This afternoon, and every Sunday afternoon for the next two months, we will welcome friends from church into our home.

But before they enter, we will have done everything we can to erase any sign that actual trash-making, marker-using, crumb-spilling people live here.

Why do we do this?

I get the reasonable cleaning part — removing scum from the sink and toilet, running the vacuum, but the work of trying to create an illusion has me thinking.

Several years ago, I talked with a friend about the mama dance between “getting things done” and spending time with little ones. I told her how I struggled to prioritize, how I grappled with the feeling I should be doing something I wasn’t.

Her answer came from a direction unexpected. “I’ve realized,” she said, “that if I can’t do the dishes in love, I shouldn’t be doing the dishes. Everything should be done in love.

At the time, I found her words intriguing. And entirely impractical.

But as I’ve thought about them since, I’ve realized the truth. Yes, I still carry responsibilities, and if I waited for a perfect storm of opportunity and desire, the dishes might sit there for a while. Well, maybe not the dishes. I like the soaping, scrubbing and stacking.

Let’s take, laundry. If I stop to pray for a heart of love, it doesn’t mean I get off laundry duty. It might mean, though, that I put down the socks and step away for a time. Love is sometimes passion. Sometimes duty. But if I pray for a heart of love, love comes.

At times, it might mean I need to seek love in Love’s face before I hear the complaint that reflects my daughter’s heart or read that Pretty Pony story again.

But when I ask for love from the Love Giver, I can give what I give to my family, my God, this world as an offering of love. A goodwill offering of messy-and-seeking-to-follow-the-Savior-humanness.

Yesterday, we rode a hay-covered flatbed to a field of pumpkins. The sun shone, and the round vegetables sparkled in full color. We wore sweatshirts around our waists and ran through the patch, searching for round friends that would sit on our front porch for the next few weeks.

The field was filled with traditional orange pumpkins and also white, sea foam green, peanut-shaped and the ones I think are a little piece of magic. Deep orange with colors more like a sunset than a pie.

As we all know, the pumpkin patch is not without its hazards. Long twisty vines catch little rain boots. Rotten pumpkin slicks await prat falls. Then there are the nasty ones oozing seeds and fur very unbecomingly. I avoid those and pray the girls will, too.

Yesterday, our daughters were zeroing in on their choices, and then I saw mine. Luscious color, perfect organic shape. It was effortless beauty in a pumpkin body.

I reached to pick it up.

My beautiful pumpkin was not what it seemed.

Inside it was stinking, rotting, decaying mess. I had been so taken by its shine and glow that I had missed what was inside.

As I sit and type this morning, with clutter still swirling around me, I pray I (and this home) not be like that pumpkin — sparkly on the outside, but filthy and crumbling inside.

Like twisting kids’ arms to get them to pose for a happy-looking picture.

Like stuffing real life in closets to create a false image.

Like going through the motions of living with resentment and bitterness.

Today, may we delight in being a messy, beautifully imperfect offering. But one that is filled more than anything with love.

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