As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
May your home be clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy.
Cleaning the house before the children stop growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.
I have lived in my home with my husband Mark for 25 years. We bought it new and were the first on the block to move in. When we moved in our family was Mark, me, my younger brother and our 11 month old, crawling-everywhere, infant son. Since that April 1988 move in day many a folk have come and gone from “408s”: my brother moved into his own apartment just before son #2 was born and now has his own home and his own family in a neighboring town. Shortly after child #2 came, child #3 and then child #4 joined us. It wasn’t long after that that my friend gave me the prayer “May your home be clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy.” I love that prayer. It’s kept me in check. As for me and my house, we will open our home as wide as God opens creation.
When the children were in High School there were times when Mark and I noticed that we had an extra teenager (or two) who seemed to be living with us. Our response was to make them come with on grocery shopping trips (at one point we needed three shopping carts a week) and when they fouled out of whatever video game they were playing they were required to check in with me to see what garbage needed taking out or what chore needed attention. It was a win-win: they got a couch to sleep on and I got a bit more household work done. There was the time one of our children’s friends spent a few days with us because her mother had kicked her out for telling the truth of her life-that she was gay. That required a call to the school counselor, a delivery of an extra large pizza and an all-night “girl talk” session on morals, family, dignity, responsibility to self and God’s view of it all. I’ll never forget what that mom told me on the phone “if people like you would stop helping her she would finally end up in the gutter and then know how good she’s got it at home. She just needs to ask forgiveness and live as I say.” I suppose, for some, living at home can only be seen as “good” from the view of the gutter. But, that’s not the view I want for my family or anyone finding their way to my home. As for me and my house, we will follow God’s lead and be of peace and mercy and humility.
“The Herd” has always been and will always be a significant part of 408s. Dogs, cats, a fish or two, they have all shared space with us. “Flower-9” was so named because Rebecca thought she needed to smell more like a flower and Benjamin noted she was the 9th creature to live at 408s. June Carter Cat was named such because she adopted us the day after Johnny Cash died, and, well, SHE didn’t want a boy’s name. They teach us how to love, how to greet each other when we come home and how to share. The greatest lesson Dudley, Flower-9, Adelante, El Elmo, and now Indianna have taught us is how to die with dignity and what it takes to love a being through the dying process. As for me and my house, we will follow the creatures of God in loving without counting the cost.
Over the last few years each of our children have found a way to leave 408s for their own adulthood. It is my earnest prayer that, wherever I am, they will know my dwelling place as “home”. Oh they come and go, stop for a bit between the end of the school year and the beginning of a summer job and spend a rare weekend regrouping after a particularly difficult time away. But, it is time to reorganize 408s, and it’s time for Mark and me and the Herd to negotiate who gets what room. Now, I thought, I could get a quiet, clean house. On our refrigerator there is a magnet that reads “Cleaning the house before the children stop growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing”. Since it seems to have ‘stopped snowing”, I thought I could start shoveling. I’ve managed to have enough clean space to have the Bishop’s Committee and my Clergy Group and even a bishop into my home. But no, it is not to be: as the old saying goes “if you want to make God laugh, tell out your plans”. Our oldest son’s young family have come and gone from 408s this past year and will move in officially for about a year or so come August when our son separates from the Army. We’re not quite sure how this will work out: a young family with two small, active boys and a dog who likes to be the one and only beast, and a not-so-young couple who value their serenity (and clean kitchen) with a herd of critters living under the same roof. But we will manage. As for me and my house, we know God is in the midst of it all.
I recently spent time talking with someone who has a different narrative on home: her dwelling place, where she lives now, where she will live, how she will find the next dwelling place are all of concern for her. She has concerns I do not. I have concerns that are not hers. My daughter works to help people living in poverty find a way to make their home safe, accessible, and free from weather and environmental elements. They too have their own set of concerns and challenges-some of which make me tremble. But we all have the same vision for our dwelling place. We want a place that is a haven, that gives us a sense of peace and a place we can manage/handle/care for without too much stress. We want a place that allows us to be fully alive, with no pretense and with a deep sense of Spirit. Home is where God and I can meet and talk and relax and even play together. Sometimes home is where I can cry and rant and process my burdens without having to explain or be “on”. Sometimes home is where I try out new ways of being, new ways of relating, new ways of getting on with life. Sometimes home is where I can curl up in bed and be sick for a bit, to recover and regain strength. What is home for you? As for me and my house, we shall dwell with God. May it be so for you as well. And, may your home always be clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy. KGK+