I love doing the laundry, really!
For as long as I can remember, I have hated, yes hated, laundry. When I was a child, growing up in Costa Rica, my mother would make us fold and put away all our clothes. The laundry basket would sit in my room for days just staring at me. When I left for college, the dirty clothes would overflow from my hamper and start filling in the base of what would soon become a mountain of clothes in my room. I used to tell myself that when I got married and had kids I would do the laundry in a timely fashion. Until then, well, there was just no need and definitely no will power allotted to the task.
The time came when I did marry and soon enough had my first child. That awful feeling towards laundry did not go away, not even for the love of my child. It was still something I despised and left until the last possible moment. There were always piles of clean clothes on the couch in our apartment. The background of most of our pictures at home has laundry baskets or laundry stacks on the furniture! It wasn’t just washing and drying but putting all that stuff away…UUGHH! Three kids later, I still had no love for laundry. What a chore!!! Why do we have to do laundry? Why can’t everyone just wear the same outfit every day so I can wash once a week, one load? What?! They did it for centuries and things were dirtier back then. OK fine, that would never fly, especially for homeschoolers. HRS would be knocking at our doors for child neglect or something. Anyhow, all of a sudden, I find myself looking forward to laundry days and really enjoying it every step of the way. What brought about this HUGE change of heart?
Recently, I found myself lacking in the prayer department, specifically for my husband and my children’s vocations, their hearts, their character. Our faith is a journey and as walk towards the cross, I find the hidden voids in my heart and begin to work so they are soon filled with things of God. But, with four kids 9 and under, homeschooling, moving twice in two years, packing, unpacking, nursing, changing diapers, keeping a house, keeping a home, constantly doing the ever dreaded laundry, when was I really going to add more time for prayers? I have been asking God for 8 day weeks for quite some time and all I get back is wake up earlier and time manage better. So I embarked on a mission: make my days so efficient that I won’t need that 8th day He keeps neglecting to give me.
This last October we started homeschooling for the 2010-2011 year. (We are a month behind the regular school year because we moved in September.) We set up new chores for the children, new target time lines for every day. I even started getting up earlier so that I could fit everything that needed to get done in my scheduled piece of paper. When the children saw their new chores and schedules, there was some grumbling and mumbling. And so I began, “Girls, when we do something for the family, we show each other how much we love each other. In doing for each other, we grow as a family.
We must see, in all that we do, the opportunity to show God how grateful we are for each and every member of our family.” I continued with the example of myself and my lack of passion for laundry, “for example, when I do the laundry, I take the opportunity to think about you every time I fold one of your pieces of clothing. Every shirt is a prayer, every roll of socks is a memory, every piece is an opportunity for me to thank God for you, because I am so grateful for you.” Yes, there were tears from my super emotional 9 year old and an attempt at tears from my not so emotional 7 year old. However, it hit me like a ton of bricks!!! I don’t know if it did anything for them but for me, my little speech was life changing. So God opened my eyes to the fact that all that extra time I had been wanting to get from Him, he had already given to me. Because I have so much laundry to do for my “large” family I have all that time to pray! For so long my prayer for extra time had been answered and I was just misusing it.
I love doing the laundry now. I actually look forward to laundry days and my little sessions with God. With every piece I fold and stack, I have the opportunity to say a prayer for the child that wears it. I pray in thanksgiving for their place in my heart. I pray for their vocations. I pray for their souls, their health, their gifts, their trials, their triumphs. I pray and pray and pray as I fold and fold and fold. It is my time alone with God in the chaos of my life with little children. I also find a lot of time to pray for my husband while I am folding his laundry. I pray for his soul, for endurance, for wisdom in leading our family. I pray in thanksgiving for his promise to love me no matter what.
Just this week, my husband was sitting next to me as I folded (no, not helping) and he caught me kissing my 7 year old’s pants that I had just folded. He looked at me and before he could say a word I told him, “I kiss their clothes sometimes so they can wear my kisses all day long. Besides, I just remembered something great she did today and I just had to kiss her.” Yeap, the task that I have hated for as long as I can remember is now my favorite chore because it brings me closer to God and it gives me the opportunity to think about each and every one of my family members individually and be grateful.
I know it is a leap to say that everyone will enjoy their laundry if they just change their focus. But like I said, faith is a journey and we are all at a different place in our walk towards the cross. We are ready for the next step at different times in our lives. This step, this extra time of prayer, came at a time when I needed it most. And like my laundry, anyone can turn their most difficult task into a work of love and find so much joy in the sacrifice that it ceases to be a sacrifice.