Beautiful Words and Dirty Laundry

It was just a few hours before they would arrive for dinner.  A family from church would be coming over.  They had never been to our home before.  I honestly was a little stressed, as I typically am before guests arrive.  My house is not fancy or big or full of Pottery Barn decor.  I, like many of you, lead a hectic life, with a lot on my plate.  I don’t always keep my house as tidy as I should.  What if they see a dusty end table?  A stray sock in the living room?  A sink full of dishes?  What will they think?  More important, what will they think of me?

I bet some of you can relate.   You want everything to be in its place.  You want to give the impression that you’ve got things together. Surely if my house is not up to standard they will think I am lazy and will judge.

“We need to vacuum and dust and get the laundry off of the sofa.  Someone needs to get on their hands and knees and look under the sofa and all of the furniture.  They have little kids; they will find everything.  Make sure your room is clean.  Tidy up the porch. I’ll clean the refrigerator.  Make sure the dishes are put away.”

There was no shortage of commands to be handed out that day.  Everyone had a job to do.  I am not exactly sure why I thought that it was important to clean the refrigerator.  Who in the world is going to be looking inside of my refrigerator? But, you never know, so better to be safe than sorry.  What utter lunacy!

“Mom, where do you want me to put all of this laundry that is on the sofa?  I don’t know if it’s clean or dirty.  It’s not folded?”

“Just put it on my bed and be sure to close the door.  I’ll figure it out later”

And with five minutes remaining until arrival, I gave one final run through.  All looks well.  Okay, I think we are done.   I could finally breathe a bit.

“They’re here.  They’re here.” And with that we opened the door and welcomed our friends inside.  The dads and kids went sleigh riding across the street, while the moms stayed inside and chatted.  We would share dinner and dessert and enjoy some wonderful conversation and fellowship.

At one point in the evening I excused myself to head upstairs.  Our first floor restroom was out of service due to some renovations.  So everyone had been directed to make their way to the second floor if need be.  Our house is kind of small.  When you reach the top of the stairs you have a bedroom to your left, right, and directly in front of you.  The bathroom is in the hallway off of the master bedroom.  As I made the turn toward the bathroom I paused and there before my eyes was a gigantic, mountainous pile of clothes.  My bedroom door had been left open for all the world to see.  I tilted my head back and dropped my shoulders.  There was no mistaking the fact that everyone had seen it.  I was kind of mortified.

So, I went downstairs and looked at my friend, “So, I guess you saw my huge pile of laundry.  Sorry about that.  I just didn’t get around to it.”

I call her response that followed “the most beautiful words any mother has ever said to me.”  They are words that have been etched in my mind and continue to warm my heart each time I think of them.

“Oh, I was so glad to see that.  It is beautiful.  I just wish that the pile was bigger.”

I wanted to cry…cry tears of joy.  With those few words I felt all of that pressure to be “together” dissipate.   My huge pile of laundry made both of us feel normal.

I began to tell her of the craziness that had occurred just before her arrival.  How I wanted to make sure that everything was just so.  Why do women do this?  Because we wonder what people will think.  I tried my best to give the impression of togetherness, but my “dirty laundry” was still visible for all to see.    As moms  we try to measure up, and we endlessly compare ourselves to the next woman…to her home, her kids, her clothes, her cooking, her whatever.  We feel inadequate and view everyone else as “super mom”.  It is so destructive.

After this little episode the Lord began to show me that outward appearances do not always represent reality.  Someone who appears to have it all together on the outside may very well be a mess on the inside.  And vice versa.  People have a tendency to do exactly what I did: they paint a picture that they want the world to see.  Oh, they likely have some “dirty laundry” that they want to remain hidden, but regardless of how well it is stowed away, it’s still there.

How thankful I am that the Lord is not concerned about the outer man.   The inner man, the heart and soul of a man, the part that no one can see, is what really concerns our Lord.  The Lord sees through walls and facades; He is not tricked by our outward efforts to appear “with it”. He is not impressed by fancy homes or beautiful things or finely coiffed hair.  Fine clothes and fancy cooking are of no worth.  The Lord looks at the heart.

