It was a privilege this morning to serve with my small group, a special collection of ladies. We volunteered to prepare the church building for Sunday. We started at 7:30. By 10, the job was done. We were a small but mighty army. And the hub joined us as he is an unofficial, honorary member.
Our leader had the keys and the check list, and she pointed me toward the windows. Our church has a lot of windows.
I know that our work is important, not just in the serving. Each Sunday, folks walk into our church for the first time. The front doors (all windows) are one of the first things they see. Along with greeters, a gleaming floor, and comfortable, nicely arranged furniture groupings, visitors are primed to make judgments about our church. I wanted to make sure that those windows were clean and shining.
This was difficult for several reasons. First, the windows face south but this morning, the sun was gleaming on them, making it tough to see streaks. Also, although there are wide door openers, these are not kid-level so there are lots of sweet little fingerprints and whole-hand marks on the lower portions. On the outside, there is an assortment of natural goo.
And, let me confess: I am unskilled in housecleaning. Contrary to what some may think, domesticity is not hard wired into the DNA of every woman. Certainly not this one.
Many a mom has trained her daughters to clean around the house. Several of my nieces were brandishing mops and brooms as soon as they could walk. Today, they are grown-up ladies whose homes gleam from their efforts. They just ‘know’ how to clean. Their auntie, on the other hand, often doesn’t get it.
Growing up, I believe my mom just threw in the towel, along with all of those towels I tossed around my room, after trying to teach me to keep house. (The same is true when it comes to planting flowers and such….all I knew about gardening was that you had to weed…..a common punishment for this second daughter.)
Early in my marriage, we lived in a teeny place where dusting and vacuuming took only minutes, when there was time. Then, when we moved into bigger digs, as I was working and had a bit of discretionary cash, I discretely hired help who would come into the house when I was gone and leave me with gleaming bathrooms, floors and kitchen.
Only when the ick became unbearable (and believe me, I have a high tolerance), would I clean. And, as my kids will attest, I’m more of a ‘spray and wipe’ kind of cleaner. Mom loves her chemicals.
I joked, once, that I didn’t really know how to clean. This got me a book on cleaning from my mother-in-law, who didn’t get the joke.
I read it.
I learned about starting at the top of a room and moving down. I learned about how when you wash windows in and out, you should wipe horizontal on one side and vertical on the other.
But when I actually get down to it (oh, wait. I have a full time house husband now), I usually forget until I reach the ceiling fans last and see the dust floating to the vacuumed floor.
So, as I worked my way down the line of windows this morning, I initially did that side-to-side thing inside. I started with the idea that I’d do the top part, do the bottom part, moving in order from left to right.
Window washing gives you lots of time to think, to let your mind wander a bit. After a few panels, I was washing every-other-pane, kind of checker-boarding my way around. As for up and down and side-to-side, I had abandoned that as I forgot which I was doing where.
So, I’m a bit random. Part of my charm.
And part of the way God uses what He created to teach us.
Just yesterday, I fired off a quick e-mail, criticizing another of God’s servants. A rather public spelling error had made it into circulation. I cringed when I read it and then hard-tapped a message. And sending that message was a less-than-sweet spirit. I’m pretty sure my lips were pursed as I made judgments about care and effort.
Doesn’t everybody know how to spell?
Well, no. Even with all the helps available, some goofs slip through. Just because I have some skills in this area, it does not mean that everybody does.
And this floated into my head as I floated back across the windows, making sure I got each one and hoping my leader would not find smudges. (She did.)
Not her fault: our leader is a master housekeeper. I believe you could eat off of her baseboards, even when guests are not expected. She was cheery and subtle as she ‘just touched up’ my work.
And I realize that she did not criticize: she showed me grace.
And I must do the same.