Happy spring, everyone! I hope this season brings more flowers than allergies, more bright and sunny days than showers. I like to think of myself as someone who just absolutely loves everything, but if I’m being a little more honest, I am not, in fact, a walking ray of sunshine all the time. There are some things that I honestly just hate for no real reason, and pretending to love them has done nothing to erase my detestation. Mornings exist for the sole purpose of keeping my life from being perfect. Roller coasters aren’t actually all that fun. Snow is overrated. I could really do without screaming in my music, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop hating cockroaches. But, nothing is worse than washing the dishes…
I have somewhat of a fixation on living a “big life.” I couldn’t care less about the typical things people want—a large salary, a nice home. As long as my life is big, it can look however it looks. I’ve been trying to force myself recently to consider what actually constitutes a big life because I was worried that I wasn’t living one. I’m not living in a big place, and I’m not really doing anything that has a big, broad impact on the world. I drink coffee and I go to class and I work and I live out my typical college student existence. But, is that really big enough for me?
When I started thinking about it, I realized that what looks to be an incredibly normal everyday life somehow feels incredibly big. There’s nothing all that spectacular or grand about my life, but it feels so full. I also realized that some of the most meaningful moments I’ve had this year center around a sink…and washing the dishes.
One of the first weeks of school, I was up late baking, and I had a stack of dishes that I was trying to wash in my bathroom sink. My roommate asked if I needed help, and I said I didn’t. But, when she heard me drop something, she came into the bathroom anyway and asked, “what do you need me to do?” We washed and dried the rest of the dishes together, and I just remember being amazed at the kind of love that must exist in the world if someone who barely knew me was willing to help me do what I considered to be one of the most detestable things in the world.
My brother and his roommates let me come to their apartment to bake whenever I want. They talk to me and make me feel like home. I always add dishes to the pile in the sink, but I try to wash whatever’s there before I leave. I try to leave the sink empty because I always leave with my heart so full.
Over spring break, I stayed in my brother’s apartment with him on campus. We worked, and one night we went to the store because we decided we were tired of sandwiches and microwavable meals. He cooked tortellini, Italian sausage, and brisket, which is definitely an odd combination, but I think there’s something really beautiful about looking over to see the kid I was forced to grow up with cooking for me, not because he had to but because he wanted to. So after, I did the dishes…because I wanted to.
Sunday morning, some friends and I made breakfast and ate together. (I love eating with people I love because it feeds your body and your soul at the same time.) We huddled around the bar, snacking on pancakes and bacon before the grits and eggs were ready. Then we ate, some standing and some sitting, music playing in the background. I walked outside for a minute and came back to a friend washing the mountain of dishes. I asked if he wanted help, and he said yes. We worked together for a while, and as he found a dish towel, another friend came to help. I can’t really explain why, but I’ll always be very fond of those few moments, when there was enough love for help to be offered and enough grace for help to be accepted, those few moments when washing dishes seemed a lot more like washing feet. My dad has always done the dishes at my house, and I think it’s so fitting that the best, most faithful servant I’ve ever known has always done the dishes…even if it’s taken me this long to see it as an act of service.
Washing the dishes is probably one of the most mundane activities in the world, but under the right circumstances, it makes my life feel so big. I’ve decided that a “big life” is life more abundantly, a life that’s overflowing with community and friendship and joy, no matter how ordinary it seems. It’s a life where I love to do the dishes, and getting up early in the morning is worth it. From a distance, doing the dishes seems so small, so unimportant, so not worth my while. It’s not impactful or exciting; it doesn’t even qualify as an experience. But, my life would be less abundant without it, without the people, the love, and the grace I have found standing at the sink.
Dirty dishes, much like dirty people, have a way of making room for grace. They create space to be fully known and still fully loved. I hope you always have someone to tackle the dirty dishes with—the ones in your sink and the ones inside yourself. I hope that you discover what it means for your life to be more abundant, and I hope it’s everything you ever wanted.
If the biggest thing I ever do is wash the dishes and have the pleasure of knowing all of you, my life will have been extraordinarily abundant. And, I’m eternally grateful.
All the love in the world,