When we got home from a couple of hours at the park with friends (yep, on a "school" day....this homeschooling thing has its perks) I told them it was time to finish chores.
15 minutes later, 45 minutes later, 2 hours later...I was still reminding them to do their chores.
I went upstairs to get something and found it a mess.
Six kids, it SHOULD be a mess, right?
If I hadn't asked them to clean it all up before we even left for the park. And if I hadn't been assured by wide eyed and innocent faces that it had all been done.
I was working hard to maintain a patient and calm demeanor until I spotted a slew of books under Ethan's (10) bed. Ethan is a book collector. Hoarder. He is often reading several thick books at once. Which is fine. Great, even. But I really prefer that instead of keeping his current 12 books on the floor under and beside his bed, he keep them on the bookshelf just 5 short paces away. He does not see any value in this request. So, I decided that the only way to calm my obsessive brain was to put the books away myself. However, as I crawled under the bed to retrieve the books, I found more than I bargained for.
It was like a fruit graveyard under there.
Apple cores. Grapevines. Orange rinds. Banana peels. Even a few watermelon seeds left over from summer.
And that was it. That's when I decided that it was deep cleaning day for the kids.
I headed for the schoolroom, eyes straight ahead, lips pursed, and mind set. I took 4 sheets of paper and a pencil and began making individual lists for each of the 4 oldest children, detailing what needed to be done in each of their assigned rooms. And I'm not talking wimpy, baby lists. These were Little Orphan Annie, It's the Hard Knock Life lists.
As the lists under their names grew, so did the volume of the moans and groans coming from Ethan and Asa (7). Whining commenced. Weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued. But still I listed on.
When I completed the descriptions of their assignments, I called all of the children into the room and reviewed it all with them. Reminding them that we are trying to sell our house and no one wants to buy a house with the beginnings of a compost pile in the bedroom and pictures drawn in toothpaste on the bathroom counter.
Ethan interrupted me with an attempt at being philosophical. "Mom, it's like you think cleaning is so important. There are bigger things to worry about. When you think about the entire world and what really matters, cleaning the house is nothing. And besides, I already threw those apple cores out the window."
Nice try, son. But you're still cleaning your room.
And then it was Asa's turn. Sweet, smart Asa, who always seems to be able to get right to the heart of my flaws and inadequacies. Sometimes without even knowing it.
"I know you want someone to buy our house. Do you think anyone ever will?"
"I do think someone will someday. When the time is right."
"And, Mama, how will we know when the time is right?"
"When God brings the right person. I do think God will bring someone to buy it one day soon. And we need to keep it super super clean so people will like it."
"But, Mama, right now it sounds like you're depending more on your cleaning and less on God."
I don't know if anyone else heard it, but I'm pretty sure that was the sound of the tires on my overwhelmed and irritated cleaning caravan screeching to a halt.
I couldn't think of anything to say in my defense. So I just smiled, and took the feedback as a gift.
I moved forward in our cleaning pursuits. But with less vigor. Less anger. More tenderness. And clearer perspective.
It never ceases to humble and amaze me when God uses my children as a mirror for my heart.