I love the smell of clean clothes.
I mean, I just bury my head in a pile and take a deep inhale. And when I wash my sheets it’s like heaven. Heaven probably smells like clean laundry. Or bacon. I haven’t worked out the theology on that one yet.
The problem is, I so rarely smell the wondrous smells of clean laundry because you actually have to do the laundry in order to reap the smell reward. And when I do the laundry, sometimes I leave it in the dryer a few days, and that just ruins the good smells.
I have to tell you though that some days I rock at the laundry. I mean I tackle like, six loads in a day, including folding and putting away, and on those days, I feel awesome. I feel like a laundry queen or something. And I tell my husband in a way too giddy voice about my accomplishment and looks at me like, good job? YES GOOD JOB! I did the laundry! Lots of it! Sidenote: he has banned me from doing his laundry because apparently I don’t do it right. Do people really still separate colors?
I do have a reason for telling you all this. I’m airing my dirty laundry (HA! Get it!) because you must know when you see my new book that it is for all the non-awesome cleaners out there.
I struggled for YEARS with feeling like such a failure as a homemaker. I used to wish that God would have given me a different personality/set of gifts. I wanted so badly to be a natural at homemaking. The reality is, it doesn’t come naturally for me. I have to work at making a home. And by work, I mean pray that I have a maid, but until I do, keep on with the scrubbing. And by scrubbing I mean paying my children to wash the floors.
I JEST. Mostly. I do actually actually sometimes pay my children to wash the floors, but only on the days when I’m super overwhelmed. Otherwise, it’s just a chore they have to do. The point is, I want to make a warm, welcoming, mostly clean home so that the people who are in and come under my care feel loved. I care about my home and I care about the people who come into it. I know I will never be consistent at keeping my home beautifully clean, but have learned a few things over the years about making a home, loving others, and loving myself in the process.
How to Love Yourself and Others Through the Art of Gentle Homemaking
Making a Home Is More About the Heart
Our homes are an extension of our hearts. Whether we have a large home or a small home or a shack, we have the ability to give it life and offer life in and through it. Do we invite people in and offer them a listening ear? Do we make room for people to feel comfortable and welcomed? I know that when someone takes the time to make me coffee, or offer me seat on a comfy couch or leaves a note and chocolate by my bed when I stay the night, I feel loved. It’s not about having a perfectly clean, magazine worthy home; it’s about loving others through the comfort and beauty and atmosphere in a home that breathes gentleness and laughter and depth. I love being in a home where I smell the aroma of cookies baking in the oven, where folded laundry might be on the couch and toys are on the floor but there is space at the table for coffee and conversation. There is life there!
So maybe you don’t have your dishes done, but you have the time to clear off your dining room table, light a candle, throw the toys in a basket and offer up hospitality with an exhale. That’s good. And it’s loving.
I guess what’s left to ask is this: how’s your heart? Is your soul in a frenzy or is stress making life feel impossible? That can certainly mess with home and hospitality, can’t it? I know it does for me. When chaos is going on inside, it naturally filters to the outside. And interestingly enough, when there is chaos on the outside (TOO MANY DISHES, TOO MUCH LAUNDRY, TOO MUCH SIBLING CONFLICT, TOO MUCH…), I feel chaos on the inside. What a cycle. So here’s the thing: one day at a time, slow and steady. Deep breath. “Lord, help me see where I need to find peace in my soul and rest in my heart so I can love practically. Show me what is essential and what I can let go of. Search me, teach me, and lead me in the way I should go.”
My Identity is Not in My Ability to Clean
I know it might sound crazy, but for so long there was a part of my identity was wrapped in what I thought a homemaker should look like. For one, I thought that if I just tried harder and set more goals for myself I’d eventually get into a great habit of cleaning and it would get easier for me. I also thought that as a woman it should just fall into place, this homemaking thing, and if it didn’t, something was wrong with me.
I wasted so much time thinking I was a failure. I thought my husband would be better off with someone who kept a clean home all the time and just rocked at it. I felt like I was failing my family, and I thought I was failing God. Why couldn’t I just get it together?!
And then, I had a revelation. You can watch me talking about it here. I realized that I am who I am and I cannot fix myself. I cannot mold myself into the person I want to be. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I can mature and grow. God is the potter, I am the clay. I can only submit to the molding. And this is good! I’m in His good, kind, gentle hands; He will do the work in me. It is because of this complete dependence on Him that I must find my identity in Him alone, otherwise I’m looking to myself to succeed. The problem with that is, I will always fall short. I will never meet my own expectations. It is far better to exchange my heavy yoke for His light one. I now know I don’t define who I am, cleaning doesn’t define who I am, my husband doesn’t define who I am, certain ideas of what a homemaker should look like don’t define who I am; only God can tell me who I am. And with that, I can exhale. Because He says I’m His child, righteous and perfect according to heaven because of Jesus.
