Tuesday, September 07, 2010

This is the Way We Wash the Dishes, Wash the Dishes, Wash the Dishes

For all of you who played the dish washing game last week...thanks!  The situation...we have a one sided sink.  We make a lot of dishes since there are a lot of us, and we try not to use too many paper towels, ziplock bags, or paper plates.  Those things are crazy expensive in this country and man...you spend one day walking on the roads in Haiti and the last thing you want to do is contribute to the trash situation on this island.  We don't have hot water.  We don't have a garbage disposal.  We need to conserve water, and there are parasites and bacteria in our tap water that can make Americans spend an awful lot of time on the potty.

Meet the dinner dishes.  I didn't have room in the picture for the pots and pans.  They are sitting on the stove waiting their turn in the dish water.  We bought some sassy lime green tubs from a merchant right outside our gate.  We keep one next to the sink.  We scrape off our plates into the trash, quickly rinse them, and put the dishes in the "dirty" tub until the tub is full and it's time to wash a sink full.

I put a pot of water on to boil.  I know we probably don't need to use hot water to get the dishes clean, but there is something nice and familiar about washing my dishes with hot water.  Maybe one day I'll get over this, but for now it's where I am.  I use hot water.  It makes me think the dishes are clean and feels good on my hands as I wash rice off plates.

I fill the sink up with cold, soapy water as I wait for the hot water to boil.  Then I add the kettle of hot water to the cold water.  I add the dishes and begin to wash.

When I'm washing dishes I also keep a sassy green tub on the right of the sink as well.  After the dishes are washed in the warm soapy water I put them in the other tub.  It becomes a game.  How tall can I get the stack of dishes?  I was super impressed with myself last night.  Who knew making block towers with four little boys was preparing me for dish stacking in Haiti?

I don't rinse the dishes in the green tub.  That would normally be a great idea...but we have too many dishes and most importantly, my sink is deformed.  The faucet is so low in the sink that I can't get anything under it.  I wouldn't be able to fill up the green tub with water for rinsing because I can't get the tub under the faucet.  We're getting a new one soon.  This one is causing all sorts of issues.

So to rinse the dishes I let the water trickle...and I mean trickle...as I quickly run the dishes under it and then stack them in the two dish racks next to the sink.

Then we wash the sassy green tubs out and let them rest for about 10 minutes until we start making dirty dishes again.

So what about the parasites and bacteria in the water?  What do I do about those?

The answer...nothing.

Maybe I should, but here's the honest truth...

After about day three of living in Haiti I broke down.  Like all the way down.  I could not believe I brought my children to such a filthy country.  Hudson was wallowing all over the floor in the house.  The floor is gross...cracked tile that goes straight to the mud.  It was covered in dirt because I couldn't keep it clean.  I was washing several loads of dishes a day by myself...trying to bleach everything...staying on my kids about washing their hands constantly.  After we walked on the street I wanted to set all our shoes on fire.  I was losing it.

It hit me...either I'm going to let my fear turn me into a giant nag in this country and make my husband and my children hate me, or I'm going to let some things go, realize I'm human, and there's only so much I can do. Either go crazy or trust God.  That's the choice before me.

Really it wasn't a choice at all.  It was all so overwhelming and so much work to physically try and keep my kids germ free and from rolling around on the floor or touching nasty things on the street that I only had one choice.  Let it go.  Give up.  Surrender.  Throw in the towel and trust that God is in control.  He loves us.  He loves my kids.  He knows they are gross.  He knows this country is gross.  He knows that's a bad combination.  And yet God wants us in Haiti.

I quit putting bleach in our dish water.  Not only is bleach probably terrible, it was giving me another step in an already huge task.  I was also constantly afraid I was going to get bleach water on my clothes.  I didn't bring very many and I'd like to take care of the ones I have.

We let the dishes air dry.  We make sure they are completely dry before we put them away.  The end.  That's all I can do.

I'm pleased to report that so far we have not been sick in the stomach department.  We've been here almost a month and so far so good.

Washing dishes is a big pain lots of days and another moment when I have to trust that God is good and knows us.  He knows me.  He knows when enough is enough.  He is in control of huge things and tiny, microscopic bugs in my tap water.

