Coming Clean

I have to tell you that I have done something totally unexpected: due to schedule problems, this year I ended up buying myself my own birthday presents. I had been wanting something extra special for the longest time, and this year, I finally got it: a collection of cleaning tools from FlyLady. For a couple of years, I had had my eye on her purple toilet bowl brush, and before I found a convenient opportunity to tell anyone what I had done, the coveted collection of cleaning tools – including the heart-warming toilet bowl brush — had already arrived at my front door. Oh, the joy of it all!

The joy was short-lived. When I told one of my daughters what I had done, she frowned her disapproval. She tried to appear glad that I had finally acquired the toilet cleaning tool of my dreams. However, even if she had been trying to be happy for me, she just couldn’t succeed in that moment at “rejoicing with those who rejoice”. In my enthusiasm, I probably didn’t help her attitude. I’m not sure whether she actually articulated her disapproval, or only expressed it in her raised-eyebrows-lowered-lips-hand-to-the-waist body language. But one way or another, her message came through loud and clear: “What about the rest of us, Mom?”

I let her stew in her disappointment for a moment, before finally telling her that I had also bought toilet bowl brushes for the other two bathrooms. What a transformation! Without meaning to, Rachel let herself be taken over by the biggest imaginable smile, as she burst out, “Really?” I did tell her that I would have to be the first person to use the other brushes in the other bathrooms. That didn’t go over so well. And I had a déjà vu moment:

Here is a short story that our local newspaper published in 2007 in the “Community Column”. It wasn’t archived online, and I have already gotten permission from the publisher to reprint my story. That was really good news. Especially since they didn’t pay me anything to print it the first time! For the sake of convenience – and plausible deniability (really, how can you concentrate on worship and the sermon when your church friends are telling you, “Did you know I read about you the other day?”) – I have changed the names of the people I have written about.

A word to the wise: although I never got my medical degree and therefore cannot legally render medical diagnoses or recommendations, I believe it may be safe to say that the reader may want to prayerfully consider refraining from eating or drinking while reading the next portion of this post as reading it whilst eating or drinking may present a choking hazard.

“Lacey’s Birthday Dream”

When Lacey told us what she wanted for her fifth birthday, at first no one believed her. We were all scratching our heads, while she rambled on and on about the merits of this new delight of her heart. It was a magic wand, it was a queenly scepter, it was, in fact, everything that our little daughter needed to be happy in this world. In spite of the fact that it was not a new bicycle, which we were already planning to purchase for her.

Toward the end of the year, after watching the whole family – including pets – celebrate birthdays clustered together into two large groupings in March and mid-summer, Lacey celebrates her birthday alone. This affords her several long weeks in which to anticipate it. Weeks, I might add, which are not wasted, as she studies the market, searching for the one thing that can compensate for a late, lonely birthday.

Aided and abetted by television commercials, advertising fliers and coupons, Lacey quickly found what she wanted, and she talked about it constantly: a special toilet-cleaning brush with a disposable head that you could simply flush away at the end of your cleaning routine. Watching her glowing eyes and hearing the joy in her voice as she babbled on endlessly about it, we were stunned into silence.

For a few brief moments we were taken back to the time when Lacey’s older sister Rachel had urgently begged us to buy her the Swiffer wet jet cleaning system for her next birthday. Budgetary allowances were not sufficient that year to indulge in a whim what would likely provide only a few moments of fleeting happiness, and by the time we had the extra money to spring for a Swiffer for Rachel, the moment of passion had come and gone. She could now comfortably live without it, she assured us.

But Lacey’s case was different. The toilet bowl brush was amazingly affordable. And after weeks of studying it, Lacey’s interest, if anything, had only grown. Shortly before the party we had scheduled at her grandmother’s house, my husband asked me if we should buy it for her. “I think,” I told him, “this might be a case where money actually does buy happiness.” So, we bought it, wrapping it carefully, and adding it to the small gifts we were taking to the party. The bicycle would be saved until the day itself, a few days later.

At the party, as she unwrapped her new toilet brush, Lacey was so happy that she squealed with delight, as we looked away, laughing behind our hands, and her grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins stared. “She’s been asking for it for weeks,” we told them.

It did not, however, bring immediate happiness. As I wondered whether we should allow Lacey to use and enjoy her new cleaning tool right away, visions of a germ-carrying nightmare riding back home with us filled my head for a few frightening seconds. Until I heard my husband adopting that patient tone parents learn to use when explaining a new or difficult concept: “I’m sorry, Lacey,” he was saying. “But I can’t let you clean Grandma’s toilet tonight. You’ll just have to wait until we can get home.” The “My Little Pony” and other gifts were able to distract Lacey from her purpose, but not completely.

The party, predictably, ended late. As we pulled into our driveway, exhausted, at 10 that night, Lacey just knew that her special moment had come. But it was not to be. Again, we heard my husband slowly enunciating to Lacey, “I’m sorry, Honey. But we’re all tired. It’s too late to clean the toilet tonight. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow.” Although my memories of this time are starting to fade, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that, like at Christmas Eve, or the eve of any special, much-anticipated occasion, Lacey probably did not sleep much that night.

The rest of us, though, slept remarkably well, getting up the next morning with only enough time to eat quickly and rush to church, during which time, while we were singing, paying attention to the sermon and prayers, then visiting with friends afterward, Lacey had only one thing on her mind. But, because we were all hungry again, it would have to wait a little longer.

As soon as everyone had eaten, the dishes were put aside until a more convenient time to make way for what Lacey had been dreaming about constantly for several weeks: cleaning the toilet with her own special brush. In the history of our marriage and child-raising, this was a red-letter day on our calendar. We decided to document it on film.

Impatiently, Lacey ripped open the package, grudgingly receiving help to join the two pieces of the cleaning wand together, before she jammed a new, chemical-laden, septic-compatible, dissolvable paper brush head onto the business end. Meanwhile, the rest of us connected the un-charged camcorder to the power adapter and moved en masse to the bathroom.

Like a racehorse that has waited and trained all its life for the big day, Lacey was finally off: gleefully attacking the toilet bowl with a vengeance, while Lizzie, Rachel, and Damien crowded into the small bathroom, with my husband and me leaning over and around them, trying to see and/or record it all for posterity. Lacey had definitely waited too long for the blessed event because for several long minutes, although her siblings asked her politely, she indicated that she couldn’t possibly see herself sharing this special privilege with anyone else any time soon. Several times, she nudged and elbowed Rachel and Damien out of the way, while they pleaded with her to have a little mercy and stop being so selfish.

Later, as her siblings were finally allowed to share in the fun, my husband was able to get close enough to the toilet to observe, “Would you look at that? It really does remove old stains!”

We all get a kick out of remembering this time. I had to laugh one day when Lacey told me that it didn’t bring lasting happiness after all: “Lizzie used up all my toilet bowl brush heads without asking!” But it was November again. And Lacey’s birthday was just around the corner.

The End

Was that fun story, or what? (Really, if I hear anyone say, “Or what!” I may have to just go clean something!)

Life gets messy sometimes. Thank God for good cleaning tools!

But when life gets overwhelmingly messy and out of order, then what do you do? For the Christian, we have the assurance that God is there for us, ready and willing to deal with the mess we find ourselves in, while treating His fallen ones with the kindness and gentleness we all long for, but often fail to find in people. And He calls to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 NIV.

Can you hear Jesus calling to you? Would you like to find the rest He promises? Did you know that He is already seeking you?

Praying for you to find this rest today,

Gwennon

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