Chores: A Fresh Perspective

Chores as Training

When making moment-by-moment decisions throughout the day, author Kim Brenneman suggests that we ask ourselves the following two questions:

  • “Is this activity glorifying God and serving Him?”
  • “Are my first priorities taken care of?”

She suggests that routinely thinking through these questions is a habit Christian women should deliberately foster, and I’m inclined to agree.

To be honest, though, it’s the second question that is most convicting for me. I’m fairly good at finding ways to glorify God and serve Him in the extra-curricular things I do. But tending first to those mundane, repetitive responsibilities such as laundry and cooking and cleaning? That is where I can really trip up if I’m not careful.

I can get so laser-focused whenever I’m working on a project—especially something creative, like writing, drawing, music, sewing, etc.—that I lose all track of time. If left to myself, I won’t stop to eat or sleep or shower until I finish whatever it is I’m working on.

I’m pretty sure that’s why God gave me twelve children and a husband who is quick to tell me when enough is enough -— to save me from myself. It’s hard to get too swept away in the creative process with so much flesh and blood anchoring me to reality.

For me, the solution (in addition to getting up extra early to tackle creative endeavors while the rest of my family sleeps) has been to recognize that the things I have to do are the training ground for the things I want to do.

This concept was beautifully illustrated in the 1984 classic, Karate Kid. In the movie, a bullied boy by the name of Daniel LaRusso seeks help from martial arts master, Mr. Miyagi, who puts him to work painting fences, waxing cars, and sanding floors, with very specific instructions on how the tasks should be done.

Daniel chafes at doing these chores and wonders when the karate training will commence, little suspecting that the chores are the training — or at least a substantial part of it.

Through all those long hours of sanding, painting, and waxing, he is unwittingly learning discipline, building muscle, developing endurance, and committing to memory the smooth, fluid body movements that will ultimately win him the martial arts championship (provided he sticks with the “training” and doesn’t quit in disgust).

That imagery does wonders for my perspective. Those mundane, repetitive chores like folding clothes and washing dishes and brushing tangles and sweeping floors? What if those are the tasks God is using to shape and strengthen and teach and refine and prepare me for the something bigger?

Will I chafe and grumble about His chosen methods, or will I tackle my tasks whole-heartedly, trusting that the Master knows exactly what He is doing?


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Doing Work that Will Endure

Our daily challenge: How can we achieve results that will endure?FROM MY ARCHIVES: I have a friend who refuses to iron more than one piece of clothing at a time. She believes that dying with a closet full of clean, pressed clothes would be testimony to a wasted life. Why bother ironing something you may never get the chance to wear?

“I’d much rather spend my time mowing the lawn,” my friend confides.

I assume she just enjoys being out in the fresh air and sunshine, but no, she explains, the reason she likes cutting the grass is because she knows it won’t need to be cut again for a full week — or at least five or six days.

Not so with any other domestic task.

I can see her point. You can knock yourself out scrubbing bathrooms, mopping floors, or washing windows, and the results can be completely undone in a matter of minutes. (And the more young children that share your household, the more likely your efforts to keep it clean will be thwarted.)

Even a home-cooked meal is summarily demolished once it’s been brought to the table. No sooner do you wash and dry the last dish from one meal than your famished family is back in the kitchen, asking when they might expect the next or begging for a snack.

But a freshly-mown lawn? Once that job’s done, you can take a well-earned break and enjoy it for awhile. There is something very gratifying about that fact.

As a wife and mother, I must deal with an endless barrage of demands upon my time and energy, of which there is a very limited supply. If I do not choose wisely, I will end up squandering it to achieve results that are fleeting rather than investing it in something longer lasting.

I want to make taking care of people, not possessions, my focus.

Of course, at some point, the laundry does have to be washed, the meals prepared, the floors swept. Life has always been a balancing act and always will be.

The challenge is to tend to the temporal duties in such a way that we achieve lasting results.

