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Cleaning House

It all started when a guest from church came to visit our house. I wasn’t there at the time, but to hear my Father-in-law tell it, the guest actually cried when she saw our linoleum floor. Not cries of joy, mind you. “I never knew you lived in such conditions!” It took this reaction from visitor to jolt us into some action.

Let me back up a bit.  What I call “our” house really belongs to my Mother- and Father-in-law.  We moved in with them about 6 years ago. Outwardly, the house doesn’t look too bad, a standard two story colonial in suburban upstate New York. But the interior of the house is a different story.

You see, my Mother-in-law, is a DIYer before the term was invented.  She single-handedly finished the basement by herself in the 80’s. She did the landscaping, made the walkway, reupholstered sofas, dug up a garden.  She was Martha Stewart, Joanna and Chip Gaines, all rolled into one.

As the house took shape, the next phase of my Mother-in-law’s creative focus went towards cabinetry.  She built book shelves, shoe shelves, wardrobe cabinets, and bay window cabinet.  Where did she put these pieces?  In every corner of the house.  There was no room that was spared.

So the years passed by, and things accumulated (as things tend to do). Instead of organizing, decluttering, or throwing away stuff, she just built a cabinet to house it. By the time, we moved into the house, you couldn’t walk a straight path, having to turn sideways to navigate hallways.

The spiritual lesson I see in this situation is this. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. Jesus bids us to give him all our troubles, worries, doubts, fears but sometimes we hold on to them. After a while, we start building cabinets for the things we need to give to Jesus.

I want to say that I’m just an innocent bystander in this situation. But honestly, I have to claim responsibility for my part. When I saw the situation with the house, I quickly added to the piles of junk. It was easy to think that it doesn’t make a difference since it’s such a mess anyway. The hole in the kitchen linoleum was just something to step over when I did the dishes.  It became part of the landscape of the house, something I just accepted as part of my palja (fate). 

Taking a step back, I realize that there is another spiritual lesson in this. As my favorite  cleaning Youtuber says, “messes begets messes.” We shouldn’t take our spiritual state as a given, something that cannot be changed. We can give up our faults to Jesus one sin at a time.  Don’t give up on yourself as a lost cause.

Well, the turning point in the saga of this house came last Thanksgiving. Because of the working situations with my sisters-in-law, we needed to host Thanksgiving at our house, including non-family members (read: fresh eyes that will see the mess of the house). I couldn’t bear the thought. I fought it tooth and nail. But after discussing various scenarios, there was no escape, I had to host Thanksgiving.

This led me and my in-laws to finally look into getting the linoleum fixed. After agreeing to the $3,000 to have a professionally installed “floating floor” put in, imagine my dismay when the workers claimed that my floors were too uneven to have this material put on. What to do?  I channelled the spirit of my Mother-in-law and decided to do it myself. Pinterest, Youtube, and Hometalk were my inspiration. I was all set on putting Contact paper on my floor (a suggestion from Youtube) and went to Lowe’s. The nice gentleman working there looked at me as if I were crazy and said, “Why would you do that when you have stick and peel laminate flooring?” And he led me to the flooring section. Not only did the material look nicer (aged barn wood), but was easy to install. Literally, peel and stick. And voila, the kitchen floor went from an eye sore to something of beauty. And it cost me only a fraction of having it done professionally. 

Spiritual lesson? Sometimes, it takes a kick in the pants to get you inspired to do something about your problems. Trials, pain, suffering will happen—but God’s grace is more than sufficient. “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” Matt 5:3 If you are going through a tough time, know that God is with you and wanting you to be a better person for going through the trial.

I’m happy to say that this project was the inspiration that I needed to do more. I tackled the cluttered bathroom counters, organized the “rice cooker row” (don’t ask), and brought order to the closet. More importantly, I am excited to keep cleaning and organizing, with each new project inspiring me to do the next one. When God works in us, each victory gives us even more faith. When we look back and see all that Jesus did in our lives, we can put full confidence that God will finish the work. “He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil 1:6

The rest of the family appreciated the cleared up spaces. My Mother-in-law exclaimed, “You made the house look better.” This is high praise indeed. When we are healed of our deficiencies by God, we bring blessings to others. Our victories are a living testimony—and as a body, we share in God’s blessings when we overcome sin. 
The house is still far from perfect. Years of neglect is not going to be fixed in a short time but I think that next year, I’ll be suggesting myself, that we have Thanksgiving at the house. 

Jane Chung attends Westchester Korean SDA Church.  She’s a housewife, homeschooling Mom, lover of Jesus, and a bonafide DIYer.

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