"Your body is the first thing any child of man ever wanted. Therefore dispose yourself to be loved, to be wanted, to be available. Be there for them with a vengeance. Be a gracious, bending woman. Incline your ear, your heart, your hands to them.... To be a Mother is to be the sacrament - the effective symbol - of place. Mothers do not make homes, they are our home." from Bed and Board, Robert Farrar Capon

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Weaving of a Story

"Why do I have to make my bed every morning if I'm just going to sleep in it again tonight?"

I'm sure every mother has been asked that question at one time or another, and perhaps even felt a fluctuating doubt of her own as she answered.  The child certainly must be told some sort of solid answer to this question, but even more importantly, the mother must have a solid answer for herself.  Because without it, the subtle "what a waste," and "who really cares about any of this?" and "what's the use?" implied in that question have the potential to cause major upheaval in the domestic value system of her heart and in her home.  I realized this when my son asked me that question a while back. (His motives were anything but philosophical. Just laziness at its best. ;)  But I pondered it for a many days afterward.  The quick-shot answer I gave him on that rushed morning before school wasn't satisfactory.  I would like him to have a better one.

I believe Martin Luther's explanation of the fourth petition of The Lord's Prayer provides a much better answer than the one I gave that morning.  It's from "Give us this day our daily bread."
God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, also to all the wicked; 
but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, 
                                           and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

Luther goes on to say that "daily bread" includes everything that belongs to the supports and wants of the body. Then a bed is an example of something in that category. If we are to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving, acknowledging it as a gift from God, then caring for it is part of recognition of this.  After all, we pray each petition, not for God's sake, but that we would come to know it.  I think this is a great reason my children should make their beds each morning. They learn that no thing in their life is just there to be used, and simply disposed of at their convenience, but should be recognized as an undeserved gift and benefit, and therefore tended and cared for as such, for their own sake, and their neighbor's as well (especially if they share a room :).  I believe this is part of how they come to know it.

As for a mother, the answer seems to be much bigger, since it seems most of her daily work consists of things that will only get messed up again tomorrow.  Or five minutes from now.

So why?  And who really does care?  And what is the use?   I believe it's more than the thing in itself.

Something from a C. S. Lewis article I had read long long ago found its way back to the forefront of my thoughts lately on this subject.  After much searching I found it again in his article, On Stories, and I feel that it has a great correlation to the settling of this question from a mother's perspective: 

"It must be admitted that the art of Story as I see it is a very difficult one.  To be stories at all they must be series of events; but it must be understood that this series - the plot, as we call it - is only really a net whereby to catch something else.  The real theme may be, and perhaps usually is, something that has no sequence in it, something other than a process and something much more like a state or quality....

Shall I be thought whimsical if I suggest that this internal tension in the heart of every story between the theme and the plot constitutes its chief resemblance to life?....   In life and art both, as it seems to me, we are always trying to catch on our net of successive moments something that is not successive."

It's not just about making a bed for the thousandth time.  It's not just about making a dinner for the thousandth night.  It's not just about washing, drying, and folding the thousandth shirt that is only going to be soiled and wrinkled again.  It's about telling a Story.  It's about the daily string of these seemingly trivial successive events that becomes one more thread weaving a net, a home, a worldview, but more importantly, faith, trust and contentment in one's God given vocation that catches up and forms the people who are in this home.

When a husband puts on his carefully ironed shirt in the morning and comes home to the smell of a good meal at night, or when a boy walks into his room after school and faintly senses that something's different, not necessarily noticing that all the little mounds of dirty socks have magically disappeared, or that the dresser has been dusted, or that the closet has been organized, or that his bedspread has been tucked in neatly, but feeling a sense of welcoming, like a sweet smell suddenly filling his room and his being, that net has caught him for a second. It has told him a story.  Mom's been here.  Mom cares.  It is good when someone cares.

It happens in a thousand little ways, all stranding together, rendering value to life, in minutes.  By living in a house where things are cared for, because people are cared for, because this God-given realm of responsibility is cared for, fulfilled in daily trust and surrender to God's perfect will, a daughter learns that there's nothing out of the ordinary or wasteful in making beds every day, or ironing clothes over and over, or cutting up all those vegetables for just one meal, or taking the time to place everything on the platter nicely to be pleasing to the eye of the partakers.  It's more than a series of events.  It's a Story being lived out, being passed on to the next generation.  It's a story that our lives are to be poured out in service to our neighbor, just as Jesus poured the water over his disciples' feet and washed them.  He being Lord of all, emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and we are to do likewise.  When that net has caught you, your whole perspective on life changes.

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Colossians 3:17


  1. Amen. Thank you.

    I especially like how you describe the 'sensing something different' without realizing the mystery of what happened - socks picked up, etc. Messes are easily seen, but the comfort of a clean and cared for home is felt by the family.

