Michelle Martin

Setting things to rights

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Christmas lights are turned off, if not taken down, and the Christmas tree no longer dominates our living room.

Furniture has been moved back to its usual places, or, in some cases, rearranged to find a layout that works better.

We’re still finding stray ornaments and decorations that need to go to the basement so they can be stowed in a Christmas box, ready for next winter, but more of my time is spent ferrying coffee and tea mugs back to the kitchen and picking tiny scraps of paper off the floor. Really, who knew that five people doing work and school from home would generate so many bits of paper?

I brush and braid hair, wash and dry dishes, change bedding and clean bathrooms.

Ordinary time indeed.

Coming after the great celebration of Christmas, there’s something settling about this time, restful, a time for all of us to catch our breath before Lent takes us from the mud and gloom of late winter to the glory of Easter, and springtime.

That comes with its own rhythm and changes, and the impulse for spring cleaning. Until then, there’s enough to do with wiping the melted snow and salt from the kitchen floor and putting books back on shelves and pens and pencils back in cups.

It’s no wonder I like tidying and keeping things straight; many of my favorite pastimes rely on putting things in their proper place. Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, even counted cross-stitch, all of them involve figuring out the pattern and putting each piece, each letter, each color of thread, where it belongs.

Of course, I like it best when everyone in the house does their part in keeping things neat as well. Just in case any of my kids are reading this.

Having a place for everything and everything its place, as generations of children have been taught, helps foster an atmosphere of peace and calm, a feeling that “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.”

Of course, God is in his heaven, but all’s not right with the world. Not yet, not under the stewardship of fallen and oh-so-fallible humanity.

When Robert Browning wrote that line, it was with both innocence and irony, spoken by an innocent as she wanders through a very fallen world. But as she passes among the people, her song influences others to act for good, completely unbeknownst to her.

Our faith is that all will be well in the end, as St. Julian of Norwich said in her famous prayer: “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

In the meantime, all we can do is keep setting things to rights, one small thing at a time.



  • ordinary time
  • family life