“Laundry Is My Overflowing Inbox”: Working within the Home

Stuffing a ratty t-shirt into the washer’s maw, I try not to think about the fact that it was only yesterday that I hung this very same t-shirt on the clothesline.  The laundry is never done — even though we are down to a family of four these days.  How in the world did I survive eleven years of cloth diapers?  Apparently, somewhere along the way I have discovered that there is Glory in the Ordinary, that there is meaning to all the mundane tasks that are stuck on replay in this mothering life.  So when Courtney Reissig compared her laundry hamper to her husband’s overflowing inbox at work, I stopped and underlined, and nodded, “yes and amen.”

My soul resonated, too,  when she argued that in our ordinary chores and in the act of corralling chaos into order, we image God.

“You and I were created to work because God Himself works.  It is a function of being image bearers.”

Organizing a cluttered closet, mucking out a nasty refrigerator mess, distributing clean and folded laundry to the four corners of the house — these are all as quietly mundane as the work God does in our time to water His trees with rain or, in history, to arrange for the Exodus 16 manna that faithfully fed a generation of Israelites.

Go Back to the Purpose

Courtney’s personal illustrations and the vignettes shared from the lives of her friends encourage me to lift my eyes from the all-consuming “what” of my daily list and from the pervasive “how” (as in “how am I going to get all this done?”), and to fix my eyes on the one beautiful question:  “Why?”

Why do I do what I do every day in my home?  To love God and to love my neighbor.  And sometimes the hardest “neighbors” to love are the ones that share my last name and my DNA.

While Martin Luther made it clear that the works of our hands are not meritorious for our salvation, he wrote decisively that “one ought to live, speak, act, hear, suffer, and die in love and service for another, even one’s enemies.” (Kindle Location 871)  Loving others in our homes is more than a feeling, and it is likely to include the inconvenience of vacuuming the mud from their shoes, replacing the groceries they consume, and washing the dishes and the bedding they besmirch.

Mother’s Little Helpers

The whole family is invited to experience the “glory in the ordinary” that comes with the work of home — not only because of the “many hands make light work” principle, but because of the soul-shaping nature of chores and collaborative effort.  With sweet reasonableness, Courtney shares this gracious logic (Kindle Location 923):

“The home we all live in is for us all, and therefore, requires that we all contribute to it.”

She traces the history of housework through the the subtle transition in terminology from “housewife” to “stay-at-home mum,” and examines the impact of cultural context on the believer’s theology of work.  For instance, missionary and author Gloria Furman is a mum and keeper at home in a middle-eastern, community-oriented culture, while those of us in the West tend to have a go-it-alone mentality which can lead to the isolation, loneliness, and burn out that has given motherhood a bad reputation.

Toward a Sound Theology of Home

Since God is relational Himself, and since He ordained (Genesis 2:18) that his creatures would fare better in company with others, even the introverts of the world (I’m looking in the mirror here), need to consider what part community should be playing in our work at home.  Hannah Anderson says it well:

“God did not intend for families to be islands; they are part of the continent.  This is why multi-generational communities are so important to the work of home.”

I enjoy covering the nursery in church these days so that young mums can get a break from little children, but I am on the receiving end when a dear friend in her eighties washes all my dishes whenever she attends a big gathering in my home.

“Home here on earth is a microcosm of the heavenly reality that awaits us, [and] so is the church.”  (Kindle Location 1134-1143) Good theology and its practical application should lead to a connectivity and a “my life for yours” mentality as we serve one another.  This glorious truth gets lived out whenever Titus 2-truth sees daylight in a discipleship relationship between older and younger women or whenever men and women of “grandparent age” step into a situation where are there are no grandparents nearby to help and encourage.

“Community done among women commends the gospel to a world that breathes isolation and loneliness.” (Kindle Location 1151)

The God-Designed Gift of Rest

If God rested (and He did), if Adam and Eve in their perfect prelapsarian bodies needed rest, it stands to reason that my own post-Genesis 3 life will be better if I submit to a pattern of work followed by Sabbath.  J.I. Packer speaks wisdom into this subject (Kindle Location 1276):

We need to be aware of our limitations and to let this awareness work in us humility and self-distrust, and a realization of our helplessness on our own.  Thus we may learn our need to depend on Christ, our Savior and Lord, at every turn of the road . . .”

Our prideful rearing up against the rest we need and the fact that work exhausts, depletes, and frustrates us are both factors attributable to our fallen-ness.  So is the idolatry that makes work into a god and permits it to supersede in importance even the people we are called to love and to serve.

