Musings + Essays

Time to Whitewash the House.

By: Jen Shoop

At Church this past Sunday, in honor of the first Sunday in Advent, the priest shared that he had visited with a gentleman who had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Despite his prognosis, he was in good spirits, and, before departing, the priest remarked on his laudable attitude with no small degree of reverence. The gentleman responded:

“Well, father — I’m just thankful that God gave me enough time to whitewash the house.”

I’ve been marinating on this since I left Church a few days ago.

What are the areas in my life that need some nurturing or cleansing?

What relationships have I left dormant?

What needs pruning?

The priest shared this story as a prompt for self-preening in the context of the watchfulness and wait of Advent, a blessedly less-morbid circumstance than the gentleman was facing. What parts of the house need cleaning today?

I have been guilty during this busy season of life of unreflecting neglect. I flat out forgot to include a loved one in a gathering recently, and she was deeply hurt — and though the oversight was unintentional, it reminded me of story a friend of mine shared a couple years ago. She’s an admittedly fairly clumsy person (to the point that she has broken several glasses and plates in our home) and she told me that, once, she had accidentally shattered a favorite ornament of her mother’s that had once belonged to her great-grandmother. “I didn’t mean to!” she interjected. Her mother replied: “Sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes you have to mean not to.”

The priest’s sermon, and my recent carelessness in a cherished relationship, remind me of the importance of intentionality. I often feel that I’m moving along a track, my days littered with the micro-milestones of infant care and toddler nurture, the endless train of feeding and cleaning and singing and changing and reading and bathing, and can find it difficult to take a step back and think with any measure of perspective.

But ’tis the season. To practice mindfulness. To whitewash the house.


+Advent season is officially underway and so I have been stocking our Advent calendar with little gifts for mini every day. A couple of my favorite finds (would also be great stocking stuffers): this coloring roll, training chopsticks (she was very into using chopsticks when we got ramen last weekend!), safari bath foam puzzles, twistable crayons, Crayola bath dropz.

+I love white servewear, and this cabbage leaf bowl would be an ideal addition.

+Get the Lele padded headband look for a fraction of the price with this $33 steal.

+Can’t get enough velvet this season. Still dying over the blue velvet dress mini wore for Thanksgiving. Love this dress (upgrade pick: this) and this headband for mini, this romper for micro, and this dress and these flats for me.

+Love this striped blouse (on super sale!). I’ve been very impressed with everything I’ve ever purchased from Veronica Beard. Also think this (heavily-discounted!) tweed dress would be a great piece in any closet — could work for a baby shower, Sunday Mass, brunch, etc. So elegant but updated.

+Another label that has never disappointed me? Nicholas. I love its feminine shapes and interesting prints. This gorgeous dress is heavily discounted and currently sitting in my cart for next summer. (The skirt version of that dress is only $63!!! I can imagine wearing this with a simple white top and some white slides to a BBQ / summer birthday.) Also eyeing this stunning white number — only $120?!

+In honor of the Rockefeller Tree lighting this week, bought mini this book.

+Darling bow-adorned knee socks.

+Such a cute birthday gift idea for a three-year-old. Mini loves little sets like these — ideal for imaginative play, and I think there’s just something about the size of the pieces that is appealing to little hands.

+Just ordered this longline tweed blazer/cardigan hybrid.

+If you’re looking for more spiritually-oriented posts like this one: a personal beatitude, a humble thing, and a prayer that got me through micro’s c-section.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

10 thoughts on “Time to Whitewash the House.

  1. “What are the areas in my life that need some nurturing or cleansing?
    What relationships have I left dormant?
    What needs pruning?”

