I loathe Virginia red clay soil. It's impossible to grow grass in. Or anything, for that matter. Getting it out of baseball pants, or any article of clothing, requires a lot of work and an exact science that combines at least three different types of stain sprays. According to the Virginia State Park Website, “red clay soil stains clothes because it's iron and oxide particles that cause the stain are so small they 'burrow' deep into the threads of the fabric and are very hard to remove. The particles are also not soluble in water or detergents.” That info makes me feel a little better about my stain removing inadequacies, but it is still frustrating. I thought I was pretty clever one afternoon when I tried carpet stain remover on Caleb's football pants. That didn't turn out well. After the game, he came over and was questioning why his skin was so raw and covered in rashes. I just shrugged my shoulders and learned a lesson. Carpet stain remover is not for human clothing. There is a lot of pressure to get your kids uniforms stain free. No one wants to be “that mom” that can't get out the stain. Every once in a while, when you have victory over the red clay, you can walk proudly in with your child who is almost glowing in his sparkling white baseball pants, only to have him slide into home plate a couple minutes later. But it was worth it. You were able to impress every mom there with your stain fighting abilities.
I had a run in with my nemesis, that terrible Virginia red clay soil, this morning. I was doing my morning clean-up routine. Straightening up. Seeing if beds were made. Checking toilets for any weird aftermaths of the night before. Taking 20 cups out of each kids room. Then I saw it. Red mud on the white bathroom rug. I started to clean it up and noticed more. I was getting upset. “Lousy kids. They wear their shoes everywhere.” “Am I the only one in this whole entire house that notices anything, like the house being covered in red mud or the trash that needs taken out?” As I cleaned, my attitude was going downhill fast. Every room I walked in had evidence of the dirt. “My kids are so ungrateful.” “Who ever did this is going to be grounded for a month!” I walked past the white rug I had just cleaned. Guess what? It had dirt on it! Had I missed some when I cleaned it last? I went back to wipe the same rug, again. I took special note this time to make sure it was clean. Then I took a step. And the rug was dirty. Get where I am going with this? I looked at the bottoms of my pink flip flops in quiet embarrassment. They were covered in mud. It was me who left the trail. When I first noticed the red dirt, I was almost done with my morning routine. Which meant I had entered every room. A 20 minute clean up routine turned into an hour of cleaning up the mess I had unknowingly left behind.
Then I heard a little whisper. “Your words can be like this mud. Leaving traces of something dirty everywhere you go.” I thought about it, as I scrubbed the floors. I started to understand this little piece of wisdom God was trying to show me. I tend to get worked up easily and yell things I don't mean. I can do it easily with Jim and the kids. Funny how your family, the ones you love the most, can become targets of your frustration. When I finally become aware that I have said something I shouldn't have, I try to clean it up with an apology, like I was trying to clean the dirt up with a cloth. Sometimes I just keep on saying things that are hurtful and spread even more “dirt” around in the process. Words can never be taken back. They can stay with people for a lifetime. Even after an apology, people can be left wondering if what you said is how you really feel.
Ephesians 4:26-32 cuts right to the chase and gives us some “do” and “do not” rules when it comes to controlling our tongue. Take a minute to look it up in your Bible. It's worth the read. I will give you a quick run down.
DO say good things people need.
DO be a blessing by what you say.
DO be kind.
DO love each other.
DO forgive often.
DON'T let your anger make you sin.
DON'T stay angry all day.
DON'T give the Devil a way to defeat you.
DON'T say anything bad.
DON'T make the Holy Spirit sad.
DON'T be angry, bitter or mad.
DON'T shout, say anything to hurt or do evil.
I can leave a pretty dirty trail of words behind me as I go through the day. Messes left to clean up. Things permanently stained. But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the words of Ephesians 4:26-32, I can leave a cleaner path behind me by being kind, loving, forgiving, and giving grace. I know I will mess up. But when you don't make a point of changing something, you will most likely stay the same. Let's work on accomplishing this list given to us in Ephesians. And the next time I am about to go crazy about Virginia red clay on the carpet, I'll be sure to check my own flip flops before I blame another person's shoes.