When my children were all small (in the pre-homeschooling days), I gave myself the weekend off from cooking by preparing meals ahead every Friday.  Courtney shares an idea from a friend who depends on leftovers and PB&J for the weekend.  Regardless of how we accomplish it, we ensure that the Sabbath is honored in our homes by “working hard at rest,” investing the effort up front and employing some carefully chosen “no’s.”

 Enter into the Joy

The job description driving the work of home is an unwieldy thing, shifting daily and expanding and changing as our families grow.  While this is unavoidable, we can lighten our own load with some purposeful choices and a Christ-shaped mindset such as steering clear of comparison; resisting the urge to audition for the role of Super Mum; and encouraging our husbands to fulfill their own God-ordained roles as workers at home — without feeling threatened or “less than” because we are unable to shoulder the work of two single-handed.

Mired in the here and now, we forget that the work of home is the work of spreading God’s glory throughout the world.  By entering into the reality of that today, we leave a mark on those we serve and prepare our hearts for a future of greater work and greater joy when we will see that there has never been a mundane task without purpose in God’s incredible universe in which nothing goes to waste.  Every little task, every intentional act of service points back to the God who made us and forward to an eternity in which the connection between worship and work will be forever eliminated.

//

This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Regular readers will recognize that the theme resonating throughout Glory in the Ordinary has shown up in these parts quite a bit in recent days.  I recently reviewed Jen Pollock Michel’s excellent book (Keeping Place) that also touches on the work of home.  Click here for part one of my review which deals with a theology of home.  Part two parallels Courtney’s thoughts and gives additional perspective on the work of home.

Melissa Kruger blogs for The Gospel Coalition and has interviewed Courtney at their website.  Click here for further insights behind the scenes of Glory in the Ordinary.

//

And . . .

. . . stay tuned for details and a reading schedule for Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. I’m looking forward to a discussion here each Thursday from September 7 through November 16.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Advertisements

Published by

Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

70 thoughts on ““Laundry Is My Overflowing Inbox”: Working within the Home”

  1. Michele,
    I wish I had this book to read (and the time to read it) when I was a stay at home mom with an “overflowing inbox” lol. So many times the things that I did seemed like an exercise in futility, when instead they were my offering to the Lord in that season of my life. I am just now really learning that rest is SO important no matter what stage of life we’re in and we, as a society, fight so earnestly against it and wear badges for ignoring it. Taking cues from your review regarding rest and joy today.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Like

    1. Maybe if we wrote “rest” on our do-list, and the crossed it off when we accomplish it?
      I’m struggling with this one, too, Bev. I just know that I do much better when I observe this NEED out of obedience to God and the way He made us.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Michele! It’s so good to stop by again! My summer away was what I needed, but I sure missed my friends here in the blog world!

    This looks like another good book. What resonated with me is the wrestling with time which is the root of the lack of rest. I believe that with my eldest getting a drivers license within the year, life will change quite a bit for me.

    I hope you have had a wonderful summer! And I look forward to checking in more often again!

    Like

    1. We have missed you, too, Lori. And as for that driver’s license, you will probably miss time spent in the car with that oldest child, but this is just the first of a series of separations, and, somehow I think if they come one at a time it helps us to brace ourselves. Blessings to you as you slide back into your routine!

      Like

  3. I am very passionate about this subject and thank you for sharing Courtney’s thoughts. It reminds me a lot of some of Edie Wadsworth’s writings on the blog lifeingrace.com where she, too, defines the people in our own families as being our neighbor.

    I also enjoyed the thoughts on rest. Rest has been on my mind ever since I ran across Shelly Miller’s Rhythms of Rest. Rest has been my word of the year, but sometimes I fear I am no more near accomplishing it than when I started!

    Oh, yeah, I wanted to say I really appreciated the phrase, “mucking out a nasty refrigerator mess.” You get me! (Why do we have to do it so often?)

    Like

    1. Ha! Glad the refrigerator thought resonated for you, Jerralea. And we do need reminders that the mundane is honorable in this world of conflicting messages. It’s always a treat to hear from you, and I’ve been happy to be getting your words in my inbox again!