When I’m Gentle with Myself, I’m More Gentle with Others
We are so hard on ourselves, aren’t we? I am my worst critic and my harshest accuser. I have had to learn how to be gentle with myself, remembering that I am but dust, and I am weak, but I am so very loved and delighted in. I am learning that the way I look on others with compassion, seeing that we all have junk and wounds and sin, I can look at myself. I can have compassion on myself. I wrote awhile ago about learning to pray for myself the way I pray for others, and those words minister to me today.
“I’m not very objective when I pray for myself.
“God, I am so stuck, and I’m terrible at this or that and can you please help me, and take away the ugly and help me not be such a loser.”
Last night as I was reflecting on some sin issues I’m dealing with, I thought I would try praying for myself the way I might pray for someone else. Praying for “Sarah Mae” helped me to be able to separate myself from all the negative junk I see and feel and heap on myself, and instead pray for “her” as someone who is loved and beautiful and good enough and righteous because of Jesus, and made in the image of the living God. I could pray for “her” objectively. I felt encouraged by praying for myself in this way because it helped me to gain perspective in how easily it is to pray as though I’m unlovable and too much of a wreck and just pitiful (which I sometimes am). But we don’t pray for others that way, which is interesting, and enlightening.
Today, if you’re finding yourself beat up or feeling crummy or if you just need some objectivity, try praying for yourself as though you were a dear friend, or one of your children. Wrap yourself in prayers of love and light and intercession.”
And in that same vain, we can be gentle with ourselves, speaking and believing words of truth instead of words of condemnation. Our Father in heaven is kind and gentle and will be strong when we cannot, and will fight for us, and will lead us every day. We go not alone. Thank God.
Now, I want to go back to something I said a few paragraphs up. I mentioned my new book that is for all of us out there who want to make a home and love others through it, who need some practical “get it done” advice but without the harshness. It’s for those who believe in the beauty of homemaking, but who also need to know they are enough even if the laundry keeps piling up.
You are loved. I will say it a million times over until your brain and your heart connect and you get it in your bones and through your soul and it becomes the most profound thing in your life. You are loved and pursued. See when you know you are loved, you will be gentle with yourself and others, you will believe God and how He delights in you and your personality and how He doesn’t condemn you or look down on you because of the dishes in your sink. He has so much more for us if we can just get passed the condemning voices and listen to the One voice that speaks all truth.
So here’s the book, Having a Martha Home the Mary Way, and it’s for you and for me and for anyone out there who is what I like to call, domestically challenged. It will help you get your home clean in a fun way, and it will help you get into your soul so that you can find rest and truth where it all matters.
So friends, fellow struggles, let’s journey together in getting our homes clean and our souls is a place of deep satisfaction.
Your laundry queen friend, Sarah Mae
P.S. FOR 6 DAYS ONLY you can get some extra cleaning help with the Conquer Your Clutter Bundle!
This package includes 38 digital products on all things organizing and time management! Lord knows us cleaning-challenged can use all the help we can get! All together, it’s worth over $650! Check it out before it’s too late – just head HERE to learn more and see everything that’s in it!
There are affiliate links in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.
With Amy, who clearly makes better decisions than I do.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.” Ecclesiastes 4:9
I was at my friend Amy’s house today, and as usual, she ended up speaking life right into my weary bones.
I’m beginning to think I’m just blogging these days to share her thoughts and wisdom. Which is fine by me because she is a beautiful, wise, gracious soul. Anyway, after about 3 hours of zero conversation because we had between us 8 kids (ages 2, 3, 7, 7, 8, 8, 10, 10…like whoa), and I was beginning to think we would never even finish a coherent sentence when the Lord carved out about 20 minutes of solid conversation between us, mostly which went like this:
Me: “I feel like I’m always failing at motherhood, I just keep dropping the ball. And I have a lot of fear…I just don’t know what I’m doing with my life.”
And then I start crying and we talk about how we miss our mothers (she lost her mom and my mom was never a mom), and in the lament and remembering the importance of grieving, she said, “You were never given what it takes to set the table, and so here you are trying to serve, but you’re still figuring out what linens to get and where to find them.”
