Questioning Whether Housework Is Overrated

[Today’s guest post is from Aleah Marsden, who brings us a reflection on kids, mess, and the order of the divine Creator.]


Like any parent, I am consistently amazed by my children. I have four, two girls and two boys, aged nine and under. They have each been gifted with an individual set of talents, but if I were to choose one talent which they all possess in increasing measure it would be their ability to make monumental messes.

I’m not talking about your everyday shoes haphazardly kicked off afterschool or breakfast dishes left on the table or even unmade beds. That’s all very entry-level stuff they have long mastered. I’m talking about Gogurt finger-painting on the coffee table, unrolling an entire tube of Christmas wrapping paper (ostensibly to see how long it was), and leaving a concoction of what I could only guess was water, soap, dirt, and food coloring to dry on the bathroom counter. Spectacular sprinkle smatterings scatter the countertops and spontaneously generating goldfish crackers are found in every nook and cranny.

Now, I am not a tidy person by nature. I can highly function in disaster levels of mess; my husband: not so much. He tries. Bless him, the man tries. Even after long hours at work he will pitch into the chaos containment effort, eliciting the kids’ help at least enough to de-clutter the living room so he can enjoy the Niner game from our juice and peanut butter stained couch.

I love, respect, and appreciate his care for our family. But can I be honest and tell you that when he told me a couple weeks ago about an upcoming business trip the first thing I thought was housework vacation!

I wouldn’t say I exactly enjoy mess, but I certainly dread the never-ending chore of cleaning it up more. With the tidy-one away I fully planned to accomplish two of the things of which I am most gifted: reading and procrastinating. I lounged in my cozy secondhand Ethan Allen armchair, feet up on the matching ottoman, Kindle in one hand, iPhone portal to the social media world in the other. I sat upon my domestic throne and ruled with an iron passivity. Sure, you can have a piece of candy. Uh huh, go ahead and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse again. Can someone grab Mommy a Diet Coke?

But it wasn’t all fun and candy and Diet Coke. Toys—toys I didn’t even know we had anymore—covered the living room floor. Dirty clothes creeped from the bathroom and down the hallway. Dishes covered every horizontal surface in the kitchen. The two year old had gotten into the sprinkles again, mouth and and teeth and fingers stained dark blue. A puddle of suspicious liquid marked the tile floor near the base of the trash can. I believe even the dog had decided to join the anarchy.

Three days in and I could no longer ignore the chaos flinging about me like splatter paint. Apparently even I have a limit. Order must be restored.

As I filled the dishwasher to capacity for the second time and gathered up the loose crayons cascading off the table, I was hit with the realization that truly maintaining order and harmony takes a lot of consistency. It requires a commitment to daily, mundane, small work. My rebelling against the tide of chores had only resulted in a tsunami of clutter. I thought of the One who ultimately brings order to chaos. He that never sleeps nor slumbers.

God does not procrastinate. He doesn’t get fed up with the never-ending task of keeping the world running. He is committed to daily doing the little work that produces a foundation for flourishing. Good work so great and yet so humble we can miss it if we aren’t looking for it. The same sovereign God that channels power and advances the story of mankind throughout history has His eye on the sparrow and remembers to splendidly clothe each daisy. There is no task too trite to miss His notice, nor does He weary of our incessant neediness. He even goes beyond order and invests in aesthetic—making all things beautiful in their season. He fixes what has been broken. Finds the lost. All this daily, consistent as the sun He raises with His new mercies every morning.

I consider all this as I chip Cheerios that have welded to the tabletop, my mind spinning while my hands scrape. I serve a God who ordains seasons and prioritizes rest, but who chooses to manifest His love in His unceasing giving. He overflows in His loving, detail-oriented care for His creation.

I am like Him as I sort through a tangle of tiny shoes and socks, pull unidentifiable leftovers from the fridge to toss, and stoop to pick up the myriad of toys from the living room floor, again. I am bringing order to chaos. I am preparing a foundation for flourishing: a space clean and safe and conducive to the hard and humble work of being a good steward of my family.

I grab a scratchy old towel and sop up the dog’s spilled water dish. I soak in Galatians 6:9: Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. As I sweep the crumb covered tile I am reaping the whirlwind I have sown with my hollow seeds of laziness and procrastination—weeds that sprout and multiply swiftly. I perceive the need for good seed: tiny, seemingly insignificant acts dropped into home-soil.

