Family Matters: Doing work that endures

Published on Wednesday, 9 August 2017 09:24 - Written by

I have a friend who refuses to iron more than one piece of clothing at a time. She believes that dying with a closet full of clean, pressed clothes would be testimony to a wasted life. Why bother ironing something you may never get the chance to wear?

“I’d much rather spend my time mowing the lawn,” my friend confides.

I assume she just enjoys being out in the fresh air and sunshine, but no, she explains, the reason she likes cutting the grass is because she knows it won’t need to be cut again for a full week - or at least five or six days.

Not so with any other domestic task.

I can see her point. You can knock yourself out scrubbing bathrooms, mopping floors, or washing windows, and the results may be completely undone in a matter of minutes. Certainly, the more young children who share your household, the more likely your efforts to keep it clean will - to some degree - be thwarted.

Even a home-cooked meal is summarily demolished once it’s been brought to the table. Your loved ones devour the food over which you long labored, leaving a stack of sticky plates in its stay. No sooner do you wash and dry the last dish from one meal than your famished family is back in the kitchen, asking when they might expect the next or begging for a snack.

But a freshly cut lawn? Once that job’s done, you can take a well-earned break and enjoy it for awhile. There is something very gratifying about that fact.

I can understand my friend’s affinity for cutting grass. As a wife and mother, there aren’t many opportunities for propping my feet up, taking it easy and congratulating myself on a job well done - especially not during the formative years (which stretch roughly from birth to age 18).

Instead, I must deal with an endless barrage of demands upon my time and energy, of which there is a woefully limited supply. If I do not choose wisely, I will end up squandering both to achieve results that are fleeting, rather than investing in something that lasts.

All of this is a sobering reminder to make taking care of people, not possessions, my focus.

Of course, at some point, the laundry does need to be washed, the meals prepared, the floors swept, the bathrooms cleaned. Life has always been a balancing act and always will be. The challenge is to tend to the temporal duties in such a way that we achieve lasting results.

Not that the same chores won’t have to be done all over again tomorrow - they will - but that in the doing, we are accomplishing something far more important than meal preparation or yard work or laundry. Done mindfully, all our repetitive tasks provide an amazing opportunity for training children, teaching teamwork, showing appreciation, offering encouragement, modeling diligence, radiating joy, building character, and making memories together.

That kind of time investment will yield results that endure - even results that’ll last long after all other labors have ceased.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” – Galatians 6:9

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Jennifer Flanders has been blessed with 12 children and cannot imagine more soul-satisfying work than mothering them. To read more of her writings, visit www.flandersfamily.info