At the begnning of the month, I sat down and created 31 goals. Some big, some small. Some fun, some hard. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I was determined. I could stick to anything for 31 days, right? Well, sort of.
Before I go on, there are a few things you need to know about life in our zoo. First, I am a tornado. Mr. Fantastic affectionately calls me a "nester." I make nests of stuff. A nest of things that I'm not quite ready to put away because I'm likely to need them again soon, so they morph into a pile instead. A nest of things that need to go upstairs (or downstairs) but I don't want to waste time making 10 individual trips, so I let them pile up until I can take them all up at once. A nest of things that I need to go through later, when I have more time. A nest of things that I don't know what else to do with. I try to keep the house looking "company nice", but I typically have a couple of nests stashed throughout the house, in places where most people won't see them.
Second, I am organizationally challenged, and especially since Monkey was born and I went into such a yucky depression, I get overwhelmed easily. And when I get overwhelmed, I give up.
Third, in case you didn't know... I have three small children at home!
And fourth, Mr. Fantastic is the exact opposite--seriously, the exact opposite--of my 1st and 2nd points. He is unbelievably organized--seriously, I think it is a gift from the Lord--and compulsively neat. He doesn't want anything out of place, and he doesn't "get" why it doesn't seem to bother other people when things aren't perfect.
Can you see any potential for conflict here? Ha!
So keeping all of those things in mind, we come to July 5, when my goal was to create a cleaning schedule for the house. Now... here's another thing about our family... I hesitate to share this, but it's important for the post... until a few months ago, we had a cleaning lady who came twice a month. So until recently, I didn't worry about cleaning toilets, I rarely had to think about vacuuming or mopping (Yes, twice a month was just fine with me.), and I only dusted if we were having company over. But now that has all changed, and I needed a plan to keep from getting hopelessly behind. Because I was already starting to feel overwhelmed, and as I pointed out earlier, it's not a good thing when I get overwhelmed.
I worked and worked on that cleaning schedule, and I actually continue to tweak it even now. But what seemed like such a simple throw-a-few-things-down-on-paper kind of task has taken on a life of its own. Somehow that one little day started to change the focus of the whole Faith in Action project.
First of all, creating the schedule was no big deal. Sticking to it has been a monster. I am still trying to find a balance between being responsible and taking good care of what God has entrusted to us, and by eing a mom who is there for my kids and who enjoys spending time with them.
But second, as I have shifted my focus away from my original goals and concentrated on the simple task of just taking care of my house--and my household--God really has shaped and changed me throughout the month. I have developed a new appreciation for what we have, instead of focusing on what we don't. I have seen how much Mr. Fantastic appreciates my work, and I have realized that I don't actually want him to come home and say, "Wow! Our bathroom is so clean!" Because I don't want it to be a surprise to him that it's clean, for goodness sake. And in that, I have also come to understand that sometimes when we do a good job at something, it is easy for our work to go unnoticed, because if we do it right consistently, people just expect it to be that way--and that's actually a good thing.
I have also started to incorporate my kids more in the cleaning, and I hope I'm helping to teach them a little more responsibility. For example, every single morning after breakfast, they immediately go upstairs and clean their room. And now that it's been going on for a couple of weeks, they are figuring out that the morning cleaning goes much more quickly if they put away their toys as they play with them instead of waiting until I make them clean their room. And they learned that on their own--I didn't
And I feel like I'm changing in less tangible ways, too. I'm realizing how self-centered my thoughts and attitudes have been lately (maybe my whole life...!) and I'm trying to change that, and I am developing a greater appreciation for my husband, and... other things that I can't quite put my finger on. All because of a cleaning schedule? Well, no, not really. It's not about the task itself. It's about being obedient, setting aside my own desires (because my desires do not include scrubbing toilets) and doing what I need to do--with a good attitude--and allowing God to change me through it.
As this simple task of cleaning the house became a bigger focus, many of my other tasks fell off my plate. But that is truly OK with me. I honestly feel like my heart was open to what God was/is trying to say, and that He wanted to use this, to show me that I can learn and grow through my regular daily life. This was what I needed, and what my family needed, more than special crafts and meals.
So what about that original list of 31 daily tasks? I still think they're good things to do, and I want to incorporate them into my life, but maybe not each day. I am realizing that God has given me plenty to handle--and plenty of ways to learn about Him and grow--in my everyday life.