What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is no new thing under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new?” It has already been, in the ages before us.
Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 (NRSV)
In less than two weeks, 20+ people will come for dinner – an edible thank-you from my husband and me for their leadership in the faith community that we’ve done since 2003. Every year, we enjoy choosing the main course, setting out appetizers and tasty beverages, and lighting the house with just enough candles to create a friendly glow. The pattern is the same, the routine virtually unchanged these past fifteen years. Yet, every one is completely different: new people come while others leave, everyone ages a year, and the weather and conversations are unique to the evening. It’s a routine event and something new and unrepeatable every single year – a living, breathing paradox right in my own home.
One of the ways I prepare for this same old, same old, never before, never again event is by giving most rooms in the house a thorough cleaning. Yesterday, I began this yearly scrubbing in the kitchen. The walls got a wipe-down with Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap and vinegar, and the woodwork got a Murphy’s Oil Soap treatment. My Electrolux inhaled a truly amazing amount of dust from the refrigerator coils, and the cupboard over the fridge got its twice-yearly once-through. A few leftover Christmas mugs found there way into storage, and I rearranged the cups and plates on the open shelves. Today and tomorrow, I’ll continue this work, cleaning and sorting and rearranging canned goods and baking pans; I won’t make drastic changes, but I’ll rearrange a few things. When the kitchen is done, I’ll move on to the next room, leaving it cleaner and more functional for my efforts.
I’ve come to appreciate and even enjoy this cleaning process. It’s a way for me to acknowledge and accept the evolving needs and patterns of my family life, and the chance to alter my living space to accommodate them. In 2003, my sons were pre-schoolers and my house child-proofed; today, one son is away at college and the other is in high school. The insignificant yearly changes I’ve made in my annual dinner cleaning have created a vastly different configuration in every single room of the house.
If I hadn’t put in the time to clean and update, would I have made the changes that honor my family’s new reality? In the same old, same old of every day life, would I see and be thankful for the transformation and renewal off all things? I wonder…