Lots of people do spring cleaning. For some reason, I like to do fall cleaning. I think it has something to do with opening up the house after the long summer of air conditioning. Maybe it’s that the summer of relaxing and slower pace gets shifted into higher gear as fall activities begin, school starts, and everything gets busier in general. Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing some recovery work in my life and it’s time to clean out the old junk and be free of some baggage and grime. Whatever it is, I decided to clean the kitchen, which meant eventually I’d have to clean the stovetop.
I don’t know about you, but cleaning my stovetop is not one of my priorities. I have a gas cooktop and when stuff spills on the grates, I never clean it off. It’s too hot to do right away and I almost never come back to it because the next time I think of it is when I am about to cook the next meal on the stove. So generally the grime gets really dark and thick and then it’s impossible to get off by simple wiping, by baking soda and vinegar, or any of those other useful non-toxic substances. That’s usually when I sigh and give up, continuing the collection of the dark grime.
This time I was a bit more determined. I scanned the internet – thank God for the internet! – and found a maid service that explained how to tackle this unpleasant task: put the grate and a quarter cup of ammonia into a gallon Ziplock bag, seal it for a few hours and blah blah blah… By this time I was already hunting the cabinets looking for ammonia, which of course I never use, so I had none, and I texted my husband in my cheeky way – ‘hey, while you’re out, can you stop and pick up some toxic chemicals? That’d be great.’ Being the most generous man ever, he picked some up and brought it home. Lemon scented. Yeah, sorry lemon scent, nothing is going to dull that odor.
So I thought I remembered it being a half a cup, and I knew it was undiluted, so I poured some in the bag, slipped in the grate and thought, ‘gee, it’s not going to be submerged. Should I add more?’ I think I ended up with about two cups in there but it still wasn’t under. Every time I walked by I sloshed it around a little to get good coverage. About two hours in, I checked that website again and read to the end. It said the fumes are what loosens the grime. Ohhhhhh. Oops. Well, after four hours and a good scrub one of the grates came out totally clean. The other was so bad, it only half cleaned. So I put it back in overnight. The picture above is the results after scrubbing again. Remember to imagine that before I fumigated it, that thing was solid black with cooked-on grease. The change was night and day.
What amazed me the most about this transformation is that I didn’t think it was possible. I had tried to clean this thing before and nothing ever worked. I had given up on those grates so many times as a lost cause.
My grandfather was a mechanical engineer who could solve those cast iron pub puzzles in no time flat – yes, that did turn out to be the worst Christmas present ever. I think from the time he opened the box to the time he said “done” was like ten seconds. Maybe. Anyway, my grandfather always said, “Any job is easy if you have the right tools.” I think that has been true. It’s not to say that there might not be a way to rig something up in a pinch, but generally the most appropriate tools bring the most effective results. I wonder how many times I’ve given up on something in my life just because I didn’t have the appropriate tools to deal with the issue. How often was I too proud to ask for help, too determined to do it myself by force, too impatient to wait until the opportune time revealed itself?
The reality of it is that I needed to take action and then wait and then do it again. Most of the time transformation was happening, I couldn’t see it nor was I controlling it. In fact, it looked like nothing was happening at all. When the time was ripe, my return to action – even the same action I had taken before – yielded totally different results. Sometimes it feels like my work is not going anywhere and I remind myself: you’ve asked for help in prayer. Take action and then wait. God is at work in the background. When the time is ripe, another action will yield the fruit of your(plural) combined work. And as a bonus – the grime ended up in the ammonia. God takes on the dirt so that my efforts can shine forth in their true beauty. There is no greater love than this.