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Where there are no Oxen, the Stalls are Clean

This was the phrase floating through my head all morning as I cleaned my house. I cleaned everything. My house has not been this spotless in a long time. I cleaned with joy. I cleaned with a spring in my step. Bean helped me with the more fun parts, like the duster dealie-ma-thingie.

The other day I read an article about being a good wife – it was talking about a book from 1913. The blogger thought she would pick up the little book of “Don’ts for Wives” and get a good laugh about how different things were back then. What she discovered instead was a generous helping of practicality and beauty in doing things well, and making home a pleasant place for family to want to come home to.

Cleaning a house isn’t really done for the family though, I thought as I scrubbed. It is done for me. My kids are the ones who, in classic Pigpen fashion, have Lego’s and rocks and sticks and paper and tape falling from them wherever they walk. They generate messes in no time, in one look the other direction, a glance back, and there is a giant mess. They could care less if the house is clean. But when I’m looking at messes in every direction, I’m not at peace, and I’m more easily frazzled and snappish. Cleaning then is Self-Care.

Cleaning is also gratitude for the little hands and feet that are tracking in these joys of dirt and smudges. Yes – they need to pick up after themselves, and they do. But the actual cleaning part I prefer to do myself. I just let it get backed up until I’m stressed out.

This morning I wondered why I ever let my house get into disarray when I can have the whole place spiffed and spotless before morning snack time, and that was starting from a big disaster. If I’m keeping it up, I could even tackle some closets or drawers and have the whole place amazingly organized, if I devoted an hour or two every morning to keeping this place sparkling. And why not do that – for me, for my family – to give them a happy, satisfied me when they all get home.

And that reminded me all the more of this verse, “Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean,” (Proverbs 14:4, The Bible) the phrase that kept repeating over and over in my head all morning. I do not want to imagine the emptiness of families in Oklahoma or Newtown, Connecticut who would do anything for a mess of spilled milk or Crayons or Lego’s all over the floor. No messes to clean up anymore is a price I don’t ever want to pay. I am sorry beyond my ability to form words for their losses.

I looked around at my kids’ messes and felt grateful to have them to clean up after. My heart went out to families hurting right now, and in a flurry of activity to keep from becoming overly despondent over other people’s losses, I made my house gleam.

I did it for me as grief / joy therapy. I did it for my husband who was out working and got to come home to a clean house and a calm, happy wife. I did it because I have little messes to clean for, who hug me when they run in the door, who tug at my heart every day. Because they are here and I am so very grateful.

photo from here

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