In the Midst of Dirty Dishes

In the Midst of Dirty Dishes

October 14, 2013

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: … whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:9–11 ESV)

She and her husband had been missionaries for over sixty years and led countless people to Christ. Now she was in her eighties and still serving. My friend Sheli and I were honored to stay with her for a week to minister alongside her.

After traveling thirty hours to her home in Takamatsu, Japan, we arrived late in the evening. She ushered us into her kitchen for a hearty meal, then prayed for us before we all went to bed. When the sun was barely up the next morning, we feasted on an enormous breakfast in her tiny kitchen.

The kitchen was crowded, her appliances old and worn, dishes piled high in the sink from her lavish food preparation—yet the atmosphere felt entirely like home. As she and her husband read Scripture and encouraged us, tears welled up in my eyes, the love of Christ enveloped us; it overwhelmed me.

Immediately after breakfast, she began cooking again, this time for 100 women. She’d rented a banquet hall and invited friends, telling them an American would be speaking and there would be food. We cooked, set up tables for the luncheon, and then I was ushered to the front to speak. Her objective in hosting the event was to build a bridge in hopes that those who came for lunch would come back again for church on Sunday. Many did!

While driving home after the lunch, she told me she’d invited a large group to the house for dinner that night. I couldn’t imagine how we could clean up the mess we’d left behind and simultaneously prepare another meal. How would we get it all done? She didn’t seem concerned. Instead, she was fueled by the energy of what the Lord had done at the luncheon.

There have been times I’ve worried more about my kitchen than how I can serve others. I fret over the size and messiness. But I was inspired as I watched this woman who had no concerns about the dirty pots in her sink. She didn’t let an unswept floor keep her from ministering. She set the table beautifully and welcomed her guests. She and her husband prayed and read Scripture. Hearts melted.

Years have passed since that week in Japan and I think of her whenever I have company. Over the course of her life, she has ministered to thousands in her home, and many have come to know Jesus there. Her ministry has nothing to do with a spotless kitchen. In fact, her kitchen was a mess. But whenever God opens a window of opportunity, she seizes it.

I want my service to be like that described by the apostle Peter, grounded “in the strength that God supplies.” I want to long for people to know Jesus more than I long for the perfect kitchen.

God cares more about what’s happening among the people in our kitchen than He cares about the state of it. My missionary friend taught me that it is possible to share God’s love, demonstrate His character, and offer hospitality, even in the midst of dirty dishes.

Dear Lord, show me ways to serve through the resources You’ve given me. Help me care more about people than things like dirty dishes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Related Resources
Sometimes we need a trusted friend to remind us that God supplies all our needs, including strength to serve others. We would love to be a voice of encouragement and godly perspective to you through the 100 devotions found in our new book, Encouragement for Today: Devotionals for Everyday Living.

You may notice the format below is different. That’s because today’s devotion is a sample pulled directly from Encouragement for Today to give you a taste of our new book. Click here to pick up your copy.

Visit Sharon Glasgow’s blog for more encouragement.

Your kitchen is a perfect place to show hospitality. Don’t wait for it to be perfect to invite guests. God will supply the ability you need to minister in your kitchen, and He will be glorified.

Would you be willing to invite people to stay for dinner if they dropped by unannounced—even if your kitchen were a mess? Why or why not?

Can you think of a one person, family, or neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus that you could invite for dinner? Make a call and get it on the calendar.

Power Verses
Proverbs 31:15; Proverbs 31:25–27

Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team. © 2013 Proverbs 31 Ministries. Used by permission of Zondervan.

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  1. Valerie Imsen says:

    Wow – this is for you Val1!!!

  2. Im glad you wrote this, it confirms my thoughts on my family & “my kitchen”. After a long day at work, I come home & prepare a meal & nothing bothers me more than a dirty kitchen & a sink full of dishes, but I only have 2 hours with my children before they go to bed so….I ignore the kitchen, for a little, and try to enjoy my kids. Is it easy for me to do that? Sometimes, no. But Im trying to learn to enjoy them & clean messes later. Thank you for sharing this devo today. A confirmation for me.

