Thursday, March 15, 2012

living cleanly

"who can  ascend the mountain of the Lord? who can stand in His holy place? 
 the one who has clean hands and a pure heart..."  ~ psalm 24:3-4

i ran into my friend, lisa, this morning in the parking lot of whole foods.  i ran into lisa, her laundry and her large dog -- all of them sitting in her white suv on a rainy tuesday morning while a realtor was showing her home.  they had just listed the house this past weekend and today was their first appointment. we chatted for a few minutes about both of our upcoming moves before i loaded my groceries into the back of my own suv and headed home.

that's going to be me,  i said out loud to my empty car.  

in the next few weeks that will be me, with the dog wrangled and the dirty laundry loaded and the last minute basket of random ugly items collected.  i, too, will be forced to find a place to park my overloaded vehicle when the time comes to quickly vacate my home for an hour or so.  when a sign goes up in the front yard, inevitably, the hysteria level in the home goes up as well.  

and because life works in messy ways, that call from a realtor will occur right about the time when the children are all home and the dinner is all out and the chaos level is all consuming:

"hi there, mrs. mcnatt, we'd like to show your home today. would that be possible?"
 with the phone clutched against my ear, my eyes will take in the scene.  the onions cooking on the stovetop and my children with crumpled homework and their afternoon snack sprawled across every surface of my kitchen...
and i will answer, "of course..."
"good. thank you mrs. mcnatt,  we are already on our way.  actually, mrs.mcnatt, to be honest, we are in your neighborhood already!  but please, take your time."
and the panic will move through me as i turn off the onions and begin shoving dinner preparations back into the refrigerator. 
the youngest one will toddle into the room with a trail of blue popsicle dripping behind her and i will begin to reconsider. 
 "well..." i'll start to say.
"oh mrs. mcnatt," and ms. realtor sensing my hesitation, will cut me off quickly, "you see, my client is only in town for another hour and they really must see your home now...yes, mrs. mcnatt, right now.  mrs. mcnatt, these people are ready to buy."
and in my best dramatic form, i'll mouth silently and motion violently to the children to clean up their stuff.    
"yes... well, okay...we'll be ready." and i begin my full out sprint around the house.
"oh good, thank you for being so flexible mrs. mcnatt.  we've just pulled into your driveway."

and with the click of the phone disconnecting i will begin barking orders at my unsuspecting children.  "everyone listen to mama: go make your beds, flush your toilets, someone pick up these crayons, light some candles, turn on the lamps, hide your legos, fluff your pillows, grab the dog, vacuum the back stairs...who spilled this orange juice? why are there catepillars in the guest room sink? and what is this goo on the dining room door? kids! quick! hurry! everyone! now! fast! go!" 

it will be like a five alarm fire...all hands on deck...all of us running.  scrambling.  screeching.  stuffing things into drawers and pushing possessions underneath beds.  wiping down sinks and walls and windows and whatever... all at full speed.  we will pile into the car and try to count heads hoping everyone made it into the backseat somewhat unscathed... and then i will remember the onions still stovetop.  back into the house i will head, and then back once more to the car with our chaos and our confusion, and, of course, our pan of cooked onions.

how can we do it any differently? i suppose we could move out.  some families do that.  i am pretty certain a realtor or two might recommend it at some point.  but, for now, we are here.  and though our family is not altogether conducive to "showings", we must continue to be here.  as a family of seven, we must continue to live.  

a couple of days ago, i sat the children down and explained we'd have to live cleaner now.  "i can't whip this house into shape everyday at the last minute, you are going to have to be better about picking up your things, putting items back where they belong, making your beds, cleaning your bathrooms, that kind of thing..."  i rambled on and on, taking note of their glazed eyes and wary expressions.  they hesitantly nodded heads and agreed they could do this...and they can.  but, as their mother, i know that living cleanly isn't always easy.  no, let me change that, it is almost never easy.  especially when you are 9 and prone more to tracking things in then to picking things up.  no, this will not be a simple task.  our children are required to do chores and help around the house regardless of selling.  this has always been expected of them.  they clear their plates and load their dishes.  even the littlest ones know how to wipe down a sink or put away their laundry.  but... still...we are a busy, big family and we can't help but make a mess wherever we go.   we need help.  we need to be reminded.  we need to be encouraged. and we absolutely need be held accountable.  all of us.

and isn't it so like our walk with Christ.  in psalms, david asks "who can stand in His holy place?"  he wants to know who is worthy to be in the presence of God...who is able to ascend the mountain of the Lord?  and the answer is "he who has clean hands and a pure heart."  and don't we read that and sigh? don't we read it and wonder: how in the world can we do it?  how can we have clean hands and a pure heart?  we are sinners and sinful and constantly seduced by the ways of this world.  every one of us.  no exceptions.  no one can live perfectly pure and constantly clean.  just the thought makes me tremble. it just can't be done.  instead we will get that last minute phone call and find ourselves frantically racing around trying to clean up our act,  trying to pull it together, trying to stuff our sinful ways underneath something -- and it won't work.  it can't work.  because like those cooked onions on my stovetop, we smell.  sorry, but we do.  all of us.  there is no amount of scrubbing and scouring which can make much of a difference. 

i mean maybe it would be like moving out of our home.  perhaps if we completely removed ourselves from the world.  perhaps a monastery or a mountaintop or at least a deserted island.  maybe then it would be better.  easier.  cleaner.  maybe.  but, for the most part, we're here and we have to keep on living and there's no easy way around the mess.  at least not in my house and certainly not in my life.

and though sometimes the dirt and filth of this world and its ways makes me crazy, we are not without hope. God provided a plan through His Son. "cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."  i love the simple sunday school song..."Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow."  

and what's more.  we don't have to be kind of clean for this to happen.  God isn't looking for "good candidates." He doesn't judge us on our ability to organize linen closets or on our talent for de-cluttering kids' rooms. He meets us right where we are.  maybe even in the mud...the mire...the mess of our living space.

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth..." ~ psalm 40:2

so we do what we can, knowing, we can only do so much.  our hands are not always clean, but they are open and willing to be washed.  and this is how we live while sculpting a life or selling a house or seeking the Lord --  hands open and willing to be washed.  living cleanly, only because of Him.

"come near to God and he will come near to you. 
wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts..."  ~ james 4:8

(p.s. come see my house this week -- it's clean!) 


Aus said...

Jody - you make me laugh! We used to call your 5 alarm "going to DefCon 1" - much the same thing!

Our relationship with the Father IS much like that isn't it? There is another old military expression - "there are no athiests in fox holes" - yeah, under stress we all find Faith!

We're with you - working on holding onto that ALL the time!

...and if we were closer you could count on a visit! ;)

hugs - have a great weekend - aus and co.

Unknown said...

I have experienced that 'oh, no the realtor is in the neighborhood' problem! When our Windward house was on the market I had just finished poaching some salmon when the phone rang... 'uh, yes, okay, sure come right over...' they were the ones that actually bought the house too. And somehow they even learned that we'd just killed a snake in front of our garage! You just never know - fortunately, God does and that is enough for us. Your family-friendly home will end with exactly the right folks in his perfect timing.

blessings, Tina