From Books to Brooms (Part 1)

I find the academic world very attractive.  My dream home would be a library with a little space set aside for unavoidable essentials like sleeping, eating, and bathing.  I have a sweet vision of a life where I am surrounded by books that fill shelves on four walls in every room and lay open on tables all around me.  I have a compulsive drive to find the answer to any question that comes into my head, and an irresistible impulse to check out the source of any unusual fact I encounter.  Google has made life so much easier!

I am thankful for the scholars and authors who have contributed to the treasury of wisdom stored both on my bookshelves and in my mind. Study is still my favorite way to learn wonderful things about God.  I know the thrill of discovery that comes when I have asked the Lord to help me prepare a Bible lesson.  I know the satisfaction that comes from having a vague concept clarified in the pages of scripture.  But, in what might be the greatest irony of my life, I have learned to hear God’s voice more distinctly while vacuuming the carpet, scouring the shower, and dusting the woodwork than while immersed in concordances, dictionaries, and interlinear Bibles.

In 1989 the work of homemaking was nothing more to me than a series of tasks that I had to accomplish so I could be free to do something important like solve a doctrinal dilemma or search out the root meaning of the words in an obscure phrase.  At that time I was working as an activities director in a nursing home, but I had a strong sense that the Lord was calling me onto a new path.   Unfortunately, I had no clear idea of where that path might be.  With encouragement from several people, I left the nursing home to develop my hobby of making personalized scripture plaques into a business.  But even with several successful craft shows, I realized it would be a long time before I could expect a steady income, so I took on a few housecleaning jobs in private homes.  Alas, my clients kept recommending me to other people until my rather vague business plan was completely swept away. (No pun intended!)  For the next twenty years, my primary income came from helping other women to be faithful homemakers.

From the beginning, I found much more pleasure cleaning in other people’s houses than in my own home.  I always had a sense of deep satisfaction when I walked out a door leaving everything in order.  Part of the satisfaction came because my work was greatly valued and appreciated by each of my many employers; part of it came because I never saw the order I created dissolve when the family came home.   But in His mysterious way, God made housecleaning far more than just satisfying. He transformed it into a deep and abiding labor of love, as every home I entered became a sanctuary where I could spend hours walking and talking with my Creator, Redeemer, and Lord.  He taught me that I needed His assistance with the dishes and the laundry just as much as I needed it to prepare a Bible lesson.   “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) is a literal truth.  He taught me that every independent effort will result in a mess of some kind.  It might be tangible, spiritual, relational, or some combination of all three, but it is a mess just the same.

The many women who invited me into their lives and gave me the freedom to worship in every room of their houses have greatly expanded my treasury of wisdom.  Their contributions are just as precious as those of scholars and authors, for it was in the midst of vacuuming, scouring, and dusting that the Lord began at last to reveal the path He wanted me to take.