I'm using it as an escape to feel better (something I go to instead of Jesus?) or simply because it's a blessing? Do I take care of my house and clean it out of pride or selfish motives or because I want to be a good steward and please Jesus in all that I do?

You see, the outcome is not enough in itself. Even if a human could make their life look perfect on the outside, without that inner thought and heart transformation our outward acts can never be good enough. And the only way that our hearts are renewed and our sins of laziness and pride and idolatry can be cleaned out, is through Jesus and His grace. It's not by modifying our behavior or finding a better way to organize our homes. Those things are tools and not wrong in themselves, but without His grace they can never be enough.

At some point I might actually be able to implement a chore chart and a more defined schedule, but for now I'm learning to simply choose a habit to work on and let grow and fold it into the fabric of my life one at a time. Not to MAKE myself do it, but to let those good things become apart of me and become ways that God can grow me. Apart of not just what I do, but how I think and feel about the little blessings surrounding me.

I have a mound of sewing that I'd like to do and haven't been able to get to it, but for the first time in my life I'm not stressed about it. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to work on it, yes, but it no longer feels like a burden. As if I need to rush through my days and my only goal is to "get stuff done." No... God wants more than that for us.

I look at my kids room and the first thing I think of is what a mess AGAIN and how the toys that I'd just organized and put away are everywhere, but for the first time in my life I'm not as bothered about it not staying a certain way. My goal now isn't the "end" but the process. Not the completion of the task of cleaning, but simply slowly learning the habit of tidying in my daily life. I remember feeling this way when I was young and how much I enjoyed just walking around my room and tidying this or that or arranging something, but "rules" got in, infiltrating that grace-filled spirit. Jesus is teaching me to find it again though and it's a good thing to behold.

I'm encouraged to see a small attempted habit actually become real, my dining room table having been set for dinner and cleared away might be a small thing for those of you who are naturally good at this sort of thing, but for me, it is HUGE! I have a long way to go in developing some good habits and managing my home well, but it no longer seems hopeless... and I do not have to despair.

I'm thankful for a ready book to read when the baby needs me unexpectedly and interrupts my plans. I'm reading through all the Anne of Green Gable books again (from the library).. they are such sweet stories and are filled with tiny snippets of grace as Anne learns and grows as well.

July 17th, (last Sunday) Youssef and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary and today as I walked by the mantle and noticed my plants needing water I looked at the wedding picture of us and thought of what is truly important. I'm glad that God waters and grows our marriage. I'm sure that I would forget to, but He is always faithful and though our marriage has been through many ups and downs and our love isn't the new "giddy/romantic" kind, it's real and solid and genuine and growing. I'm thankful for being settled. Sometimes (usually when I'm annoyed at my husband for whatever reason) I might think of how things could be different. If we'd never gotten married for instance, and every time I know.. truly know in my heart like an assurance from God, that I would not want to be anywhere else.

Choosing to be thankful, choosing to be content, and looking for the blessings that God always gives to His children are all acts of worship. Humans were made to worship and if we are not actively worshiping God in all that we do and say and be then we are worshiping an idol. It might be in the form of our self or money or status. It can even take the form of our children and even many good things! But we are idolaters if we find our worth in anything except Jesus alone.

To Him be the glory.


RachelCapezza said...

I liked this:

"I had to realize that my goal shouldn't be to have the dishes "done" but to simply get into the habit of "doing" them. How like sanctification in our lives, don't you think?"

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Natalie Minnich said...

I love your thoughts on this Lynne! IT was really beautifuly written. I almost cried in a few places. the goal is not the end but the process. That is so true! How we go through everything in our day is what speaks to our children. I am now thinking about how to apply this in my own life. In general I have to keep my house at a certain level of order because I can realx more easily and enjoy my time if things are neat. That is just part of who I am. with that comes some frustration with the usual toys and things, but I try to remind myself that those are MY frustrations and not to take it out on the girls but show them when and how it is appropriate to help me clean up. I taught Evelyn how to fold her shirts yesterday and she was so excited she folded it four times and then put it in her drawer. I hope that with continued praise and guidance she will continue to enjoy those tasks. Especially if we do them together. Keep on sharing!

Cathleen said...

Wow. A few nights ago I was going to ask you some advise on organizing and how do you so the homeschooling with another baby and keep up on housework, cooking homemade meals.

Since I have only a few more weeks to go before the C-section. I wonder how I am going to do it. With Taylor going to public school this year I wont have a 12 year old to help me when I go do errands, Dr. visits, grocery shopping ect.

I wonder how I am going to fit another person in our little space for a home also.

With that, your blog really touched the core of my being and there were tears. I am going to take on a different prospective and allow the the Holy Spirit to lead me.

I loved how you had shared about developing a habit of doing the chores ect. So with prayer this is going to be my focus.

Thank you for your thoughts

Heather said...

Thanks Lynne', these are great things you are learning and it is blessing all of us in the process too. I too have been going through the ups and downs of daily life, but in some different ways. For me, it is not housework that irks me, but the constant state of frenzy that comes with trying to be one step ahead of the twins and their many attempts to de-construct most everything in the house. I find my despair comes from the constant interruptions too and I also need to be joyful for the time with them and not get so uptight.

Thanks again,