Now Amy said a lot of wise and kind things to me today, some of which I’ll share in another post, but this about the table really struck me. For some of us, we were never taught or had it modeled to us how be mothers. It doesn’t come naturally and it’s a real fight sometimes. It isn’t that we don’t love our children and want to raise them well, it’s that we’re a bit behind trying to “find the linens.” But it’s this realization that helps us (me!) to do two things:
One, grieve the very real loss we’ve had. If you weren’t taught or shown how to be a mother in the day in and day out, that’s a loss. And if you don’t have a mother, or one who wasn’t involved much or had her own wounds to contend with, it’s a loss. And these losses aren’t insignificant (although surely the enemy will make you believe they are no big deal) and they matter to God. It’s healthy to grieve your loss, whatever it is.
Two, realize just how weak we are and much we need God.
I can’t mother without Him. I need His strength, His wisdom, His power, and most of us, His gentleness. He is so kind and such a gentle Father. My heart is constantly accusing me, but He is greater than my heart, and He is the One working all things out for good. Thank God. What a relief! I really can’t do it without Him, and that’s okay, because when I am weak He is strong. And His grace is sufficient for me.
If you feel like you keep dropping the ball as a mom, go before the Lord, hands up, “I’ve got nothing. Help me. Tell me the truth and help me receive it.” He knows you, He sees you, He loves you. We will never get it all together as moms, as women, as humans. And that’s okay, because we were never asked to get it together. We were only asked to believe and receive and follow by faith. He holds us up when we can’t do it, and He gives us what we need to keep on.
So I’m holding onto Him with all I’ve got, believing the truth that I am not condemned, that I am loved right now, and that He is doing the work in me that needs to be done for me to be holy. And my kids, who I adore so profoundly, I am also holding up to Him. Because I will fall short, but He never will.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
P.S. If you need to just soak up some truth right now, close your eyes and listen to this.
You blew it. Or at least you think you did.
You’re so angry and you’ve been angry for so long you’re not even sure you know why anymore. But behind the anger, the rage, there’s the dull ache of too-long pain. In fact, right now the pain feels unbearable. You feel like you don’t want to stay but you don’t want to go; it’s all so confusing. What if everything comes crashing down? The walls you’ve built, the ones you thought would keep you safe, are about to be torn down without your say so. You should be in charge, but you’re not. And now you’re scared and you don’t know what it all means or where to turn and it hurts more than you ever thought it would.
What will they say?
What can I do?
Can I fix this mess?
Here is what I want to say to you, the broken one, the one who doesn’t even know how to climb out of the pain and anger and bitterness you’ve carried for far too long: I’m so sorry.
I’m so sorry you’ve had to carry such a burden for so long. The weight of bitterness, of resentment, of regret, of anger, of a loveless marriage, of great loss, is too much for anyone to bear. Yes, you have reaped some of your own pain, but I see you. I see more than your pain or anger or meanness. I know you have a longing soul; I know there are soft places of your heart you keep tucked away. I understand. You’re not the only one.
It’s never too late to let the wall drop.
It’s never too late to say, “I’m sorry.”
It’s never too late to ask for help, to let people into the hidden pain.
It’s never too late to forgive.
You may not know it in your bones, but you are so deeply loved. It sounds trite, I know, or maybe patronizing, but once the truth gets into your soul it becomes the most profound thing, the most important thing of your life. This true love. And because of this love you have the invitation to have your broken heart bound up, healed, made new.
No matter what happens from here on out, you don’t have to be identified with your past or your pain or your failures; only God has the authority to tell you who you are. Have you asked Him? Have you cried out to God and said, “Who do you say that I am?”
And you will receive.
You can be healed in those places of the soul that need healing. You can be made new. You can walk in freedom. You can be weak. It’s okay to be weak. Because when we are weak, God is strong in us. He will give us strength when we have none. You don’t have to be brave or tough. It’s okay to be scared out of your mind. You don’t have to walk alone. But if you want to be free and whole, you will need to surrender. Hands up. Willing.
Jesus will not leave you in the pit.
He hears your cry, and He will turn to you. He will lift you up and set you on solid ground. He will put a new song in your mouth. You will smile, and you will praise Him for what He has done: the impossible. And people will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)
All is not lost, though some may be.
But you will make it if you bend your knees. Cry out to God who hears you. Please do. Please let the weak, vulnerable you have a shot because you matter and you are loved. So very loved.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
Love to you,
Today is my birthday.
