Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Reason and Method of Housekeeping, and Life

The other day I was pondering housekeeping and all the various motivators that might make a woman try to excel, all her various goals, conscious or not, that make her want to be all she can be at this work. For every goal, there's the opposite which could also be something she's avoiding as much as she's pursuing the other end. This is not to say I place judgment on anyone for their housekeeping; just come to my house and that will put that concern to rest! I wish I were always on the left side of most things on this list, but often I am closer to the right than I'd like; also some of these goals might be considered more noble or vital than others:

Glorifying God or dishonoring God
Organized or disorganized
Beautiful or disheveled
Design or chaos
Functional or frustrating
Minimal or stuffed
Coordinated or eclectic
Pride or shame

I suppose there might be many other motivations that could be added to the list; these are the possibilities that come to my mind. Some are limited by the time, money, or room we have available. Some rely on our design sense, or our knack for organizing, or the needs of our family. We aren't called to do more than we are able; we honor God when we do it all to His glory, doing what is needed and useful first and focusing on the less important parts last.
As far as method goes, I generally try to do the "worst first"--that which is in most terrible need of attention. There is another "philosophy" that I've become vaguely aware of, and which as I googled to find it, found a poem from which Elisabeth Elliot derived it. Her teaching was to go and do the next thing when she didn't know what else to do. The poem, which I google-found on a very commendable blog called Oversight of Souls, was as follows, and quoted from Elliot's book The Shaping of a Christian Family (pg.178-179):

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration:

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Thrust them with Jesus, doe the nexte thynge.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all results, doe the nexte thynge

Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, doe the nexte thynge.

So I believe that Elisabeth Elliot found it helpful when widowhood left her at wit's end--when perhaps all you can do is "the next thing." I find it a simple thing in my housekeeping, as there is never any lack to do, to do the next thing that presents itself as obvious, needful, at hand, or urgent, and when these are done, there are still the things that are less so--but finding what to do usually doesn't require a lot of thought! It presents itself readily as "the next thing." So might any of the more difficult things in life, at difficult times, be simplified if we take each thing step by step. All of life, when it seems overwhelming as a whole, might be easier to swallow according to that simple advice.


Ray Van Neste said...

I am glad you found this poem! It has meant alot to me, and took on new meaning this last semester as out university was hit by a large tornado destroying many buildings. As we continued this semester, this poem was helpful and i left it posted on my office door.

Mom22 said...

I'm glad I found your blog. Homemaking doesn't come to me easily, so I'm always looking for helpful hints to help me improve.

Thank you!