Monday, November 24, 2008

Week III -- Day II -- A Bubbling Fountain and Sink Organization

You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain. Song of Songs 4:12

Let's add this to the passage we talked about memorizing yesterday. Memory wise, we'll camp out on these two verses for a couple of weeks. If you're like me, you can only commit to memory a couple of passages at a time.

This passage, Song of Solomon 4:12, can say several things to us. Some scholars see the whole book from which it is taken as an allegory of Christ's love for the church and vice versa, while other scholars think it applies strictly to the love between a husband and a wife. I'm no scholar, but I tend to think that the writers in the second category have a good case. Either way, this is a beautiful verse.

If we are married, we are a garden enclosed and a sealed fountain for the Lord first, and then for our husbands. If we are single, we are a garden enclosed and a sealed fountain for the Lord and, if the Lord wills, for the husband we may have one day.

Why is the garden enclosed? It is set apart, protected from being trampled on by every passer-by, protected from foraging animals, kept safe and lovely and useful for its rightful owner. Why is the fountain sealed? It, too, is set apart from common use, protected against any impurities that might muddy it, and kept fit for its rightful owner. We wall and seal things that are of great value to us -- things that we want or need to protect. Here's an example: the most intimate areas in the love of a husband and wife are private and special, sealed off from wrongful intrusion by outside parties, wholesome and delightful, and belonging only to the Lord and to that couple.

I think we've all seen and admired enclosed gardens. When I think of enclosed gardens, I especially think of gardens in cities like New Orleans and Charleston. In those areas, the old homes were built close together and close to the street. They all had gardens that were separated by a wall and a gate from the hustle and bustle of passers-by. When you walk through those cities even today, you get just a glimpse of those lovely gardens. However, the gardens are mostly sealed off from view. They serve as a private haven for the families who live in those houses-- a place where loved ones can gather and enjoy beautiful flowers in privacy or a person might walk out alone to catch a bit of fresh air. If I had one of those gardens, I would be sure to have a fountain in it. Wouldn't you?

According to Elizabeth George, houses were built this way in the old part of Jerusalem. They had walled courtyards with a fountain in the center. Everything in the household was built around that fountain -- the garden, the verandah, the house, and the walkways. Elizabeth visited one such house, a U-shaped structure supported by seven pillars.

"In the very center of this lovely scene was a fountain! Imagine - coolness and shade and water and grass and greenery after the dust and heat of the street! Imagine -- silence after the clamor of the crowds, hawkers, and animals! Yes, it was paradise!

"But, I want to tell you more about that fountain...Singing with joy, that fountain provided the only sound we heard. With its gurgles and gushes, its bubbles and busyness, that lovely fountain (at the center of the household) said, 'Welcome to a place where everything is cared for and every care met!'

..."You see, as God's beautiful women, you and I are to be a fountain of joy at the heart of our home...Proverbs 31 is all about being a fountain of joy --- of life, of love, of nourishment -- for others....of joyful energy, a faithful and diligent worker who willingly, enthusiastically and continually makes home happen."

So, she describes the keeper at home as a fountain and a garden that provide an enclosed haven for loved ones and guests, one who knows her purpose and who is set apart for her calling, one who overflows with love for every member of the household, and who happily sees that the needs of the household are continually being met. Whew, that's a tall order! How can we remain such a continuous fountain of love and joy and energy in the heart of our home? We can't -- on our own power, that is.

When I first read these lovely and true words by Elizabeth George, I was enthralled with the idea of being a loving, bubbling, joyful, beautiful fountain at the center of my home. Yet, despite the fact that I was in a relationship with the true source of Life -- the Lord- -- my poor little fountain sometimes trickled drip by drip, rather than overflowing and singing with the loving abundance I dreamed of.

Looking back on it, I can see why. For one thing, I was trying to make myself into the fountain, rather than just trustfully obeying the Lord and letting Him flow through me. Don't get me wrong; great discipline and effort are needed on our part if we want to be noble keepers at home. However, our works and obedience need to be motivated by faith, rather than as an attempt at self-improvement.

Also, along with my right motivations of loving the Lord and my family, there was a good deal of wanting to be that bubbly fountain for my glory -- to receive appreciation from my loved ones and others. I missed the mark there. Jesus said to be careful not to do what you do for the praise of men, but to do it out of your private devotion to the Lord. Matthew Chapter 6. (Notice again, the idea of a private, enclosed, and pure source.) When we do let our light shine before men, it is to call attention to His glory -- not ours.

There are many reasons why a keeper at home might feel that she is a slow leak rather than a bubbling fountain. That's why we always need to go to the Lord, who is the true fountain at the center of our home. He is the source, the wellspring, the garden of our life. We need to spend time with Him in quietness, resting with Him just as one might enter an enclosed garden to find peace and rest. We need to set apart our hearts and our lives as a garden for His purpose, devoted and kept holy for Him. When we do, God provides the strength and the motivation that keeps us "working willingly with our hands." Proverbs 31.

Second to that, if we are married, we need to keep a flourishing, loving relationship with our husband, who is -- under Christ -- the head of our home.

