I love to clean. I am a typical female type A personality who if the house is messy, then so is my mood. When my environment is out of control, then I am too. Clean bathrooms, vacuumed floors, mopped tile, clean and folded laundry, and a sparkling kitchen with the dishwasher humming and a light lavender candle burning on the counter makes me SO happy.
And then I had a baby.
And not just any baby, a NORMAL baby. A baby who does not want to sleep or snuggle anywhere else besides my arms. He is getting better at self-soothing and entertaining, but it definitely did not start out that way. It never does, I would be a little concerned if it didn’t! And that is something beautiful. There are memories in that. He’s my first and I am a stay at home mommy, which means I can hold him for a large part of the day.
If Jesus showed up at my house, I would definitely first feel like I had to get my house in order. Make a good impression, right?
In fact, I think that is the worst thing I could do. My first gut instinct should be making sure my heart is in check. Am I repenting of sin that lingers in my heart? Am I putting my relationship with the Lord before my relationship to my husband and children? Am I doing enough to ensure my eyesight is on the Lord and not on earthly things, like the state of my home?
Don’t get me wrong, I love that part of my role as a mom and wife is taking care of my home. It’s not a stereo-typical anti-feminist view that women should stay at home and cook and clean. It something that I truly enjoy doing because that is my ministry to my family. Staying at home is a joy! Cooking for my husband and making yummy meals that are hot and ready to eat when he gets home from work make his eyes light up and make him feel loved. I love doing that! I love loving my husband by cooking for him and making sure he has folded clean clothes for work in the morning.
But you know what my husband needs more than a clean house? You know what my son needs beside clean onesies? A JOYFUL wife. A JOYFUL mom. A joyful mom is a good mom.
Joy is different than happiness. Joy is eternal and long-lasting, nestled deep into my heart even though storms come through different seasons of life. Happiness is only temporary. Happiness is feeling giddy when I get to nap when my son sleeps, or that I get time to read a good book on a rainy day while he is asleep. But, happiness only lasts until rain comes and ruins your picnic on a sunny day.
Joy is different. It sticks around because you can take your picnic indoors and enjoy the rain from a different view, from inside shelter. God is our shelter and we have joy because of that. Joy is singing Christmas songs when my son is screaming is head off and refusing to nap and I am EXHAUSTED. Joy is looking down into that angry face and being thankful for my baby crying because it means healthy lungs. Joy is my husband coming home from work, tired and sore and maybe wanting to lie down instead of talking to me. Joy is feeling grateful that my husband comes home every night at the exact time. There are tons of women who would give anything for that predictability in a man.
Happiness is a feeling; joy is a perspective.
I clean my house from top to bottom every week. And yet, it still gets dirty. Dishes need scrubbing every night, laundry needs washing and folding every week, and gosh, we have a golden retriever, so it never hurts to vacuum the carpet. There are so many things I will miss about life, especially life with a young infant, if I am constantly focused on MY house, MY looks, MY laundry, MY dinner. Do you hear all those “MY” statements? I have turned taking care of my home into idolizing my home. To allowing the state of my home to affect the state of my heart. I have cleaned my house when my husband wanted to sit and chat. When my baby wanted to be held and snuggled. I have allowed the stress and pressure of homemaking to overwhelm me.
I have a gem of a husband who doesn’t really care if the house is clean or if he has clean folded laundry every day. He doesn’t mind if his dirty clothes are on the floor or in the hamper. He’s happy with mac n’ cheese for dinner and quickly running a load of laundry before he goes to bed to have a clean shirt for the next day. He’s happy washing some dishes before leaving the house and finishing later whenever he has time. And maybe I’m speaking too quickly here, but I’m guessing it goes beyond just my husband and might just apply for your husband too. Maybe our men would rather us just as we are, joyful and content with life, then worrying about whether or not you swept the floor. Our men love clean homes and cooked dinners and all that, but what they really love is to see us joyfully loving them and our children. I can’t think of one man I know, whether my own husband or my friends’ husbands, that would rather have a grumpy wife and clean house than a joyful wife and messy house. Our moods affect our husband’s moods! They may be the head of the house, but our moods set the tone of the house. When my husband comes home tired and sore, he needs me to love him in the way that he needs, not seeing his laundry folded! And if your husband needs a clean house, then certainly love him in that way by making homemaking a priority!
I’m not saying at all that a clean home is unimportant. Just that it should not be our focus as stay at home moms. Let the value and privilege of being a stay at mom be your ministry. Go on walks more with mom friends. Make play dates. Take more walks. Get up early before the kids (this is a hard one for me) and read or do a devotional to start the day. Get out and garden. Take dinner to a friend who just had a baby. That one is easy for me, there’s something in the water at our church because all my friends are having babies! Go to the park. Make God, your family, and you the priority. Notice that JOY is spelled Jesus Others You instead of LDVCJOY (Laundry, Dishes, Vacuuming, Cleaning, Jesus, Others, You).
I need to center my life around the Lord and how I prioritize things in my life. Not to clean the house and sometimes prioritize God. I want to show the Lord how I love others when he comes to visit my home. To see sparkling pictures on a dusty mantle taken of me and friends who I served and loved. To see a full, strong marriage between me and my husband instead of an empty clean sink. Part of my ministry as a wife and stay at home mom is to take care of my home, but taking care of my home is not my full ministry. It is a slice of pie, not the pie. I’m quickly realizing that times passes quickly and when I look into the rearview mirror, I remember moments and not what the house looked like or if everything was done on my to do list. I want to remember sweet memories, not checked off lists.
But what about Proverbs 31? The perfect wife who has it all together and checks off her list? I struggle with this image of perfection and the woman who can do it all-clean home and happy family. The Proverbs 31 woman makes her home a ministry, but she doesn’t let it consume her. I’m thinking that she too would rather make her heart clean before the Lord than her home. Look at what Jesus told Martha while Mary sat and his feet and listened. Martha was a busy bee, just like me. She wanted the home to look perfect for Jesus. And there’s nothing wrong in that.
Luke 10:38-42 says, “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ”
The problem was is that Mary got distracted. She let the home consume her. She let her preparations become her priority instead of taking the time to do what was truly important, to listen to Jesus at his feet. Her home was her idol and her fulfillment.
“‘Martha, Martha’,” the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’.” Luke 10:41
Sit at His knees today instead of standing in the kitchen doing dishes. Turn your heart over to Him instead of doing another load of laundry.
Few things in our home truly need to be done. Because God doesn’t check the kitchen sink when you kneel before Him in heaven.
God does not mind if your house is clean or not. He simply wants you.