  2. Wow! Even some of my young adults have that same excuse about making their bed.
    I like the analogy of the thread weaving a net. It makes me think of a dance. Each thing we do is a step in the dance. All together it's beautiful. Even though some might not see every little step in the making of the dance, each step is essensial to the beauty.
    Maybe I've been watching a lot of Fred Astaire.

    1. So I'm trying to look at myself and imagine Ginger Rogers but for some reason it just isn't clicking. :D

  3. Ahh. I always just thought I made my bed because it makes my room look nice, and I never know when the landlord (or, last year, a member of the church) is going to stop by and need to check on something that happens to be tucked away in our bedroom.

    Your explanation with the Lord's Prayer, and taking care of the gits of God is a much better answer!

    1. Ha! The fear of embarrassment works as a great motivator for a lot of my clean house obsession too, but it doesn't motivate my son in the least, so I had to come up with something better for his sake ( and mine ;).

  4. Ohh I love this. Such a beautiful post putting things into perspective, so that we don't loose sight of the value in the work we do day in and day out, or in the value of who and what we are to our families. Thank you for such an inspiring post!

  5. Not losing sight of the value of our work is an ongoing battle, isn't it? Our value signs are all mixed up... until they're not. I guess that's why we walk by faith, not sight. :)

  6. Just found your blog via weak and loved. And what a time to find it! Thank you for this thought inspiring post. I struggle weekly with the severe language of "Why? What is the point? Who will notice? What is the point?" (yes, I ask that one a lot.) I will be re-reading this one. Thanks again.

    1. Hello Jenny, and welcome! :)
      Yes, I've struggled with those questions too. It's always nice to get acknowledgement for the things we do, or a at least feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day or week or month or year! But that doesn't always happen in the kinds of things we do in a day. Our fruit is harvested slowly over a lifetime. ("And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9)

      I have floundered many a day, not seeing fruit, doubting my work's value, and then becoming discouraged and only seeing my failures. :)
      Then there's this scripture which often comforts and settles me and reprimands my unbelief on those questions you mentioned -
      "For we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7

      I don't have to see "the point." I walk daily by faith, working to fulfill to the best of my ability my God-given vocations of wife and mother (and every other one :), caring for the people right here and that work is rendered as done unto Christ himself. (Matthew 25:40) Comfort indeed!

  7. I love this. We wives and mothers are at the center of the mystery called Being Home, where there are hidden riches. Thanks for reminding me again of those gold nuggets right beneath my feet, (or beneath those dirty dishes or socks). At our house, mowing the lawn and raking the leaves have always been right up there in the top "Why bother doing this, when I'll just have to do it again?" questions. Also, setting the table with real dishes instead of just buffet-ing it with paper plates. I have had to stand firm on all of those. Thanks for going deeper in articulating the Why. It does strengthen us when we have that conviction down to the core. And, like you said, we hope to impart the heart of it to our children, not just "Because I said." Thank you so much.

  8. Thank you Leah,
    It is such a good reminder that God has given us many undeserved gifts (house, food, not to mention husbands, and children); we get the privilege of tending and caring for them.

    My three year just told me "Mom, I always have to put things orderly because the toddler always makes messes." wow someone besides me is cleaning up ;-). Okay I don't have my hope in it, but it was very sweet at the time.

  9. What an encouragement. Thank you! These everyday things, the "why we are doing it this way", repeating and repeating and REPEATING them over seems to be apart of that weaving. Thanks, Leah it reminds me of Galatians 6:9
    "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Also, it's a blessing to remember that I'm teaching our children that we have an ecstatic, God-centered life (not a self-absorbed existence) which points us to loving our neighbor in our everyday tasks. God's Peace. - Michelle

  10. I am again thankful for this post today...
    Will be reading it as an opening devotion to our women's group as we begin a study on vocation (The Calling by Kurt Senske).

    Using Cinderella to illustrate the CS Lewis quote.
    Theme: Dreams can come true..
    Plot: what does this floor scubbing, that mouse, the dress have to do with it?

    Thanks again!

    1. When I first read your last line about the plot, I was thinking vocation - yup, floor scrubbing; yup, the mouse - like this computer mouse in my hand right now that represents too much time spent on the computer each day - hm, all part of the plot somehow I guess - and then I got to the dress. What dress?
      Suddenly it clicked. OH! We're talking about the Cinderella story here! Ha! She means a real mouse. In the story! Duh...

      All the cinders I've been cleaning up lately are clouding up my brain. :P

    2. Lol Leah! :)

      Also it occurs to me that TODAY my roll in "the story" (the BIG ONE that I don't understand fully) is to be The Wall For Little Boys To Bash Their Little Heads Upon.

      Not my favorite role.

    3. Now there's a role that takes a toll. :P