With those two priorities in place, we will bubble and sing and overflow like a beautiful fountain at the center of our home. We won't be able to help it. People and all living things who are rightfully connected to the Lord and who are in the center of the Lord's purpose for their lives, can't do anything other than overflow with His goodness.

Isn't that a lovely thought? We can be a garden enclosed and a sealed fountain for the Lord, set apart and made holy to Him and by Him for His purposes. We can also be a fountain overflowing with love to meet the needs of our family and guests.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever. Psalm 52:7-9

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8.

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. John 7:37-39.

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." Acts 2:36-38.

See also A Garden Enclosed.

The Sink Center:

Do you realize how much time a day you spend at your kitchen sink? If you're like me, you end up there several times a day. It's wise to spend a little time thinking about how to organize and maintain this part of your home.

It's so important that Flylady uses it as the central cleaning point of a home. Her reasoning is that if you keep the kitchen sink clean consistently, day after day, you'll have one central point of your home always looking nice. That, in turn, can motivate you to move out from there to keep an organized home. For information about how to keep a sink clean, see here.

The sink will be especially important during the holidays, when we cook even more than usual.

Here are some ideas:

1) I think we all know it's a good idea to keep glasses, coffee cups, etc., near the sink. (However, if you don't use tap water, you might re-think this. The reason I keep mine in a cabinet near the sink is really more for the sake of that cabient being right above the dishwasher, which is right beside the sink.) I used to keep my coffee center there, as well, but I have moved it to a little table in my kitchen. I don't mind the extra steps it takes to fill the coffee pot, as we use it more for guests in our home than for ourselves. It actaully serves me well to have everything for the coffee set up a bit away from my sink than right by it. However, if you fix coffee daily, consider setting up your coffee center as close to your sink as possible.
2) Pitchers and colanders are handy to have near the sink if you have the room.
3) Paring knives and veggie brushes are handy to have near the sink. Mine are near the sink, but they are in a drawer along with other items. My little project will be to gather them together in a little container so that I can grab them quickly and turn back around to the sink.
4) If you ever design a home, I'm sure you know to put your dishwasher near the sink. However, it's worth mentioning, just so it's not one of those little details you forget.
5) A dish strainer and dish pan are handy to have near the sink, as are cleaning supplies to keep the sink fresh. My mother in law knits dish drainers out of a special yarn. She made one for me. I store it with my dish towels and such. When I have items that I want to hand dry, I bring it out, unfold it on the counter, and place items on it. The yarn soaks up any water that drains. Then, I just toss the item in the washer. If anyone's interested in this being one of our knitting projects, I'll ask her for the directions.
6) Most people already know to keep their trash containers near the sink.
7) Tea kettles and such are great to store near the sink.
8) Deniese Schofield of an organized home uses dishpans to help carry items from the table to the sink to be sorted, rinsed, placed in the dishwasher, or hand washed. This can save time over carrying items one by one. She also uses clean dishpans to carry items to the table to be set. She enlists her children to help with both steps.
9) Be careful about storing cleaning things underneath the sink if you have small children in the home.
10) Don't cram the area underneath your sink with too many items. It's good not to pile things up so much that they interfere with seeing the sink pipes or the garbage disposal. In case of trouble, you need to be able to take a quick peak underneath to see where the problem might lie. Also, these things need room to funciton properly. I have made the mistake of piling cleaning rags up so high that they bump right into the bottom of the disposal.



Sandy said...

I am going to meditate on this idea of being a fountain in a walled garden. I don't feel well this week, so I feel like my fountain is cracked and uncared for and there is no water flowing at all. Have you ever seen a beautiful fountain with no water? It's so dissapointing. Everyone wants to see what it would look like with water flowing through it. I admit to still struggling at times with wanting 'credit' for the things I do around the house, especially from my husband. Why is that? Not one of my better traits.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Sandy,

I can so relate to how you feel! I have some health challenges, and, when it comes to physical energy, there are days when I feel as if my fountain is dry. If I get down about that, then my motivation suffers, too.

I think it's natural for us to enjoy appreciation from others. Women especially love it when their husbands are considerate in this way.

The reality is that we won't always have perfect health or perfect motivation, either. The reality is that many of the best things we do in life are little things that people may or may not notice. This is true for our husbands, as well. The best little things they do at work or in the church may or may not be noticed. And, we don't always thank them for the little things they do for us and our families, either -- or, at least I don't always.

That's why I have to keep going back to the Lord, who provides the eternal fountain of life. Jesus understands what it feels like to die on the cross for people who were gambling at his feet or making fun of him or hiding in fear of being crucified with Him -- Even today, who can say that we fully appreciate the greatest sacrifice in all of history! Jesus can refresh you even when you don't feel appreciated.

Keepers at home are in this for the long haul. On a daily basis, we may feel unappreciated. The full impact and meaning of our lives may be hidden to others and even to us. God knows what we need, however, and He gives us appreciation through our husbands and children at just the right time. In the meantime, we can bathe our loved ones in gratitude. That is good for them, and it helps our mood, as well.

Julieann said...

Absolutely! Flylady had a great idea about the clean sink---once that is clean--it motivates for everything else to be clean too.

I am going to do my best to be bubbeling fountain for my family!

Love this post.