Tasks… And a cheerful doing

Today’s the day I fell in love with food.

I’ve always loved eating food, but its endless preparation? Not so much. I haven’t exactly begrudged it, but I haven’t loved it. This is unfortunate because I make a lot of food and really often. But today, quite without warning, this thing-I-have-to-do-or-at-least-think-about-every-single-day took on a new delight.

I can’t take any credit. I’ve screwed enough things up to know the good things I experience have nothing to do with me. Today’s love affair – like any other – caught me quite off guard. And it wasn’t because everything went perfectly. Taken from another angle, you’d notice the loaves in the above picture didn’t rise quite as much as (I would consider) ideal. Also knowing my tendency towards fickle (moody?), I know that tomorrow might bring quite another conversation that may sound nothing like this one. I might talk about how sick I am of spending so much time in the kitchen. I might bemoan that no one seems to see the crumbs on the counter or cleans up the unidentified sticky spots on the floor. (In our house we have someone called Itwasntme who’s normally the offender.)

Anyway, this falling in love with one of my household tasks and all its quirks and (’til today) annoyances has happened before. Take laundry. One day I was retrieving the clothes from the washer for approximately the 11,000th time (I actually did the math this morning to roughly calculate how many loads of laundry I’ve done in my married/motherhood life. Some people count profit margins, I count clean clothes.) and I suddenly loved it. Where it had before seemed an endless chore it suddenly became a comforting task. It had a start and a finish. Sniff (the nose is the measuring rod in our house), gather, wash, dry, fold, put away. Repeat. At least 11, 600 times. (For those of you who are stuffy about all things green, would it help to know that I do full loads and dry on a clothesline whenever I can?). Laundry, I realized, leaves my mind free to roam while keeping my hands busy. And you know it allows for alone time (the others in my household do not share my Laundry-Doing-Is-Sacred perspective).

Maybe it happens when you do something so much that you either drown in a mundane-tasks-depression or you decide to love it. Though like I said, I don’t know that I decided so much as something just switched over. I will say that I was giving thanks intermittently during both processes. (Not that I can take credit for that. Prayer and its doing is yet another gift inspired by not-me.) Been prayerful. I see a trend is what I’m saying. Slime on the broccoli earns it a blessed place on the compost pile, sourdough not rising presents more as another bread lesson learned than as a baker-failure, sticky rice seemed, well it was still sticky but I didn’t mind it as much, I was even grateful for slimy pre-cooked chicken as it meant we were having chicken. Crumbs, instead of being an annoyance, reminded me that there’s a lot of life ’round these parts. This spills over to the endless piles of laundry, children’s chatter, 7 billion dishes to wash (and counting. Ok, not really, but it would be a REALLY big number), aggravating relationship troubles, lawn mower maintenance, frustrating coworkers – whatever our daily challenge(s). These aren’t just simple sucky things-to-get-through. They’re sacred ground spaces, and they’re everywhere if we have the eyes for it. I know that I’ve talked about this before, but it’s such a wonderful gift to see things with an eye towards redemption. No matter how messy, uncomfortable, or inconvenient our circumstances, there is a great sacredness – a great potential – in all of it. I’m not theorizing: giving thanks for things, maybe especially for that thing we first found unsavory, elevates the thing. Redeems it. Redeems us. And if there’s a gift, there must be a Giver. Thanking Him’s appropriate and it changes everything. He’s not stingy, people. Given a little attention, He does things like make tiny moments and seemingly insignificant tasks magical.

Y’know, like how we expected and hoped life would be.


6 thoughts on “Tasks… And a cheerful doing

  1. I loved reading this because I know exactly what you are getting at. As the eldest of seven siblings, I know what it is to be in a house full of cleaning, cooking, noise, etc…day after day. That’s probably what steered me into a quieter, more bookish, adventurous kind of life as an adult, and away from marriage and motherhood. There are trade-offs to every circumstance in which we find ourselves; none is without tedium and aggravation. But it’s a real gift to discover—or have happen to you—what you speak about here. I think people like St. Benedict of so long ago understood that very well, as does someone like Thich Nhat Hahn or Thomas Merton in our own times. Now that I am elderly–and live alone for the first time in my long life—it’s difficult to do those chores because there’s no one else to do them for!! The feeling is: why bother? But I know the peace and beauty in the ordinary, the necessary, the small details of it all, and hope for the grace you mention. Thank you for a true and lovely post.

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  2. I love all your words in this. I too have found that the more I verbalize my thanks (even if it’s just me and my maker) the easier it is to scrub, mow, clean, cut. I have a magnet on my fridge that says ‘Thank you Lord for these dirty dishes, as it is a sign of the good things you’ve given us to eat.’ I got it 10 years ago and I’ve been giving thanks daily-ever since.

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    1. YES! Words hold such power… But we know, don’t we, that it’s not the words themselves but the One behind them. And He’s such a gracious guest and attentive audience. I wish I remembered to invite Him more often. The thankful list – the writing down of gifts – has been a transforming habit for me. Then I think of those who are struggling to survive and it makes me mad that not being grateful was ever/is ever a reality in my life. Oh well. May we get better and better at not only thanking but then by being good sharers!

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  3. The saints of which you speak led beautiful lives, I think. Sometimes I think that were I left alone I’d be better off. Then I read of their conversations with others and am struck by the wisdom and “presentness” they displayed. That I/we could be people who are joyful in all our circumstances and loving to any in our path – in right, needful ways: this is something worth striving towards.

    I look forward to the “quieter, more bookish, adventurous kind of life… why bother doing the chores” you mention, but am trying to do that looking forward while not forsaking the season I’m in. Yesterday’s “epiphany” that I wrote about here was a blessed moment in process.

    There is no question in my mind that your life is one that is filled with grace (not to mention wisdom that your writing drips with!), and I am grateful that you took the time to read and respond out of that grace in such a generous way here. Thank YOU.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more on laundry–it’s like an inner zen for me. I need to follow your example and give thanks for the peace sorting and cleaning and folding and putting away provide me. Thanks for directing my focus back to where it belongs: on the everyday tasks of living!

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