      Like

  4. Sounds like another good book. I like the suggestion that in tasks that can seem mundane we should focus not just on the what and the how but on the why. Also that we should help one another out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Michele. I don’t think we will ever realize the level of nobility required to be a stay-at-home-Mom. It is a dream for which I longed for so many years while battling through the throes of infertility, and a priceless gift for which I will always be most grateful. I count every dirty dish, every soiled sock, and every muddy jean-knee an answer to many years’ worth of prayers, interceding to God. For this child I prayed, and for this child and dear husband I will forever praise! He still opens barren wombs, He is still on the throne, and He still answers prayer, praise His name! Sending hugs to you, my friend. 🙂

    Like

  6. Hi Michele,
    I have loved your reviews on these books that give us a deeper look at our homes. This especially jumped out at me today: “Mired in the here and now, we forget that the work of home is the work of spreading God’s glory throughout the world.” I had a better grasp of that concept when our children were all young and at home. But in the empty nest, with physical limitations settling in, I am seeing that it’s still important to keep that focus on God’s Glory lived out in the home. Thank you for these great reminders that I needed to hear! Looking forward to the next book study, and hoping that I will be able to participate, even if just by reading along with you! Blessings to you!

    Like

    1. So good to know that you’ll be reading along with us. And I hope you’ll share your good insights with us all. Things do change as the kids leave — I’m seeing that up close and personal this week with boy #3 working full time and boy #4 at camp for one week.

      Like

    1. Sarah! I’ve been wanting to read something by Sarah Clarkson so I just ordered one of her books. Did you hear her on Focus on the Family yesterday? She was on with her son. So good!

      Like

  7. Seeing the glory of God in the laundry, the fridge, the little moments of life…it all resonates so much with me. Oh how we need this message in our culture of busyness and hustle. Great review, Michele!

    Like

  8. I laughed when I saw this “sometimes the hardest “neighbors” to love are the ones that share my last name and my DNA.” That is so true and it sounds like this book is one I could have used as a young mother. I think I will mark this as a “give to a young mother gift.” Thank you Michele!

    Like

  9. Sound like a really good book. I’m not religious but I think it is a common goal for us all to be a good human being to look after one another, including the planet we live on. #twinklytuesday

    Like

  10. Wow, Michele. I’ve been slaving in a hot kitchen to make a meal for guests tonight, so this was perfect timing to sit down and read this during a break in front of a fan drinking iced coffee. 🙂 I think I need to read this post 3 or 4 more times. So much wisdom and encouragement here. I need to keep my “why” in front of me always.

    Like

  11. Michele, this sounds like a wonderful book for us all – no matter what stage of life we are in. This here had me nodding and saying, “YES!!! And amen!” >>> “In our ordinary chores and in the act of corralling chaos into order, we image God.” Our ordinary chores mold us in the most amazing of ways.

    Like

  12. Although the amount of laundry, dishes, and clutter have changed in the empty-nest phase, there are days I think, “I just wiped up these crumbs! And I’ll have to do it for 20 more years. . . ). Another great book to add to my growing list! Thank you.

    Like

    1. Ha! It’s never a good idea for me to go big picture like that on chores! Waaaaaay too discouraging! But I know what you mean. Thanks be to God that we can focus on the why so that the what and the how don’t wear us down.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hmmmm – idolatry of work…..? I was just talking to a friend about being task oriented and having to force myself to feed my soul. I thought I was going to read about laundry!! And tell you how much laundry I have – but no, I’m going to tweak my “to do” list right now….Add in more quiet time w/ the Lord……

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Michele,
    I’m so thankful for the time I was able to stay home with my kids when they were pre-schoolers. I ‘sacrificed’ my ‘career’ to drive them to and from school so I could be home when they were as much as possible. I don’t regret one single ‘sacrifice’ now. Sometimes it was hard back then, but I am SO thankful that I did now. The day I gave birth and laid eyes on my son I was overwhelmed with such a strong sense of calling to mother with everything I had to be the best example for him and then years later for my daughter. I don’t think anyone ever looks back and regrets the time we had with our kids, but too many women regret not taking that time, or not being able to take that time. Thanks for sharing this book that I’m going to share with others.
    Praying you’re blessed today knowing you’ve made so many right choices by focussing your energy on being the best mother you could be for your kids.
    Much love,
    ~Sherry Stahl
    xoxo

    Like

  15. Michele, Glory in the Ordinary sound like a book I desperately need. Thank you for sharing! I think we often lose sight of the “why” and simply try to survive. I love that this book brings us back to that.

    Like

    1. I wish I had read a book like this when my children were all little people. I’m thankful for Elisabeth Elliot, Edith Schaeffer, and Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks series which threw me a life line in those crazy days.

