Fridays are my cleaning day. If I really have my act together, I begin Thursdays, but most weeks it's Friday morning that I begin in the kitchen with dishes, then counters, tables- throwing away the papers and mail that accumulate and make homes on surfaces during the week, dust, wipe down, sweep, vacuum, look under the beds in the children's rooms for socks, throw out what needs throwing out, and finish in the bathrooms.
Saturday, Shabbat, is for rest. It's a gift, yes but also a command in my faith. In my early days fresh from conversion as a Jewish mother, I relished spending the day cleaning and going to OC Kosher Market in Tustin, California for meat (always marveling at how expensive kosher chicken was), and getting everything ready for the soon arriving day of peace.
God knows that if rest wasn't commanded on Saturday, for me at least, it would be a day like any other of cleaning and cooking. After six days of work, it's harder to stop than it is to keep going.
And all these years later, through fluctuations and changes in my faith, Fridays are still a cleaning day to prepare for the day I get to just *be*.
I've learned over the years that I can only enjoy Shabbat to the degree I prepare for it. There have been days where unexpected twists and turns, emergency pick-ups, or illness meant Friday cleaning didn't happen. And then when Shabbat arrives, when the holy day descends and regular work must be put away, it doesn't feel like a blessing but a curse.
It's hard to relax in a messy house with dishes in the sink that must wait until nightfall when Shabbat departs for heaven again.
So to fully enjoy Shabbat, to be able to relish its peace and not have to spend the day staring at dirty cups on the counter, a full garbage can, or laundry on the couch, I clean. I prepare meals. I fill a special crock-pot with water and set it on low for my tea. In the winter, I make stew and it sits on the counter in my second crock-pot so we can have a hot noon meal.
There was a time we didn't drive on Shabbat. Those days have passed, but cooking is most definitely work for me and it's always nice have everything we need ready. In some ways, we feel like royalty- all is done for us, even though we're the ones who did it.
Last weekend something got into me and I went above and beyond with my cleaning. I washed all of the sheets, did 3-4 loads of laundry and put it away. I'd seen an instagram page about a woman who cleans with Tide- not just laundry but mops floor and cleans walls with the powder and it inspired me I suppose. I didn't have any Tide, but using what I had I scrubbed everything. From 9am-3pm, all I smelled was soap as I went from room to room, picking up, scrubbing down and putting everything where it should be.
By the end my home didn't just look and smell "Shabbat clean" as my kids would say, it felt like a team of professionals had been there. I was so excited for my older girls to see my masterpiece. They're at the age where they notice these things (teen and pre-teen). But when they came back from school, they went upstairs, plopped on their devices and commenced their decompressing routine like normal.
I waited. Surely, someone is going to say something. This isn't regular clean, or Shabbat clean, this was miraculous Tide Instagram lady clean. But they didn't say anything.
I wasn't offended, just in awe, realizing how easy it is to not notice something that is so intentional. As I sat at the kitchen table, eating my reward chocolate, I felt the stirring that comes when God is pulling back a veil and showing me something using everyday life.
He doesn't use any words. It's like a curtain is pulled back from a small piece of His heart or mind.
In that moment sitting at the kitchen table, I knew He'd experienced, He experiences, that same thing with me more times than I'm capable of counting.
Every day I have things on my mind, pressing things, urgent and trivial issues I pray about. Both in my personal life and in the world, there are so many things I keep in constant prayer because they need God's audience.
But as I sat at the kitchen table, I felt Him let me in on the fact, the knowledge, that He is always cleaning. He's always working. And He does so much more than we know, protects us from so much we had no idea was coming for us, holds so much more together than we can comprehend....He is always working, cleaning, scrubbing, holding.
And in the same way I don't clean so my children can thank me, but because this is my home and I want us to be comfortable, He does what He does out of love and because this is *gestures to everything around us* is His.
How many catastrophes has His hand protected me from? Protected my children from? This blanket of grace that covers our individual worlds and the whole world, who is to say we will ever know the depth of each stitch and how it has held our lives together?
Most of the time, like our children, I only notice the perceived gaps and panic. How could God have let that happen? Why is this happening? Or we ascribe the evil in the world to His negligence or lack of caring when in fact it's our own evil and the evil we live alongside in this world wreaking havoc.
I find myself wondering why God is so content to be unseen and uncredited for His loving work. The only understanding I can reach is that the work of parents mirrors His. We give and work because we love and He does the same.
So much of this life is like being a child in the womb- having no knowledge that there is an entire world outside. The child in a womb doesn't even know they're in a womb. The baby thinks the warm, watery cavern is life in its entirely. But there are people outside waiting, monitoring, praying, loving and who can't wait for the fullness of the relationship to be known and to have this child in their arms and stare at their face.
While the world marches on in what can only be described as madness and I do my best in my little world, praying and cleaning, to thank God for unseen, unknown to me work that without, I wouldn't stand a chance in this place. I wonder if He can't wait for the time of birth where we are in the fullness of relationship again, nothing unseen, but fully known.
Until then, I am grateful to be held in such love. Messes and fires will always be louder than the silent and seamless order, grace, and love that are so easy to take for granted. So when I say thank you, I say it for the blessings they provide, but also, chiefly, for the love behind them. Because circumstances change, but it is that love, the love of God, which is my living hope and only place of true rest.