Saturday, October 07, 2006

soul food: cleaning house

Here's an interesting tidbit about myself that I may have mentioned once or twice:

I can't stand clutter and am the anti-pack rat.

When my surroundings get cluttered, my mind gets cluttered, my thoughts get cluttered ... and then I'm just miserable and confused.

Miserable and confused like I am walking around with a bag on my head.

Miserable and confused to the point that I become indecisive and am incapable of making simple decisions like what kind of toppings I want on my pizza.

Do I want toppings at all? Do I even want pizza? Maybe a calzone would be better. Or, maybe I'll just skip dinner and go straight for a hot fudge sundae. Did somebody mention a tuna melt? That sounds great!

I'm not obsessive/compulsive about cleanliness nor am I a complete organizational freak. I can tolerate things getting a little of order here and there. With three toddlers - I obviously have to be able to handle messes to some degree. But when our home turns in to a war zone, I shut down and become unable to manage the simplest of tasks. Which is why I haven’t planned any kind of celebration for our children’s second birthday, which is one week from today … and have failed horribly at trying to plan anything for Charlie’s 40th birthday in just over 5 weeks.

It has often happened that I will stand in the midst of our playroom ... in Legos up to my knees ... and look around wondering how the heck I got here and how to get out. Where do I even begin, and is it worth my energy??

This past year week has been an especially difficult one for me. Because I was out of town on business for the better part of last week - this week - I've desperately been playing catch up, both at work and at home. The sad news is - I'm no where close to being caught up. The problem is when things in my life get cluttered, it indicates a lack of control and when I don't have control of my surroundings - it is manifested in every. single. aspect. of. my. life.

Charlie and I haven't had a fight in a long while. But yesterday as I was driving to work, it dawned on me that the worst fights we have ever had, is when something in my life is out of control. Because what we are dealing with right now is some of the worse clutter that I can recall ... and I have been feeling like a real crank, I had a sneaky suspicion that if we didn't get this mess reigned in quickly, I would snap like a twig.

Snap in a million little pieces.

Even though I hadn't finished doing a lot of the cleaning and organizing that I had intended today, we decided that if there was one day that we absolutely had to go to church - today was the day.

More than organization - we needed salvation.

We loaded up the children and took off. Because we had forgotten the tether that firmly secures Elizabeth's lovey to her clothing ... I opted to leave bunny in the car. This was a horrible, horrible mistake. She screamed from the parking lot, through the church - down the hallway, through the corridor, over the hills, far a way, and in to the nursery. Tears were streaming down her face and she was sobbing "BUUUNNY!!! BUUUNNNY!!! BUUUNNNNY!!!!"

When Charlie ran back to retrieve bunny, I stayed behind in the nursery with our three children. I squatted down to talk with them at eye level and collectively; they knocked me off my feet, on to my rear and then climbed on top of me, while screaming and crying uncontrollably. Even though it's been about a month since we've been to church, they clearly remembered that this was not a happy place for them.

While all the other 12-36 month old children in the nursery just looked at the wailing heap on the floor, several nursery teachers came over and plucked the children off of me. Charlie came back - we reunited Elizabeth with her bunny and when two teachers tried to hold back William and Carolyn ... I turned and sprinted for the door. There was a barricade blocking the exit and I yelled to the teacher "OPEN THE GATE!! OPEN THE GATE!!" while I ran towards her, with shrieking children hot on my tail.

I got through the gate and she quickly slammed it shut, seconds before William and Carolyn arrived. I had no idea they could move so fast. I looked back as I was rounding the corner out of sight and could see that they were both absolutely hysterical. For a moment I felt like the worst mother alive to leave my children, but then I remembered that if I don’t take care of my needs first – I certainly can’t take care of theirs.

We settled in to the church service, fully expecting that at any moment our beeper would go off, summoning us back to our inconsolable children. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. What did happen is we heard a sermon that was perfectly applicable to us in every way … the sermon today was all about having a successful marriage.

The minister told us that there are three “C’s” to marriage: Chemistry, Companionship and Commitment. To which I added a fourth “C” => Chardonnay. And then I worried that I really am turning in to a lush.

Our minister told us that regardless of the challenges that we face in life – in order for any marriage to work – we must make time for it. I was shocked to hear that the average time a couple spends talking to each other per week - is a mere 37 minutes. That's right ... less than one hour, per week, talking. No wonder 50% of marriages don't survive!

We must touch, hold hands, hug each other, kiss each other, love each other. And we must find common ground for activities that we do together - activities that don’t just involve cleaning the house and organizing the clutter. Constantly.

One thing that I thought was particularly interesting was the minister told the entire congregation, that married couples should sleep with as little clothing on as possible, to help facilitate the accomplishment of the above referenced tasks.

Can you image - what kind of church is this, anyway??

In reality: it’s the kind of church that we absolutely love and has the highest growth of any church in our City ... for darn good reason. Once again, Charlie and I walked away feeling like our souls were filled. When we picked up the children – they were happily playing in the nursery – after the horrible injustice that they had endured a mere 55 minutes earlier.

We came home, enjoyed dinner as a family and put the children to bed. Charlie and I then set about cleaning our house, with a bottle of Chardonnay, and as little clothing on as possible. Suddenly, our messy house wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it once was.

My revelation of the day? A little clutter might be good for me ... and I love church.


  1. Wow. You bring up some really good points. I think my marriage may benefit from reading this!

  2. Praise The Lord---I love Church also and especially that one.
    Are you the same person that lived on Cleveland Street in a cubby hole and I could not even open your Bedroom Door?
    Relax and wear very little clothing and enjoy--they willnot be babies much longer.
    How about a party at the local park or in the back yard with cupcakes and a ball? Everyone would love it. Simplify!

  3. We went to church today for the first time in MONTHS. I love the feeling afterwards, one of complete fulfillment, warm fuzzies and a new feeling of "I can take on all things given to me". You are blessed to have such a great church.

  4. I know in my own life God rewards my obedience in showing up for church on the hard days with a sermon that meets me right where I am! I think that sermon sounds RIGHT ON!

  5. wow.~ what an amazing sermon. by the way are the services recorded? i would love to hear it.

    p.s. no wonder he threw his back out. nevermind. moving on. nothing to read here. LOL