serving at home: when scraping dirty dishes doesn’t feel like service

Written by Amy L. Sullivan

SERVE Editor Word lover. Book devourer. Music addict. Amy is a Northern girl who found herself living in the South. She drinks sweet tea, turns her nose up at okra, and attempts to tell her daughters "yella" isn't a color.

October 17, 2013

dishes

I wake up early to clean the kitchen.

I’m not a neat freak, but I wake up early to clean the kitchen because although I try to be fine with dirty dinner dishes sitting in the sink all night, I’m not fine with dirty dinner dishes sitting in the sink all day while I work.

It’s dark, and like you, my day is full, and I’m standing in the kitchen scraping dishes. I’m not going to lie, this doesn’t feel anything like service. Instead, it feels like doing a chore no one wants to do and no one notices when it’s complete.

You can tell me there is beauty in the mundane, but I can tell you there isn’t beauty in dried up manicotti, and therefore, I scrape louder hoping someone will hear me, but no one does. The dog wanders over to my feet, sighs, and quickly goes back to sleep.

I read articles about people finding God while folding clothes, and I shake my head because the only thing I find while folding clothes is missing socks.

And there’s more clanging of dishes.

A couple of weeks ago, I helped a friend clean a relative’s house. My friend’s family recently made the difficult decision to put her relative in a nursing home. Now, a lifetime of belongings needed to be sorted and a house ready to sell.

As we cleaned, it got dark, and my day had already been full, and do you know what? There wasn’t one moment of banging the belongings around. Not one. Maybe it was easier to serve a friend because the mess wasn’t my own or maybe it was easier because I knew I could contribute to clean up, but I wasn’t the one responsible for completion.

Regardless, it made me think about true service.

I will never like scraping dishes in the dark, but I do know true service is serving others even when you don’t feel like it and most of all when no one notices.

What are your thoughts? Do you see household chores as a way to serve your family? How’s your attitude when you serve others by completing a task you don’t enjoy?

 Image credit.

22 Comments

  1. Beth

    “True service is serving others even when you don’t feel like it and most of all when no one notices.” Amen! During my Bible study last night we spoke about serving others and doing it in secret. (Matthew 6). The take away was considering where your heart is when you serve. Are we serving with a clean heart…a heart for God? Are we serving to please others or to please God? Really has me thinking about where my heart is. Blessings to you, Amy.

    {Hugs}

    Reply
    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Ohhh, the idea of serving in secret appeals to me in such a big way. It makes the whole idea exciting and something just between you and God.

      Reply
  2. SimplyDarlene

    That clanging and banging while I do the dishes lasts about 2 seconds before it clangs with conviction. A couple weeks ago my husband said, “just ask for help instead of acting like that.” Yikes. I don’t allow the kiddo to stomp and bang, yet there I do it in the sink. And we don’t have a d/w so there’s a lot of “service” going on.

    Thanks miss Amy, for this piece.

    Reply
    • Amy L. Sullivan

      You are so right! Would I allow my kids to stomp and pout? I don’t think so.

      Reply
  3. lhamer

    I usually find great fulfillment in serving my family. But, to be honest, most of the time they don’t notice all the things you do until you can’t do them. I recently went through a rough patch physically where I couldn’t do what I do. My family had to step up to the plate. It was amazing to see the transformation in their gratitude. I’m not saying I recommend have a physical issue where you can’t do, but one day there will come the appreciate. In the meantime, try to find joy in the mundane.

    Reply
    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Ihamer, Yes, I’m sure “having a rough patch physically” would completely change my family’s view of the ways I serve them. So, so glad they were able to step up and help.

      Reply
  4. Larry

    We all serve God no matter what we do, whether it be in our careers or for our families. I have fixed toilets, rebuilt, remodeled, and even taken bottle tops from shampoo bottles that miraculously ‘appeared’ in drain pipes that none of my four daughters could figure out how it got there. When I think back it just brings smiles and thanks to God for getting us all through the ‘little chores in life’ as service to all in the name of our Creator.

    Reply
    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Larry,
      Thanks for this and good reminder that God is present in all of it. Even taking shampoo bottles out of drains!

      Reply
  5. Melody

    Great reminder my friend – couldn’t be more timely. I’ve conducted my own kitchen sink symphony at times with all my clanging. I agree that it’s easier to serve others than family for some reason. I can’t say that as of late I’ve pictured my housework as serving. More like just getting it done because it’s what you do. So yeah, I think I needed to read this tonight. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Melody,
      For the record, I haven’t fully embraced this idea if you know what I mean. . .trying, trying.

      Reply
  6. kendalprivette

    i think it’s harder to serve joyfully at home because it never.ever.ends. when we help someone else, it’s a one and done. but home? it’s the same dirt. same plates. same toothpaste in the sink. much easier to resent the mess-makers maybe?

    Reply
    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Resenting mess-makers? Who me? That toothpaste may just kill me one day.

      Reply
  7. Mindy Whipple

    My extended family is needy and full of hurting hearts. There was a time I chose to not make them a priority as I “served” God inside the church walls. Oh, what I did inside was needed but not nearly as needed as helping my family, being there for them. I now look at it as ministry and my extended family can feel it too. They feel my love and , most importantly, they feel God’s love. Now I get filled up in church so that I can pour out outside of it.

    Reply
    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Mindy,
      Wow. What a great example.

      Reply
  8. Lori McClure

    This kind of makes me think of Bob Goff’s talk at Storyline – about not talking about ministry and just doing it. What did he say? Instead of calling it ministry, just call it Tuesday. I’m probably butchering it 🙂 Good post, A.

    Reply
    • Amy L. Sullivan

      YES! Oh, that Bob Goff. He is so wise.

      Reply
  9. Alicia Bruxvoort

    It’s a crazy thing the way service just doesn’t feel like service beneath my own roof. Just this week I was standing in the kitchen crazy late tossing together a meal for a mom in need while the rest of my family slept— no grumbling. But the next day when I found myself in that same kitchen frantically trying to pull together dinner for my own gang? I slid into the pit of crabbiness. Humbling. You’ve nailed it here. Thanks for the attitude check. (Confession: sometimes I DO find God in the underwear pile- probably has more to do with the fact that my house is finally quiet when I’m folding undies at midnight!)

    Reply
    • Amy L. Sullivan

      Girl,
      We just get each other. Minus the whole finding God in the laundry part.

      Reply
      • Alicia Bruxvoort

        🙂 yeah I think we can overcome that difference! How are you doing? Juggling life and work and writing? Living with two stars? Life here is a whirlwind as we try to pull off this unexpected move by dec 30. Lots of bittersweet emotions as we uproot 5 kids who have lived deeply in our little hometown. But if God can show up in the underwear pile, He can show up in Mi too! Love ya friend

        Reply
        • Amy L. Sullivan

          All is good! Excited about your upcoming move. Great things are ahead. I feel it!

          Reply
  10. cherylsmith

    I’ve had this post open for a few days in my browser, waiting to read it. It’s time to run the dishwasher and sort some laundry. I’ll try to do both without clanging and mumbling.

    Reply
  11. Sandra Heska King

    Brother Lawrence comes to mind… So convicting.

    I once had a Bible teacher say if you slam the oven door while baking a cake, the work would burn. That might be a little extreme, but it’s always stuck with me as I think about my attitude. I’m guilty of slamming many doors and clanging many dishes.

    Would you come and find all my socks?

    Reply

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serving at home: when scraping dirty dishes doesn’t feel like service

by Amy L. Sullivan time to read: 2 min
22