About 11 years ago, soon after settling into our new life in Ohio, we were invited over to have dinner with a new family we were getting to know. Now, understand, this is not a very common occurrence. Being that we are a large family, filled with children who are very much like their parents (loud and active), it takes a special kind of person to be willing to invite our chaos into their home... and feed us! We were excited to spend time with this great family. They themselves were large in number and had several children who were much older than ours, which provided us with needed encouragement and hope about the future. We knew them to be a very faithful, holy family and were extremely admired in our community.
We drove the 20 minutes to their very large 150 year old house and made our way inside, gathering in the kitchen as meal preparations were concluded. I love old houses. As we chatted, I looked around admiring the character and uniqueness of their home. We didn’t know very much about this family, and judging from the state of “unsettledness” of their belongings, I assumed they had only recently moved into this house and were still unpacking. I asked how long they had lived there. She responded with, “Oh, about 17 years.” It took me back. Here’s why....
I am not the cleanest person. I love order and organization, but it is nearly impossible to accomplish that continually with my family. I have learned to live peacefully in a state of imperfection, rather than constantly being stressed about the messiness. BUT, I assumed that I was the only woman like that. I thought that the really great women, especially the holy ones, kept clean houses. After all, that is the message I had received, possibly unintentionally, from all of the books, articles, and websites I had read. Even the saints of old kept their little “hole in the wall” homes spotless. The women I most admired appeared to have it all together.
That day with our new friends, I received an incredible amount of encouragement and relief from discovering I was wrong. It was possible to be a great person and still have a messy house. I realized that day that good families still have little girl panties laying in the corners of their family rooms and toys littering their bedrooms. I learned that the disordered mess of our kitchens do not reflect the state of our hearts. Her comfort in her REAL existence put me at ease. I didn’t sit there the entire evening beating myself up internally because I felt like a failure. Their home was comfortable, peaceful, and “normal”.
In the years that have passed since that dinner, I have several times remarked that I feel like I have a special “ministry” to other women who come to my house. I hope to give them a boost of encouragement and pride in themselves as they leave. I want them to walk away from my house thinking, “Well, at least I’m not as bad of a housekeeper as Linda.” That’s my gift to you too. Be at peace knowing that this woman strives for many things in her life, but having a perfect house is not one of them.