First Steps to a Healthy Home

When we moved in to our rental unit, I was given full reign in the flower beds. I was the only tenant in the three-family building who had even the slightest interest in maintaining them. Four years in, and I think I finally have a grip on the bindweed and the crabgrass.

*Side note*  Do you know what bindweed is? It is A.W.F.U.L. It spreads underground by the roots, surfaces as a viney plant with little white flowers. It’s aggressive. It’s persistent. It climbs over everything and it doesn’t want to die. (And this is coming from a girl who can kill just about anything… spiders, goldfish, philodendron, dinner…) The garden was so overwhelmed by it that I broke the cardinal rule of weeding: I yanked off the top and didn’t remove it by the roots because I couldn’t even see where the roots were. And I filled a yard waste bag with those tangled up vines.

Anyway… The key to a clean garden, and the key to a clean life, is to start somewhere and maintain it. Then, as you maintain your beginning (no matter how small or simple), slowly take back a little more, and a little more, and a little more, as much as you’re able to consistently maintain. Once I yanked out as much of the surface weeds that I could, I had to go out at least every-other day and find where the roots were, then loosen the soil and tug out as much of the root as I could. The most effective solution (or so I’ve read) for bindweed is to just keep pulling it out until it burns up the energy store in the roots and dies. So every day or two I pull out a little bit more.

How does one yank back the proverbial weeds in a messy life? This time around, I’m starting with a devotional spot. It took me the better part of a morning, but I cleared off the sofa, the love seat, and enough of the living room floor to vacuum the center of it. I found a space on an adjacent bookshelf for my Bible and a prayer journal. For the past three days, no one is allowed to leave anything on the couches or in the middle of the floor, and anyone who tries gets reminded. “Train your brain,” I tell my kids. It’s kind of a slow process to train the brain, and maybe a topic for another day.

So for the past three days, we’ve kept the couches and the floor clear… mostly. Today, I sat down to open the laptop for my morning diversion and it wouldn’t boot up! It’s not a very reliable laptop to begin with, but today it was the interruption I needed to get back into a devotional habit… to begin again to “train my brain” that we start the day with devotions.

In review… First steps to a healthy home: Clear the couches, clear the floor enough to vacuum the center, clear a spot on the bookshelf or table for devotional materials (Bible, journal, devotional book, etc. as you see fit), and start the day with prayer and God’s Word.

Read what you see fit to read, but this morning my Bible “fell open” (I love it when that happens) to Psalm 139. Here’s an excerpt…

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Isn’t it good to know that no matter how messy our life is, whether our home resembles ascending into heaven or making our bed in hell, God is with us? We cannot be messy enough, ugly enough, mean enough, or lazy enough to scare God away from us. He loves us because He created us, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

Have a blessed day!

Overwhelmed? I was, too.

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.
Proverbs 14:4, NLT

Life would be so much easier if we didn’t need to interact with other people, wouldn’t it? We wouldn’t need a closet full of clothes to impress strangers, we wouldn’t need a kitchen full of dishes to feed little humans. We’d be fine in a studio apartment with a library card and a couple of takeout menus. Three outfits in the closet, the other three at the cleaners, and then switch.

Life would be simple.

Life would be clean.

Life would be empty.

But then there’s the opposite end of the spectrum, where most of us sit. Life is full. Life is complicated. Life is messy. I won’t bore you with the details of how I’ve maxed out the full, complicated, messy part. I’ll let your imagination fill in the details. I’ll let you picture my house looking exactly like yours. Because, let’s be honest, it probably does. (Give yourself some credit. A chaotic home is more normal than you think.)

If you’re anything like me, you’re a little overwhelmed right now:

  • Overwhelmed by laundry
  • Overwhelmed by meal prep and dishes
  • Overwhelmed by unfinished projects
  • Overwhelmed by meeting kids’ needs
  • Overwhelmed by balancing family and friends and marriage and work
  • And maybe even overwhelmed by an unrealized self-hatred.

Okay, now we’ve crossed over from generic to personal. Deeply, vulnerably personal. Let me explain. It was at a women’s conference where the topic was so completely unrelated to the mess that dehumanized me, and yet the message that penetrated was this: In Christ, you are more! You are more than your shortcomings, more than your circumstances, more than your insecurities and inadequacies.

And there, I went from being overwhelmed by my mess to being overwhelmed by my weakness to being overwhelmed by His grace and strength. I recognized and surrendered that I had been cruel to one of God’s deeply loved creation. I apologized to God and asked for His forgiveness and His help. And I committed to putting an end to the demeaning self-talk. When I got home and saw my messy home, I made peace with the fact that this is where we are right now. It didn’t make me less of a person that I had dishes in the sink and laundry in the basket and food on the floor. (Sadly our current situation prevents us from getting a dog.)

That was three weeks ago. It took three weeks of me frequently, then less frequently, saying “No, I’m not going to talk that way to myself because it’s not true,” before I started to relax enough to be at peace with myself in my much-lived-in home.

And now, after three weeks of retraining my brain (and confessing this struggle to loved ones), I am ready to try again to gain control of my home, this time with Holy Spirit control of my mind first. So we’re re-starting the journey to live the way God intended, this time starting with inner peace and letting it overflow into our physical environment.

Now I’ve taken you briefly through the emotional and spiritual journey, it’s time to start the physical journey.