So Nothing Is Wasted

Wednesday night I pulled clean sheets out of the dryer only to put them back in the wash on Thursday morning, two out of my three kids having wet their beds sometime during the night. And as I sat on the floor in Chloe’s room, unrolling the t-shirts she had made into ‘hot dogs’ (I have no idea, but it’s one of Hannah Grace’s and her favorite pastimes) I acknowledged how much of each day is spent redoing tasks I had just completed. Many days I have complained to Matt that I feel like my efforts are for nothing, wasted since it is inevitable that the day I mop, one of the kids will immediately spill a glass of milk, smush a strawberry, or pee all over the kitchen floor (we have issues with pee in this family). And often, I have looked to the day when I can engage in more meaningful activities.

But as I sat on the floor turning hot dogs into t-shirts again on this particular morning, I did so without the normal level of frustration that I’m apt to feel. Instead, I recognized a thought not original to me: Cleaning up hotdogs and pee is my ministry.

I’m not sure anyone has ever written that thought precisely as I just wrote it, but I’ve encountered the sentiment many times. How I handle all the gross and mundane tasks, the chores that I do and then redo, is not wasted effort. Raising my children, complete with the tasks that accompany this role, is my meaningful activity.

I get frustrated when the activities director at the nursing home says I can volunteer, but my children are too young; I long for the day when I can travel with my church group to Mozambique to help build wells; and I sigh deeply when the baby who wouldn’t go to sleep last night wakes up early when I’m trying to write. But I have forgotten one important fact: Volunteering, building wells, and my blog are not my job.

But they are.

God gave me my passion to serve and to write, so I’m not dismissing my desires. When I can, I should pursue these passions, but I should not allow myself to fall into the trap of thinking that building wells is a more important job than washing wet sheets. I have to admit that even as I write those words they sit a bit funny. For too long I’ve allowed myself to gloss over the positive impact I can make on my children, that just as clean water brings life to a community my efforts at home bring life to my family.

When I make my children clean up the spilled milk on the newly mopped floor, they learn responsibility and the importance of caring for those possessions with which we have been blessed. When my children see me make a meal for a neighbor, they witness compassion and will hopefully embody a spirit who looks outside themselves to the needs of others. And when I fail them and don’t demonstrate love as I should, they understand that even family will disappoint, but there is One who will never fail.

The challenge for me is to recognize my every day as a chance to make a difference, not just those days that I have deemed more important. This challenge remains for everyone. Whether stuck in a crappy job or lamenting the one we recently lost, we each have a purpose. We can look to ‘better’ days when we fulfill all our dreams and desires, or we can embrace the life in front of us now.

I plan to do a better job of embracing my children and all the crap that I have to do over and over. Because, truly, my actions will speak louder than my words. One day my children will look back, and I hope they remember a mother who found honor and privilege in her ministry as their mother. And when they look back at their times of making hot dogs and peeing on the floor, I hope they remember how weird they truly were and what a saint I was for dealing with them.

16 thoughts on “So Nothing Is Wasted

  1. Jennifer, i think this is one of the best (if not THE best) posts you have written thus far. There are lessons in here for all of us. God has given you precious gifts and you are a wonderful Mom.
    They probably won’t remember making hot dogs and peeing on the floor; and when you tell them about it, they will think you are the weird one. 🙂
    Happy Birthday, to my wonderful and precious daughter.♥
    I love you, Mom


  2. Jennifer, So many mothers don't realize how important the tough days are and how they will, one day, look back and wish they had been more loving, more patient, and made more good memories for themselves and their children._One thing that really bugs me is the nursing home that will not let you volunteer with your children. I can't think of anything_residents of nursing homes enjoy more than seeing children. I guess it triggers memories for them and for just a few minutes they are reliving the times they had with their own._I know writing is not your "job", but I'm always so happy to see that you are "moonlighting."


