Every day is the same – shop, cook, dishes, laundry. Sweep, wipe, scrub, pick up. All the papers, all the arguments, all the scheduling, all the homework. Do you ever feel like the monotony will swallow you whole? Do you ever feel reduced to servitude – pointless, unseen, neverending? Do you get bombarded with the voices like I do?
Most of my life is spent doing thankless work that will be undone hours – if not minutes – later. Maybe my days are just pointless.
I am stuck. I have no choice.
I am invisible. I am not getting paid for this.
Why must everyone make so many messes?
Why don’t they consider my time and effort?
Sometimes it feels like…
I’m a slave in my own home.
I’ve been working on displacing these hopeless voices with positive ones that treat me much better. In the process I’m finding a few ways to deal. I thought I’d share five strategies with you today.
For me, resentment is the foundation of most of the “slave” thoughts. (Not much need to elaborate, is there? Aren’t we all quite familiar with resentment?) I have good news, my friends! What they say is true: there is none more powerful weapon against resentment than being grateful. My heart has been won by counting graces too many times to count. Intentionally finding something to be thankful for can change the dirtiest cottage into the most beautiful castle, and the most monotonous day into a glorious treasure hunt. Chores laced with gratitude cease to be unendingly demanding task masters. They become instead mysterious opportunities for joy.
Ann Voskamp is my resident expert on the transforming power of thankfulness. She explains the displacement phenomenon beautifully in her book One Thousand Gifts:
‘A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.’
That is what Erasmus said…
It starts to unfold, light in the dark, a door opening up, how all these years
it’s been utterly pointless to try to wrench out the spikes of discontent.
Because that habit of discontentment can only be driven out by hammering in
one iron sharper.
The sleek pin of gratitude.
Here are a few gratitude points during all these terribly average, housework-heavy days:
- Piles of laundry mean we have more than enough clothes to wear.
- Stacks of dirty dishes mean we have more than enough food to eat.
- Stinky, dirty toilets mean we have running water and sanitary conditions and a functioning local government.
- Schlepping to and from ball practice means we have children (pause here…their very lives are a gift) — children with ten fingers and ten toes and four-chambered hearts and lungs with millions of those little alveoli for breathing deep and running fast. Oh, these gifts of health and life!
- Being responsible to fulfill all the above means I am physically and mentally able to accomplish them, and this too is an amazing gift of health and life.
When resentment stacks up in my heart like Jenga, gratitude pulls out the balancing blocks and topples me to my knees in humble thanks. The double blessing is that as I practice gratitude, I can teach this life-tool to my children by example. Together we can be grateful for what and whom we’ve been given, and practice thankfulness and thoughtfulness on each other.
When the voices come back again, I consider how engaged the kids have been around the house lately. I often realize I’ve made it a one-man show again, shouldering all the cleaning because it’s easier to just do it myself; I have the time; the boys who work hard at school all day so I don’t want to give them more work.
But maintaining a home is not a me vs. them fight – it’s an all-in team effort. Each family member can be responsible for a few chores during the week, and for their own particular brand of messiness. (Consequences are real, right?) Sharing the load helps diffuse my resentment — even if the carpet isn’t well-vacuumed, the knowledge that I’m not alone unwraps kindness in my heart, and we all benefit.
And hopefully they will learn to think twice about trashing a room they just cleaned! (Please tell me kids have this reasoning ability at some age…)
When I’m pulling the fifth load of laundry out of the dryer while humming “Sing sweet nightingale,” any long-term significance feels far distant. But it’s actually right at my fingertips, if I can get past my short-sightedness and consider the long-term. Every day I am teaching my children values by my actions. So what messages are they (and myself) learning from all my housewife labors?
- Normalcy – Life is filled with monotonous tasks – it’s not all glamorous and easy
- Discipline – We do it anyway, consistently
- Perseverance – We can do hard things; we don’t give up
- Stewardship – Taking care of our possessions is important
- Family – We are a team; we do things together
- Servanthood – Serving is a kingdom value that Jesus loves and modeled for us
- Honor and Hospitality – Honoring our guests is a big deal, which includes creating for them a clean and pleasant environment
The list could go on. When complaints rise, revisiting these values helps reset our hearts. There truly is a greater, long-term purpose at work in the midst of all the smallness.
