Sitting in my favorite comfy brown chair, I look around and I begin to feel what I see.
Toys and books and a blanket and papers and disheveled pillows and a few dirty cups—it all feels like too much. I am trying to write, but I can’t block out the mess I see; the mess makes its way into my spirit, and my mind can’t focus.
I need clarity and peace and space to think, both physically and mentally. When there is a mess swirling around me on the outside, I internalize it. For me, chaos outside equals chaos inside.
This isn’t going to work. I need to take a few minutes to straighten up.
I get up and begin by neatly placing the pillows on my couch. Ah, much better. I gather the toys and throw them into my kids’ rooms—we’ll deal with that mess later. Trash in the trash can, papers scooped up into piles and bagged, set out of sight for now. Books piled onto shelves and dirty cups taken to the kitchen.
I light a candle and put on some soothing music. Now I’m ready to begin. Now I can think.
Only one small problem: On the edges of my mind I know the mess is still there, hiding just around the corner. While I’m able to focus better than I was before, the mess is still tugging at me.
I realize that in order for me to have a clear mind, I need a clear space. I need a space that brings me peace instead of chaos, clarity instead of clutter.
Is it just me who feels this way? No, I know my husband, Jesse, doesn’t like a mess. My daughter Caroline tells me sometimes, “When I have a home, I’ll keep it clean and organized.” Yep, it gets to her, too. I begin to have a new resolve to keep my home clean; I want to give myself and my family peace of mind, and clear, clean, inviting spaces to think and do and live.
I am motivated by a desire to create a peaceful home for the people I love.
So here’s my question to you: Why do you want a clean home? That may sound like a silly question, but I think it’s important that you discover for yourself why you want a clean home. I’m not just talking about the need to keep the roaches away. If you do not own your reasons, if you do not have vision, you will be unmotivated and quite frankly bored with the whole idea of persevering in cleaning. However, if you can name it, you can claim it; you can and will be much more motivated to keep going toward your goal.
I believe if you can generate a list of the whys, then you will be able to look at them and remind yourself day in and day out why you are spending time on the mundane activi- ties that never seem to stay accomplished. You need to have purpose in what you’re doing; you need vision, or you will continue to stay in a rut. Once you figure out the why, you will already be one step ahead of yourself.
You want to know why I clean? Why I push through the mundane, even though I really dislike it and would rather do just about anything else?
I hang on to my resolve in cleaning for these three main reasons:
1. I need a safe, sanitary, peaceable environment for my family.
2. I want to love myself and others well.
3. I am becoming like Jesus.
A Safe, Sanitary, Peaceable Environment
I love going to hotels. I love the clean sheets and towels, the coffee cups set out just waiting for me to fill them, the cozy couch with one pillow sitting in the middle of it, the desk that is clean from clutter, and especially the room service (cleaning and food). I feel so pampered when I can stay in a nice hotel. The staff wants to please me, and it’s their job to make sure my room is clean and cozy.
I’m not running a hotel at my house, but I am trying to create an environment that is clean and makes whoever is in my home feel cared for in serene surroundings. Our homes should be places of refuge. I want my family to have warm memories about their home. I want them to live in an environment that is healthy, safe, and super cozy. I want all these things because I love myself and my family.
Loving Myself and Others Well
For me, the heart of cleaning has everything to do with loving people well. The house I live in might not be eternal, but the people in it certainly are. So how can I take this non- eternal structure and create a life-giving, eternal atmosphere? I can use the house to create a home. I can offer my family, my friends, myself, and even strangers the gift of love by making them feel special when they are in my home. I can do this by keeping it clean, making it pleasing to the eye, offering comfortable spaces to relax (put your feet up!), and turning it into a place where I serve others. In the serving and intentional care, I can love well.
Becoming Like Jesus
After I graduated from Penn State University, I worked at a crisis pregnancy clinic as a counselor and an abstinence presentation manager. But you know what I had to do some- times? I had to scrub the kitchen floor. I resented my boss for making me do these “lower” jobs. I’m not getting paid to scrub floors, I thought. I am getting paid to help women and high school students make wise decisions. Okay, it’s pretty evident that I was reacting immaturely, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. Little did I know that my boss was teaching me to be like Jesus. Jesus didn’t grasp His equality with God; He chose instead to be a servant—to be humble and to offer Himself to do His Father’s will.
When I enter into the mundane and choose to clean even when I don’t want to, I am closer to who Jesus is. I am choosing to be like Him. And when this happens, not only is my character changing for the better, but cleaning becomes an act of worship.
I know I will never be awesome at cleaning, and I’m completely fine with that. I know who I am and I am content in my own skin. But I do want to at least have a comfortable, peaceful environment to retreat to, not only for myself but for my family.
So, what’s your why?
Taken from Having a Martha Home the Mary Way copyright © 2016 by Sarah Mae. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Sarah Mae is an influential blogger, founder of the popular Allume conference, and author of Having a Martha Home the Mary Way, Longing for Paris and Desperate (with Sally Clarkson). She celebrates life with her husband and three children in the beautiful Amish countryside of Pennsylvania, where she often ponders what life would be like if she actually finished all the laundry. Visit Sarah at www.sarahmae.com.
Publication date: March 14, 2016