 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

Please don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with keeping a lovely home or having nice things.  We are certainly not called to be slobs either.  It again all comes down to our hearts.  What is our motivation?  Is it to impress people?  Is it to make sure people think that we have got it all together?

I urge you not to do that to yourself.  Do not compare.  Do not assume that everyone else but you has it all together.  Be concerned with your heart, for your inner man, for that is the Lord’s concern as well.

Letting Down Your Guard

Yesterday morning my 14 year old son came down stairs visibly flustered.  “There’s a tick stuck in me.”  I squinted and strained my eyes to try and decipher what I was actually looking at.  This was a speck, no bigger than a grain of sand or the tip of a pin;  it could easily be mistaken for an ordinary skin mole or a fleck of dirt.  After several minutes I concluded that this little dot was indeed a tick embedded in his shoulder.

Me.  My kids.  We have a history with ticks.

The ironic part of this episode was that just two days earlier I was speaking to a friend telling her that I felt so fortunate that I have never had to pull embedded ticks out of my children.  “The Lord must know that I would not be able to handle it;  He must know that I would get a little crazy.”  Well, fast forward to today.  One child, one embedded tick.  Oh, the irony.

Lyme Disease has just become part of our lives.  It’s what our family lives with.  We’ve become careful and always take precautions.  We have our little routine; we have a dress code when outdoors.  We still camp; we still hike; we still live.  We have our guard up, and in doing so, we have managed to remain tick free.  We’ve protected ourselves and remained vigilant.  But not this time.

I spent nearly an hour trying to gently remove that tick.  Try as I may I could not extricate that little bugger from my son’s shoulder.  Knowing when to stop, I called the doctor and asked them to make room on the schedule for us.  They did.  As we were driving to the office, my son confessed:

“Mom, I was rolling around in the grass yesterday.  I was in shorts and a tank top.  I didn’t change my clothes when I came in.  I didn’t shower.  I didn’t have you check me out.”

That was one of those situations as a parent where not much else needed to be said.  He knew he had dropped the ball on this one.  He had ignored everything that he knew he should do: dress appropriately, change immediately, shower, and get a tick check.

I know, I know.  You’re probably thinking:  “Relax, lady!  The kid was just rolling in the grass.”

Well, we live in tick-central.   Sometimes rolling in the grass is not so cut and dry.  Knowing this, we keep up our guard and are diligent with what we know we should do.  And, when we follow the “protocol”, we can not only have fun, and, yes, roll in the grass, but we can remain safe while doing it.

The problem occurs when we let our guard down, when we don’t do what we know we should.

It’s pretty easy to let our guard down in everyday life.  How simple it is to sidestep doing what we know we should.  We grow tired of the routine.  We feel bogged down.  We want to scream, “I just want to live without having to do this or that.” And then when something unfortunate happens, we want to kick ourselves because we dropped the ball.

Today’s little episode immediately took my mind to this verse:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Have you ever watched one of those nature shows where they track a hunting lion.  Hunting lions are rather patient.  They wait for just the right time to pounce.  They scope out their prey and observe.  They watch for that one split second when their guard is let down, and then they seize the moment, and go in for the kill.

That’s kind of what happens when we let our guard down.  It only takes a moment of weakness for things to go horribly wrong.  It takes a tiny little crack in the door for someone to gain a foothold and bring the whole door down.  Satan waits like that patient lion.  He waits for just the right opportunity to bring us down.  He waits for the moment of weakness.  He waits for us to let down our guard, and then he latches on.  That ultra, microscopic tick was the perfect picture of this.

As I walked outside with my husband this morning, I paused and stared.

“What are you looking at?”, he asked.

“The grass,”  I answered.  “Underneath that beautiful green blanket likely hides millions of ticks on our lawn, their lawn, that lawn…everyone’s lawn  There’s really no way to avoid them.  We’ve got to live with them and keep up our guard.”

While it’s too hot to require my kids to play outside in a full snowsuit, or wear a wet suit to romp around in the yard, or dress in a full coat of armor, I am reminded that there is one coat of armor I am told to dress in everyday.  It is to protect me and remind me to be prepared and be on guard.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:10-18

So keep up your guard….and check your kids for ticks too!