    Such powerful questions… I’ll be thinking about these this season. It can be so easy to get caught-up in the “to-do’s” of the holidays — presents, decking the halls, etc… but I’ve really been contemplating the themes of gratitude, patience, and simplicity (though I feel the third one is more challenging, ha! Cyber Monday effects are still lingering in me…). How can I practice more gratitude and model it in ways my 2-year-old can understand – especially on the heels of Thanksgiving, and her birthday, which always falls around Thanksgiving? We’ve been enjoying “writing” thank you cards (on which I write the actual note and she scribbles with crayons) for birthday presents she received, so I’m hoping it’s a tradition we can do yearly, and something I hope to build on as she gets older and understands more.

    I’d also like to be more mindful about extending more patience with her as she is definitely expressing herself (in no uncertain terms) as a toddler now. It can be easy to let patience slip in such a busy, harried season…. so along those lines, how can I simplify instead of “glorifying busy-ness” (P.S. I stole that phrase from somewhere, I wish I could remember where!). For example, I’d really love to have a conversation with my relatives about considering “experience gifts” for our children or gifts to charity in their name (especially for the more “senior” relatives who generally have what they want/need or have the means to do so). Not to come off as holier than thou, but for my daughter’s first birthday last year we wrote “your presence is the present” and suggested on the invitation, if they felt inclined, to donate to a specific charity (which supports the health and education of children from both my husband’s and my home countries, both of which are developing nations) and it simplified things significantly. I’m not quite sure how to broach the topic with my relatives yet with regard to Christmas… especially when everyone (myself included) seems to enjoy the gift-giving part and watching the children unwrap presents.

    This is probably getting way too long, but I’d like to echo what MK wrote in her comment — I, too, appreciate how you write about your faith. I am always left reflecting on how I can apply it to my own life. I’m so grateful to have found you and your lovely, thoughtful writing!

    1. Hi Mia! First – thank you so much for the words. I’m glad we’ve found each other. I look forward to the reactions, insights, and experiences of my Magpie tribe literally every day. I hope I make this clear often enough — I do not enjoy the image of myself writing into a vacuum. I love — LOVE — all of the comments and emails I receive, and never worry about writing too much!

      I’ve grappled with a lot of these same thoughts, and I especially loved your intention around “simplifying” instead of “glorifying busy-ness.” Boy did that hit home. I often find that the hours from 4-6, when I am attempting to tidy the house, put micro down for his final nap, prepare dinner, fold laundry, etc. is particularly difficult because I am trying to get a lot done and mini is also following me around, begging for my attention. Your writing this made me realize that maybe all that busywork (which does need to get done!) could be re-organized or streamlined in some way so that I can afford more time to the stuff that matters — i.e., interacting with mini. I mean, I need to be practical (there are chores that must get done! mouths that must be fed!) but sometimes I am just flurrying around and I overlook the most important part of my day: my daughter.

      Anyway, thanks for the food for thought. I appreciate this 🙂


  2. My Dad’s response to “I didn’t mean to!” was (sometimes) “You didn’t try hard enough not to” — and that has really stuck with me. And now I say it to my own kiddos 🙂

  3. Such a great reminder. I think Advent itself forces us to slow down a bit and reflect day-by-day, in anticipation of Christmas. I will work to be more intentional this season as well.

    I agree about Veronica Beard – I have a pair of pants from VB that I adore!

  4. This post gave me such food for thought this morning, and I’ll keep it in mind this Advent. I would hate to think that I’d leave anything un-nurtured if I were to leave my family and friends behind prematurely. Thank you for posting this!

    Also, just wanted to say that I love how your blog incorporates your faith. I am a lapsed Catholic myself, but as I get older, I find myself returning to rituals from my upbringing. (For example, on a recent bumpy, stormy flight departure, I recited the Hail Mary ten times and that, combined with yoga breathing, got me through my anxiety spikes!) Anyway, just wanted to let you know that even as someone who does not really practice anymore, I find your commitment to your faith inspiring. xx

    1. Wow – thank you! I so appreciate this. I’m always a little bit on the fence about how much to include on this front!! xoxo

    2. And to that, I say: you do you! I personally find it inspiring and balanced between the devotional & the secular. 🙂 xx

Previous Article

Next Article