A Place for Renewal – The Bathroom

Ah, the humble bathroom. Restroom. Loo. Porcelain throne. My husband’s particular favorite, “The last bastion of freedom!” We have many names for the place where we take care of, shall we say, necessities. Or, if you’re a parent of littles and are no longer put off by potty talk, it’s the place where you go potty and poop and everybody does it so please, please, just go on the toilet!

Yes, no conversation about cleaning our homes, the ones we live in or our spiritual ones, would be complete without a trip to the place where we clean ourselves. In our physical bathroom, we are cleaned both internally and externally. We shower, shave, put on lotion or beauty products. We do our hair, clean our nails, brush our teeth. There is quite a lot happening in this room, ironically usually one of the smallest in our homes.

Though the smallest, this little room is one that we cannot live without. A quick story. We had just (and I mean less than 48 hours just, no furniture or household goods just) moved into our home in Kansas. One of the toilets was clogged and no amount of plunging was fixing it. We had to call a plumber who regretted to inform us that the sewer line had literally disintegrated between the toilet and the clean out in the back yard. Oh by the way, it was buried under a concrete floor that would need to be cut, the pipe completely replaced, and new concrete poured. Every time we flushed we made it worse. We had to leave. Immediately.

As the story illustrates, we cannot live in safety and good hygiene without good plumbing. Maintaining a clean bathroom may sound obvious, but it is worth saying. Depending on the layout of your bathrooms, they can become places of hidden clutter. Drawers and cabinets that have all manner of hair ties, half used bottles of soap, old wash cloths of questionable cleanliness, and who knows what else. We will come back to this idea when we talk about our spiritual restrooms.

When it comes to spring cleaning your bathroom this week, don’t gloss over those places you know work is lurking. Perhaps empty one drawer each day and sort the contents. If you haven’t used the item in the last year, it’s probably time to let it go. You can enlist your family members to help you as well. Maybe it’s time for some bathroom reorganization. We have found this true as our children have started to grow and mature. They need their own space just as much as Ben and I. This week is also an excellent time to pull out the bleach and really give your bathrooms a deep clean. Put on some good music and get it done well!

Have you ever thought about a spiritual bathroom? Probably not. But believe it or not, even the bathroom can have spiritual significance. All of us is a sinner. Plain and simple. We are in need of saving, we are in need of healing, we are in need of cleansing. God knew this which is why He sent His Son, Jesus, to come and save us. While our salvation was won once and for all by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we still need to turn back towards God when we break away from Him and follow our sinful inclinations. We all fall short and are in need of continual cleansing. Enter the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is such a powerful sacrament that most neglect to take full advantage of. Jesus is waiting to restore us into right relationship with Himself, to cleanse us of our sins and make us clean and pure once again. The word “cleanse” is even in the words of Absolution the priest says over us after we have confessed our sins.

This week, go to Confession. Make it a priority in your schedule. Most parishes have regular confession times on Saturdays and before daily Masses. If none of the times at your parish genuinely will not work for your already established schedule, call the parish office. Your priest will make time for you in his schedule whenever you are able to get to him. It’s in their job description, they are in the business of bringing people closer to God. If you are feeling uncomfortable about confessing to your familiar priest, go one town over. But go. This week. Today, even, if you need to rip the bandaid off.

Here are a few tools for making a good confession:

Next week, we lean into rest. These have been a busy 4 weeks and it’s time to remember that we are made for both work and play. For active participation and for restful reflection.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Cleaning Timing

A few weeks ago, Ben was coming home from a trip. It was a short one, thank goodness, but I still felt like the house could use a bit of a pick-me-up. It was a Saturday morning and he wasn’t due home until around dinner time. Perfect. The kids usually get to watch a little television on Saturday mornings so that was the perfect time to clean the bathrooms.

