Quotidian Mysteries (and What Quotidian Means, Since I Had No Idea)

Last summer, I read a short little book called The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris. It was truly short- barely over 100 pages- but so full of wisdom that I still think about it months later. (Amazingly, it's completely relevant and applicable given that it was published almost 20 years ago, which seems like an eternity given our rapidly changing culture.) The subtitle, Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work," pretty much covers my life right now (ha!) and before we go on, let me tell you that quotidian sounds like a sci-fi word but it just means daily or occurring every day. So the book is all about the things that we, usually women and especially moms who stay home, have to do every day. 

If you're like me and stay home with your kids, you know the power (good or bad) of a routine. (This is true though of being at any stage- sometimes when I was a teacher I felt like I was on a treadmill that wouldn't turn off.) Kids thrive on schedules and I definitely have Alice on one (for my own sanity) but now and then (aka often) it can feel a little bit like the time we rode a tilt-a-whirl at the Cumming Fair and the guy running it (who was probably on one or more illegal substances) wouldn't stop the ride but instead just grinned at us all maniacally every time we passed by him. Am I comparing motherhood to a vomit-inducing carnival ride? Nooooo. (Yes.) 

Our days are structured but not quite as much as when I first read this book, when Alice was still nursing about six times a day and I literally spent what felt like all of my time either feeding her, pumping, or cleaning her bottles and pumping equipment. (It was also around the time of the Great Nap Strike of 2016 so part of my routine included dreading the hours of screaming that preceded a fitful sleep (and that was just me. =) But every stage of motherhood (all 15 months I've experienced so far) has been marked by those daily tasks, even though they change from month to month.

I've been in the nursing/wash bottles a million times a day stage to pureeing food every day to following her around the house keeping her from destroying all our possessions (current stage) but whatever age your kids are, you're doing the same thing all the time. Dishes, laundry, school drop off, school pick up, cooking (unless you're me and it's optional- my poor husband. Mostly kidding) and the worst part is these things have to be done EVERY DAY. You mean to tell me my child has to be fed and bathed every day? I have to tear up string cheese and get soaked by a thrashing toddler every day? (#brandnewinformation)

Seriously though- not only do these things have to be done every day (or almost every day because I don't actually do laundry for three people every day) and that in itself can be draining, but then I feel like I need to find some kind of meaning in all these boring, mundane, seemingly meaningless tasks? (I don't mean that raising my baby is meaningless- I'm obviously talking about stuff like cleaning the baseboards and organizing my linen closet- perhaps not the best examples since those aren't daily tasks either, which one glance at my baseboards would prove.) This is also hard for me because I used to be a teacher and actually felt like my work WAS meaningful- now my most productive task of the day is probably rounding up the pieces of Alice's play food set for the bazillionth time. It's fine. 

An everyday occurrence I don't mind at all- post-nap snuggle time with my squishy baby. (All the heart eyes.) Also note the laundry basket on the bed. Not nearly as endearing. 

The book, then, uncovers these "quotidian mysteries" by finding that meaning and purpose in the daily tasks that we all face. It also talks about how we are more than the menial jobs we do every day and don't necessarily have to find our identity in being the "chief cook and bottle washer" although that's basically my job description. Mysteriously enough, there IS meaning and purpose to be found, and it's by God's design. Intriguing, yes?

Here's my favorite quote:

"The Bible is full of evidence that God's attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a great cosmic cop, eager to catch us in minor transgressions, but simply because God loves us- loves us so much that his divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life. It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is 'renewed in the morning' (Psalm 90:5), or to put it in more personal and theological terms, 'our nature is being renewed every day.' (II Corinthians 4:16.) Seen in this light, what strikes many modern readers as the ludicrous attention to detail in the book of Leviticus, involving God in the minutiae of daily life- all the cooking and cleaning of a people's domestic life- might be revisioned as the very love of God. A God who cares so much as to desire to be present to us in everything we do."

Wow! So instead of just viewing my laundry mountain as something to check off my list, I can view it as a sign of God's love. That sounds a little over-the-top or maybe too spiritual but I actually like the ability to reframe a typically joyless task as something to be joyful about. God cares about the details of my life, even those that seem insignificant. In fact, he paid so much attention to detail that the Bible is full of incredibly detailed descriptions, rituals, etc. and He wants us to give that level of care and attention to our own work, whatever it may be. 

Instead of only viewing certain (Very Important) tasks as valuable and honorable, I can invite God's presence into every moment and task, no matter how menial it seems. When I view my work as God's plan for my life- remembering that where he wants me at this very moment is right HERE, chasing Al and wiping oatmeal off her bib and reheating my coffee countless times- I can see how worthy it is. Not only am I serving my family (mostly Chick-fil-A, but still) and taking care of them, but it's worth noting that I have a million things to be thankful for- a hard-working husband, a healthy, ADORABLE baby, a pretty house, my own health, and so many more blessings. There are people (like my sister and brother-in-law) whose daily lives at the moment involve hospital rooms and breathing machines and diagnoses and doctors and nurses and treatments... things that are even harder to find joy in and make my own lame problems seem even lamer. Perspective is a healthy thing. 

So, with that said- as you start your Monday and face another week of chores and diapers and cold coffee (not iced, just cold), or ball games and practices and piano lessons, or ministry or school or work (all the hats off to you working moms!) just know that there is beauty and value and worth in the mundane, the dull, the quotidian tasks that keep our lives rolling. God sees you. He wants to be invited into those quiet, sometimes mindless moments that feel like a burden. Use the time you're folding laundry to pray for your kids. Maybe take the time you are using to was the dishwasher to thank God you have money for food. 

If this all sounds a little woo-woo (especially for me) maybe it is, but it's something I've been convicted about. When you're home all day, particularly with young kids, it's easy to feel forgotten or even invisible, or like a housekeeper robot like Rosie from the Jetsons. (Wouldn't it be nice to have a Rosie?) Just ask Him to grant you the grace and peace to go about your tasks with joy. Ask that He join you in those quotidian moments. I think this will help us all be a little happier with our to-do lists and less dragon-lady when our kids empty the storage baskets AGAIN (not that this has happened at my house, silly rabbits.) 

One more reminder- it's really amazing to view daily occurrences as a reminder of the very love of God. And actively pursuing His presence, making Him part of every task, reminds us and our children of that love, which "makes all things new," even laundry. God truly is a God of miracles. =) 

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