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This is a turnaround week for me. I’ve changed my ways, and I’m going a different direction.
For the past month, I’ve either been sick with a cold or taking care of sick kids. It hasn’t been fun, and it’s been a great excuse for not getting much done. I haven’t posted much on my other blog, or anywhere else, and I haven’t done much housework either.
I’ve been lazy long enough. This was going on even before the illnesses. I’d come home, make dinner, half-heartedly clean up, and settle into my recliner with the laptop. Sometimes I pretended to be working on my writing or blogging. Sometimes I really did get some work done. But mostly I played around.
This week, I’m getting things done. After dinner, I fully clear the table, and fully clean up the kitchen. If there’s anything else to do, I do that too (tonight I took out the garbage and recycling for pickup). I don’t sit down until it’s done, even if the small of my back is starting to ache.
What’s the deal? Am I suddenly a wonderful, energetic person? Is it my own willpower; I’ve suddenly decided to be a worthwhile human being? Will I forget about it within a few days, or after the first time it becomes really difficult to do all of this (it could happen; it’s certainly happened before)?
I don’t think it’s me. I don’t think I’m capable of changing myself that way. If I look rationally at all I have to do, and all I want to do, I become despondent, sink into my chair and forget everything in cyberspace.
I think this kind of turnaround is the work of God. No, I don’t believe in magic. I don’t think God says “hocus, pocus, there you go! You’re a completely different person.”
I do think that the more we open ourselves to God, and allow God to flow through us, the more God can change us.
In this instance, God worked on me through a talk my husband and I went to Saturday night. We attended a meeting with the Springwater intentional community and Mark Van Steenwyk, founder of Missio Dei and editor of The Jesus Manifesto.
In the meeting, we talked about intentional communities and new monasticism, and about spiritual practices of such communities, such as prayer, common meals, gardening, and housework.
One practice mentioned was letting go of preferences. This is especially important when people are living together in community (even in a traditional nuclear family). The man who brought this up said “this is my house, and I prefer not to have a lot of people in my house!” But he’s willing to let go of that, at least once in a while, for the sake of community.
I’d prefer to go on lounging with my laptop. It’s not a healthy preference for my family, though, so I need to let it go. I’m not even using it right now. I’m sitting at the desktop computer and letting my husband use the laptop. That doesn’t mean I’ll never use it, and that I’ll never sit around and play on Twitter and Facebook. It just means that I need to be more mindful of how I spend my time.
We also talked about the practice of hospitality. Many intentional communities purposefully provide hospitality to those who need a meal, a place to sleep, or a more permanent home. Mark admitted that “Hospitality sucks!” It’s a difficult practice. He told a story about the problems his community had in providing hospitality to a homeless man with drug and alcohol problems.
I haven’t brought any homeless people home yet, but then we don’t have many people over at all. You see, for us to be able to provide hospitality on a moment’s notice, we have to keep up on the housework, and we haven’t been very good at that. “We can’t have anyone over; the house is a mess,” makes a great excuse.
Yet it’s something we should be doing. We should be inviting friends, family and neighbors over to share meals. We should be able to have the girls’ friends over. We should be ready for that stranger we’re meant to befriend, whoever they may be.
So getting the housework done each day is really an act of hospitality, not of drudgery. I realized that right away, as we were talking.
Finally, as a result of this daily structure, I’m writing on a regular basis again! After getting the cleanup done, I can sit down with the computer, either at the dining room table or at the desk, and write. Writing is a practice, too, and I’m glad that I have it.
I’m grateful that God has nudged me into this turnaround. I know it won’t always be as easy as it has these past two days. I know I’ll probably make the wrong choice at some point, and I know that sooner or later I will run into some circumstance that prevents me from following this routine. But I know that God is the God of Do-Overs as well. We always get another chance to make a better choice, and to turn things around once again.