I believe I have shared before that the “house” part of “housewife” gives me a fair amount of trouble. So, when a child fails to meet my remarkably low standards for cleanliness, it suffices to say things have gone far past messy and landed squarely in the middle of just plain “ick”.
This is the predicament my oldest son landed in over the weekend. He had already had a rough week having injured his back at practice, he was hobbling, a bit broken and I just didn’t have the heart to get grumpy. When his father used the word “disgusting”, I figured it was time for an intervention.
“How did you do this to yourself?” I asked my 15 year-old.
“Well, I wish I had some exciting story to tell you, Mom, but my room just got away from me. I’m kind of a disaster. ”
Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they’re yours. –Richard Bach.
As we ate breakfast, I began noodling about how to handle this one. Then, I told my sons that they needed to gather all their dirty laundry. While I did the dishes and danced around the kitchen to my favorite Pandora channel, I heard the scurrying overhead. A few moments later my incredibly bright middle kiddo, Drew, expressed fairly articulately the serious concern he had about the amount of laundry in his brother’s room.
That’s when it hit me.
“Boys, listen up! I want you to put all your laundry into large trash bags and bring it downstairs. “
As the trash bags filled my kitchen, I was warned that their numbers were going to be disturbing, and I admit, I didn’t realize Nick had that many clothes. In all, more than 6 large trash bags were assembled. Wondering if the Irish in my heritage might show itself, the boys searched my face looking for signs of an imminent temper tantrum. They needn’t have worried this time. I had devised a plan. My spirit was calm.
Here’s what I know from plenty of first-hand experience. We all have well-worn patterns of defeat in our lives. It was time for a little lesson on how the past doesn’t have to dictate the future and that we must take responsibility for making good choices. Language can be powerful and words have the power to transform us. We needed to invoke the power of “UP UNTIL NOW.”
I instructed the boys to put the back row of seats down in the van and told the uninjured teenager who had warned me earlier about the volume of dirty clothes to load up the heavy laundry bags. An act of Christian charity was about to be performed by all of us for the benefit primarily of my oldest son, but hopefully the lesson would resonate.
“Guys, I need you to bring me every quarter you can find. And, Zach—grab a deck of cards.“
“What’s going on, Mom?”
“Boys, we are going to the laundromat.”
The Kwik Kleen Laundromat in Carmel, Indiana is what I would deem typical as these places go. It was adequate. However, the rows of washers and dryers were an unexpected delight to my three laundry novices. They seemed a bit giddy in amazement of the place, which I estimate was last renovated perhaps in 1982. Who knew it could be so much fun to load clothes and coins into washers—13 washers!!?
Zach and I played ourselves into a 5-6 euchre deficit against his older brothers while the washers did their job, and then the completely “awesome” complimentary wheeled baskets whizzed about the place at the hands of the Thieme boys as we dropped quarter after quarter into dryers all over the building. We were operating so many of them at the same time that my 8 year old worked off his breakfast checking the timers on them all and providing play-by-play.
There are no mistakes. All events like this are blessings from which we can learn. God clearly tells us that our challenges and problems are not unique. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. (1 Cor 10:13).
When we had finished washing, drying, and folding all these loads of clothes, I looked around and realized that my guys were all smiling from the experience. We had giggled our way through the laundromat afternoon, mercilessly teasing Nick for the hole he had dug for himself, but with our good temperaments undamaged. We had freed him to begin again.
Smiling and loading up the van was the perfect time, I thought, to underline today’s lesson. Surrendering negative thoughts and changing poor patterns means looking to God for a new way. It’s news I wish I had assimilated years ago, and so, as I learn it myself I want very much to share the lesson with my sons right away. Waiting until age 42 is a touch pathetic, so I am trying to save my boys a long ride on the “struggle bus.” How do I explain what we’ve just done? I have about 2 sentences to impart some hard learned wisdom, since that’s the attention span of 8-15 year old boys. Hmm. Choose your words carefully, Shelly.
Come, Holy Spirit. That was my silent prayer.
Then, I said, “Nick. Do you remember telling me this morning you’re a disaster?”
“Up until now.”
“UP UNTIL NOW, you have been a laundry disaster.”
“And now, I have a fresh start and I will do a better job. “
“That’s exactly right. You can do this better. I know you will.”
This is what God tells us. You must replace negative thoughts with positive ones. We can screw up in ways small and large, but His advice is filled with common sense.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:8-9)
In other words, think positive and positive change is possible. When tempted to fall back into old patterns of unhealthy thinking or behavior, add the words “up until now” to your sentence. I’ve been trying this of late and I think it’s brilliant.
“Up until now, I have been a laundry disaster.”
“Up until now, I have failed in exercise.”
What about you? Up until now, what have you done??
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. – Mother Teresa