Friday, January 21, 2011

Crumbs All Over

Yesterday a six year old boy refused to sit down on the back seat of my car because it was too dirty. The word he actually used was "gross." This, to me, does not seem like a good sign that my life is in order.

I have pretty much been sick since January 3, or my toddler has been sick, which means the first two thirds of this month have been lived in almost total isolation. The sad fact of being a mother of small children is that most of your friends are the mothers of small children too, and they don't want you and your germs around their precious offspring, who will keep them up all night if they get sick.

So, Livie and I have been at home for weeks, and armed with the Martha Stewart Living January issue and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, I have been launching a slow but steady attack on my house. Three years ago we had the cottage-cheese/popcorn ceilings of our condo scraped, and even though the workers draped the whole house in plastic, there was a film of plaster dust (asbestos?) on everything: the food canisters, the toys, the books, the mixing bowls. Well, in the beginning of January, my house was not much worse off. Underneath Christmas was five weeks of dust. And in the kitchen, five weeks worth of powdered sugar and flour that was constantly flying around the air during Christmas baking. It was like my whole house had been rolled around in a Shake-n-Bake bag of breadcrumbs.

So, the cleaning attack. Each day I have done some form of reorganizing or cleaning. After a good wipe down of all horizontal surfaces (I thought), I did the kind of things that "never" get done. I put new contact paper on the kitchen shelves. I grouped my spices in flavor clusters: Indian (tumeric, coriander, ginger), Italian (marjoram, rosemary, oregano, basil), etc. Everyone's underwear drawer got organized (except Hubby's which is always neat already, but he only has one kind and color of underwear). Still, cleanliness and order do not yet reign.

The more I clean and reorganize, the more dirt and disorder I'm finding. The depths of filth which I am plumbing apparently has no bottom. I pick up the clutter and find a dirty floor. I dust the mantel and see it needs painting. I vacuum the curtains, and then I see the grime on the blinds. I spelunk deeper and deeper into the abyss of my home's disarray. The grossness discovered by my first grader's boy friend on my backseat -- it was mostly cracker crumbs -- had only been unearthed the day before because I brought in all the toys and sweatshirts from the car. If I'd just left them there, he could have just sat on a nice clean (relatively) pink hoodie.

This is why I don't often clean on this level: it only shows how far I have to go. Now here comes the metaphor (you new it was only a matter of time). Today, as I wiped under the bowls in my kitchen island, I thought that psychological and spiritual housecleaning was exactly the same. You quit gossiping, and then you realize you're just not saying judgmental things aloud -- but they're still in your thoughts. You stop criticizing your spouse, and then you realize you need to go even further: you have to find something to affirm. You vow to be more caring to your friends, and then you remember that Jesus told you to love your enemies.

Have you ever been saying a prayer of confession, and thought you just had little crumbs of wrongdoing to flick off your soul, and then these larger, juicier morsels start presenting themselves? Last year I was on a personal journey to say "thank you" to God more often, but by the end of the year, I started realizing I needed to spend a little more time on "I'm sorry." The great news is, confession feels good, even better than cleaning the lint from under my couch, and God is always faithful to cleanse me of my sins -- so much more completely than I clean out my car. And a side benefit is, it gives me a lot of ideas to blog about. The well of my human frailties, oddities and shortcomings is as deep as my home's supply of dust and clutter.

So I'm off to ponder my need for spiritual housecleaning while I wipe crumbs out from under my kitchen hutch. Perhaps I'll be finished in 2012.

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