Not that the same chores won’t have to be done all over again tomorrow, but that in the doing, we are training children, teaching teamwork, showing appreciation, offering encouragement, modeling diligence, radiating joy, building character, and making memories together.

That kind of time investment will yield results that endure.

It's all about our mindset: tending to temporal duties in a way that achieves lasting results.

Housekeeping Matters: 5 Habits that Help

5 Habits of an Effective Housekeeper | http://lovinglifeathome.com
I’m not trying to chain anybody to a vacuum cleaner here, but I believe, to the best of our abilities, we should try to maintain a clean and orderly home. We should seek to make it a haven of rest for our entire family.

Whatever chores we do, whether the lion’s share or an even split with our spouse, should be done consistently, cheerfully, and as unto the Lord. Although our families certainly benefit when we keep a tidy home, our faithfulness in this area is ultimately a service to God (Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:23).

God holds us accountable for everything entrusted to our care (including our home), and He expects us to use it in a way that blesses those around us and glorifies Him.

God is not the author of chaos and confusion, so messes and mayhem should not be the pattern for our homes. Rather, He is a God of order. He has set the stars in their places and has numbered the hairs on our heads.

And since God has created us in His own image, we should make it our goal to reflect this orderly aspect of His character in our daily lives.

There are several habits that almost all good housekeepers have in common:

  1. A good housekeeper has a reliable method for dealing with clutter.

    Rather than letting junk mail pile up on her desk or kitchen counter for days or weeks at a time, she tosses it straight in the trash or recycle bin as soon as it enters the house.

    She deals with broken toys, outgrown clothes, leftover food, and anything else that has outlived its usefulness in similar fashion, purging her home of worthless junk and keeping everything in it in good working order.

  2. A good housekeeper designates a place for everything and keeps everything in place.

    She rarely needs to spend precious minutes hunting car keys or purses or shoes when she’s in a hurry to go somewhere, because each of those items can be found exactly where it belongs.

    She stores the most frequently used items in the most easily accessible space, making it a simple matter to return anything to its proper home. She also stores things as near their point of use as possible (coffee mugs and creamer close to the coffee maker, garbage bags and dust pan beside the trash can, copy paper and computer ink next to the printer, etc.).

  3. A good housekeeper is a good problem solver.

    She’s not afraid to think outside the box. If one approach isn’t working, she’s not afraid to try another.

    If dirty shoes keep tracking mud onto clean floors, she’ll put a shelf or basket by the door so kids can shed their shoes before coming inside. If the clothes rod in the coat closet is too high for her little ones to reach, she’ll install hooks at their level so they can hang up their jackets that way instead of dropping them on the floor.

  4. A good housekeeper routinely enlists the help of others.

    She realizes she cannot do everything herself. This is especially important when children are part of the picture.

    The greater the number of children in a household, the more frazzled the homemaker will become unless those children are trained to pitch in and help. Some mess is to be expected when sharing a home with little ones, but if you are always inside the house working while your children are outside playing, then something is amiss.

    I know, I know. It often seems easier to do the chores yourself without little ones under foot, but the cost of this perceived convenience is too high: Not only are you missing out on the opportunity to make precious memories with them, both at work and at play, but you are forfeiting an opportunity to teach them important life skills.

    When everyone pitches in to get the work done, the chores are (theoretically) finished faster, and then you can all relax and have fun together as a family.

  5. A good housekeeper makes wise use of whatever time is available.

    She doesn’t wait until she has a full day to devote to house cleaning to get started. She realizes that little by little will add up over time.

    She also recognizes the value of a job half-done. If she doesn’t have time to deep clean, she spot cleans. If she doesn’t have time to spot clean, she straightens.

    She knows no matter how thoroughly she scours a cluttered house — washing windows and vacuuming rugs and polishing doorknobs — it will still seem dirty if the beds aren’t made or there’s paper strewn all over the floor.

