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.

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All Grown Up 

  
 Saturday’s weather took us outside (’cause who could help but be swept up and out?). After a day of moving and spreading the compost pile, tilling, weeding, and planting a garden, mowing the yard, peppered with the ins and outs and ups and downs of children navigating, my husband and I convened to the outdoor furniture to savor a few moments of inactivity before moving on to the final leg of the day. My work’s-done-for-the-day-celebratory-beer went down especially smoothly (as it is often wont to do after such a day). In response, I blithely commented, “I’m grateful to be a grown up and get to drink beer.” My husband said that ought to be my blog post for the day. Just that. 

As I was ironing this morning I thought about that and how I did not write that or anything else as my blog post. I remembered again how this not-writing has become a conspicuous trend the last couple of months. The blog has been silent, the pen has remained largely still. I’ve resented a little this being compelled toward functioning for the good of the people in my immediate sphere instead of indulging my desire to write about the life I’m leading (instead of just living it like I’ve been doing). Because of choices I’ve made neither excess time nor excess energy have been mine in abundance lately, so inevitably, I give up writing – and “processing” as I’ve come to call it – my experience. 

But this morning as I was thinking about this and longingly looking over at the dusty keyboard just a few feet away but more like worlds away with all the laundry and ironing and schooling and gardening and food and bread making and all the myriad number of other tasks and unknowns that show up in the process of a day, I remembered that I am a grown up and I’m grateful to be one with all these many things to do. That I am master of my own destiny (God notwithstanding) and that thing that I’m not doing, as much as I love it, is not more important than what I am doing. Being a grown up who also tends ever so slightly towards excess and abuse of those things that make me feel good, I realized (once again… How many times before a lesson actually sticks and becomes part of our way of doing?) that in the simple utterance and acknowledgment of a thing – in this case being a grown up and savoring the privilege and enjoyment of a specific thing – that I was empowered ever so slightly. Reminded of my place in things. That there is a crazy get-swept-up wave that can carry us along, but every once awhile, it’s important to plant your feet, stand against the current, take a deep breath, and regain your bearings. It also needs to be mentioned that my prayer life has not been awesome lately. None of this came until after I’d talked with God about it and apologized for my neglect of that aspect of my life. It sneaks up, this insidious do-it-on-my-own tendency. And then I wonder why I’m so miserable. Everything changes when He’s invited.

I’ve bemoaned not getting to do the thing I think I want to do so that what I am doing becomes a source of frustration and agitation. So maybe Greg was right. Maybe that simple return to basics is what may blessedly bring one back around to where one needs to be. Maybe that’s where all the real good stuff comes from. Not in long winded “processing” but in short utterances of praise and gratitude for what we do have. So, in honor of a wise husband and in an effort to return to what’s best, and even though I’m not even currently drinking a beer, suffice it to say:

I’m grateful to be a grown up who gets to (insert what you’re grateful for today).

…”go outside with my kids and make a pea trellis out of sticks” would be mine.