Witnessing His grace-full example, I find the strength I need for living the tedious today. I wipe dirty faces, gather scattered homework papers, rotate laundry, and am somehow made holy. Committed to consistency, to small work done with great love, I am becoming more like Him. Yes, by inches and waves, on the most unremarkable days, I am becoming more like Him.

Marsden MomAleah Marsden is a stay at home mom of four who wakes up before 5am to study scripture and write because she discovered physical exhaustion is more manageable than emotional exhaustion (i.e. consumes copious amounts of coffee). She shares stories of life, faith, and Bible study at Member of Redbud Writers Guild. Chat with her on Twitter: @marsdenmom

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20 Responses to Questioning Whether Housework Is Overrated

  1. Lisa Pearce says:

    Thank you for this beautiful affirmation that the little and unimportant things add up to the spectacular whole! For some reason reading this reminds me of the description of the Spirit’s work in our souls in “The Shack”. Beautifully written.

  2. Tim says:

    Aleah, thank you for allowing me to run this post.

    This line struck me: “Witnessing His grace-full example, I find the strength I need for living the tedious today.” These tedious todays are the ones we have most often, it seems, but these days are also the ones God has given us to live in with him. It’s a grace matter and I am grateful for the reminder you’ve given us.

    • marsdenmom says:

      Thank you, Tim!

      Yes, it is certainly all the little nothings that wondrously add up to a sum greater than their parts (math was never my thing). String a whole bunch of average, faithful days together and you end up with a faithful life!

  3. Pingback: Questioning Whether Housework Is Overrated | Depth of the Riches Questioning Whether Housework Is Overrated | Diving into the Word

  4. Aimee Byrd says:

    Thanks for the uplifting motivation! I will now clean the dried toothpaste out of the kid’s bathroom sink yet one more time!

  5. michelemorin says:

    Yes, this is the truth. You are reminding me of Elisabeth Elliot’s exhortation to “do the next thing.” I’ve found this to be so helpful when facing a huge mess. We pick up toys and write blogs and clean toilets and teach the Bible and wash nasty “stuck on” dishes all from the same fountain of grace and all for the same Master.

    • marsdenmom says:

      Amen! That gave me goosebumps. I love that: do the next thing. It’s really the only way to live. Reminds me of a favorite Spurgeon quote, “No man ever served God by doing things tomorrow.”

  6. Pastor Bob says:

    A very (VERY!) creative way of reminding of God’s presence.
    Many thanks to all!

  7. Laura Droege says:

    An oh-so-funny and unique outlook on God and housework. Now, can I force my messy husband and messy children to read this and say, smugly, “See, God wants you to do housework so you can identify with him! Go clean your room!” I guess I shouldn’t. God is merciful, too. 🙂

    • marsdenmom says:

      Hahaha! Round up those troops and tell them it’s time for a lesson in sanctification…then pass out chore lists! 😉

  8. dorothygreco says:

    So good. So funny. So insightful.

  9. caramac54 says:

    Lovely writing, my friend. Proud of your words and your stories. And your mess. (In it with you).

  10. dpersson7 says:

    “the small work done with great love” really stood out to me. Doing something in love makes all the difference in how I approach a task. My adult children visit regularly and there are times when I am tempted to focus on the work instead of treasure the time I have with my family. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to have them all live in the area until recently. One of my sons, his wife and three of my six grandchildren are moving out of state. We won’t be able to see them nearly as often as we do now and that makes me really sad. I am going to miss the pulled out vertical blinds, spilled crayons, and bits of food that I find in really odd places because the mess reminds me of them running around our house having a good time.
    I really enjoyed reading this.

    • Laura Droege says:

      Your comment made me re-look the mess I have in my SUV and house–those bits of crayon and scrap paper and food that are in hidden and unexpected places–and contemplate the possibility that someday, I might miss that, sitting in my spiffy-clean, spotless and childless house. It’s hard to fathom now! Thank you for the reminder to cherish these days.

      • dpersson7 says:

        Yes I wish I had focused on this way of thinking when my children were young. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with life and responsibilities. For our family I finally started to get it when they all started growing up and moving out. Then after a 12 year gap between the first six we were surprised with our seventh child. My husband and I both realized how fast the time goes by then. When we had him and we didn’t stress nearly as much as we did with the others and enjoyed the ride a lot more.

    • marsdenmom says:

      Such a great perspective! I pray that I am like you when my kids are grown!

  11. Pingback: Pick of the Clicks 10/04/2014 | bronwyn's corner

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