Speaking of smallness and greatness, sometimes the “slave” voice says with a sigh, “I am meant for more than this.” Here’s where it gets tricky, because I am meant for more, and so are you. When I think this thought, I give it to Jesus to strain out all the selfishness, to help me remember that my life is not about me, not about instant gratifications. Often He turns around and gives it back to me, helping me realize my restless dissatisfaction with housework/life is because I’ve let normal life crowd out abundant life. I’ve neglected pursuing what brings me joy and life. I’ve reduced myself to servant; I’ve forgotten the greater purposes, hidden behind duty, safe from risk yet void of its fruit.
We were all made to dream and adventure and create and build and grow and pursue new interests. We were all made for greatness by a good Father who loves to think outside the box, outside what’s possible.
So sometimes, when I look in the mirror and for a second I think I see soot smudged across my forehead, I stop and ask the Father:
What are the dreams of my heart?
If I had unlimited resources, what would I do?
What legacy do I want to leave to the next generation?
And if the answers come slowly or not at all, I know I need a major upgrade. I know I need to jump further into the great wide world and the kingdom of heaven, to invest in something or someone outside the walls of my house, something bigger than my small life.
Because sometimes, when it feels like my heart is shriveling up on the inside… it’s because it is.
Finding the time to feed our souls and pursue our dreams is a challenge, but it is so very necessary to feeding hope and joy in the midst of everyday ordinary life.
Take Your Place
When the voices in my head persist further, there’s something deeper going on. Here I choose to address the deepest source of all of the resentment, isolation, insecurity, pride, short-sightedness, control, fear, and perfection operating through the voices. Deep down, there’s a part of me that thinks and feels as if she’s an orphan outside of God’s care. This lonely Cinderella girl doesn’t know how much Father God loves her. She’s forgotten who He said she is and what He was thinking when He made her. She feels out of control and invisible and fundamentally flawed. She feels like there’s no hope for change. She tries to blame everyone else for her discontent in order to hide how unworthy and angry and sad she feels.
Like I said, this is deep stuff.
But it’s good, because this all-encompassing root means there’s one source for the solution, too! That answer is the Father Himself: His love for me becoming real and true in this very place in my heart. I don’t even know what else to say in this post about the Father’s love… there is so much… except that it is the most powerful force in all of time, and it’s yours and it’s mine. I would recommend spending time in this book by A.J. Jones to help you connect individually with the God who loves you and calls you His daughter. (P.S. – it’s not an overnight fix.)
That old nagging voice in my head is the step-mother trying to bully me out of my rightful position. Cinderella wasn’t legally a servant. She was the opposite – the one true daughter and rightful heir to her Father’s house. When she feels like a slave in her own house, she needs to kick out the lies and take her place. She needs to remember who she is.
So when it comes to the whole slave mentality — really, it’s a victim mentality. But the truth is, I am not a victim. I am not an orphan. I am not a slave.
I am a queen.
I am a daughter.
I am loved.
I am seen.
I am known.
Let’s end by doing a little heart-house cleaning and proclaiming the truth. Join me out loud?
I am not a slave. I am not insignificant. I am not unseen. My life is not useless monotony.
Forgive me, God, for forgetting who You are and who You made me to be. Forgive me for not looking for the greater unseen purposes You are weaving in my life. Forgive me for not believing all the goodness You are for me. I forgive (the people in my past) who reinforced these lies in my heart and taught me the small version of who You really are and who I really am. Forgive me, God, for believing these lies. I want to believe the truth instead.
I lift my eyes to see Your face. The truth is, my life is not my own, and all is grace. My children are such gifts, messes and all. You see through all the messy ho-hum; help me do the same. And the truth is, all the work is unto You, and that’s enough, because You see it all and You are pleased.
The truth is, I am a daughter of the King of Kings. You know me and You love me and You are with me. You want me to thrive and you’ve made provision for me to do so, even in this season. You have everything I need to live life wisely and abundantly here on this brutiful earth. Would you give it to me now, Father, everything I need for today? Would You help me come back to joy?
And the truth is, I am the queen of this household. I have authority (not control, but authority) here and I can wield that privilege to set the tone of my home, work with excellence, and instill healthy values in my children. And I have influence outside my home too – more than I realize. I have the honor of stewarding all the gifts and dreams you’ve given me. Help me do it intentionally and courageously? Speak to me about Your dreams for me?
And I remember now: I have chosen this life and it is good. I am just where You would have me to be. You are so good. Thank You, Father.