I loved many of your ideas and will be implementing some of them.  Thanks for sharing them with me!

When it comes to housework and cooking, everything in Haiti is way harder than it was in the US.  There are times when I'm tempted to complain and whine about the hour it's going to take me to wash the dishes.  But I was tempted to complain and often times did my fair share of complaining when I lived in the US and had a garbage disposal, hot water, and a dish washer.

In the US I would sometimes grumble as I cleaned the house, followed a crazy, rebellious toddler around, or folded ridiculous amounts of laundry.  I would wonder why Aaron got to be at work doing something creative and fun while I scrubbed toilets and tried to teach our sons to be kind to one another.

I had those days when housework made me angry.

I still have those days in Haiti.  I wasn't issued a new heart when I entered this new country.  Unfortunately customs allowed me to bring in my wicked sinful heart that has always made its home in my chest.

As I'm chilling in the laundry room with the rats and filling up washing machines with water hoses, I'm still tempted to complain...to wonder why Aaron gets to be in a classroom every day telling kids about Jesus and it seems like I came to Haiti to hang laundry on the line and wait for water to boil so I can wash dishes.

God is reminding me, after much fit throwing, that hanging laundry or washing dishes is worship.  It can be if I will let it.

I am asking Him to teach me...to teach each of us...no matter what country we call our home...that we can serve the people in our homes with joy and as unto the Lord.  That's one of my most favorite things about Jesus and following Him.  He can take simple things and turn them into something lovely, meaningful, and beautiful.

We can be a part of something good and redemptive by tending to a home and the people inside it.

We can be a part of furthering God's Kingdom by teaching and training our kids to love the Lord every day in our homes.  We can teach them about God's nature...about how much He loves and cares for them as we love and care for them as mothers.

It is harder in Haiti for me to wash the dishes or do the laundry...but my heart is the same.  There are days when I see what I'm doing through earthly eyes...and that's when I get frustrated and irritated with how exhausting life can be here as I try to take care of my home and my family.  But there are moments when God is so good and He give me His eyes.  He lets me see how folding clothes or carrying heavy baskets of laundry across campus becomes a way to worship..a way to love the people of Haiti..a way to give high school students in Haiti the gift of Aaron...of God's Word being taught to them every single day.  In those moments I am overcome with emotion.  I am overcome with thanksgiving.  In those moments what was mundane and difficult becomes an honor...a privilege.  What was earthly and meaningless becomes spiritual and a way to live for a kingdom I can't see.

So no one tell me in the comment section about how you feel bad that you moan and groan about your dishes in your state of the art kitchen.  No matter what kitchen you're standing in, let's just agree that our hearts are the same, and our heart...not our kitchen is what God is after.

Today let's encourage one another to love the ones God has put in our homes...to bless them.  Let's be reminded that motherhood is a gift...no matter what country you are in.  It's a chance to invest our lives in eternity...a way to store up precious treasure in heaven.

The Kingdom of God can be found in many places, but I want to be reminded that every day it's found sitting around my kitchen table. I could think on such truth forever.

(and the kingdom in my kitchen makes an awful lot of dirty dishes.  did I mention that?)


Robert B. Heath said...

First of all, you are amazing. Just to have the positive thoughts, the grace-inspired thoughts that lead to repentance and and reformation of your heart, is a wonderful thing.

True, you brought your same heart with you to Haiti, but you are opening it up to be molded and reformed by God. Maybe it'll take time, but it is great that you see the need and try to respond to the grace.

The desire to worship through your daily chores, your house-wifery and mothering is a gift from God and a gift to God. He will reward the desire with gradual success.

Secondly, I have a brother-in-law who is a microbiologist. He has said that one of the best ways to develop immunity to the bugs that live with us is to be exposed to them, the way we did in the old days before we were taught to sterilize everything. You practice normal cleanliness, and don't worry about the Purell and Bleach and disinfectant counter cleaners, etc. Exposure can make us strong; over-protection can make us weak and ill-prepared.

Obviously, this wouldn't apply to the big diseases that can kill and maim, but even there, if we have been strengthened against the daily bugs, it might even make us stronger against the nastier bugs.

