Friday, April 29, 2011


i stood in my son's room folding grey t-shirts.   laundry.   sweet smelling warmth.  fold.  crease.  smooth.  stack.  clean heat held in tired hands.   i am not a woman who especially loves laundry.  perhaps it is the overflow...or maybe it is the constant flow.  i am sure it is in the never done.  the never ending.  and in the always coming.  i turn my back for a quick moment...just long enough to plop a toddler in a tub or throw a roast in the oven and the pile grows large.  staggering.  who are all these people wearing all this clothing?  it seems we have seventy not seven living under our roof.  my machines are big and highly efficient...even digital.  but they are always, always running.  the only time they seem to pause with quiet  is when there are multiple showers going.  other than that...they could run without ceasing and we'd still have something dirty stashed somewhere.  and, i have to confess,  i am not gifted in this area.  really. truly.  i don't do laundry, i attack laundry.  i have been know to throw great, big heaps of foul smelling clothing into the mouth of this steel machine with no regard for color or fabric.  appalling, i am sure.  i also have been seen taking those same prodigious loads out of the cavernous heat and leaving them in wicker baskets for days....or just piling it all on my bed until night comes and then flinging the great mass recklessly to the floor at the tired midnight hour.  shocking.  i am sorry.  but this happens in my home.  i have no tender touch when it comes to this monumental-always-mulitplying-task.  i launder our clothes in desperate fashion:  scoop.  shove.  bang.  dump.  and then, of course, sometimes, on occasion, even fling.

i am not without laundry role models.  my mother is one of them.  she is a woman without an ipod or a laptop, but whose backyard has always boasted a clothes line.  i have watched this woman attach pillowcases with wooden pins in the dead of  an ohio winter.  i am sure at the top of her favorite things list are bed sheets dried in sunshine.  i have even wondered if there is no greater joy for my mother.  i feel accomplished when, on occasion, i throw in a downy fabric sheet.  it doesn't come close to the sunny smell of my mother's bedding however.  i have found this, at times, inefficient and frustrating.    there were evenings when i'd return from a long day of school and basketball practice only to find my sheets flapping out in the moonlight.  as a 16 year old i wasn't concerned much with the sun-basked fragrance, i only wanted a bed to climb into.   my mother was right to care about this though.  yes, there, i said it.   i want to be that way soon.  i want to hang sheets in the georgia sun and take pleasure from the sharp creases stacked inside  brown wicker.   this practice speaks of time.  it speaks of dedication to the ordinary. to the simple.  it is taking time to do something right.  to do it well, and perhaps, to do it with pleasure.

so there i was standing quietly in my son's basement bedroom over a basket of what he wears:  school uniforms, athletic shorts and an impressive pile of grey t-shirts.   all of his hangers adult sized now.  his t-shirts no longer tiny.  i have been folding this boys' clothing for almost 14 years.   long gone the baby blue.  long gone the trains and trucks.   oh a mother i held these boy-teen items and realized how thankful i was to be standing right here.  right now...simply holding.  and as i held something changed.  i began to carefully crease each t-shirt.  fold each short.  match corners and ends.  smooth. tuck. my piles were a work of art.  there would be no flinging today.  i was privileged to stand in my boy's room and hold dryer warm cotton.  i was privileged. 

this week i have found myself in the middle of these kinds of moments.  they have happened in the laundry room and at the dinner table.  they have occurred at bath time and bed time.  when my health became questionable, the eyes of my  heart became clearer.  all these things...all these common, everyday, ordinary things...all these tasks and chores and have-to-dos became so quickly precious.  they became gifts -  metamorphosing from tasks to treasures.  i know there may be a day when i will have to lean on others to wash and wipe and fold.  there may be a day when my hands cannot do what needs doing.  even if it be,  just for a while.  i'll be honest, it worries me.  i have laid awake at night wondering how a family with five children will survive a period of time without a fully functioning mother.   i don't mean to get ahead of the game, but if you had five children you'd have to wonder too.  trust me on this.  as i was adding the final shirt to the pile, i noticed a word in red across the grey shoulder of my son's shirt.  abide.

abide.  it was the t-shirt on top of the pile.   a t-shirt tyler had gotten at a youth retreat last year.  abide.  i read the word, but thought of the phrase, "abide in me."  i could almost hear my name attached.  "abide in me, jody."  abide in me for the laundry and the lunches.  abide in me for the washing of windows and hands and countertops.  abide in me for the scrubbing of faces and feet and floors.  abide.  abide in me jody.  abide.  dwell.  stay.  connect.  "i am the vine you are the branches;  he who abides in me and i in him, he bears much fruit.  apart from me you can do nothing." (john 15:5)  nothing.  it sunk in.  nothing.   everything i have already done...been is from Him.  it is All From Him.    this is not about the cancer.  this is about the living.  the daily breath He has been providing all along.  i have been fooling myself in believing  my hands capable and controlling.  Every Thing has always been from Him and Every Thing will always be from Him.  we think ourselves too able.  that is it.  at least that is it for me.   when life is good and health is full i whirl around in a cloud of my own capability...but it is foolishness.   each and every breath is decided by the Creator and Sustainer of all.  He gives and He takes away...and Blessed be His name.  this may not strike a peaceful chord for you right now.  but it does for me.  i have spent some considerable time this week worried about the day when i will have to be dependent...when my children will have to be dependent...i just haven't been able to remove that from my weakness.  i have worried.  but then i folded the final grey t-shirt and i read the word in red, abide.  in the taking time with my laundry, i found a word from my Jesus, a reminder in this most ordinary task.  i found a much needed directive and a crucial instruction.  abide.

this words reminds me of  an old hymn -  like circa 1847 old.  written by a man named henry francis lyte.  he wrote this while he lay dying of tuberculosis.  now, i hesitate to even  put that information in this post.  i, want to be clear no way do i think myself dying.  i am living with breast cancer.  and i am fighting it.   i may take advantage of the situation and lay around blogging....but i am certainly not going to be writing ancient hymns on death beds.  nonetheless, these 19th century lyrics connect with me even in my 2011,  and i wanted to share:

Abide With Me 

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

and that's it.  abiding with Christ in health and in the not so good health.  abiding in Christ in the ordinary and in the extraordinary.  how in need i was of that reminder.  how thankful i am for that remembering.   it is not easy, but can i believe it might be good to consider how incapable my hands are.  i'll be honest,  it makes me uncomfortable.  but i want to abide.  i know in all of this i will need to abide.  whether or not i ever hang sheets in the sunshine is yet to be seen,  but in the meantime, i will abide.  abide.

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