Prayer in times of cleaning

“What you must do is this: rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”

-From “Hannah Coulter” by Wendell Berry

Sometimes I approach house cleaning with excitement. The smell of the different cleaning products I’ve come to love (a big draw) . . . the soon-to-be-had satisfaction of sitting in a wonderfully clean and organized space . . .the sense of accomplishment I know that will give my day . . . Frequently when I’m done cleaning the house, I light a candle and just sit in a chair with my hands folded in my lap to soak up the goodness of my surroundings.

I’d also like to mention that our new toilet-cleaning solution smells like a breath mint. The last time I cleaned, as I scrubbed the toilet and the breath-minty scent surrounded me, I, um, well . . . well, I started to salivate. Yes, I wanted to eat the breath mint that my senses were telling me was inside our toilet. I’m starting to get a little worried here. Salivation and toilet-cleaning are two things that just shouldn’t be happening together. Thankfully our off-brand glass cleaner smells like a fresh spray of cat pee, and that just about evens things out.

Nothing like the scent of urine all over your bathroom mirror. But I’m too cheap to throw it away and let it go to waste.

Anyway, even though house cleaning can be a pleasurable experience, I’ve also have the struggle we’ve all had: I approach it with dragging steps, tempted to be resentful against something or someone for this work I have to do.

I’d like to issue a challenge for those of you who, like me, can be disgruntled house cleaners: pray your way through cleaning! There are three prayers that have helped me have a better attitude, and can make cleaning a place of peace for me when I have the discipline to switch my focus:

1. Giving thanks for the object I’m cleaning

As I spray furniture polish on our coffee table, I thank God for giving us a coffee table. I love it! I frequently put my feet up on it, or use it to make my cup of coffee readily available. Then I remember that my Dad made the coffee table and I thank God for my Dad and the fact that we have a beautiful example of his handiwork in our livingroom. As I clean the toilet, I thank God for indoor plumbing! I’m not a fan of outhouses, and I’m glad to be living in a time and place where I can go to the porcelain throne with my needs instead 0f a stinky hole in the ground. As I dust off our photographs, I thank God for the people in them–like these two young lovebirds at about 19 years of age.

As I clean the floor and windowsills, I thank God for our apartment, this structure that keeps us warm and dry in the winter and cool in the summer. I thank God that we have enough money to pay rent every month, and that we can get maintenance done for us with a simple phone call to our landlords.

2. Prayer that I will be a good steward of the things I’m cleaning

God has given us many material blessings that I am so grateful for. He can also take them away, and he will be equally loving and equally in charge of our provision. But while we have these things, I believe we are called to take care of them. God has given me carpets to keep our feet warm in the winter and to make the hardwood floors more cozy, and I want to take good care of those carpets and keep them clean. I believe he takes pleasure in order and beauty–you can see that by his design in nature–and I get to reflect those qualities by making the surroundings in my own home orderly and beautiful.

3. Prayer that I will hold on to these things lightly, and that my treasure will be in heaven

The book of Job is a prime example–God’s name is blessed whether or not he gives us comfortable, plentiful, and beautiful material goods. God could call us to sell all our things and go minister to a leper colony in the mountains somewhere–who knows. OK, maybe that’s unlikely, but we could lose our financial stability and be forced to ‘downgrade’ our lifestyle. He may ask us to increase our tithing, preventing us from buying that new bookcase we were wanting, or to start donating to a homeless shelter even though we just lost our job and simply don’t see how our funds will stretch. I don’t want my heart to cling to these things that we have. I can’t think of them as “mine”–God has chosen to share them with me at this time in our lives, and they are his to take away as well. We may not always be able to afford a nice apartment, or the luxury of using AC whenever we want in the summer. My heart needs to be free, with my hands clinging tightly to Him and not to these objects. Only then can I fully enjoy these things, when I am holding loosely. If not, they are a cage, a burden, and a necessity to me. And when desires become needs (‘I need an espresso machine’ versus ‘I would love to have an espresso machine’), the objects of our desire quickly take God’s place on the throne of our hearts. Ironically–and whether you believe in God or not–you will enjoy your material possessions much more once you let go of them in your heart.