      Like

  16. I love when we read the same books, Michele. I get greater insight after reading your reviews. Amen to this: “Why do I do what I do every day in my home? To love God and to love my neighbor. And sometimes the hardest “neighbors” to love are the ones that share my last name and my DNA.”

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Love your wonderful review of this excellent book. Especially this quote: “While Martin Luther made it clear that the works of our hands are not meritorious for our salvation, he wrote decisively that “one ought to live, speak, act, hear, suffer, and die in love and service for another, even one’s enemies.” … reminds us that we truly are working “unto the Lord” with our everyday tasks. Many blessings to you sweet friend!

    Like

  18. Home has always been where my heart is. Even as a single Mom my heart longed to be home. All the things that it takes to run a home are the things I do the best. When we go to my daughter’s, who is a wonderful home-MAKER in a lousy marriage, I always take over the laundry room – next to the kitchen is the busiest room of the house. I LOVE laundry. Washing it. Drying it. Folding it. Making tidy stacks of shorts and tees and underguchies. And, it is the one place I can serve my busy daughter with my very best … her cooking aces mine every.day.of.the.week. xoxo GREAT gook and review.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I love the highlighting of why we are doing our daily tasks, Michele. We do them to bring glory to God and bless our families. That’s enough to keep us encouraged when the laundry piles up! Thanks for sharing about Courtney’s book too. Sounds like an incredible read!

    Like

  20. What a cool book! I can relate to having to work hard to love my ‘neighbors’ that share my DNA ;). All too often we treat those who love us worse than we treat strangers.

    Like

  21. Michele, this sounds like thought[provoking book! I was especially challenged in the area of joy. I so appreciate the truth you shared about the necessity of maintaining healthy mindsets. NO COMPARING. That right there got me. Such a great post!

    Like

  22. I love that-glory in the ordinary. Sometimes it can be so hard to remember to seek God’s will in every moment. Reminds me of a line from a favorite song “Am I doing everything to follow Your will or just climbing aimlessly over these hills?” Powerful reminders today!!

    Like

  23. I literally just walked passed my laundry room before I read this and felt an inner sigh of what lies ahead of me for the day. This book sounds like a great reminder that we work because we are image bearers and that our work has great purpose.

    Like

  24. There is so much to do in an ordinary day. When I had children at home and I was running every which way, the ordinary chores were a nuisance and something to just get done! It’s funny, now that my kids are long gone and I get to be at home with just my husband, how precious those chores have become. I realize that they are a way of showing love to my husband, who works terribly long hours and feels such peace when he walks in the door at night. Not just the cleaning but the home decorating (which I love) gives him a sense of entering his own refuge.

    God is in everything we do and we might be surprised at how the ordinary things we do each day might touch the lives of others.

    Thanks friend,
    Patti

    Like

    1. It brings me such joy to hear that you have found peace and joy in those mundane chores. I just a few minutes ago changed the sheets on my boys’ beds — my least favorite chore — and I reminded myself throughout the process that for my older boy, there are not very many bed-changes left before he leaves for school. So important to do good for our loved ones while we have the opportunity!

      Like

  25. “Glory in the Ordinary” – now that is something I need to work on. I struggle in the ordinary housework in finding worth. Many times I have to remind myself that I am doing it for God. Thank you for your review. Maree

    Like

  26. What a beautiful parallel between our “work” and how we live for God. It’s so important to remember that the things we do here and now are all for His glory. Even the laundry!

    Like

    1. Scaling the heights of Mt. Laundry myself today, because I’ve got a boy coming home from a week at camp tonight, so I know there’s a suitcase and a sleeping bag coming home that will all need fumigating!

      Like

  27. I always think of my ancestors when I’m doing chores and how much they would’ve loved to have had a washer and dryer or a dishwasher and microwave. When I think of them I feel obligated to enjoy the process and not complain. Definitely putting this book on my list. Thank you. – My first time here. I’ll be back.

    Like

    1. Me too! Especially when I’m canning. All that water for washing veggies, sealing the jars — whew! I’m so thankful that I don’t have to carry it all from an outside well.

      So glad that you enjoyed the review, and I hope you love the book!

      Like

  28. Several points here resonated with me. I sure can identify with the overflowing inbox. 🙂 Plus the struggle to get past the mundane to “real” ministry only to come to realize the mundane is the real ministry, an expression of love and care.

    Like

  29. What a lovely, encouraging post. The works of our hands, whatever they may be, really do make a difference and can help others. Thank you for sharing this post, Michele, as well as this wonderful book, with us at Hearth and Soul.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s