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Sunday, November 9, 2014

People Matter

So people who know me, like, really know me, are well aware that I am a recovering extremist. Not in the terrorist sense, but more in the how-I-function-in-everyday-life sense.

I am fairly certain I have OCD. Like, legitimately.

Before I go any further, I should share that I come from a long line of people who are obsessive and/or compulsive. I'm fairly certain my own father starched and ironed everything he owned, even his underwear, for a long time (until the rest of my family made enough fun of him that we shamed him into stopping, like good family members do). My dad, growing up, was known as "Habit Boy." He's still, to this day, the only man I know who literally scrubs and sterilizes the kitchen sink before he starts to wash the dirty dishes. With a wet paper towel. That he then folds four times and drapes over the edge of the sink in case he should need it. Every. Single. Time. He. Does. The. Dishes. This results, to his credit, in a sink that shimmers like nothing you've ever seen.

It's not just from my father's side of the family, though. My maternal side of the family is full of anal people who like things done a certain way each and every time. If you go to and search under "OCD," my entire lineage shows up, I'm fairly certain. 

All of this is not to point fingers; it's simply to show that I come by my issues honestly. By that, I mean that it's honestly not my fault. (Sounds like some quality time is needed with Dr. Phil, huh?)

I love a clean house. I like an orderly life. I find it hard to think straight or accomplish anything if my home is in disarray, if there are chores to be done, or half-finished work. I'm not the laid-back person who shrugs off the mess and has fun because, after all, it can wait until later. I find it hard to relax and let down when I know that things in my life/home/family/finances are not in order.

After having kids, my problems were exacerbated. A clean house is a sort-of non-option when you have small kids, which can turn you into a looney toon in and of itself. Cleanliness is automatically off the table. But even maintaining a neat house is enough to make a 31-year-old mom like me come unglued. 

This is my life, and probably yours, too. 

Today I prepared for some first-time guests to come to dinner. I folded laundry. Like, ten loads worth (for reals). I dusted. I vacuumed. I straightened. I organized. And then, 15 minutes after our friends arrived, I walked in to find my kids' room looking something like this:

In that moment, do you know what I wanted to do? (That I wanted to throttle my kids goes without saying, of course) 

I wanted to sneak away to the kids' room and clean it up because it was eating away at my brain that their room looked like a hot mess after I had cleaned up the whole house earlier today. I wanted to leave my company with my darling husband, who doesn't like to be left alone in social situations with strangers, and disappear into my boys' bedroom to have a re-do. 

I honestly wanted to do that. Like, I had to fight the urge. 

And then something came to mind, something that my mother has said to me before and will probably need to say again a hundred times:

"People matter before projects."

Immediately my stress over the lego-and-matchbox-car explosion was diffused. Because, honestly, people matter before projects.

Tonight we had the privilege of having new friends in our home. These friends just moved to the USA from Egypt. They know no one and they took a leap of faith to immigrate to America to better their lives, and the lives of their children. Having never been to the States before, this family packed everything they owned and moved to Atlanta a little over two months ago. They are lovely and kind. Their children are precious. They are strangers in a strange place who are eager to assimilate into our culture.

And all I could think about was the mess in the next room.

It makes me think about the time when Jesus visited Mary and Martha in their home. When Jesus arrived in town, Martha invited Jesus in to visit. It was, I'm sure, with grand intentions, and that she wanted to serve Jesus and honor Him well. However, when Jesus came in and sat down, scripture tells us that Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to his teaching while Martha was "distracted with much serving." (Luke 10:40) Martha got upset that Mary wasn't helping her with the necessary chores, and she complained about as much to Jesus. When Jesus answered, his response was, to me, unforgettable:

"Martha, are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

In that moment, I think what Jesus was trying to show Martha is that stuff can wait. Stuff doesn't matter, in the grand scheme of life. Jesus matters. Relationship matters. People matter.

Tonight I experienced a moment of shame as I saw the ugliness in my heart. Superficial, unimportant things fought for my attention and almost won. However, I praise God that I am a work in progress and that He's not finished with me yet, and that the Holy Spirit whispered conviction to my heart before I wasted what turned out to be an invaluable time of pouring into people who desperately needed it.

In His goodness, He gave me the grace to release my unhealthy obsession with how neat and presentable my home was and instead gave me a love and a passion for the sweet people sitting across from me in my living room. He reminded me that people matter and that projects can wait.

All joking about my family aside, I must confess that I have grown up under the influence and seeing the example of the two most servant-hearted, people-loving parents I have ever seen. All of their funny quirks and OCD-tendencies aside, my parents have been a consistent example to me of loving people before doing projects. They serve. They listen. They help. They pray. And I hope am growing to be more and more like them.

I can only pray that each day I look a little more like them, like Mary, willing to lay aside what is superficial in order to spend my time with people who matter, and, most importantly, with the One who matters most.

Until then, I will wait patiently for the day when I'm perfected once and for all and in the presence of my Savior. Which is gonna be the bomb, because I know that in that moment I am not going to be thinking about my to-do list. 

I would like to think that this picture is a representation of me in heaven for two reasons: 1) I would like to think there will be no mess in heaven, as it is of the devil, therefore negating the need for housework, and, 2) I have always wanted to be Maria in The Sound of Music. 

End Scene (and feel free to laugh).