I love the smell of clean clothes.
I mean, I just bury my head in a pile and take a deep inhale. And when I wash my sheets it’s like heaven. Heaven probably smells like clean laundry. Or bacon. I haven’t worked out the theology on that one yet.
The problem is, I so rarely smell the wondrous smells of clean laundry because you actually have to dothe laundry in order to reap the smell reward. And when I do the laundry, sometimes I leave it in the dryer a few days, and that just ruins the good smells.
I have to tell you though that some days I rock at the laundry. I mean I tackle like, six loads in a day, including folding and putting away, and on those days, I feel awesome. I feel like a laundry queen or something. And I tell my husband in a way too giddy voice about my accomplishment and looks at me like, good job? YES GOOD JOB! I did the laundry! Lots of it! Sidenote: he has banned me from doing his laundry because apparently I don’t do it right. Do people really still separate colors?
I do have a reason for telling you all this. I’m airing my dirty laundry (HA! Get it!) because you must know when you see my new book that it is for all the non-awesome cleaners out there.
I struggled for YEARS with feeling like such a failure as a homemaker. I used to wish that God would have given me a different personality/set of gifts. I wanted so badly to be a natural at homemaking. The reality is, it doesn’t come naturally for me. I have to work at making a home. And by work, I mean pray that I have a maid, but until I do, keep on with the scrubbing. And by scrubbing I mean paying my children to wash the floors.
I JEST. Mostly. I do actually actually sometimes pay my children to wash the floors, but only on the days when I’m super overwhelmed. Otherwise, it’s just a chore they have to do. The point is, I want to make a warm, welcoming, mostly clean home so that the people who are in and come under my care feel loved. I care about my home and I care about the people who come into it. I know I will never be consistent at keeping my home beautifully clean, but have learned a few things over the years about making a home, loving others, and loving myself in the process.
How to Love Yourself and Others Through the Art of Gentle Homemaking
Making a Home Is More About the Heart
Our homes are an extension of our hearts. Whether we have a large home or a small home or a shack, we have the ability to give it life and offer life in and through it. Do we invite people in and offer them a listening ear? Do we make room for people to feel comfortable and welcomed? I know that when someone takes the time to make me coffee, or offer me seat on a comfy couch or leaves a note and chocolate by my bed when I stay the night, I feel loved. It’s not about having a perfectly clean, magazine worthy home; it’s about loving others through the comfort and beauty and atmosphere in a home that breathes gentleness and laughter and depth. I love being in a home where I smell the aroma of cookies baking in the oven, where folded laundry might be on the couch and toys are on the floor but there is space at the table for coffee and conversation. There is life there!
So maybe you don’t have your dishes done, but you have the time to clear off your dining room table, light a candle, throw the toys in a basket and offer up hospitality with an exhale. That’s good. And it’s loving.
I guess what’s left to ask is this: how’s your heart? Is your soul in a frenzy or is stress making life feel impossible? That can certainly mess with home and hospitality, can’t it? I know it does for me. When chaos is going on inside, it naturally filters to the outside. And interestingly enough, when there is chaos on the outside (TOO MANY DISHES, TOO MUCH LAUNDRY, TOO MUCH SIBLING CONFLICT, TOO MUCH…), I feel chaos on the inside. What a cycle. So here’s the thing: one day at a time, slow and steady. Deep breath. “Lord, help me see where I need to find peace in my soul and rest in my heart so I can love practically. Show me what is essential and what I can let go of. Search me, teach me, and lead me in the way I should go.”
My Identity is Not in My Ability to Clean
I know it might sound crazy, but for so long there was a part of my identity was wrapped in what I thought a homemaker should look like. For one, I thought that if I just tried harder and set more goals for myself I’d eventually get into a great habit of cleaning and it would get easier for me. I also thought that as a woman it should just fall into place, this homemaking thing, and if it didn’t, something was wrong with me.
I wasted so much time thinking I was a failure. I thought my husband would be better off with someone who kept a clean home all the time and just rocked at it. I felt like I was failing my family, and I thought I was failing God. Why couldn’t I just get it together?!
And then, I had a revelation. You can watch me talking about it here. I realized that I am who I am and I cannot fix myself. I cannot mold myself into the person I want to be. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I can mature and grow. God is the potter, I am the clay. I can only submit to the molding. And this is good! I’m in His good, kind, gentle hands; He will do the work in me. It is because of this complete dependence on Him that I must find my identity in Him alone, otherwise I’m looking to myself to succeed. The problem with that is, I will always fall short. I will never meet my own expectations. It is far better to exchange my heavy yoke for His light one. I now know I don’t define who I am, cleaning doesn’t define who I am, my husband doesn’t define who I am, certain ideas of what a homemaker should look like don’t define who I am; only God can tell me who I am. And with that, I can exhale. Because He says I’m His child, righteous and perfect according to heaven because of Jesus.
When I’m Gentle with Myself, I’m More Gentle with Others
We are so hard on ourselves, aren’t we? I am my worst critic and my harshest accuser. I have had to learn how to be gentle with myself, remembering that I am but dust, and I am weak, but I am so very loved and delighted in. I am learning that the way I look on others with compassion, seeing that we all have junk and wounds and sin, I can look at myself. I can have compassion on myself. I wrote awhile ago about learning to pray for myself the way I pray for others, and those words minister to me today.
“I’m not very objective when I pray for myself.
“God, I am so stuck, and I’m terrible at this or that and can you please help me, and take away the ugly and help me not be such a loser.”
Last night as I was reflecting on some sin issues I’m dealing with, I thought I would try praying for myself the way I might pray for someone else. Praying for “Sarah Mae” helped me to be able to separate myself from all the negative junk I see and feel and heap on myself, and instead pray for “her” as someone who is loved and beautiful and good enough and righteous because of Jesus, and made in the image of the living God. I could pray for “her” objectively. I felt encouraged by praying for myself in this way because it helped me to gain perspective in how easily it is to pray as though I’m unlovable and too much of a wreck and just pitiful (which I sometimes am). But we don’t pray for others that way, which is interesting, and enlightening.
Today, if you’re finding yourself beat up or feeling crummy or if you just need some objectivity, try praying for yourself as though you were a dear friend, or one of your children. Wrap yourself in prayers of love and light and intercession.”
And in that same vain, we can be gentle with ourselves, speaking and believing words of truth instead of words of condemnation. Our Father in heaven is kind and gentle and will be strong when we cannot, and will fight for us, and will lead us every day. We go not alone. Thank God.
Now, I want to go back to something I said a few paragraphs up. I mentioned my new book that is for all of us out there who want to make a home and love others through it, who need some practical “get it done” advice but without the harshness. It’s for those who believe in the beauty of homemaking, but who also need to know they are enough even if the laundry keeps piling up.
You are loved. I will say it a million times over until your brain and your heart connect and you get it in your bones and through your soul and it becomes the most profound thing in your life. You are loved and pursued. See when you know you are loved, you will be gentle with yourself and others, you will believe God and how He delights in you and your personality and how He doesn’t condemn you or look down on you because of the dishes in your sink. He has so much more for us if we can just get passed the condemning voices and listen to the One voice that speaks all truth.
So here’s the book, Having a Martha Home the Mary Way, and it’s for you and for me and for anyone out there who is what I like to call, domestically challenged. It will help you get your home clean in a fun way, and it will help you get into your soul so that you can find rest and truth where it all matters.
So friends, fellow struggles, let’s journey together in getting our homes clean and our souls is a place of deep satisfaction.
Your laundry queen friend, Sarah Mae