Finding Hope . . . in an Empty Dishwasher

Finding Hope . . . in an Empty Dishwasher

IMG_3401I’m not a neat cook. I flagrantly ignore my mother’s advice: “If you wash dishes as you go along, it makes clean-up so much easier.” Clean-up in the midst of cooking seems to mess with creativity. And I’d rather spend time with guests than clean up while they’re here. So I leave it all for the end of the night. Or the next morning.

We’d had a sumptuous birthday dinner for one of our grandsons–Olive Garden-worthy salad, lasagna, garlic bread. German Chocolate Cake for dessert. We enjoyed the meal, laughed a lot and played a game.

They left. We went to bed.

And woke to this. A nightmare kitchen. IMG_3404

It’s not that the dish mountain surprised me. I knew the kitchen elves hadn’t crept in during the night. You’d hear those little guys clanging pots and pans, right? Yet there was still an element of “overwhelm” when I walked, squinty-eyed, into this room. How did we go from happy family time to enormous mess?

Maybe because I’m a writer, or a grandmother who loves teachable moments, it was an easy segue into life analogy. Maybe you’re in a similar place—life is fun, the people around you safe and happy—and then you wake up one morning to a messy reality. Maybe it’s an illness, a job loss, or broken relationships. In our family, we have two of those—a son with a serious illness, broken relationships that steal some of the joy from Christmas planning, plus a job gain. My husband was enjoying semi-retirement one week and back working full-time the next.

I stared at my kitchen and squared my shoulders. But where to start? Emptying the dishwasher seemed the smart choice. I opened the dishwasher with firm resolve . . . and gasped. It was empty! I’d heard my son rattling around in the kitchen like an elf and told him to stop and sit down and relax. I had no idea he’d emptied the whole thing.IMG_3406

Hard to explain the sense of hope this one-less-chore gave me. Now I knew where to start.

When life gets messy, we need to start with empty. I sit in my prayer chair and let it all out. Lord, I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to fix this. I’m hurt and sad and a little bit angry. Deep breath. Okay, I remember. I’ll leave my striving and failure and helplessness and frustration and sadness right here with you. I’m going to start on empty and let you order this day.

I loaded the dishwasher, cleared off the table, washed a few things by hand, and wiped down the counters. Yes, there were still the clean dishes to be put away. My work wasn’t done. But I had a sense of order that began with that one empty space.

IMG_3409Lord, when problems pile like dirty plates, remind me to come to you and leave my irritations right there. Yes, there will still be work to do. But when I empty myself before you, you give me a place to start.

Becky Melby About Becky Melby

Wisconsin resident Becky Melby is the author of the Lost Sanctuary Series and a dozen other contemporary fiction titles. Married for 43 years, mother of four, grandmother to fifteen, Becky thrives on writing, reading, camping, rides on the back of a silver Gold Wing, and time with family. Connect with her at her website or Facebook.


  1. Oh, I love this, Becky. And great advice. I do this now, finally, but I didn’t always. I’d want to be a “better” person when I prayed, so I didn’t empty it all out. It’s so much different now that I do.

    BTW, I don’t have a dishwasher. Maybe your son could pop over sometime? 🙂

  2. I will send him over, Cherie. With his four kids!

    It took me too many years to learn there’s just no point in trying to keep our “stuff” from God. So freeing to let it out!

  3. I LOVE this!!! There is such a relief in emptying out before the Lord, knowing He can handle it and then redirect me to where I need to go. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Becky! I love this. Oh, how sweet that your son emptied the dishwasher … that’s our most dreaded chore around here. Once it’s empty, let the progress begin. My grandmother used to do dishes at the end … oh, the pile. My pa-paw teased that she’d mess up every dish in the kitchen. She did. 🙂 But then we’d all get together and clean afterwards. I always kind of dreaded the cleaning up part … but oh, what I wouldn’t give for one more day to clean dishes with my grandmother. Maybe in heaven. You bless me, sweet lady.

  5. Laurie Driesen says:

    It is amazing how something like an empty dishwasher could infuse hope into a situation! Thanks for the great blog. It will remind me to empty myself before the Lord. I’m glad He wants us empty so that He can fill us, otherwise, I’d really be hopeless!

  6. Becky, this is a Perfect reminder for me today and recent days.

    I am blessed by your hopeful perspective and your wonderful ability to put words to the feelings.

    Love you!


  7. Becky,
    I just read your December post. Oh how I can relate. Although I’m a wash dishes as I go kind of girl, so many times in life we’ve had joy one minute and difficulty the next. Thanks for sharing and reminding me to empty out so I can fill back up on Jesus.

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