Obviously not my bathroom, much too sparkly. No finger prints from inquisitive children
Obviously not my bathroom, much too sparkly. No finger prints from inquisitive children

Cleaning the bathrooms is always my most dreaded part of the day, even though it doesn’t take that long. Surprisingly enough, it is also the task I derive the most satisfaction from accomplishing. Even though this is the case, the likelihood of me actually undertaking the chore past 11am is extremely slim.

Did I get the bathrooms cleaned during the 30 minute window of cartoons? No, of course not (probably wouldn’t  be writing a blog post about it if I did). Did I get them cleaned before the self-imposed, completely arbitrary and utterly ridiculous deadline of 11am? Again, no.

There I was at 2:30pm, standing in the kitchen. John and Rosie were both napping (the heavens had aligned as never before, just kidding, but it is becoming a rarer occasion as John gets older). Clare was happily amusing herself with a sock, a baby doll and a plastic hammer. A prudent and industrious person would be found cleaning the bathrooms as was her intent all day long. But alas, as the opening sentence to this paragraph stated, I was in the kitchen. Not only was I not in the kitchen, I was contemplating something rather absurd. I was standing there, wondering what to do, knowing I should be cleaning the bathroom, but instead started crafting this blog post in my head about how easy it is to make obscure and unnecessary rules to help us avoid tasks that need to get done and all the ways we procrastinate. I was procrastinating with a blog post about procrastinating!

At a certain point I felt quite foolish and went to clean a bathroom, inwardly laughing at myself and feeling rather ashamed at my lack of motivation and discipline. I only got one bathroom done, you can only expect a 7 month old to amuse her self for a completely unknowable period of time.

Even though I only got one of two bathrooms cleaned, it still felt good that 1. I actually pulled myself out of my silly rules and undisciplined self and 2. I accomplished the task.

It is a funny thing, we humans do. We create rules, structures, disciplines and un-disciplines with which we try to run our lives.  Any way that we can control our situations, experiences and tasks provides us with a sense of stability and routine. It shelters certain areas of our lives from other parts, differentiates one part from the other. My “rule” (which upon reflection and realization of it’s existence, I should probably be rid of) not to clean after 11am is one way to protect my evenings after the kids go to bed but most especially, my precious few minutes alone during nap time. There are healthier ways to do this, like actually cleaning when I mean to instead of procrastinating. Novel!

Some people aren’t procrastinators, God bless them. I don’t understand them but I do wish I could be more like them and I try to be. It’s hard work. I’m so thankful that the apostles were not procrastinators. Imagine if Peter was. Jesus calls Peter to leave his fishing nets and follow him, immediately. Not in an hour, not tomorrow, not after you’ve finished your task. When I read the story (see Matthew 4:18-22 http://usccb.org/bible/books/matthew/4), Matthew tells us that Jesus was walking along the sea and called out to Peter and his brother, Andrew. Matthew never says that Jesus stops walking. Close your eyes and picture it (after you finish reading I suppose): Jesus is walking along and he calls out to follow him, but he doesn’t stop to wait to see if you do or not. He just keeps walking at the same steady pace. What would you do? Would you wait, procrastinate, or even turn away? Or would you put down what you were doing and join in step behind Jesus.

I love this picture because you can really feel the movement of Jesus walking past.
I love this picture because you can really feel the movement of Jesus walking past.

Think about Mary. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he did not ask her to be the mother of Jesus in a few years, or when she and Joseph were officially married, or even to think on it for a few days. No, Mary made her decision in that very moment, demonstrating her obedience and her faithfulness to God and His will. Mary was not a procrastinator.

It’s tough, it’s so tough. Every day it’s a choice. Often, it’s a choice we have to make again and again every day. We usually know the right choice to make, we just don’t want to make it or don’t want to make it in that moment. I’ll volunteer later, I’ll commit to a parish when I’m older, I’ll join a bible study next year, continue to fill in the blanks. If you feel Jesus is calling you to something, he probably isn’t calling you to procrastinate about it.

And don’t worry, I’m not writing this while I procrastinate about cleaning the bathrooms….but I haven’t emptied the dishwasher yet….