There is a way that seemeth right unto a man. Then again, Thereís a Way that IS Right. Jesus IS the Way!
Physical labor often results in exhaustion, or energy consumption. Thereís also the time consumption. But the benefits of laborous tasks far outweigh the drawbacks. Itís a well known fact that a regular schedule of hard labor keeps you physically fit. I even heard someone say on the radio a few weeks ago that people who clean their own houses live longer than those who have housekeepers. Makes sense to me; housekeeping can be hard work!
My neighbor is a housekeeper by profession and I occasionally work with her if Iím not busy and she needs help. Yesterday was one such occasion and we worked in a couple of houses that Iíve worked with her in before.
The first house we cleaned is a well crafted, sturdy home. The husband built the house himself, much with his own hands. Itís a two-story house with a tin roof. The outside of the house, the countertops, and the living room and kitchen floors are all made of stone and stone tile. The bar, dining furniture, stairs, beams, and some of the trim are made with very highly lacquered and polished wood that looks like the insides of freshly cut, huge tree trunks. The stairway banister and much of the other trim is wrought iron.
Those sturdy, but rough, stone countertops can tear up a cloth in no time. And the stone tile floors will do the same to a mop. But it takes a lot to damage either of the two, unlike most countertop and floor coverings. Itís one of those things where the benefits are worth the sacrifices. Fortunately, my neighbor keeps plenty of rags in the trunk of her car and the homeowner has an industrial-sized mop. Unfortunately, that mop broke on me yesterday, halfway done with the mopping, so I had to use my neighborís much smaller mop. The time consumption and labor doubled instantly!
But as I mopped the rest of the floor, I thought to myself: This is one of the most difficult homes Iíve ever cleaned. But strangely enough, Iíd rather clean this one than the one weíre going to clean next. And thatís usually how it is, though on that particular day, it wouldnít be the case. We had an extra assignment ahead of us in the next house that was not the norm. And it would make me enjoy cleaning it even less. I wonder why that is. Then I heard a still, small voice: ďThere is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.Ē It made no sense to me at the time. But it would shortly thereafter.
Next room on my list was the master bedroom. There are times when I look at clientsí pictures when Iím dusting frames, mostly just to get an idea of the family lives of those whose homes I am entrusted to clean. But I donít take a lot of time with such things. I believe that the greatest of housekeepers are those which clients can trust to get the most quality work done in the shortest amount of time. But I noticed something I hadnít noticed in that room before ... the words along with the firemanís hat that hangs over the headboard of their bed: ďHeroes are born in the midst of battles.Ē
Making the bed, it dawned on me that I personally have a choice to make in my life whose end results will affect the remainder of my life, a choice that I do not want placed in my hands. Iíd rather God make the choice for me. However, one thing Iíve learned along the way is that He does not take our wills away from us. Obedience to the Word is a choice. And to test our obedience, He must give us choices. Those choices, it seems to me, become more and more difficult over time. But it is pinpoint obedience that God wants from us. And to reach that kind of pinpoint, difficult choices in our hands are necessary.
Solomon had choices. And Solomon chose many wives. But it wasnít the many wives Solomon had that was his real problem. His real problem was the fact that they served other gods. That was where he failed in his choice. Deep down, Solomon knew better. But he chose what pleased him in the flesh instead. And the result was that God did not punish Solomon (only because of a promise made to his father, David), but God did tell Solomon that He was stripping the kingdom from Solomonís children. Any of us who are parents know that it is a much greater punishment to see our children suffer than it is to suffer ourselves. But thatís what happens when parents do not live in obedience to God ... The children suffer.
I already knew what I had to do. Itís not like the Lord has not told me over the last few days to resist the enemy and heíll flee from me. But my flesh is not happy with the decision. If we arenít careful, our own flesh can become our god when we give in to its desires. Iím sure that firemanís flesh isnít happy when he walks into a room on fire either. But he does it, time and time again. And a hero is born every time. Personally, I have a fire to walk through. It is good to know that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not find themselves in the fire alone. Today, I do not feel like much of a hero. But I know that one is in the process of being born. That is confidence in God, our Truest Hero, in the midst of battle.
