Today the following verse really reached out and grabbed me:
“Where envy and self seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16).
Yesterday, I wrote a post about becoming a woman of virtue. I know that what I wrote there wasn’t nearly adequate to convey all that is in my heart. I feel as if I’ve had a revelation – one that will effect me for the rest of my life. What inspired me most was the simple statement by Anna: “In the mood or not, we should prioritize and see what we must do – and then just do it, even if we don’t feel like it, patiently and preferably without grumbling.” This, I understand, is how I will succeed in becoming a “woman of virtue.” The passage in James confirms this. “Where self-seeking exists, every evil thing is there.” I have no hope of becoming all that I want to be so long as I am focusing on my own desires. I must, as Anna writes, “rise above my fleeting little wishes and do the right thing.” Today, I began my walk down this new path. I started practically and employed the advice of Mrs. Anna, to write a list of things that must be done each day. My list is very basic. I’m not trying to be supermom, I’m simply trying to establish a routine of simple tasks I know I can accomplish, and train myself to do what I need to do regardless of how I feel. My husband helped me to write it, and actually asked me to do less than my original plans entailed. How well he knows my limitations. My list includes:
Getting dressed (as soon as I get up)
Getting the kids dressed
Brushing the kids hair and teeth
Washing the dishes
Wiping the counters and table
Sweeping the kitchen floor
Doing the laundry (and that means putting it away when after it’s washed!)
Taking the dog out
Feeding the animals
Picking up toys
Emptying the trash
Prayer time with the children
School time with the children
I learned two important lessons as I went about these tasks today.
First, I must face the fact that that laundry can take hours, animals don’t follow a schedule (for that matter, neither do children), and taking a shower while the kids are awake is impossible at this stage in my life. I’ve discovered the truth about getting housework done quickly: it’s not going to happen. I started a load of laundry, and a child needed a diaper change. I tried again and someone needed me to referee a toy dispute. Before 9:00 this morning, I’d stripped three sets of bed linens and by lunch time I’d changed two complete outfits (I blame it on the junk food we ate last night.) I had to keep my two year old in the bathroom with me while I took a shower because he’d hit his sister (“really hard!”) and had to put my four year old down for a nap at 11:00 because she couldn’t get along with anybody (for those of you who thought I had perfect children, there’s a little dose of reality for you!) Numerous times today I felt myself overwhelmed and incredibly frustrated. And the “epiphany” happened when I stopped to ask myself “what are you in such a hurry for?” The laundry certainly wasn’t going anywhere, and the dishes couldn’t get any dirtier. I had all day long to get my tasks done. And so today I gave myself permission to stop in the middle of a task (countless times) to deal with other matters… joyfully. I gave myself permission to leave a task undone, if I was too busy with other tasks (reading books not included!) That went a long way in keeping my day peaceful.
The second thing I learned today is that I have to give my full attention to the task at hand. One of the quickest roads to frustration for me is thinking of one thing while doing another. I’m especially bad about this when my children are trying to tell me something, or involve me in a game. Young children voice nearly every thought that crosses their minds, and the one they usually want to talk with is Mommy. Having four young children seeking my attention throughout the day means I’m going to be interrupted every few minutes, regardless of what I‘m doing. This is especially difficult when I’m writing or studying. I know that if I stop to answer a question, my thoughts are going to fly right out of my head. So today, I made it a point to say a quick prayer, “Lord, help me to remember this!,” and then gave my complete attention over to my children. Amazingly, I discovered that this really kept me from getting frustrated and my interactions with the kids were actually much more fun. Rather than be irritated by their conversation, I found myself enjoying the things they had to say.
An accounting of my day would not be complete without telling of how my children blessed me today. My oldest daughter was very interested in this new flurry of activity her mother was participating in (“and nobody’s coming over?”) She volunteered to wash all the windows (which was not on my list, but was something I wanted to do after seeing how nice the kitchen sink can look when it’s clean!) Later, my five year old decided to surprise me by putting away the clean laundry. When it was done, another load came out of the dryer, so she and my oldest (who is almost seven) put it away together. When it was time for the third load, they did it, too. In all, the girls put away four huge loads of laundry (we have a very large front-loader) and are looking forward to completing their “surprise” tomorrow, as we still have one load waiting to be washed. I haven’t been able to acknowledge what they’ve done yet, for although they realize I know about it, they’re determined to present me with five empty laundry baskets.
God bless these girls who love me so very much. I’m determined to make a path for them to follow, and tread the weeds so they don’t have to. They will “build their floors on my ceiling.”