    • … the way, after I put the kiddos to bed, I go back to the kitchen & do all those dishes & prepare what I can for the next days meal. 🙂

    • I’m totally with you Mandy! It’s hard to look over the mess, sit back and enjoy but wow you’ve got your priorities in order. You’ll be thankful for the rest of your life. Hugs!

  3. Beautiful account – thank you!

  4. So encouraging. She was the perfect blend of Mary and Martha.

  5. I love this! I used to not host gatherings (anything from friends over to Bible studies) because my house wasn’t perfect. I don’t have granite countertops, new appliances, beautiful carpet, or a spotless house. Now my home is open to many and people come not to see my home, but because love is here. I wasted a lot of years worried about the state of my home. God calls me to worry about the state of my heart and those I encounter. Thanks for this reminder as I go into my kitchen to put away the pile of dishes left from last night’s fun evening with well-loved friends.

  6. This is excellent Sharon. Oh the many opportunities I’ve missed! I’ve shared this on my facebook page. Isn’t it interesting . . how God allowed you to experience that type of hospitality and in turn encourage other women with what you saw and felt. Thank you for your ministry. You are a blessing.

    • Thank you Abbey! God was SO good to let me stay in her home and witness true hospitality. What a blessing she is to thousands reading this devotion. Hugs!

  7. Ha! This was for me. My husband and I love to host. Hospitality is our gift; however, this year we’re not feeling it. I have been thinking about ALL we have to do in order to throw a party or a gathering and it exhausts me. I hate my sour attitude. I have three parties I’m planning, two of which are birthdays. Personally, I don’t have a problem of prepping our house for these events it’s the outside that my husband insists NEEDS to be done. Who cares if the lawn isn’t cut (it’s not bad at all) or that we have a stack of wood waiting to deck a tree house? It’s the non-essential laundry list of things that MOST guests won’t even notice that takes the winds out of my sails but they matter tremendously to my husband. Maybe I should have him read this… I will say I could forego a little dusting and mopping before inviting someone over.

  8. Thank you for sharing this dear lady’s testimony … that we might see the joy in her serving was in the work for her Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit in the strength that He gives. …and that our beauty before our Father is in the inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is of great worth to God. How many times in our day and time we concern ourselves with putting on an extravaganza than feeding the hungry in heart with manna from Heaven. I am so very touched by her testimony. jb

  9. I love this! It does not come naturally for me but I am trying to get better at showing hospitality to unannounced guests.

  10. Wow — how appropriate after this past weekend of learning about God’s love and setting priorities as I journeyed with God on the mountain during an Emmaus Walk. Thank you so much for this ministry.

  11. Wasn’t this devotional posted a few months ago? Maybe it’s because I read these everyday I know.

  12. Thank you so much, Sharon! Man, what a beautiful example of a modern-day Mary who cares more about Jesus and what he’s doing than appearing perfect to everyone around her. I feel like you communicated her heart so well. I’m challenged and excited to move forward with a mindset that seeks to love others like Jesus above all else and let the kitchen critics roll off my back!

  13. Chelsey Slusser says:

    I do struggle with a dirty kitchen. It drives me crazy to go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. It is funny the little things that we let bother us and hinder what God has planned. I have to work really hard at letting go of the control and letting God have the reins. I enjoyed this little devotion today. I will continue try to keep the kitchen clean, but I will not turn away a guest even if my kitchen is dirty! We might just eat in the living room or outside in this beautiful Oklahoma weather right now.

  14. Thank you for reminding me that my home… Like my life .. Doesn’t have to be perfect.. Or clean .. To be used by our God…
    May my heart be open to serve …

  15. Thanks for the encouraging message to keep offering hospitality even though the house isn’t spotless 🙂

  16. Thanks so much for this post. Its so awesome how God works. I was just talking to my minister yesterday about how frustrated I am that I can’t keep my house clean because I have been so sick, which in turn makes it so we will not invite people over. I feel guilty a lot of the time because I don’t feel good and then my husband and I will talk about wanting to gave someone over and we always say no because our house is a mess. Thus article helps put things in perspective. Thanks.

  17. Ruth Shanks says:

    A lovely writing, but I have a small criticism. The Lord knows and calls us by name! I found it difficult to read about “She and her husband…” without name.