When all of the downstairs rooms were finished, I took the big mop bucket outside to rinse it and leave it with fresh water for the clients big teddy bear of a dog to drink from. He barked at me when we got there, unsure until he smelled of me who I was. As soon as he remembered, he was okay with me. Big fella was just doing his job. As I wheeled the bucket through the door, I noticed a picture on the rug that had fallen off the wall and an empty nail still hanging by the door. As I hung it there, I read: ďI entered into the heart of a friend and found a home.Ē I want to be a friend to God, an obedient friend whose heart He considers to be home.
When the upstairs bedrooms, den, and bath were finished, all the lights were turned out and we prepared to leave, it dawned on me that Iíd forgotten to clean the glass panel in the front door. So I quickly did so. Iíve cleaned that door before, but again, I noticed something I hadnít noticed until then. I live in the ďLone StarĒ state. Wrought iron, old west (cowboy), and lone star decor is not uncommon here. The client even has a lamp in the middle of their living room made from a saddle on a wooden horse. I noticed the lone star made from wrought iron in that glass panel before. But there was something unusual about that star. It wasnít made like the typical lone stars of Texas. It was the star of David. I stood there in awe as it hit me that Iíd been visited, not by just any god, but by the God whose heart David was after. And I too am after the same heart, a perfect heart that I too can call ďHome.Ē
When we got to the next house, we both looked at one another and sighed. My neighbor said ďI really donít want to clean this house.Ē I didnít either. And I said as much. But of course we took a deep breath and unloaded the trunk once again.
That client's home is built for convenience and ease of care. And thatís great in this world of instant gratification and speed in which we live. The countertops and floors are easy to clean. The only problem is that they never really look clean. The house doesnít look a lot different when we walk out of there than it does when we walk in there except that there are far less fingerprints on the things made of glass and far less dust.
Halfway to the ceiling from the floor in most of the rooms is a wood panel. The living room walls are wood from floor to ceiling. The stairway and most of the trim are also made from the same wood as the walls. It is a stained wood that has no varnish on it. If something gets on it, itís easily washed off. But the wood has no sheen. The client wanted sheen.
The reason that clientís house gets so dusty has nothing to do with location. The two houses are within fifty yards of each other! Itís because the woman insists on having oil-based polish on her furniture to keep it shiny. Oil is a dust collector! Regular furniture polish will keep the furniture in good condition without collecting dust. And the walls can be washed with oil soap. But the client must be happy, so we use oil on the furniture. And on this particular occasion, we also used it on the walls. She wanted ALL of her wood oiled, including all the furniture, cabinetry, door facings, stairway, and wood walls. It took the two of us working together a little over two hours to oil nothing but the walls. And when we were done, we still had the house itself to clean.
By the time we were done for the day, I was beyond exhausted and my shoulders ached from all that polishing. But the wood looked beautiful and the house looked good! You could actually tell weíd been there! But I feel for my neighbor the next time she cleans it (and for myself if she happens to need me that day) as the dust collection is going to be outrageous.
To make matters worse, the client has two large dogs that live indoors and dog hair sticks to oil worse than dust does. One of their two dogs is skittish and I canít get anywhere close to her. If we happen to be in the same room, she watches me closely and walks along the wall farthest from me. I pray she never gets startled by one of my sudden movements while Iím cleaning and snaps at me. Their other dog is okay with me. Makes me wonder what might have happened to the dog to make her that way. She kind of reminds me of myself to a degree. Maybe sheíll get used to me after a few more times in that house and decide that Iím okay.
Iíve also got a dog that doesnít like people, Osa. Well, she adores me, but only me. She tolerates my kids. She hides from small children and snaps at adults, especially adults of the male gender. My sonís friends learned quickly to watch for Osa when they walk out of the door because sheís been known to draw blood from their heels/ankles. She hates doors. But it isnít because anything happened to her to make her that way. Itís in her breeding. She looks like something from a Taco Bell commercial. Sheís twelve years old and I was never able to housetrain her. So she lives in a playpen. I let her out long enough to clean it. Then she begs to go back in there. Itís as though sheíd rather be in there, not only where her food and water and blanket are, but because itís her safe place. (Note to myself: Osa's playpen needs to be cleaned!)
Thatís not the only thing I have in common with that client. I donít own the house I live in and I donít have a housekeeper. But the house I rent is made for convenience and ease of care. Still, I donít like to clean it. Iíve even said ďThere is good reason that a cobblerís children are the only ones in town that donít have shoes, a mechanicís car is the only one that doesnít run, and the seamstressís children have no clothes. ď Who wants to clean houses all day long and come home to do so again? But itís a job that someone MUST do or live in filth. Unfortunately, I know what it costs to have a housekeeper and my personal budget wonít cover that cost.
