I walked by Pier One the other day and I grieved a little. I saw a couple trying out wicker furniture and poking around at the glassware and looking all carefree. I know I shouldn’t have, but I found their joy so irritating. Having four kids under the age of 7 has meant a Pier One dream has taken a backseat to my Fischer Price reality.

We are definitely in that stage of life where my husband says on a near daily basis, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” Like when the boys decided they’d make a game of cleaning, but instead ended up putting several dents in their freshly drywalled walls by launching their toys (unsuccessfully) at the toy box. Or when a child decided to do some artwork on the ceiling of the van. Or when a child ripped holes in his pillowcase by attempting to use it as a sleeping bag. Come to think of it, it’s not just that we can’t have nice things, we can barely have things at all.

So in this season of life where in the time it took me to make pancakes one night the boys managed to unroll an entire roll of toilet paper around the bathroom floor, it just doesn’t seem to be possible to keep a tidy house. In some ways this makes me feel like a failure on a daily basis. As the homemaker of our family, isn’t it my job to make this house presentable? This constant struggle has made me ask a simple question:

What would Jesus dust?

All Photos by Rebecca Tredway Photography
All Photos by Rebecca Tredway Photography

It’s a question that’s been haunting me for awhile as I struggle to make choices that honor God in the daily messiness that is motherhood. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then I’m in real trouble. But then I remember that that little nugget of wisdom isn’t actually in the Bible.

I remember when I was a freshmen in college and attending my first college graduation ceremony. Looking through the program I saw that different GPAs were awarded with different designations. You could graduate cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude depending on your grades. I have always been a goal oriented woman and I knew I could make it my goal to graduate with highest honor, but I also knew achieving that goal would come at a price. Could I graduate with highest honor and also with quality relationships? Having worked a job to pay for my tuition? With volunteer hours as a Sunday School teacher for a little girl with Down Syndrome? Investing a year as a Resident Assistant? While planning a wedding and preparing for marriage? I’m sure there are others who could, but I couldn’t. I knew pursuing the goal of a perfect GPA wouldn’t be God honoring for me because it would mean sacrificing some more important things.

I see that same logic playing out in my daily goals at home. I could have a perfectly clean house. But it would mean I become a slave to my home. No more bedtime stories. No more home cooked meals. No more legos or play doh, or puzzles, or Littlest Pet Shop. I want my kids to enjoy their home. I want to enjoy it too and sometimes that means relaxing about the fort that’s being built in the living room by a preschool engineer. The dinosaur battle happening under the kitchen table is a lot more fun to watch when I’m not fixated on getting that ankylosaurus back into his wicker basket home.

1383623_10152001275927784_142433557_nBut that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on some kind of cleanliness standard for my home. I am learning that letting the messes pile up around me keeps me from being able to serve God in ways that are important to me. If a friend drops by and there’s a mountain of unfolded laundry on the couch, I am not likely to let her in. It’s hard to focus on reading my Bible when I’m staring at the dust bunnies under the bookshelf. If I need to make a meal for someone, it helps if the dishes are washed and the pantry is organized. If we get the call tomorrow that a foster child needs a place to stay, I need to have space to set up the pack n’ play and be able to grab appropriately sized clothes out of storage. And let’s face it:  Kids play more peacefully and I can be more calm and creative in an organized space.

. . . Find the conclusion of this article at A Musing Maralee. . . 

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids. Four were adopted (one internationally, three through foster care) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.