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On the Side - September 2012

Joy in the Unfinished Laundry
by Jenny Pruitt

It was nearly 4 o’clock in the afternoon and my husband was coming home soon. It was going to be his first night in a week to arrive home early enough to have dinner with us. To spend time with us before the kids all went to bed. To spend time with me before we both collapsed. The day before, I had such dreams of this evening. Such expectations.

However, I surveyed the remains of my day. My house was in such chaos. Separate piles of laundry in my den. Some clean and folded. Some clean and needing to be folded. Some stain-treated and needing to be washed. Some stained and needing to be treated. There were cheerios all over the den floor. I then remembered that this was my attempt to occupy my 11-month-old while I tried to “do the laundry.” That clearly was a fail. My kitchen had dishes from lunch still in the sink. A dirty highchair tray filled with smashed peas and crumbs of Ritz crackers rested on our table. There’s a dirty bib on the floor. Finished homework sheets lined my counters...and I was overwhelmed.

What have I done all day?

I was so exhausted. I knew I had been busy doing stuff all day. But what? What did I have to show for it? My husband was coming home soon...and he was coming home to THIS.

Failure.

There’s that ugly word that begins to chew at my heart and my self-worth. The tears begin to load. They drop. The sprinkle becomes a shower and I bathe in my own feelings of worthlessness and unimportance. I'm so horrible at this, God. I'm the worst. I waste your days.

The silence of my heartache is interrupted by children’s laughter. My attention is turned toward our backyard and I gaze out the kitchen window. Will and Josh are sword fighting. One is trying to rescue Emma Faye from the clubhouse, yet everyone is laughing. And there came my answer...

Write down everything you did today.

I got out a pencil, found the back of a junk mail envelope and began writing down what I did from the time my feet hit the floor this morning, until present.

  • 4:45 a.m. – Woke up. Thomas was crying. Lost his paci. Rocked him back to sleep.
  • 5:15 a.m. – Couldn't go back to sleep, so made some coffee and had a quiet time.
  • 6:20 a.m. – Josh woke up. As I sipped on coffee, he sipped on apple juice and we talked about robots and outer space.
  • 6:45 a.m. – Will wakes. I have no cereal or bagels for breakfast (because I forgot to go to the grocery store the day before) so I offer eggs. Because it's so early, and we have time, I teach him how to crack open the eggs. We cook breakfast together.
  • 7:20 a.m. – Thomas wakes, feed him breakfast
  • 7:30 a.m. – Wake Emma Faye. We get in the car and take Will to school.
  • 8:15 a.m. – Make breakfast for Emma Faye and take Josh to preschool.
  • 9:15 a.m. – Rock Thomas and place in crib for nap.
  • 9:30 a.m. – Emma Faye helps bring laundry downstairs to wash. I sort piles while she colors a picture for her Papa.
  • 10:30 a.m. – We go outside and mail her picture. We smell flowers. I tell her the names of flowers. She wants to pet a cat. I teach her how to bend down and hold out her hand. The cat comes over and I teach her how to pet the kitty gently.
  • 11:00 a.m. – We find sunflowers and sun “fuzzies” in the grass. I twirl Emma Faye around. She squeals and says, “Do it again!” I do.
  • 11:15 a.m. – I hear Thomas waking up. I change out a load of laundry and put a new one in.
  • 11:30 a.m. – I feed Thomas and Emma Faye lunch. We talk about how God made the world and it is SOOOOO big. We sing a song about it and it makes Thomas laugh. We keep singing. He keeps laughing. He makes us laugh.
  • 12 p.m. – I bring dry clothes and try to fold them. Emma Faye wants to help. I give her a pile and she works very hard.
  • 12:20 p.m. – We leave to pick up the boys from school.
  • 1:15 p.m. – It is beautiful weather so we all go outside and have a snack. I talk with the boys about their day at school. I stain treat a dirty pile of laundry.
  • 1:45 p.m. – I do homework with Will.
  • 2 p.m. – I give Thomas a bottle and put him down for a nap.
  • 2:30 p.m. – We are done with homework and Will and Josh want me to play Monopoly Junior.
  • 2:45 p.m. – I get dinner prepared.
  • 3 p.m. – We all sit down and play the board game.
  • 4 p.m. – Will, Josh and Emma Faye run outside to play in the backyard and I decide to hurry and get the laundry together while Thomas is still asleep. I suddenly hear him on the monitor.

I looked over this list and really felt a holy presence in my kitchen. I saw the treasures hidden in between the lines. More tears, but these were good. These were from a fully accomplished heart, not one of failure. I heard His words. “In your kingdom, you probably didn't accomplish much; but in Mine, your day was very productive.”

I am VERY quick to not write illustrations like this because I never want to give the impression that I did something better than someone else. I am ALWAYS one step from completely blowing it, and I often do. No, I decided to journal this day because I think more mothers need to be reminded whom we serve. I know the laundry must get done. I know our houses should get cleaned. There is GREAT value and worship in these tasks. But so often, our greatest work cannot be measured nor seen with the naked eye. Some of our greatest accomplishments are weighed in our hearts. Only Jesus owns those scales.

I know I have days where all of my “to do” lists have been completed. I can't remember any of them. But I can still see Will's grin when he cracked that egg for the first time and didn't get any shells in the bowl. I can still hear Emma Faye's laughter as I twirled her around. I still see her crazy hair blowing in the breeze. I remember the “robots conversation” with Josh and I remember smelling the remains of baby lotion on Thomas's neck as I rocked him back to sleep. And I remember reading about God's mercy in my quiet time that morning. How His mercies are new every morning.

It’s 4:30 now. I’ve gathered myself and entered into the world of my little joys. They were sitting around our patio table. Josh asked, ”Mommy, God is so big and he holds everything, right?”

“That’s right, Josh.” I didn't even have time to let my heart absorb that precious thought before Josh quickly added, “So, Jesus is holding us right now?”

Ah, what a drop of your mercy on this day...in my moment of failure. Lord, you came to my rescue and brought encouragement to a tired, unworthy mom. You didn't have to do that. You don't have to do anything. You don't have to care. But you do, Lord. You care, Jesus.

"Yes, Josh. He is holding us RIGHT NOW."

And right then, I found great satisfaction and joy in my unfinished laundry and my messy house.