See–I’m even cracking a smile at the stinky glass cleaning solution.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, whatever your beliefs may be. I know we all come from different backgrounds and are walking different paths, and that’s part of what makes your comments so interesting! Have a great weekend everyone!

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17 Responses to Prayer in times of cleaning

  1. Kay Heritage says:

    Too cute and funny! Yes, we rejoice in all things, especially when we clean since as homemakers, we do a lot of it! Thanks for the reminder, Jenna!

  2. How did you know that I cleaned my carpets yesterday? Alas, I was not as good-natured about it as you were. Too fun!

  3. Kelsey says:

    hey, come over here and help me with my cleaning!! haha jk, ur probably exhausted. i usually get pumped too when im in a cleaning mode.. kind of get myself into a frenzy.. then pay for it when i crash later in the day lol.


  4. jen says:

    it’s okay to dump the urine-smelling glass cleaner! some vinegar & water does the job nicely (if you don’t mind the smell of vinegar!). Thanks for stopping by my place…I’ve browsed backwards in your blog and am enjoying the reads! Good thoughts on praying as you clean…I’m currently weeding out our belongings…have so much to get rid of…and it is making me so very grateful for all we’ve been given.
    I browsed back far enough to see that you know my friend Jenny (Words on Wendhurst)…she’s pretty swell :)

    • Jenna says:

      I agree–Jenny is awesome. Thanks for the vinegar/water tip–I may just have to throw away our current glass cleaner. It really does smell ridiculously bad.

  5. Jen says:

    Jenna, what a lovely idea about the praying! Also, I must admit that I am quite…entralled by certain cleaning products. I have quite a penchant for Pledge. If only I had more wood surfaces that needed polishing!

    Btw, I finally nailed down a copy of Winds of Chance. Just finished the 3rd chapter…’Tis fabulous! quoth I.

  6. Vesselina says:

    beautiful words coming from my beautiful girl. I couldn’t agree with you more, like we talked last weekend. Continue to share that love sweetie.

    P.S. Any advice on tackling dish-washing? Hehe. I’m dreading that pile of wine glasses and such staring me in the face from the sink. I need gather the strength to attack it.

  7. Jenna, I read this at just the right time, sitting on the loveseat in my kitchen, feeling totally overwhelmed as I look around at the lumber and boxes and drywall dust. But I’m grateful for all of it, and I’m happy to clean it (vinegar water – Yes.).

  8. By far this is one of my favorite blog posts…ever…on anyone’s site!
    1) It is FUN! and made me laugh!
    2) It is sound advice… I actually am excited to get down & dirty with my kitchen this weekend & try out your strategies :)
    3) We have the same lysol stuff for the toliet and YES it is so breath-minty…we have a really small guest bathroom & if you shut the door while cleaning, the whole room sort of smells like it.
    4) I think praying thru pet hair pick-up would be a good addition to your idea…cause some days I want to shave them bald!

    – jessie

  9. what a lovely idea! i usually just clean in a hurry and try to get on with it. or i complain and my husband feels bad and then helps. (but even if he doesn’t he still does the dishes every night & vacuums most of the time!)

  10. Carrie says:

    Though I found and read this post a *little* late, it was right on time! I have to clean today, so thank you for this fresh perspective, Jenna. (teehee… get it? *fresh* perspective? ;) One other thing that helps the process for me is music. This used to be a point of irritation, as my mom would blast Gather Reunion CDs first thing on Saturday mornings, but now that I have control over the playlist, it works well. ;) Jill Phillips’ modern renditions of hymns (in her album “Kingdom Come”) refresh my heart, mind and spirit while I refresh my carpet, furniture and bathroom sink.

  11. Pingback: A quick bite « TheFrenchChick's Weblog

  12. Not sure how you came to visit me this week, but I am so thankful that you did. Your simple prayer thru cleaning has touched my heart at a time when life is stressful and challenging in ways that make tasks like cleaning the apartment hugely frustrating. But we have so very much to be thankful for in the midst of all circumstances. I clicked on this post because of the fun title, I look forward to reading more when I have some extra time. Blessings on your continued journey:)

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