Sunday, January 1, 2012
Tales from the Laundry Room
New Year’s resolutions depress me. It’s goal-setting at its worst ... or at least that’s the way it always seems to work out for me. Never fails that two weeks into the new year and I’m already struggling with my resolutions. Then I start feeling like a failure and beating myself up for my inability to become a better person.
I’m not against goal setting. In fact, I think it is a necessary part of life ... at least it is necessary for those who want to continue to grow and change. Goal setting itself isn’t bad. It’s just somehow combining a new year with a list of resolutions dooms me to failure.
So for the past several years, I’ve done something different. I’ve forgone the resolutions for the new year in favor of a word of the year. It works like this ... I begin to pray and ask God what he would like for me to focus on in the coming year. Over the next few days (or even weeks) a word will be impressed upon my heart. This is my word of the year and whenever I look back I can always see how I grew or changed or learned lessons relating to that word. I never know exactly how it will all come together because I am not setting the goal for myself. Rather I am yielding myself to what God wants to show me and teach me in a particular area of my life.
When I started thinking about my word for 2012, I knew that there were so very many qualities I needed to work on adding in my life: consistency, serving, training, finding joy, etc. And when I asked God which word I should focus on for the next year (in a half-hearted sort of way because for some reason I really didn't expect an answer right then and there), He immediately responded with LAUNDRY.
I am ashamed to admit this but chances are pretty good that I probably rolled my eyes at the Good Lord's suggestion. You see, I hate to do laundry. It is my personal nemesis. I dislike washing the clothes, drying the clothes, folding the clothes, putting the clothes away ... I even dislike buying laundry detergent because it is so expensive.
Over the years, I have come to realize that I dislike laundry because there is no end to this chore. If I clean the bathroom, it will remain clean for a few hours at the very least. If I mop the floor, generally it looks mopped for the next day or so. Even washing dishes is a chore that can be finished. My counters will stay mostly cleared between meals. These are jobs that I can complete.
Not so with laundry ... Just as soon as you think you have emptied the basket at long last, then it is time for bed and the basket is full again. And with 5 kids in our home, trust me ... the basket is always full, and there is always another load that needs to be washed, dried, folded and put away.
So when God immediately told me that I was going to be focusing on laundry in the coming year, my response was something like this:
"Really, God? My word for 2012 has to be LAUNDRY? Surely you must be kidding me!"
He wasn’t ... for then, in that soft and gentle way of the Holy Spirit, I began to see more than just a basket full of dirty underwear and smelly socks. In focusing on the laundry I discovered so much more:
*staying consistent in taking care of this dreaded chore
*training my children to help me share this daily burden
*joyfully serving my family by caring for them even in the most mundane of ways
*finding pleasure even in something I don't care to do
*accepting help from my husband without being critical of the way he does the laundry or feeling guilty that he is choosing to help me empty the basket
God knows I need all those qualities above. He (and I) also know that if I had a long list of New Year’s resolutions relating to all of these traits I'd either begin to feel overwhelmed, dooming myself to fail before I’d ever gotten started. And in the same way, if I made consistency, training, joyfully serving, accepting help, etc as my words for the year, I'd likely forget which words I was focusing on and not make any headway at all in my personal growth. God knows that I won't forget the word LAUNDRY. In fact, laundry is something I must do each and every day. And now that God has gotten my attention regarding laundry duty in 2012, chance are that I will not forget what God has promised to teach me through something as mundane and despised as laundry duty.
Now that I understand what I can learn and the possibilities of what God can show me, I'm a bit more eager to go wash a load of clothes. Hopefully my enthusiasm doesn't wane before Valentine’s Day!