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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This is beautiful work Ash!! Thanks so much for sharing and being brave. You have always had a gift and I’m so glad you are doing this so that others can see His grace and love.
Bless you, Nanc, and thank you. I’m so glad you’ve come!
Amen! And amen! so much for me in this to remember. I think I’ll dog-ear this page. (maybe I won’t even wash the pear juice from my fingers first.) thank you so much for this Ashley! Loved it!!
So I found the blog site address. This is amazing and so inspiring. You are so loving and real with everything said and it is a comfort to know that I am not alone.
Steph, I’m so glad you came to visit! Thanks so much for your encouragement. We all need to know we’re not alone, don’t we? Sending love!
So lovely! Oh how I wish there was blogging when my kids were romping through pumpkin patches!! I do have the scrapbooks but they don’t “speak” like a blog can! Great voice Ashley!!
Holly, I know for a fact that your scrapbooks are an amazing testimony to your love. You’re the one who taught me everything I know. :) Thanks for showing up here. xoxo
This is beautiful. Reduced me to tears and determined to be different. Thank you for your honesty, your wisdom, and most of all….your love.
Now guess who’s crying? I love you.
I saw a link to your post on Ali’s FB page and I am so glad that it caught my attention. We recently moved and the chaos that still surrounds me (boxes, too many belongings for a smaller space, laundry and dishes that keep on coming regardless of my desire for them to stop so I can catch up on the unpacking…) has been really difficult for me. I *love* this truth: “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.” What is really important is that my family is together, all in one place, healthy and grateful for new adventures. I feel blessed for the words that you took from somewhere deep in my heart…I needed the reminder. xoxo
Nis, I am so honored that you’d come to visit and take the time to comment. Nothing like moving to stretch us in our definition of comfort, safety, home. Bless you in that process. You are so right when you recount those places of true importance! May there be a place of peace and joy for you and your family in the mess today. Sending love!
Loved it! Thanks Ash for sharing “your heart of love”. You have such a gift. Keep at it! You will do great things for the Kingdom of God!
ASH!! My cuz, this is absolutely bbbeeeuatiful, I love how it makes me think and immediately start placing it in my life. I love you and your beautiful inspiring words, and your sister who directed me to it!
Thanks, Christina! So glad you came to visit. Miss you and love you heaps.
Love this really hit me.
Thanks, Roxy. I appreciate it, sister.
Thanks for this great reminder… how to we step away so quick from this heart of love in all we do. Just what I needed before I lay my weary head down. :)
Bless you, Alli. So great to see you here.
Dear Ashley I’ve got to say that I applaud the insights you’ve shared here. It is a wonderful choice when we consciously decide to seek out the beauty all around us and let go of the more inconsequential notions, despite their popularity. It is cause for celebration to see you happily walking what is sometimes called, “The Red Road”, but for you to share those experiences is truly inspirational.
Keep up the good work! Love you, Uncle Don
Love you, Uncle Don! So happy you came to visit, and thanks for the encouragement! xoxo
Wow. That was beautifully written! It’s so true, too! That’s the type of stuff that sent me into a postpartum depression for awhile. The desire and false expectation that I have a “perfect” house. Perfectly clean, no clutter, no laundry laying around, dishes done, etc, etc. I couldn’t “do-it-all”. I couldn’t be perfect. I couldn’t control everything. –rookie mistake, right? ha! I gave it to Him–for Him to worry about ;-), not me. I’m perfectly IMperfect…just the way He made me. Now, I’m OK with it being a little cluttered. It is, after all, just mail piles and toys. ;-) Who cares really? I’d rather set aside the cleaning and play Sorry or Legos with my kids. That time I will never get back…..Do I want to spend it cleaning or spend it with my boys? THEY are the ones who will remember what I did with my time. ;-) Thanks again, Ash! That was a GREAT piece! So well said!
Thanks, Staci. I’m so glad you visited. You are so right when you say, “They [The kids] are the ones who will remember what I did with my time!”
This post resonates deeply with me, Ashley. All shiny on the surface and rotten at the core? Not who I want to be, yet so often that is how I can present myself. And isn’t God a God of the heart?
Thank you for these words, friend. I’m off to go do the laundry … and pray I muster up some love along the way!
I love all of your posts. Each one is so fantastic. Keep up the good work sis!
I love how you are taking the time in life to notice, pay attention, and be present to where you are and what is presented to you, so that you can learn from it all and then weave beautiful stories together with bits of wisdom and a whopping dose of creative sparkle for all of us to read! Thank you dear! Your reflections are inspiring.
Ashley, I love that you took a photograph of the “perfect pumpkin”. I will remember your words of wisdom with the visual of THE pumpkin in the patch, and more importantly, try to apply them. 60 is not too late to start, is it?? You are so gifted.
Thank You for those words Ash, they strike a chord with me too. I am definately guilty of letting housework slide. I am constantly surrounded by clutter. It is good to remember that God made us imperfect and that is OK. I can only hope that God sees my efforts I do make as an act of love to him as well as my husband.
Amen to that, Tammy! Thanks for stopping by.