Sheesh. It’s a daily task–well, multiple times a day–that I just don’t love.
But recently I’ve been learning lessons from doing dishes. And I am not referring to discovering the best dish soap, or tips on keeping your hands from pruning up.
I’ve been learning lessons about myself. Spiritual lessons.
I think I could write a series. In fact, let’s plan on that. I just went up to the title field and changed my simple title of Dishes to what you see above, Dishes, Lesson #1.
A few weeks ago I decided to attack the ever-growing pile of plates, cups, silverware, and saucepans littered with remnants of meals that had been eaten.
While wiping them clean, I followed the personal procedure I’ve developed. I wash the plates first. Well, unless I have cutting boards or cookie sheets in the sink, in which case they will take priority. I work through my flat items, from biggest to smallest. I take the time to make sure they are standing up straight, allowing the water to drain off.
Then I go to tea cups (they are not coffee cups, because I do not drink coffee….though I did recently buy some coffee in case visitors ever want it. But I never even think to offer it to visitors. I’ve only opened the canister to use some grounds for a demonstration I did for some children, creating dirty water…Ok. Back on topic….). I was those tea cups next because they are heavy and breakable, and I want them to be on the bottom of the drying rack.
The next priority is the light weight things such as plastic cups, disposable containers, etc.
My drying rack has two compartments for utensils. So I use one for the daily silverware (forks, spoons, table knives) & the other for the things I use for cooking, serving, etc. (knives, cheese grater, garlic press, serving spoons).
It is all very neat and organized.
But many times I have too many dishes for my system. I have more dirty cups than the bottom of my rack allows. Several saucepans need to find a resting place. Random and awkwardly shaped items have been washed and do not fit into my system.
My organization that was once nice and neat is now covered up with chaos. My plates which were once standing tall and straight, have fallen back, touching each other under the weight of countless new items on top, causing their chances of drying well to decrease significantly. The plastic containers on top are balancing precariously, making me hope that no one walks too heavily as they pass by the sink, which would make them all topple.
As I was washing these dishes and observing how I went through the process, I realized something.
How I was dishes is really a picture of how I live my life.
I plan. I do things systematically. I have a reason for doing what I do and the way I do it. I like organization. If things are not in the place that makes most sense in my mind, it disturbs me. I mean, sometimes I do something crazy like put my sieve for tea leaves in with my forks and spoons, but after washing a few other items, I find myself putting that sieve on the other side of the utensil section, where it belongs. I just can’t handle the misplacement.
But the reality of life is that it doesn’t always get to stand up straight in the proper order. Not everything drip dries perfectly as I intend. Sometimes, ok most of the time, chaos happens. (Or at least it seems like chaos in the moment when it is attacking my plans, my intentions.) Power goes out again, when nothing is charged. Water runs out when I’ve stepped in the shower just long enough to dampen my hair and get my mascara to run down my cheeks. The children don’t seem to be succeeding in school the way I would expect. Friendships are hard to maintain. More and more people are going through challenges, and somehow they are put in front of my face with the hope of solutions. Family is going through struggles, but I’m too far away to do anything. I often have questions and confusion about how to do both the daily tasks and solve the unique issues in this culture and place that is different from where I grew up, yet don’t seem to know where or who to turn to in order to find the answers.
And so much more.
Unexpected items are getting piled on. Precariously piled on top. Messing up the organization underneath. Distorting my original intentions. Making me nervous for anyone to walk by too heavily, for fear that things will topple.
When things get overwhelming, I often feel like quitting. I just want to give up. I want to spend the day in my bed watching movies, and maybe it will all sort itself out. I get a form of paralysis that doesn’t effect me physically, but it does mentally, emotionally, spiritually…it keeps me from moving forward with things that require me to take action.
When things are not going as I would expect, or according to what I know, I am a mess.
Then I had a saucepan that needed some extra scrubbing.
I was really struggling to get the scars from its last job on the stove to come off. After several minutes, I looked up. And there it was, hanging in the window: my Norwex kitchen scrub. (I’m not a Norwex salesperson…but seriously, get on that bandwagon if you haven’t already.)
I realized that I had been wasting my time with the wrong tools. The whole time, I had something that would easily remove the problems in that pan. So I got that blue cloth wet, put in a little effort, and it was quickly finished. Shining and ready to go on top of the tower of dripping dishes.
In the midst of my chaos I often forget that I already have the resources I need in order to make it through. To overcome my internal paralysis. I just need to look up.
God is the best resource I could ever ask for in the midst of all the craziness that life throws at me. He is the source of my strength. He is my Counselor. He is not overwhelmed by any of it. I can put my trust in Him. He walks with me. In fact, He holds my hand.
For I am the Lord your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13