Dear Friend with a Sink Full of Dirty Dishes,

Greetings from a home that has a similar looking kitchen.

This morning I made my way downstairs, determined to be productive while the house was blessedly quiet and my time was, well, mine and not anyone else’s. Like any normal human person, I began to make a cup of coffee. I say “began” because when I went to the sink to get water, I literally couldn’t fit a mug underneath the faucet, the dishes were piled that high. And honestly, the smell coming from the sink was enough to make me reconsider coffee in the first place. Yuck. Still, coffee is one of life’s necessities so another water source was quickly located (maybe the moral of this story is that refrigerators with water dispensers are invaluable.)

As the coffee brewed, I stood in the soft glow of my stove light and surveyed my kitchen. Even the soft lamp light couldn’t diminish the sad and ugly truth: my dirty dishes, counter tops, floor, table and overflowing trashcan were screaming to be acknowledged. Taken all together these things painted a pretty grim(y) picture. The longer I looked at the disaster the more I felt my resolve for morning productivity sliding away (as grease slides away from my unwashed frying pans.)

And so, in a desperate and daring move, I snagged my coffee, turned out the light, and left the kitchen and never looked back . . .

. . . until five minutes ago when I went in to re-heat that coffee from this morning that hadn’t been touched because five minutes after sitting down in my rocking chair to read the Bible (read the BIBLE, people!) my daughter came downstairs after successfully climbing out of her bed, opening her door and navigating the stairs. From there the morning went downhill. I won’t elaborate – you just go ahead and close your eyes and then imagine the last time trying to get out of the house on time made you want to scream in frustration. Yeah. It was that type of morning and it was coffee-less to boot.

Since I’m writing this right after coming home, I obviously haven’t taken the time to do my dishes yet. They are still there and now that the sun is up you can see said chaos with even greater clarity.

But I have had an hour to meditate on the state of my kitchen. Yes, it is annoying and depressing in equal measures. But if I look closely, I can see some sweet stories tucked in with the disarray. I see the hairspray from my hair appointment on Monday. Why it’s on the counter I have no idea, but it reminds me that Paul came home and took care of dinner and homework without a break in his day so that I could go out and get my hair done. I see the pots and pans that I used to make Tuesday night’s meal. It was a meal that I threw together quickly while I was still in my scrubs and coat after getting home from work. I remember being frazzled and having hungry kids distracting me with pleas for sustenance (channeling their inner starving orphan with no food and no one to love them). But dinner made it to the table and at its conclusion Jack stopped by my chair and said, “I really liked that Mom! Thanks!” (at which point you could have knocked me over with a feather.) I see the glasses and spoons that Paul and I used on Tuesday night when, instead of cleaning Paul asked me to come sit on the couch with him and we ended up talking about the day, watching Netflix and laughing together while consuming way too much ice cream. I see an array of kid bowls and cups which remind me that the boys are now putting their dishes in the sink consistently. There are dried up apple peels laying on the cutting board which reminds me that my adorable daughter really is spoiled because I never cut off apple peels for either boy. There are Tupperware containers empty of their leftovers because last night Paul and I both had papers to write, Paul had a bible study to teach, and the boys had children’s choir…so not much thought went into dinner. And I see a myriad of mugs and spoons, signs that Paul and I have been making coffee at all hours of the day.

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The truth is, this kitchen is a testament (a dirty testament) to a life full of blessings. I couldn’t see that this morning, but the Holy Spirit slipped a verse into my harassed morning while driving to and from school.

Prov 14:4 says, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”

One commentary interprets the verse this way, “Labor has its rough, unpleasant side, yet it ends in profit. So also, the life of contemplation may seem purer, ‘cleaner’ than that of action. The outer business of the world brings its cares and disturbances, but also ‘much increase.’ There will be a sure reward of that activity in good works for him who goes, as with ‘the strength of the ox,’ to the task to which God calls him.

Maybe you can use this same verse to see your kitchen in a new light. If you are busy managing a life full of blessings (even those “blessings” generate clutter for your counter and leave crumbs all over the floor you just swept) then even dirty dishes are a reminder of God’s goodness to you. It is also a reminder of the tasks to which God has called you. You are his precious child and he planned all these “good works” for you in order to grow your faith and to bring him glory! (Eph 2:10)

Rachel Yankovic wrote in her book, Loving the Little Years,  “. . . if you accept your lot and rejoice in your toil, God will give you the kind of overwhelming joy that cannot remember the details. Motherhood is hard work. It is repetitive and often times menial. Accept it. Rejoice in it. This is your toil. Right here.”

I will probably clean my kitchen today (because we desperately need clean spoons) but with God’s help I won’t be cleaning in annoyance. Dirty dishes might just be the twenty-first century equivalent to a messy manger, and I am determined to be thankful.

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