Maybe I’m just getting older. In age and in the faith. Priorities are changing in my heart. Simple is taking hold. Home has more. Not more requirements, but more opportunities. The opportunity to just sit and read the Chronicles of Narnia into the quiet of sponge block play at my feet. To just sit with the girls and find every opportunity I can to complement their intentionality in their school work. “That O looks wonderful, Abi.” “What a beautifully curved eight, Rachael. Your eights have gotten so nice.” Just to see that smirk of pride. Just to see that confidence flair in the twinkle of their eyes. To crawl like kitties down the hallway with my toddler en route to her naptime bed. Just because she squeals when I climb into her converted crib and pretend to circle around to nap too. To just sit and see how many times I can get the tiniest to smile. Studying those inquisitive eyes. Or play peek-a-boo while she wiggles in the Johnny Jumper to the hum of the washing machine. Undistracted. Not multitasking. But fully present.
I’ve been convicted to put down my phone lately. It now lives in my Monica coffee cup in the same place on the counter. I wasn’t always on it for a bad reason. There was Christmas shopping and connecting to distant family and friends. But one day I looked up and saw their eyes. I had lost track of how long I’d been on the phone. Those eyes that said, “We miss you.” God spoke to me through those eyes. The very technology that was connecting me to others left me disconnected from those standing before me.
I went to the grocery store tonight by myself. The girls were quietly in their beds. The toddler long gone to dreamland. Matt was settling in to play a computer game against the silence of the rain falling outside. Tomorrow’s a baking day with a dear friend and her sweet little guy. A day full of sticky fingers, flour and play. Counting out cup-fulls of ingredients that I’m sure will find spills on the dining room carpet as four little ones anxiously await their prep chef turn. So I found myself wandering the aisles of our closest grocery and thinking: What are my priorities? What investment legacies will I leave from this upcoming week?
Pumpkin puree in hand, I thought of my children and their delight at helping. I thought of my friend and how much I desire to be an encourager and supporter in her life. It’s simple really. It’s the careful selecting of fruitful ingredients for the Kingdom work.
God has been molding me. Shaping me. Poking and prodding hurtful sores I’ve allowed to take hold in my life. He’s healing me into a new form of healthy. A stronger jaw set on hard work and quietness. He has caught my attention with a whisper in a crowded room of distraction. A whisper that penetrates to the depths of my soul. “Awake,” it stirs the creation trapped behind excuses and selfishness. What do I deserve, really? Is not all that I need right before me? It’s an awakening that stirs my heart to work. An outpouring of worship played through the intentionality of my soul. Live quietly. Work hard unto the Lord.
And in crawls cloth diapering back to the mix. Funny how my hands need hard work to keep my mind focused. And while I’m working the Word slips back into my mind, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Prov 10:4) And suddenly I realize we’re not just talking about financial prosperity here.
Suddenly the laundry becomes more manageable and I am able to “find time” to help with the dishes and do other house chores. As the burdens of housework feel lighter so does my heart. And my children begin memorizing more worship songs as they sing along to my cleaning soundtracks. I become interruptible to teach lessons that live in a world far deeper than the homeschooling file cabinet.
You know, hard work looks different for all of us. And I’ve found that having many children does not mean you work hard. It’s easy to have many children and be discontented. And lazy. And selfish. It’s easy to start thinking you deserve things. And time. And even acknowledgement. It’s easy to get lost in the world of “what can make my life easier” as if I really have it hard here in America with a roof over my head, and clean water, and food on the table and an encouraging family. As if it’s some hardship to get the choice of what to cook for dinner from the myriad of options. Even when we do have to go to the grocery store, our cupboards are still so full.
I dusted off their old clocks. Replaced the batteries. It’s time for our sponsor kids to be brought back to the dinner table conversations again. It’s time to look at their pictures in the compilation binder or artwork and contacts over the years. Put our hands on their handprints in their yearly health reports. It’s time to stop pretending that sending them a check is enough to teach my children – and really my own heart- that we are blessed to give. We ARE changed by giving.
I don’t have to sleep through the night. I don’t have to have the best carseat. The name brand, new stroller. I don’t even need to read all the kid articles on how to raise thankful kids. I don’t have to feel guilty for eating food with preservatives. Or putting a paper diaper on my toddler at nighttime. Or having dust on my pictures. It’s all distractions. There are so many arguments and tunnels that take us away from shedding light on the real thing.
I need to live unto the Lord. And sometimes that looks like crooked pictures because I let the toddler help me dust. Sometimes that looks like a silenced cell phone because I am not reachable during homeschooling unless it’s an emergency. Because it can wait. I’m teaching value in my children by whom I give my full attention. Sometimes it looks like going to bed early, because waking up at sunrise helps me serve my Lord better and that trickles down into how I find contentment.
I will forever be changed by a story from my dear missionary friend. While serving our Lord in Namibia, Africa with her husband, she had the privilege of investing in a young girl’s life through her education center. As she got to know the little girl she learned that this girl only had one pair of socks and therefore she went home daily and washed them, scrubbing them with soap and a rock and hanging them to dry before going to bed. She then got up early to dress for school and walked the great distance to school. My sweet Theresa vocalized the same thing we would all think upon seeing that situation. Poor child, let’s get her a second pair of socks so she doesn’t have to work that hard. She’s already cooking and cleaning for her whole household alongside her mother and trying desperately to be diligent in her studies as well. And Theresa’s African helper spoke the wisdom of God when she said, “No, we must not give her another pair of socks, lest she become lazy.”
At first that truth didn’t make sense to me. Become lazy?! Doesn’t she deserve to become lazy? Hasn’t she worked two days’ worth of work in one single day? Doesn’t she deserve a carefree childhood? Doesn’t she deserve toys? And her favorite meals? And a bicycle for easier transportation? And… and… and…
And yet Theresa knew it in her heart, as I have learned in my own, through the Lord’s prompting: she was happy. The little girl was happy. Always smiling. Ever so thankful.
When my hands work at those cloth diapers, at that stained kitchen floor, at those scratched walls, I AM thankful. I AM happy. I am not thinking of what more I can add to my home to take away the work. I am not thinking of hiring a maid. And before I realize it I see some little hands grab a sponge beside me and wipe away scuffs on the walls. I see little hands sorting laundry. I see little feet running to grab a rag and “skate” on the kitchen floor. And their smiles. Oh, their beautiful smiles. That’s a joy I can’t buy with ease. That’s a lesson I can’t fabricate without sharing in the sore arms and backs. Life IS work. But oh how there can be JOY in the workload.
We’ve weeded down some of our things so we can take care of our toys, clothes, shoes, dishes, etc. without the workload overtaking us. And when we live more simply, it keeps us working hard. But that is what our souls need. For the harvest IS plentiful, so we need to train to be good laborers. To be ready. In heart. And soul. And mind.
Lord, please use this conditioning back, shoulders, arms and mind. For I am seeing the beauty of the workload. I am understanding more of the honor You receive in humble, simple and focused living. Help me to live a “tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2). Lord, I am learning to live as Your Word speaks of internal adornment being “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4). Lord, these aren’t mere suggestions, but they are words of great wisdom and refreshment for the soul. Help me to find a simple and quiet living of hard work and honest investment in my husband, children, friends, family, and Your work for me. Please, Lord, help me not to be lost in the distractions that so easily entangle my time and my thoughts. For dissatisfaction robs You of the glory and the honor that my joy in blessing attributes You. Please, Lord, help me to pave the way for more Christlikeness in this home that You have given me. May it outpour in encouragement of others’ homes. That more would know You, Lord, and give You the praise and honor You are beyond due.