    1. Dot, I completely agree with you as far as the nursing home. The kids and residents LOVED when we volunteered at the home where the roof caved in. Unfortunately, that home won't be ready for about a year. I have called numerous other facilities, and most directors have not called me back, and the one who did said my kids were too young for the structure activities they did (painting nails, Bingo, etc.) If you know of any places that might like my kids to come along with me, please let me know!


  3. You'd be hard pressed to find a mother that doesn't wish for a little more patience, to be a little better and a little less crap on some days and for a little more "me" time or "something to do" (for lack of a better word) on others. And my guess, is they will come to understand, but it won't be for a long, long time. Probably when they make you a grandmother. And in the meantime there will be tons of hits, a few misses, and so much love to soak up. Just knowing that you want to soak up that love, puts you so far ahead of the curve.


    1. Thanks for the kind comment, Krista. You are right–I know I've appreciated a lot more about my own mother since making her a grandmother!


  4. So very true. Sharing your thoughts is one of the reasons I made the choice to homeschool. For me, that is part of my service to my kids (is not for everyone, I know, that is a personal calling in my life). But the idea that the time will come when I will be able to do other things, serve in other ways, minister outside the home is exactly that. For now, my job, my ministry, my mission field, are those two kids. My job is to raise them well, to love the Lord, to be the type of person He wants them to be. Well put, friend!


    1. I give you so much credit. Homeschooling mommies are 'on' non-stop, and you have quite the plate to juggle. Thank you for your encouraging comments!


  5. Laughing out loud at the last sentence! I struggle with this too. When I think about my own mother though, I realize that every moment truly is precious. Our children don't see us through the lens of responsibility, obligations and requirements of every day living. They just see us as mom. Sometimes I think to myself "NO WAY my mom went through all of this!". Then we talk… and the stories begin.

    It helps for me to consider what my mom must have done for me. My young childhood memories are not of my mom washing dishes, folding clothes, or dealing with potty training. I do remember snuggling up in bed on Saturday mornings, reading books together, and watching Frosty the Snowman at Christmas. Someday, I hope my children have only sweet memories too. Maybe your kids will have fun memories of "making hot dogs" and then – when THEIR children do crazy stuff – they'll wonder what you thought when you found the "hot dogs" so many years prior! 🙂


    1. Thank you for this comment. You are right on–I know that even with my own mom, my memories are of her being there with love. I don't necessarily even remember the things that I put pressure on myself to do like crafts or games, but I remember her love. I hope the same for my kids.


  6. Ah, yes. The ministry of pots and pans and pee. I'd say you're doing a grand job at all of it, Jennifer. And believe me, they will appreciate it one day – when they have children of their own, you'll see some fun reminders of two things: 1.) they will do some of the same things you did to create memories and to make life fun; 2.) they will do a whole lot of things far better than you did and you will watch in awe. That's been true for me and it's one of life's greatest blessings. Hang in, hang on, keep the faith.


  7. I agree with your Mom — this is one of the best posts I've read by you! And such a good point…one I need to really listen to today…as I "recover" from laundry amidst heaps of laundry. And then Rowan just said to me, "But Daddy does everything around here anyway!" My head just about popped off!


    1. Oh, Michelle, I would've dropped dead right there if my kids ever said that to me! 🙂 Thank you for the compliment!


  8. This is really good, Jennifer. Last summer, I wanted to host a Bible study in my home, but for some reason I didn't have a peace about it. I knew I'd need to arrange childcare for my youngest and my husband would need to take our older children out. Finally, in my quiet time one morning, God gently reminded me through His word that "your family is your ministry right now". And that if I spend these days ministering to others and not investing in their lives, I will have missed out on one of the greatest blessings God has given me.


    1. For me the challenge is to not compartmentalize my life. My whole life should be serving God, and I shouldn't look at only those moments traditionally labeled as 'ministry' as such. Thanks for sharing your example and that you can relate! 🙂


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