    Conversely, she understands that an uncluttered house, one where everything’s picked up and put away, will look clean, even if the furniture still needs dusting or the floor hasn’t been swept.

Here, as in so many other things, there is a need for balance. Keeping a tidy house should be a means to an end, not the end goal itself.

I view housekeeping as a way to serve God by being a good steward over what He has given me, to care for my family by creating a pleasant place for us all to live, to show gratitude to my husband for the home he has provided, to honor him by keeping it neat and clean the way he likes it, to train my children to be conscientious and competent workers, and to reach out to others by extending hospitality.

But if my desire for a clean house makes me irritable and impatient with the people inside it, then my priorities are misplaced. If I go berserk when a child spills milk on my freshly mopped floor, instead of gently coming alongside to assist and instruct in wiping up the mess, then my clean house has become an idol, and I’m sending my family the message that it is more important to me than they are.

Keeping an immaculate house (in the strictest sense of the word) is not really possible this side of heaven, so it’s futile to make that our goal. Keeping a tidy house, on the other hand, is entirely achievable — even while maintaining a proper and loving attitude toward everyone who lives there.


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Putting It in Perspective

I don’t know who wrote the following poem, but it is a good reminder that we should “not despise the day of small things.” This season of life will be over before we know it, and won’t I miss it when it’s gone!.

My days are days of small affairs,
Of trifling worries, little cares,
A lunch to pack, a tea to make,
A room to sweep, a pie to bake,
A hurt to less, a tear to dry,
A head to brush, a bow to tie,
A face to wash, a rent to mend,
A meal to plan, a fuss to end,
A hungry husband to be fed,
A sleepy child to put to bed.
I, who’d hoped someday to gain
Success, perhaps a bit of fame,
Must give my life to small affairs
Of trifling worries, little cares.
But, should tomorrow bring a change,
My little house grow still and strange—
Should all the cares I have today
Be swept, quite suddenly, away—
Where now a hundred duties press
Be but an ache of loneliness,
No child’s gay ribbons to be tied,
No wayward little feet to guide,
To heaven I would raise my prayers,
“Oh God, give back my little cares.”

~Author Unknown

In Pursuit of Lasting Results

I have a friend who refuses to iron more than one piece of clothing at a time. She believes that dying with a closet full of clean, pressed clothes would be testimony to a wasted life. Why bother ironing something you may never get the chance to wear?

“I”d much rather spend my time mowing the lawn,” my friend confides. I assume she just enjoys being out in the fresh air and sunshine, but no, she explains, the reason she likes cutting the grass is because she knows it won’t need to be cut again for a full week — or at least five or six days. Not so with any other domestic task.

I can see her point. You can knock yourself out scrubbing bathrooms, mopping floors, or washing windows, and the results can be completely undone in a matter of minutes. (And the more young children that share your household, the more likely your efforts to keep it clean will be thwarted.)

Even a home-cooked meal is summarily demolished once it’s been brought to the table. No sooner do you wash and dry the last dish from one meal than your famished family is back in the kitchen, asking when they may expect the next and begging for a snack.

But a freshly-mown lawn? Once that job’s done, you can take a well-earned break and enjoy it for awhile. There is something very gratifying about that fact.

As a wife and mother, I must deal with an endless barrage of demands upon my time and energy, of which there is a very limited supply. If I do not choose wisely, I will end up squandering it to achieve results that are fleeting rather than investing it in something longer lasting.  I want to make taking care of people, not possessions, my focus.

Of course, at some point, the laundry does have to be washed, the meals prepared, the floors swept. Life has always been a balancing act and always will be. The challenge is to tend to the temporal duties in such a way that we achieve lasting results. Not that the same chores won’t have to be done all over again tomorrow, but that in the doing, we are training children, teaching teamwork, showing appreciation, offering encouragement, modeling diligence, radiating joy, building character, and making memories together.

That kind of time investment will yield results that endure.