A mantra for house cleaning on a snowy day...

Today will be given over to the quotidian mysteries - house cleaning, modest grocery shopping and being inside - the work Kathleen Norris speaks of as "laundry, liturgy and women's work." Looking at our home, it is clear that we don't spend nearly enough time with these ordinary tasks to savor their sacred wisdom. A regular comment at the breakfast table is: "We need to have guests over more regularly so we clean this place up!" So, in anticipation of a friend helping us deal with the lousy heating in our bedroom, today will be given over to a serious overhaul.

Ms. Norris notes that there are some regular acts of devotion in the home that are preferable than others; she loves baking bread and doing the laundry. They have become for her times of contemplation. I guess I haven't yet found my connection to the contemplative realm in house cleaning. Mostly I avoid it - and then hunker down and attack it like Sherman's march to the sea. It becomes a campaign - an endurance test where I must vanquish the clutter and overcome the dirt before I can rest - hardly the stuff of inward communion with my Lord. And perhaps therein lays the problem: I  often attack the other hard things in my life like this, too.

Norris writes: "Whatever you do repeatedly has the power to shape you, has the power to make you over into a different person - even if you're not totally engaged in every minute." I have been approaching house cleaning like a drill sergeant since I was about 8 years old. With the exception of cleaning my study and washing the kitchen floor (and also making the top of the stove shine), I have hated this work. What's more, I've been doing it over and over this way for 54 years. Maybe today is the day to make a small change? 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam 3:21—23).

Norris celebrates this quote as an invitation to let the little things - the daily tasks of our small lives - become not a violent campaign of scorched earth proportions, but rather a gentle walk that brings a taste of beauty and order to my world. This is something I yearn to know from the inside out. What St. Paul encouraged in Romans 12 (in Peterson's The Message version.)

 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Over the years I've learned not to make big changes - or expect dramatic shifts all at once - so I'm going to put on some sweet music, get my dust rag and head off to our trashed bedroom with the thought that I am entering into the 'steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases.' Maybe that should become my cleaning mantra: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and God's mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning. I'll keep you posted.


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