So, I think you made the right choice.

But mostly, I admire your struggle to let God purify and reform your heart. God bless you, keep it up, and don't worry when you slip and complain or get impatient or angry. He is merciful.

Tricia said...

but hey, you have "rats filling up washing machines with water hoses" - those are awfully talented rats! :^) But they must also be very big :^o

New reader and just getting to know you, but I can tell I will learn a lot about grace. Keep on loving and investing in that family of yours!

Hendrick Family said...

Ha! That's funny Tricia. Guess I need to go back in there and add me a little comma, don't I!

Those rats ARE big...but they are totally inept at doing the laundry.


MacKenzie said...

I second what Robert said. We moved to Seoul when I was in high school. The first 6 months, we all had lots of little stomach problems but after that, we were fine but when a new family would show up, they had the same problems until they got used to the "new" germs too. My little brother actually got used to it the quickest, probable because he was 7 and rarely washed his hands!

Also, I am going through a tough time right now and I know that God is using your words to touch me. Even though our situations are completely different, our God is the same so I wanted to thank you for that.

Susan, wife of 1, mother of 4 said...

YEA, Heather! I am so proud of you! (I always knew you could do it). Good job to give up on the germs. I was never a germophobic, and our kids have very rarely been sick. I know the germs in Haiti are much worse, but I'm so proud of your faith! I will pray for your protection in Haiti against germs.

I know what you mean about the work. It was a shock for me, too, when we left the U.S., (no disposal, one sink, one load of wash took 2 hours and the dryer didn't work...we had a steam dryer, and the clothes still needed to be hung when they came out from the dryer) and I had moments when I spent pouting to God and explaining how it didn't make sense - I could be out making an impact for His kingdom, and He brought me to a place that made me spend more time working at home....by myself....impacting NO ONE! He gently (and very lovingly) reminded me that He doesn't need me, and my job is to do all things cheerfully and impact my family for Him. It was very humbling!

I LOVE your sassy green dish tubs! They add cheer to your kitchen. You are already impacting your family and visitors for God! YEA!!!!

Hang in there. You are doing GREAT! (I know you are in a much harder country than I was)

The Reeds said...

We washed and reused all of our ziplocs.

Sorry it's frustrating.

mandy said...

Hi! My name is Mandy and I found your blog through a friend. I wanted to tell you that I LOVE reading your posts! They are so encouraging and challenging to me in a really beautiful way. I think you rock.

Amy said...

Yay for being women after God's own heart! :) And for being a blessing no matter where we are or what we're doing, but especially if we're at home tending to those who mean the most to us.

Thank you for your post and for your ministry!


erin said...

I just found your blog recently Heather and it has been very cool to hear your journey.

I lived in Haiti with my family from age 11 - 17 and to this day, my younger siblings and I never get sick. We can only attribute it to our incredible immune systems courtesy of Haiti. Your kids will thank you for this gift (and many others) one day! ;)

Thanks for sharing your heart with us!

mandi said...

Yes- I second what others have said. Your flora in your gut will change as it gets used to the surroundings. Support your gut through the healthiest food you can get, and move on. You're right, we can only 'control' so much.
This also makes me think about the standard we have as American homemakers. WE have so much at our fingertips we expect to have immaculate homes. I've never been the best at keeping at perfect home. Because, you know, we live here and there are better things to do. Me thinks that in Haiti (or anywhere, really) it is best to let those expectations go. Am I right? Maybe to go back to the Little House way of doing things "wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, bake on Wednesday..." : )
Oh man, I do remember the days of having no dish washer. And there were only 3 of us (Levi was nursing). It does take a huge chunk of time to get all of that clean.
And you're right. It's all a heart issue, right? God is revealing some things in my nature right now as we take homeschooling a little more seriously. And walk little brother through a difficult stage. What beauty comes out surrendering the ugly to Him.

stephanie garcia said...

"We can be a part of something good and redemptive by tending to a home and the people inside it." - Thank you for this much needed reminder.

Anonymous said...

Your life (and your blog) bless my soul. Thank you for being open to share both with such realness with complete strangers.
God is most certainly glorified.