    • Aw you’re sweet Ruth, their names were Stella and Ralph. I’ll take your small criticism serious next time and include names. Great advice! Hugs!

  18. What an awesome devotional reading it pierced straight into my spirit and I literally new God was speaking . I laughed and cried as I understood His message to me . I love to cook and always want to invite people to come over but thinking of all the cleaning I may have to do before and after limits me , but through this reading I understood meaningful ;everlasting JOYFUL servanthood. I wont be taking my dishes to heaven but I will take the memory of making people happy and maybe saved…. 🙂 Thanks for writing to women and their private struggles..

  19. Ramona Hosman says:

    I had postpartum Depression after my 3rd beautiful child and it took along time to recover, My house has yet to recover with softball almost every weekend and my husband working overtime our house it not what it used to be. I struggled for years with this. Just this year I let it go and excepted I can not fix it all, and I really enjoy having people over, so now I open my door and when some one calls and wants to come over even though there are piles of undone laundry and dirty dishes my door is always open. Thank you for sharing! A home is lived in and part of living is messy so enjoy life even when it is messy!

  20. Maria Conway says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve just moved to a little island of about 500 people where there are almost no believers….so lots of opportunities for ministry! Our house has always been a place for anyone and everyone to drop by, for a coffee, dinner or even just a chat. My husband and I feel God has given us the gift of hospitality as a couple. I try to keep the house as clean as is realistically possible with three young children and never really worried about it much. Lately, though, it seems every woman I meet has a spotless home where eating off the floor would not be out of the question. And unpacking and organizing our house is taking forever. I’ve been feeling completely inadequate. I have even put off inviting people over when I could be reaching out to women who I can sense are lonely and discouraged. Thank you for reminding that the love of Jesus I can offer is much bigger than a basket of laundry or a half unpacked box.

    • Maria what you have to offer in your home is of much more value than a spotless house! You’ve got what they need; the peace that passes all understanding, the love of Christ and His power that reigns in your home! I can’t wait for you to invite them. I want to hear how it goes!!!

  21. Sharon, Thank you so much! My grown daughter has been telling me this now. When her friends had dropped in, etc. she said I worried too much but welcomed them. With an empty nest now we have gotten lazier but I miss having people over.

  22. Wow…tears fill my eyes as if this was meant for me. Due to an unfortunate (or maybe fortunate) circumstance we’ve had to move in with my in-laws. At first I complained to my husband because my mother in law is not as neat as I would like. She leaves dirty dishes in the sink and sometime you can’t find room in the sink to even rinse off a cup. But just like your friend in the story she is always cooking for those she loves. Most people do not get along with their mother in law but I love mine. She is amazing and she has ministered to me so much since being here. Reading this tonight made me realize dirty dishes does not matter, what matters are the wonderful words of encouragement, her sharing her testimonies of how God has delivered her and brought us to her at a time when she needed it most. How amazing is that! She felt we gave her life purpose when all I was focused on was my situation. Thank you for opening my heart and my eyes.

  23. Very early in my marriage, I remember an old friend coming to visit unexpectedly. As we were visiting, I was tidying up and when I started to do my dishes, my friend said: “Oh, stop with the housework already!” “I didn’t come to see your house, I came to see you!” Since that time and raising two very active boys, when people come to visit unexpectedly, I say: “Yes, my house is a mess, but my children are happy and that’s all that matters to me!” There is an old cliché I remember reading that goes something like this: The housework will be waiting for you whenever you are ready, but your children will be children only a little while. It’s not exactly right so if someone knows what I’m talking about I’d like to hear the right version. To this day I still cannot figure out how my Mother raised eight children in a neat and tidy house! I believe she must have had a close relationship with God in her own way, because she never went to church! This devotional has made me realize I need to start inviting friends to my house again, it’s been many years! Very encouraging! Thank You Sharon!

    • I agree with you Leonora–we raised 5 daughters and I would drop a tidy house any day to love. listen and minister to them. All five call me several times a week even now and we still put more emphasis on internal instead of external. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to say I love a clean house but that is not a lead priority.

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