But seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33, NIV
Before it’s time to travel, it’s time to clean.
I’m not sure if this method of operating results from witnessing this in my upbringing or just gradually learning what minimizes stress in my life. Cleaning before traveling has become an absolute truth for me. It’s a house rule, one I have forced upon our entire household (even the dog). I will forever appreciate the palpable exhale when we return from a trip to clean condo. Undoubtedly lethargic from too much fun and slightly dejected about the abrupt return to reality, it’s nice to throw down the suitcases and unravel in a spotless, cozy oasis.
I repeat: before it’s time to travel, it’s time to clean.
Because this cleaning ritual is all-encompassing (I’m talking grout scrubbing and double mopping, y’all), I typically budget the tasks over a few days rather than one rough night of deep cleaning. You’ll imagine the mental earthquake I experienced, then, when, in a last minute decision, we decided to drive home for Christmas a whole two days before schedule to avoid dangerous snowy conditions forecasted on our long drive from the Midwest to the East Coast. We deliberated over all of our options, and the safest one required us to leave on Wednesday after work instead of Friday. Which would have been fine, if Monday and Tuesday weren’t wild work days followed by multiple errands, with me arriving home closer to 8:30 PM both evenings. In the mornings before we left, I tried to make up for lost time, sweeping frantically and folding clothes away. The packing organization went from Marie Kondo to hurricane in the condo, to say the least. Wednesday evening rolled around quickly, and traffic that evening was abundant. Before I had fully decompressed from work, it was time to pack the car. Tousling my hair under a beanie and haphazardly wiping off the counter, I glimpsed our tiny condo one more time with a disappointed acceptance. The vacuum cleaner lay treacherously against the couch untouched, and there was a short stack of dishes in the sink, the topmost one taunting me with an ugly smear of dried salsa. I did not finish cleaning.
Before it’s time to travel, it’s time to clean. Not this time, I thought to myself dolefully.
“Welp, we tried our best,” I sighed to our puppy, grabbing my purse, setting the alarm, and locking the door. I found that the further we drove from that messy kitchen sink, the less mental noise I faced. Instead, I found myself growing more relaxed knowing that I wouldn’t have to think about that kitchen for at least a week, and ahead of me stood a sweet week with people I loved. My shame and disappointment melted into gratitude and relaxation, like an icicle in fresh sunshine.
I did not crush my to-do list before Christmas. But I’m thankful for the things I sacrificed my list for. I’m grateful for the time to be present with God, my husband, my dog, and our extended family. I’m thankful for un-rushed prayer time and reread Bible verses. For time worshiping with family, enjoying long, sunny walks, appreciating the stars, and taking daily naps.
My favorite day, featuring a breathtaking (literally) walk around Lake Johnson with my family 🙂
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “ you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” - Luke 10:38-42 , NIV.
I always empathize with Martha, perhaps especially around Christmas time. There is always something to do. But the Lord in His kindness has reminded me (sometimes not so gently) that more important than having something to do is the gift of having Someone to worship. It’s often when I feel the busiest and most behind that He draws me back to Himself and His design, the better portion, in ways I never could have imagined.
So yeah, when we get back home from celebrating Christmas with family, there will be a few dirty dishes in the sink (I’m still slightly embarrassed to share this). The bed is made, but several clothes that didn’t make the suitcase cut will be strewn along the bed and the floor. There will be some puppy hair on the rug. And of course, even though I’m musing over this blog post on Christmas Day and the days, by the time you read this, it may be well into the new year. But I’m taking a big, grace-filled breath, inhaling peace and presence, exhaling expectations and to-do lists. I’m celebrating the discipline of accepting God’s sovereignty and sufficiency for everything this season. I haven’t done it perfectly, and I know I’ll be working on this until I die. But I’m thankful that this year, I have prioritized spending time at His feet, reflecting on the birth of baby Jesus and what joy and hope that brings. I’ve pondered what it means for a young woman from a small town to conceive as a virgin and give birth to no ordinary baby. When I think about the baby who would live a perfect life and die and a gruesome death to reconcile us back to God, regardless of what we’ve ever done or would do, with no way to repay Him.. I dunno, it reminds me of the first six letters of Christmas. I’m humbled to the point where I care a lot less if some of our holiday cards and gifts arrive after December 25th.
Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Matthew 6:34
As the holiday season and the year come to an end, and even as the new year starts tugging on us with all its opportunities and responsibilities, I pray we can boldly make space for the better portion. As it was promised to Mary and Martha, I hope we are encouraged knowing that choosing the better portion will never, ever, be taken away from us.
Rest well, y’all!
Luka wishes you a resftul end to the holiday season and a Happy New Year!