Women’s’ work is never done, it seems. Last night, in the quiet of the end of day, as I folded some laundry on the couch, I had a distinct memory of my mother doing the same. Children tucked in bed. Husband watching television beside her. And my mother folding laundry into neat piles stacked on the back of the couch. I know this picture because I would occasionally sneak into the living room after bed time and hide behind the chair. Sometimes I would steal a peek at the grown up TV shows my parents watched. Sometimes I would get caught. But mostly I just remember watching the quiet way my mother went about folding clothes. With four children in the house, I’m sure her laundry basket was always full. Yet, she never complained, and the image I have of her folding clothes is one of a woman at peace, doing her simple work in a way that glorifies God. Of course, we had very little by way of clothes when I was a youngin’. Our hand-me-downs were hand-me-downs. My mother did her best to take care of what we had.
As I folded one of Teddy’s T-shirts last night, I noticed the ragged ends and frayed sleeves. My first thought was that I should throw the shirt out. My kids don’t need to dress the way I did as a kid. We can afford better for them. But when I rubbed the soft cotton between my fingers, I knew that he would miss this shirt. It was one of his sleeping shirts, so the more worn, the more comfy. I folded it neatly and placed it in the stack on the back of the couch.
The neat pile of clothes made me wonder when the last time was that I did my work in a way that glorified God. Have I taken the gifts He has given me, and made the most of them as my mother did? Too many times, my heart is filled with anger or resentment as I do my chores. There never seems to be time to slow down and do my best. We are always in a hurry; too many things need to be done. We live in a world where busyness is celebrated. Yet, it leaves us unsettled, longing for peace.
I know myself very well and I try to build into my life moments of rest and communion. I am easily overwhelmed and can dwell on negatives if I allow myself. In fact, laundry is one of those tasks that frequently sets me to grumbling. Nothing, for me, is quite so tiresome. Acknowledging this a few years ago, I painted Philippians 2:14 along the top border of my laundry room: “Do everything without complaining or arguing…”
I frequently need reminded of those words when doing laundry. But they have also had a profound effect on the way I try to live my life. Verse 15 goes on to say: “…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe…”
When we complain and find fault in the people and circumstances around us, the light we give to the world is polluted and lacks the beauty of a life fully realized in Christ. I struggle with this on a daily basis. Mainly, because people disappoint me. And I disappoint myself. Always, things can be better.
But lately, I have been particularly aware of how destructive a critical nature can be. Our Lord instructs us to build each other up. This is difficult to do, when one is disappointed. But God has been changing my perspective lately. One of the great things about being a parent, and working with youth, is that I get to be a role model. Sometimes I have to work hard to play that role. If I want to have a positive influence on young lives I have to be very deliberate in the way I dress, in the way I behave, and in the things that I say. Lately, the Lord has encouraged me to be a role model to others, as well. Just as I need models to look up to in my spiritual life, other adults do as well.
Perhaps it seems presumptuous for me to think of myself as a role model for my peers. But I am not professing to be perfect in this endeavor. Far from it. I am simply saying, that lately, God has whispered to me what a difference it makes in others when I respond to them in a Godly way.
Have you noticed how a mood is contagious? When my husband is grumpy, look out; it won’t be long before I’m snapping too. It works the other way as well. If I can maintain a positive attitude in the midst of stress, I’ve noticed that it rubs off onto those around me. Try it! Research has shown that even if you don’t feel a particular emotion, if you act it out, it will eventually follow. So if you don’t feel like smiling, smile anyway. Soon, it will be genuine.
We want to shine like stars, Dear One. Sometimes that means acting contrary to our mood and emotions. It takes strength and deliberation. Pray for His strength and guidance. And soon, you’ll be lighting up the universe!