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January 12, 2016
After the Manner of Happiness
It Could Happen to You
by Janae Stubbs

One of my least favorite things to find in my kitchen is mouse poop.

Unfortunately, I had just discovered six minuscule plops scattered between my clean, drying dishes on the countertop. This was the last "safe" countertop, a surface that I had convinced myself they couldn't reach. Every other countertop had been breached in the previous weeks of battle and now I knew there was nowhere for me to hide.

It's not as if I had been ignoring the problem. We'd set traps and even gotten about three of them. Then there were a few months where I didn't see any signs of the mice and none of the traps had been sprung; it was easiest to think their little home invasion was over for good. Easy, but apparently wrong.

Just like it was wrong for me to ignore the warning signs many months earlier. Like that one night when my husband and I walked into the kitchen and something dark and huge bolted from underneath the oven to the underside of the dishwasher.

"That was a mouse," I said.

"No way. It was a cockroach," he said.

"Cockroach from Hell…" I said.

My insides knew the truth but I ignored the possibility. Not my kitchen, surely. I clean it almost regularly, after all. Mice only live in dirty, nasty kitchens.

And then there was that other time that our five-year-old nonchalantly mentioned seeing a mouse in the kitchen. But she was only five years old and obviously full of imagination and wishful thinking (she had noticed how kind the mice were to Cinderella).

My insides knew she was right. I squashed my insides' voice of reason because cleaning up a mouse mess was not something I wanted to do. Mice problems only happened to other people, not me.

But then, two days after bringing home my third baby from the hospital, I walked into the kitchen and came face-to-face with the disease-ridden little devil. Okay, so more like face-to-foot. It skipped away from me, laughing, and I burst into tears.

I couldn't deny anything anymore. I had mice in my kitchen.

After that undeniable sighting, proof of our pests became embarrassingly obvious. Yep, that was not a long, dark crumb, but poop. That sound? Totally mice, squeaking at each other. I emailed our landlord and it turns out it wasn't the first time that mice had found their way into the house.

Once I accepted that the mice were really there I started asking for advice about how best to eliminate them. To my surprise (and relief) lots of my friends and family had dealt with mice, and many of them offered knowledge and helpful tips, and of course a reassuring amount of sympathy. And these were all clean-kitchen people.

This revelation--that mice could happen to any kitchen--changed the way I thought about house pests. It also changed the way I store food on my counters (as in, I don't leave anything out anymore).

Even though I've set traps and plugged foundation holes with steel wool there are still mice. At least one mouse, which I know because of the most recent poop encounter… on my "safe" counter. I'm still frustrated about that. But I'm doing my best to finish "The Cleansing" and try to keep the pests out for good.

This whole experience has made me think about spiritual pests. Maybe small ones, cockroach-sized, aren't the kind that make us freak out and sterilize our soul every day. The ones that are a bit bigger and carry nasty diseases with them--those we tend to pay more attention to, and for good reason. But what I've realized is that spiritual pests happen to good, clean-house kinds of people. Spiritual pests can even happen to you.

When we see evidence of spiritual pests in our own hearts and spirits we need to face them head-on. If your five-year-old mentions a mouse in your kitchen, then instead of getting defensive and telling her that she's seeing things, set a trap or two. If your spouse sees a roach but you have an inkling it might be a bit more sinister, pay attention and take precautions. The longer one waits to call an exterminator the more there might be for one to exterminate. And sometimes we can't get rid of the pests ourselves; thank goodness for the professionals.

Our weaknesses can be made into strengths but it takes recognition and hard work on our part. I hope to someday soon have a mouse-free kitchen again. I'm even more excited to keep cleaning out my spiritual house. It's a process.

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