My mom is in town this week, which hopefully explains the silence of this blog. She lives in Zambia, and I see her about twice a year, so I try to soak up the time while she’s here. She’s been tagging along with me to work (she watched me teach a 3-hour humanities class), to run errands (she watched me do my happy “under budget grocery trip” dance), and tending my little apartment.
She’s also been cleaning. A lot. Because she is the most organized person I know, and I’m the least organized person she knows. Yesterday, she took a look at my bookshelves — piled to the brim with the disheveled reading material -and shook her head. “These need to be organized.”
Right before I got married, my mom pulled my husband aside and told him, “Remember, you can hire somebody to keep your house clean, but you can’t hire someone with her mind or her heart.”
She said this knowing that my bedroom hadn’t had a deep clean since early 2001.
If you’ve met my mom — with her nine kids and her sparkling clean house and her organizational structures on point and her days bustling with the endless chime of activity — you know that those words did not come lightly, nor were they meant to devalue the high calling of keeping your home. But they were full a Gospel-driven freeness that I think about so often.
Some days, the house is a wreck. Some days you’ll order takeout for the thousandth time in a row. Sometimes, that to-do list will fall by the wayside and you’ll swear the cast of Clean House is going to show up on your front doorstep every time the doorbell rings.
I would welcome the cast with glowing praise.
The Law of the Tidy Home
I’ve often been guilty of making my housework a law I must live by. If I’m honest, shame has driven my desire for organization more than anything else. I’m “supposed” to have a pristine home with sparkling floors, an always-made bed, and organized bookshelves. Because THAT is what womanhood is.
But I’m coming out of the shame haze. My identity is shaped by Christ, not by the state of my kitchen sink. When people come over, I am not likely to offer them a clutter free living room, but I’ll cook them a good meal, I’ll try my hardest to make them laugh, I’ll share my heart with them and try to encourage them. I will love them the way that I know how. I will love them with the gifts I’ve been given.
Making home is about more than pristine tidiness. Loving my family is made of deeper stuff. And wifehood, motherhood, and homemaking are not the beginning and end of my identity. While they’re important, I am allowed to have and develop other gifts, other callings. And it’s okay to excel at those.
The Cookie Cutter Woman Myth
Some of us are not gifted in the art of sparkling baseboards. Some of us are way better at juggling babies on our hips than laundry baskets. Some of us are better at delegating to people under our care. Some of us are shrewd business women. Some of us are absentminded writers (ahem). Some of us have a thousand crafts for our kids. Some of us fix gourmet meals for our husbands.
All of us are uniquely crafted by God, not for lives of shameful cookie cutter goals, but for lives lived in full-hearted service to God and those around us.
P31 did it all — probably because she wasn’t real.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t aspire to her level of greatness, but maybe her perfection isn’t supposed to drive us into SuperWifey overdrive, but, rather, to drive us to the Cross for our aid and our identity.
If your house is pristine, but your spirit is crushed — you missed the point.
Having It All
Some days, P31 and my Mama feel like an unattainable pipe dream. But as important as that to-do list is, anyone can do it. Only you can grow and learn and thrive through the unique challenges and lessons that come from accomplishing it.
Only I can teach my ninth graders the lesson I’ve put together for them today. Only I can love my son the way I can when my teaching time is over. Only I can save up money to have a lovely person come over and help clean my house a couple of times a month. Shame-free.
My bookshelves are a wreck. But I’m constantly rifling through them. They’re the center of my professional life. And that’s something that I’m proud of. I’ve spent a long time being ashamed of those bookshelves because they screamed that I was better at writing a ninth grade humanities curriculum than alphabetizing my life… but I’ve learned that that’s okay.
When I get home from work today, my mother will have probably whipped my bookshelves into shape. And I will smile in gratitude because that honestly sounds like torture to me.
My husband doesn’t have it all. He doesn’t have a neat and tidy wife. But he does have one that loves him and her son fiercely, who loves the church, and who loves the work that God has put before her. I’m so glad that he’s grateful for her. I’m so glad my mom encouraged him to be grateful for her.
I’m learning to be grateful for her, too.
I’ve been in Atlanta all week with my husband. We’re here half for ministry (for me), part for work (for him), and part for some quality time with just us two. We left on the heels of hosting my family all the way from Zambia. In fact, seven of my siblings, my mom, and my dad are back in our eighteen hundred square foot home with our sons. I should be laying in a hotel bed binging Parks and Rec with my husband. And I will be soon. But I have something to say about motherhood and mom guilt.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for Legacy about friendship. In it, I tried to be as honest as possible about the struggle of being a transplant in Mississippi’s foreign culture, and my own hang-ups with making new friends. I hit send. Weeks passed. A couple of months. Then the article went live. And I had more than one friend reach out to me and ask me if we were okay. “I thought we were friends!” Undercover Trust Issues I’m not a journaler, and I try not to use my articles as thinly veiled diary entries. However, there…