4 Truths About Doing the Dishes

A Guest Post by Emily Sue Allen

I show up at the sink to an insurmountable pile of dishes. Nothing is scraped. Nothing is sorted. My frustratingly miniscule counter space is overrun with remnants of our previous two meals—room-temp food, wadded up napkins between plates, stray silverware, and pans that need to be soaked. I pause and take a deep breath, aware that the only way to get out of this mess is to travel through it, bit by bit, plate by plate.

To my left, worship music plays softly through the Bluetooth speaker residing inside the cupboard of drinking glasses. I swing the cabinet door open so melodies can surround my weary soul as I swipe plates with a sponge and place them into the dishwasher. I’m hoping the cares I’ve brought to the kitchen will wash down the drain along with the bits of discarded food I scrape into the disposal.

I’ve never been great at staying ahead of the mayhem, and as we’ve added kids to our family, it has become increasingly difficult to keep a tidy kitchen (let alone a tidy house). Most of the time I hobble along, performing whatever damage control is necessary to get through the day. Despite my best efforts, I constantly feel like our home is in disarray.  

Like my kitchen, I am a mess inside—anxious, easily irritated by the squabbles of seven spirited children, weighed down by worries common to mothers everywhere.  

Not a single thing I do in the course of a day leads to a satisfying end. I always have more toys to pick up, more laundry loads to flip, and more dishes to wash.

I turn up the volume loud enough to drown out the normal sounds of the kids, but not so loud I won’t be able to hear if an emerging situation requires my attention. Words of hope fill my ears, and the music draws me into another world. I replace noise with noise, but the worshipful words are a solace and an invitation to quiet my heart before God while my hands do the work they know well. I am transported to a place where I am both physically present in an ordinary kitchen task and attentive to a deeper exchange between His spirit and mine.

When I show up at my kitchen sink, God shows up, too.

Maybe it’s the fact we have 9 people living in our house, but it seems to me like there are always piles of dishes in my sink––even if I just finished doing all the dishes. The constant nature of the food cycle––prepare, serve, store, cleanup––is just one of many things in motherhood that has required more energy than I typically have in reserve…not to mention I’d really rather be doing other things with my time.

Still, I have come to believe it is a grace from God to draw me back to that humble place at the kitchen sink to repeat the same simple steps every day––a living liturgy of sorts to remind me strength is cultivated by faithfulness. This simple, ordinary cycle is more than a hum-drum task meant to wear me out.

This basic household routine is part of a greater reality: faithfulness is required for flourishing.

For me, it’s less about the dishes, and more about the truth of servanthood. Serving my family is not always gratifying. Sometimes it is mundane. Sometimes it is annoying. But setting my boredom and annoyance aside to do what is needed is about seeing the purpose in my service. 

I am nourishing my children’s hearts and bodies. 

I am modeling a good work ethic, and what it looks like to care about basic needs with love.

I am expanding my children’s understanding of the work involved in serving them, and teaching them––meal after meal––how to be grateful.

I am empowering my older children to join me in the process of scraping, rinsing, and putting away dishes, demonstrating how we all should be moving toward age-appropriate responsibility for the stewardship of our lives. 

I will still let out a sigh when I see the next obnoxious pile of dishes taunting me from my kitchen sink, but that won’t stop me from getting my hands wet to repeat the cleaning process yet again. This is about more than dishes. This is about me and the growth of my character. Will I faithfully do the humble things that lead to a flourishing home? 

This blog post is inspired by “Worship at the Kitchen Sink” by Emily Sue Allen; this is an essay in Strong, Brave & Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds by writers from KindredMom.com

This book is now available on Kindred Mom or on Amazon.

Emily Sue Allen is the founder of the Kindred Mom blog and host of the Kindred Mom podcast. She also is an ongoing devotional contributor to Joyful Life Magazine, a member of Hope*Writers, and has contributed writing in a variety of online spaces. Living a deeply nourished life, and helping women find joy in the midst of their motherhood journey are among her greatest passions. She is a contemplative, creative soul who celebrates the beauty of humble things and deeply values the grace and truth of Jesus Christ and the riches found in the word of God. She lives with her husband and seven kids in the Pacific Northwest, and blogs at emilysueallen.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, “Notes on Nourishing,” for personal stories about intentionally nourishing your spirit, mind, and body.  Find Kindred Mom on Instagram(@kindred_mom) and Facebook, and say hello to Emily personally on Instagram (@emily_sue_allen).

*Feature Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash

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I'm a missionary kid turned ministry leader, helping moms live out their Kingdom calling by finding missional moments right where they are.

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