Sacred Laundry

Today is going to be one of those days, I can tell already.   While getting my son ready for school I was, as any multi-tasking mom would be, unloading the dishwasher.  I actually startled myself by saying “YAY!” after completely emptying the top rack. It just slipped out of my mouth, like the first time you swear in front of your mom and then quickly slap an ashamed hand over your dropped jaw.  What is wrong with this picture?? I must really be desperate to check something off the list!!…or perhaps I should talk to a specialist about my current mental condition.

It’s barely 8:30 in the morning, and already I’m sizing up the competition: laundry, dirty dishes, clean clothes that are folded but not put away.  You know the list.  Endlessly full of tasks that, while gratifying to complete, are less than gratifying to actually do. My mental energy is being spent wondering things like:  If I called my husband and begged him to take a personal day, would he come home to help me clean? or  Does everyone have a house that gets this messy? I’m sure not.  But the amount that I have to do today seems so overwhelming, I really don’t know where to start.  I just want to go back to bed and snuggle with my youngest and feel the cool air from the nearby open window.

This balancing act can be difficult for me; that is, balancing my ‘duties’ around the house and still making time to go on bike rides with the kids, take them to the library, play outside and whip up a batch of cookies before the school bus returns the rest of our family to our doorstep.  It’s hard for me because I don’t like living in a mess.  It’s not relaxing to sit and watch the NBA Finals with my husband while simultaneously staring at our dining room table that is literally covered in PILES of laundry.  My husband?  He could care less.  I mean, he loves a clean house, but in that moment, at 9:30 at night, he just wants to sit down–check that–lay down on the couch and relax.  Easy for him, I think, because he gets to leave this bombed-out hole tomorrow morning!

Contributing to this disastrous abode was my brilliant decision to spend the entire day yesterday outside planting flowers.  I don’t say that sarcastically–it was a really great day.  I threw all care and fashion sense to the wind and even put on a sun visor while I planted.  I felt like a Florida retiree: sun visor, sunglasses, tank top and jean shorts, digging in the dirt and hoping my lovely flat of zinnias would endure my amateur gardening skills.  The kids were outside helping me and before long, even a few neighbors wandered over or waved encouragement from their car window.  One neighbor who I’m still getting to know actually stayed and helped me weed our side flower bed.  Wow!  The sun on my shoulders, the wind in my hair that needs a haircut…it was awesome.  I’m so glad spring is finally here.  BUT…  With the front yard wearing a fresh splash of color, I opened the front door of our home and was welcomed by the reality of life inside these walls.  What a drag.

Years ago I was given a tape [remember when church had cassette tape ministries?!] of a sermon that our pastor, Rob, gave called, “Welcome to the Staff.”  This tape has given me so much fresh thought and hope while I drudge through my dirty days.  In it he teaches from Deuteronomy 29:2-6 where Moses and the Israelites are recalling their 40 years wandering in the desert.  The fascinating part of this text is verse 5:  “During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.”   While I will not even attempt to replicate Rob’s message, the gist of it was that the part of the Israelites’ sacred history–the part that Moses takes the time to notice, the part that makes it into the Bible, the part that is worth writing down–is something as mundane and ordinary as clothes and shoes.  Our pastor goes on to encourage us:  how many mundane and ordinary parts of our day are actually contributing to sacred history?  The boring, repetitive jobs we all do, the mindless tasks we tackle each day…could they be part of something bigger?  After all, Rob points out, do you think even one of the Israelites ever looked at their dusty stinky sandals during those 40 years and thought, “People will be talking about these for 2000 years!”

He continues to explain that the Jewish writers of Scripture understood that “holiness and meaning was found in the everyday–not in extracting yourself from…the rituals of every day.”  Isn’t that true?  He references other texts to further his point, and then lands on one of my favorites:  Colossians 3:23.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Paul, the writer here, is underscoring the point.  Whatever you do.  There is no separation between sacred and secular, spiritual and nonspiritual, Jesus and world.  To the believer, it is ALL for the Lord.  ALL of life is spiritual.  ALL of life is about serving and loving, praising and worshipping.

Even laundry?

Yes.  Even laundry.  Even sweeping the floor and wiping butts and noses.  This perspective has so helped me re-think my days and what I do here in this house.  God notices.  Not whether or not I leave streaks on the windows or miss a spot on the table, but he sees me.  More importantly, he sees through to my heart.

Today I’m determined to keep my focus on the fact that my life right now is my ministry.  Today I’m determined to remember that whatever I do, I should work at it with all my heart, because it is the Lord I’m serving. I may not have the balancing part down to a science.  Somedays I work too hard on the house and don’t play enough with my kids.  Other days I play too much and get nothing done.  And wear a sun visor.

But I’m trying to figure it out.  I’m trying to remember that it may be a struggle, but it may also be how God refines me.  I’m trying to remember, this day, that laundry can be sacred.

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One Response to Sacred Laundry

  1. Sarah says:

    This was awesome Jane! Just what I needed to hear…as I scream at the kids to help me pick up the toy room…AGAIN! Thanks for remembering Rob’s message too…great stuff!

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