One of the most helpful homemaking tips I have learned so far is that the basic needs of your family must become like breathing to you. Let me explain. In her book Totally Organized, Bonnie McCullough shares many helpful ideas and instructions on getting your life and home organized, but the one thing that has stuck with me since my first reading of her book (about 6 years ago) is this little quote:
One of the first steps in organizing your life is to master the daily basics that keep life running smoothly. Just as breathing sustains your body, these things sustain your home. First it’s a matter of accepting the reality that they have to be done. Second, learn to do them as effortlessly as breathing. Learn to do them at the right time of day and learn to do them quickly so you can go on to other things. -Bonnie McCullough
What Bonnie is getting at in this chapter, is the simple truth that there are basic duties that must be accomplished every single day in order for a home to function. Expecting them and mastering them will allow you to have more time for other activities which you would like to accomplish, but otherwise would not be able to. They must become like breathing, she says.
Laundry, dishes, and meal planning are a few of these most basic of duties. Our families need clean clothing and if your family is anything like mine, the dirty clothes monster seems to grow exponentially if it is left to its own devices for too long. Our families need to eat, and someone–preferably not that redheaded clown my family is all too familiar with–needs to provide consistent, healthy meals for them. Eating creates another basic need our families have: clean dishes to eat from.
Mounds of dirty laundry, a sink filled to the brim with dirty dishes, and hungry bellies scrounging for food create an environment where little can be accomplished, much less in cheerful manner. Thus, these tasks must become routine, natural, like breathing.
Some Breathing is Hard
I really appreciate this advice because it reminds me that some things just must get done, and when they do get done, my home truly does run smoother. Even on the most unproductive day, if I have washed the dishes, done a load of laundry, and fed my family, I have somehow managed to keep this home running and ready for the next day’s challenges. That’s a good day.
But here’s the problem: These tasks might be like breathing, but they are not as effortless as breathing.
Breathing is something I don’t think about.
My body desperately needs the oxygen brought in by each breath, but I don’t put a lot of effort into making sure it happens. On the other hand, serving my family in these most basic of ways takes hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. Perhaps it is more like breathing during an asthma attack: I know it must be done, but it is just so hard to do.
Sure they are simple tasks, but their simplicity and repetitiveness do not make them any easier to get done. This is because at the heart of these tasks is a willingness to serve my family by providing for their most basic needs. At the heart of tasks like laundry, dishes, and cooking is the call to humble service, which isn’t easily obeyed by a sinner like me.
Some days it feels as though these are the only things I do! Dishes, dishes, dishes, laundry, laundry, laundry, food, food, food. There is no glory in this job! There’s only the repetitive motions of service which are rarely seen or acknowledged by others. I often find myself battling bitterness and anger as I wash the dishes we’ve just eaten from, the pots and pans I just used to cook our meal with, and the table where our meal was too quickly eaten as the needs of a fussy baby outweighed my desire for an “ideal” sit-down dinner. Thoughts swirl through my head, seeking to convince me that it is all in vain and all so unimportant. As I scrape the burnt-on food off of another pan I must force myself to remember the beauty in service–in these small, but important expressions of love.
I manage to breath, but it is labored, because obedience does not come naturally to a sinner.
The Holy Spirit–the one responsible for this breathing, for bringing life into my dead soul–brings to mind our great Savior, who was above all a great Servant. If my God can wash feet, then surely, I can wash dishes. If the Innocent One voluntarily chose to die for the ungodly, then surely I–a retched sinner–can sacrifice my own desires, time and energy, for the good of those he has entrusted to me. After all, “a servant is not greater than [her] Master.” (John 13:16)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God hashighly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11, ESV)
As the Spirit gently reminds me of such profound realities, I thank him for the abundant grace he so willingly provides to accomplish these simple, but important household duties. I thank him for helping me to “breath,” moment by moment, for others, just as Jesus did when he lived among us.
For Further Reflection:
Philipians 2:3-11 is a Scripture that the Holy Spirit often encourages me with when I am tempted toward self-pitty and selfishness. What Scriptures does he bring to your mind during these times? Share your verses in the comments; I would love to hear them!