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Dishpan Hands and a Servant’s Heart

There are few chores I loathe more from my childhood than hand washing and drying dishes. Sticking your hand in a dirty sink full of water with food bits floating around, oh, I shudder just to imagine it. Therefore, when our dishwasher recently gave out, you can imagine my horror. A seven person family with no dishwasher, inconceivable!

I’m pretty sure I complained no less than 14 times before I filled up the sink that morning to wash all the dishes from the day before. I begrudgingly dipped my hand into the water and used the rag to soap up the dishes.

As I continued, I thought about how only 5 months before, our dryer had stopped working. While I waited for my husband to try to fix the dryer, and then eventually for repairmen to come, I washed two loads a day and hung them to dry on a clothesline outside. Every other day, I washed three loads, when we had to do diaper laundry. It was a lot of work, but after a few days I settled into a routine and I began to enjoy the work. I imagined Our Mother, Mary washing Jesus’ diapers and laying them out to dry. I felt my heart grow closer to hers through this additional manual labor.

So, as I finished rinsing all four sippy cups and setting them out to dry, I wondered if this too would become enjoyable. If washing our dishes could become a form of prayer for me. For you see, when we have an unexpected bout of bad luck, we have two choices, self-pity or holy fortitude. The car breaks down, the dryer stops working, the AC goes out, we can choose to use these opportunities to bring us closer to God or we can choose to let them take us farther away through complaint and self-pity.

The next time I filled the sink, I tried to imagine how Mary washed dishes. Did she take her pots to the river to wash them, did she use the water she drew from the well that morning? Was it a long trip to the well, did she carry Jesus on her back? She certainly didn’t have the luxury of running water, and if she used soap it was most likely soap she made herself. Was she lucky like me to have the help of her sweet baby, Jesus, and did he want to splash in the water as she washed?

As I meditated on these thoughts, I found that washing the dishes had suddenly become easy. It was something I wanted to do. It was an act of love and sacrifice for my family that drew me closer to Our Lord. We can take God given grace, and choose to give the glory right back to him, through service in our families.

Am I glad our dishwasher is broken? No. I am very much looking forward to when we get the delivery in a few weeks of our new appliance. But, I am glad that I had the opportunity to grow spiritually in this small way and contemplate the face of our Infant King.

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About Rachel M

Rachel is a stay-at-home mother to five beautiful children ages 4, 3, 2, 1, and her newest blessing, born in October. By the grace of God, she converted to Catholicism in 2004, and soon thereafter married her high school sweetheart. She strives every day to do the little things, as St. Thérèse did, and to live her life pleasing to Him.

  • Stephanie - Beautiful thoughts. Thank you. I recently read a post where the blogger remembered that having dirty dishes meant she had been blessed with food to eat. I liked that as well. It’s so wonderful to turn our everyday chores into prayer. Might I recommend, though, good old fashioned gloves? $3 well spent! 🙂March 13, 2013 – 6:05 amReplyCancel

  • Allison H. - Rachel, Michelle was right. Such a good word!March 13, 2013 – 2:49 pmReplyCancel

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