The Next Load of Laundry

As I write this first post of 2019, my elbows are stuck to the kitchen table in a puddle of partially dried yogurt from yesterday’s snack. My family is back to normal life after a holiday.

I started my first day back with laundry. It turns out that, my family and I continued to wear clothes even though we were stay-cationing. I am considering making “laundry” my New Year’s resolution because I am guaranteed to reach that goal almost immediately after the holidays are done.  I imagine the same is true for you.

As I look ahead to 2019, I can see how the regular tasks of life give shape to the unplanned year.  Grocery shopping, laundry, washing bathrooms, making beds, and meal making will all need to be done.  But that knowledge can feel a little bleak can’t it?  Is there something more meaningful ahead?  Life can feel so utterly ordinary.

Life is not only ordinary but most of life is done unnoticed.

My laundry space is the epitome of unnoticed spaces. It is situated in the unfinished part of our basement. The room is lit by one lightbulb on a pull string. The floor and walls are cement, there are exposed pipes and wires, and two small basement windows. Not quite the Pinterest laundry rooms so large and bright you could invite your friends in for tea with all the counter space and cute decor.

It is a humble space and so is the work I do there.

And, if I am not careful, I can start that to think that what I do there is unimportant and meaningless.  It is unnoticed and ordinary and so it can feel unfulfilling.

Ancient Celtic Christians had a different way of understanding the ordinary. They saw the everyday and routine tasks of life as opportunities to commune with God, to speak to Him, and to listen to his voice. 

You can find their prayers in prayer books but they called them blessings.  There was a blessing to be said upon waking, one for lighting the first fire of the day, one for making bread, one for washing your hands, blessings before and after meals and so on and so forth.  There were blessings for everything.

It is significant that they called them “blessings” instead of prayers. The word blessing, before the 12th century, meant to make hallow or consecrate. And consecrate means to make or declare sacred.

Holy, sacred, consecreated.

I have uttered or yelled many words about the chores in my home but holy, sacred, or consecrated has not been one of them. I do not know about you but these are not the words that come to mind when I think of ordinary life and housework.

It is significant that they called them blessings. Blessing something infuses the task with significance because it is now deemed holy. To make something holy is to set it apart for the use of God, something that can be used for the purpose of worship. It transforms the regular, ordinary tasks of life into something that glorifies God. 

There was no distinction between the secular and the sacred for Celtic Christians. There was not meaningful and meaningless tasks, the noticed or the unnoticed. For them the tasks we consider mundane were opportunities to bring glory to their Heavenly Father.  It did not matter if anyone on earth saw them performing them, these acts were dedicated to and noticed by God. 

Here is are an examples of what I mean:

Blessing of the Kindling

I will kindle my fire this morning
In presence of the holy angels of heaven,
In presence of Ariel of the loveliest form,
In presence of Uriel of the myriad charms,
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,

Without fear, without terror of any one under the sun,
But the Holy Son of God to shield me.
     Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
     Without fear, without terror of any one under the sun,
     But the Holy Son of God to shield me.

God, kindle Thou in my heart within
A flame of love to my neighbor,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,
To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall,
O Son of the loveliest Mary,
From the lowliest thing that liveth,
To the Name that is highest of all.
     O Son of the loveliest Mary,
     From the lowliest thing that liveth,
     To the Name that is highest of all.

I have yet to find a blessing for laundry though there must be one because everyone through all of history has had to do some sort of clothes washing. 

As our family life slides back into the regular routine of life, I have been wondering what it would it would look like for me to bless my housework and ordinary life. What it would look like for me to pull all these tasks from the secular category and bring them back into something I saw with lenses of blessing, something holy?  I have a feeling that I might learn to like them more. I have an inkling that the result would be a life more open to the Holy Spirit, one that is more worshipful, and one that has more joy. 

I am hopeful.

This week I am going to write a prayer for laundry.  I will share it next week. Perhaps you would like to join me.  Take your most “drudgery-like” chore and craft a little prayer that you can say as you do it.  I will share mine next week and would love to hear yours as well. 

As you walk through your home and begin the Christmas recovery, may you be reminded to bless the work you are doing, the people you are picking up after, and the bodies that will be nourished from your food preparation. May your everyday work be holy, sacred, and consecrated and may you find satisfaction in the knowledge that God sees each task you are doing.