My first blog posting. I would like to begin with something profound, something moving that all who read it will take it to heart and remember it forever. But, I’m falling short of deep today. I do confess to contentment and peace, which is a bigger deal to me than it sounds.
My summer “project” was to be painting all the closets in our house. They needed attention when we moved here eleven years ago, but it was a job easily postponed in the plethora of higher priorities of the time. I remember being scandalized some years ago by a wife/mom who would not let her family put anything in any closet until painting was completed. The family lived from boxes for weeks. Now, her determination doesn’t seem so barbaric.
Painting “all the closets in our house” may sound like a huge undertaking. In reality, we have only 4 small closets: one for coats and 3 in the bedrooms. Good intentions of June not withstanding, I have completed the job in only two of them. I started with the coat closet, ostensibly because it needed the most attention. More honestly, it is the only closet non-family ever sees, the most public (and thus, the most potentially embarrassing.)
My own closet was the next priority, mainly due to the mouse hole in the ceiling and the suspicious noises I hear in there from time-to-time.
In this process, I have remembered that the smallest part of painting anything is the actual painting. First, the contents of the closet have to be removed and sorted (not everything will go back in!) All surfaces must be cleaned; extraneous nails removed; cracks and holes filled and smoothed. Supplies must be procured; drop-cloths laid. I really like to paint. I enjoy seeing blemishes covered; I like the bright, cleanliness that results. Some of that pleasure is dimmed by having to clean the brush, roller, and tray. But, the new piece of carpet I installed refreshed my spirits. Replacing the contents, I managed to ruthlessly fill a box to take to Goodwill. And, now, every time I open the closet, I am rewarded by the sight of order and simplicity.
A similar inner rehabilitation has taken place in me the past three years. In 2006, my older daughter married and moved to the Twin Cities. My younger daughter graduated high school and shortly thereafter got an apartment of her own; she is now a senior in college. In the higher priorities of raising a family and tending to their needs, my inner spaces had become dusty and cluttered, simultaneously overused and undertended. After the graduation and the wedding, I felt shocked, as if I had dismounted a motorcycle that was still going 30 mph. I lamented the fact that I had no “useful work” anymore. The future looked to be a black hole on which precipice I teetered.
God has gently been showing me small places (closets) that needed a bit of cleaning, the holes repaired and smoothed. God’s working in my life has never taken the form of thunderbolts. But, as I look back three years, a major transformation has taken place in my spirit through His prodding, nudging, coaxing. The Benedictine value of Conversion has become real to me, a vital yeast bubbling new growth & freshness in me. It is totally God’s work; I could not or WOULD not have accomplished it myself. I realize now that I was frequently resistant and hindered God’s intentions.
God sees more that needs to be done. But, I sense His pleasure in my progress so far. And, I am learning to trust His judgment, His grace in the project.
Sometimes the simplest, most mundane things are what is profound and moving. I found your first blog profound and moving for me.
St. Benedict would be so happy with you for the seemingly small service you have done for your family. It is the simple things that make community work and help us brush away some of the cobwebs that have collected. Thanks for sharing.
I like the connection between outer and inner cleaning–and the slowness both take.
And glad to see you’ve begun posting blogs!!