By Jenny Fulton
Never in my life would I have thought I could connect to God by doing housework.
Growing up, I avoided it as much as possible. I felt like a klutz in the kitchen, and every other task simultaneously bored me and stressed me out to no end. My interests lay elsewhere, as in anywhere other than inside the house.
This trend continued on into my college and post-college years. While my first roommate demonstrated incredible forbearance with my lack of attention to housekeeping, I did not fare so well with other housemates. And the sad thing is, it took me forever to realize that my avoidance of these uncomfortable, mundane tasks was responsible (at least in part) for much of the friction that would sooner or later develop in my friendships with those whom I shared a living space.
After tension over housework started to develop early in my marriage, I came to realize some things.
1). When it came to housework, I had developed such a huge mental block that I literally couldn’t see what needed to be done.
I came to this conclusion one day when John and I were trying to talk through the situation.
“Didn’t you see that paper on the floor?” John asked. “You walked by it a dozen times without picking it up.”
“What paper?” My mind desperately struggled to recall the paper he was referring to and came up blank.
We discussed other areas of the house that needed attention and my mind came up just as empty. Other than laundry, dinner, and dishes, I simply wasn’t aware of or even seeing the other tasks that needed to be done.
2). I realized I needed to get past this age-old mental block.
But how was I to do that?
A Turning Point
Towards the end of our second year of marriage, I attended a homeschooling session by a woman named Renee Ellison. She was speaking about home management, not just in regard to homeschooling, but in general.
Her voice was soft, her face radiated joy, and her spirit loudly proclaimed a passionate embrace of the topic.
Passionate about doing chores? About cooking and cleaning?
I had never seen a woman so excited and joyful about the idea of taking care of her home.
“Think about it, ladies,” she said. “The home is your own little castle that God has given you to manage and thrive in.”
I like fantasy, and the image of my home being a castle resonated with the creative, imaginative chords that ran through my mind.
Maybe there was, as one of my favorite characters would say, some “scope for the imagination” involved with homemaking.
While Renee’s words served to point me in the right direction, there was still more work that needed to be done before I could really embrace my new role as a homemaker.
I needed to see beyond the work – to grasp hold of its spiritual purpose and how it impacted others.
Bit by bit, over the course of the last several years, and continuing its development through the present, these are some of the things I’ve learned.
- By getting my house into a clean and orderly state, I can create an atmosphere of peace and joy for all who enter.
- My attitude makes a huge difference. If I work in a frenzied state of stress and panic with the expectation of perfection, coupled with a fear of failing, the environment of the house rings with stress and discomfort. However, if I stop expecting the result to be perfect and focus instead on working out of a heart of love for those who enter, the house becomes an inviting place of joy and comfort.
- When I elevate my thoughts to God – the One who has given me this small kingdom of influence, and to my husband, children, and others who may enter my castle, the work suddenly goes from being the bane of my existence to being an expression of my love and joy for those people.
- The mundane, uninspiring work becomes a joyful ministry because of my love for God and for those I’m serving.
- Since the tasks rarely require much thought, I can think about and pray for those who will benefit from my efforts. I’ve also heard of some women who use housework as an opportunity to memorize scripture, listen to praise music, turn on an audio Bible, or listen to podcasts.
While I’ve definitely come a long way since those early days of my marriage, I feel like there is so much more I have yet to learn and practice. Finding the time and energy seems to encompass the bulk of these challenges. More specifically:
- How do I effectively complete housework with a 3-year-old and a one-year-old?
- How do I give my daughters enough quality time and also offer adequate attention to the house?
- How do I consistently transfer chores to my 6-year-old and remember to make time for her to do them?
Like I said, there’s a lot of growth that still needs to happen for me in this area, but I’m excited and encouraged that at least my mind and emotions have taken on a better perspective, even if my body has yet to catch up.
So, if you come to my house on any given day, you will probably find toys strewn about the floor, some random pieces of children’s clothing plopped here and there, baskets filled with unfolded laundry, and bookshelves that need dusting. It isn’t the cleanest or most organized place. But you will also find a home where you will be welcomed in to sit for a while. Would you like some coffee or tea? Can I get you anything to eat? How are you doing? I’m glad you came to visit.
Above all, I want to serve God with my home. I want my family and everyone else who enters my door to feel welcome and at ease. I want them to feel like they can relax. While a clean, orderly house is certainly one part of that equation, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t the end-all, be-all. Instead, it’s a byproduct of something that begins in the mind, grows in the heart, and is poured out through the combined working of the body and spirit. Housework isn’t something I need to be afraid of. It isn’t something I need to worry about being perfect at. It’s simply another way I can display my love for God and for others.
What about you? What are your thoughts and feelings about housework? Do you, or have you ever struggled with it? What kinds of things do you think about while you’re engaged in it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and any tips you might have for managing it with small children…