And according to my six year old I’m maybe 60 or 66. She’s not entirely sure. Anyway, I love birthdays. I love presents and feeling loved and being celebrated. I just do. I’m a total kid at heart. And this love for wanting to be celebrated sometimes goes south and I begin to put expectations on my husband about what he should do and how OF COURSE HE SHOULD KNOW exactly want I want on my birthday. This makes him feel a little crazy and like I’m micro-managing my birthday. Whatever. This is all just marriage stuff. ALL TO SAY…
This year, HE PREPARED. He took the kids out to get me gifts and had them make me cards NOT ON the day of my birthday. That makes me feel special. Also, he ordered me a cake!
This alert popped up on my phone. HE WAS PICKING UP A THING for my birthday. So sneaky.
As I dug into the cake with childlike joy I said, “You didn’t have to buy this,” and he said, “It’s cheaper than therapy.”
YES. YES it is. Buying your wife a birthday cake and making her feel special is cheaper than therapy. SO MEN OF THE WORLD, take note: Buy your wife a cake. Make her feel special. IT’S CHEAPER THAN THERAPY.
Love and cake, Sarah Mae
P.S. In other news, Longing for Paris is on sale for only $2.99 (Kindle). WOO HOO! Go get it HERE!
“We need heroes. I mean genuine heroes, authentic men and women who are admired for their achievements, noble qualities, and courage. Such people aren’t afraid to be different. They risk. They stand a cut above. Yet they are real human beings with flaws and failures like anyone else. But they inspire us to do better.“ -Chuck Swindoll
With some dear, faithful friends
I love being around people who inspire me to be better.
My friend Robyn is always inspiring me to read the Bible and stay close to grace. My friend Soleil inspires me to trust the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit that is alive within me; she always reminds me to go to Him when I’ve got questions or pain or confusion. My friend Amy inspires me to make homemade meals and go slow and steady and believe the truth of God’s gentleness. My mother-in-law inspires me to trust God with anything that comes our way, knowing He is faithful to complete the good work He has stared in us. My friend Robin inspires me to read good literature and to teach my children the gift of story and drama and beauty. I have more friends I could list here, but the point is, through the Lord’s kindness (I prayed and prayed for these kinds of friends) He has surrounded me with a group of dear, close local friends that help me to be a better person. And I want to be better; I don’t want to stay the same year after year; I want to grow.
I know that if I want to be faithful and have integrity and keep on in the Word and following God by faith, I need to surround myself with faithful people who are after the same goal. That doesn’t mean I don’t have other friendships, it just means that my close friends, my inner-circle group who know me inside and out and who love the Lord and humbly follow Him, they are the ones who I “yoke” with.
The Lord has brought different people over the years who have profoundly impacted my life. Cathy Bowman from the Navigators, Kimberely Knockel and her work in teaching Core Lies, and Ann Kradel Gale as the woman who gently guided me through abortion counseling. You probably don’t know any of these women, but they are the heroes in my life and in countless others lives. They are the unsung heroes; the hidden ones who change souls without fanfare. I am deeply indebted to each of them.
And then there is Sally Clarkson, the gift of grace God brought to my life as a dear friend and mentor.
Sally has changed my life so profoundly that I often wonder what I’d be like if it weren’t for her unwavering investment in my life.
Sally not only inspires me in faithfulness and integrity, she has taught me to be a better woman. She keeps me accountable to my word; she holds me to a high standard because she cares about me. And I’m grateful. It’s easy to just float through life, but she teaches me to dream and have ideals and to be excellent in what God calls me to. She encourages me to hold fast to truth and beauty and good things and not go the way of culture because it’s popular. She has called out my selfishness in the past (always with gentleness and grace), and at first I didn’t like it, because who likes to be disciplined, but now I look back and I thank God that she helped me, that she trained me in righteousness. I thank God that she was willing to have uncomfortable conversations in order that I might grow strong in character and faithfulness. She is a rare one for sure, a cut above the rest, a hero. A flawed hero to be sure, because she’s just so human like the rest of us, but a flawed, faithful, inspiring hero.
Sally’s home, nestled in beautiful, snowy Colorado where I cozy up and laugh and learn and drink strong tea and coffee
Today, Sally’s new book, The Lifegiving Home, launches. It is a beautiful, encouraging, practical book on how to bring life and celebration and tradition and foundations into your home. It is her mentoring you from afar.
As I read through the book, highlighting and underlining and making notes, I realized that these are the things she’s been teaching me for years. This is her life opened up for you, so you can be inspired to raise life above mere existence. It’s a hard-fought life for sure, but it’s a worthy one.
If you want to be inspired in your own life and home, if you want a peek into the how-to’s of a woman who gave her life to discipling and creating and teaching, I cannot recommend The Lifegivng Home enough.
Buy it HERE, or wherever books are sold.
“Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street…” Philippians 3:17-19, The MSG Version
With love, Sarah Mae