My home is so small that my furniture takes up almost every inch of space. Iíve got a green thumb. So, as winter draws near, I have to bring my huge array of plants indoors before the frost can get to them. That entails making room for them ... a great feat!!! A few days ago, I decided to start the process of moving furniture around. Just about the time I had a trail to walk through and all of my living room furniture mid-floor, my phone rang: ďWeíre going to do Thanksgiving at your house this year.Ē
My mother and both of my sisters live in very large homes. Why would my family want to have Thanksgiving in my little hut? I looked around me at the mess and thought of my schedule over the next few days. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed. But what could I say? ďCan we do paper and plastic?Ē
My furniture is all in place. Iím about to go out now and soak my plants down very well so that they have the rest of the day to drain and have well watered soil, but dry pots before I bring them inside. I have clothes in the washer, clothes in the dryer, and dishes in the sink. I come here (to my computer) and type a paragraph, fold a load of clothes, type, start the washer, type, make dishwater, type. Itís been a long day and itís not even 9:00am. My floors need to be vacuumed and swept and mopped. The bathroom needs to be cleaned. (Note to myself: Purchase a new shower curtain to replace the torn one ... TODAY!) My bed is piled high with things that I took away from the living room to make room for plants and Iíve got to find a place to store them ... as though this place has storage space. The beds need to be stripped and made with clean linen. (Note to myself: Momís spending the night, so make that clean linen a top priority!) My desk looks like a catch-all. It hasnít been that long since I stained it. Itís beautiful, but a coat of varnish would do it good. Meantime, a nice coat of oil wouldnít hurt. Itís beautiful with a sheen to it.
I ask again: Why would my family want to have Thanksgiving in my little hut? There, hanging lopsided above the front door is a picture. (Note to myself: Get the step stool and straighten that picture frame.) It doesnít say ďI walked into the heart of a friend and found a home.Ē But it might as well: ďChoose ye this day whom ye will serve ... as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15Ē
Well, I just finished washing a few dishes and other domestic duties call. Iíve got notes to write to myself and a home to prepare for my friends and family. Iíve got a ďhomeĒ to prepare for my Friend as well. I hope that my family wonít be displeased with my home when they get here. But I am truly more concerned with my heart than I am with my house.
Mom just called. ďDid Ramona call and tell you that I was coming a day early to spend the night with you?Ē
ďYes. Youíre still coming tonight then?Ē (Note to myself: Make a list of things you have to do and put the most obvious on the list first. In other words, do one of those ďmother-in-law-cleanings.Ē)
I gave her an extremely condensed version of this same story. When I told her the furniture was mid-room when my sister called, she asked ďTreava, what was the first word you ever learned to say?Ē
ďProbably Ďnoí. But Mom, I want yaíll here. And all this had to be done anyway. Itís probably a blessing in disguise that my truck wonít start. I was supposed to be cleaning Ramonaís house today and, as bad as I need the money, Iíd probably be doing that instead of this.Ē
ďWhatís wrong with your truck?Ē
ďI donít know. I think itís the ignition switch. But Iím counting down hours now and I have days worth of work to do.Ē
ďOkay, Iíll see you tonight. Donít work too hard.Ē
ďYeah, right! Love you, Mom!Ē
ďLove you too, Kid.Ē
I pray for bodily strength, for good use of time, for an ear to ďhear,Ē for wisdom, not too unlike the wisdom of Solomon, for a heart that is obedient to God through the fiery trial that Iím presently enduring, for a house that feels like home to all who enter its doors, and for strength of will in the tough choice Iíve had to make. (Yes, I have already made the choice. Now, itís just a matter of being obedient and following through with my choice.) In this way, I believe my soul will prosper. And just as my heart-home condition is more important to me than my house condition, the prosperity of my soul is much more important to me than is the prosperity of my pocketbook. I think Iíll save myself some dust and stick to furniture polish on my desk after all!
God bless you and happy Thanksgiving! But then, EVERY day should be a day of thanksgiving. THIS is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it! (Note to myself: Take a moment out of your busy schedule to get on your face before God and tell Him how thankful you are for family and friends, for His friendship, and for the heart-home and house He provides for you.)
© Joyce Pool
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