I am not revisiting a snapshot because I failed to generate a new one…though I can’t promise that won’t happen at times. I find myself very overwhelmed with a lot of stuff going on in my life – most of it really good. I’m not in a difficult season, just a chaotic one and my thoughts and emotions seem to be running amok. I need to get a handle on this! So I turn to my tried and true solution: I sort the laundry.
This isn’t my literal laundry – at least not today – but rather the various moving pieces of my life. Once I sort them (under God’s very kind and wise guidance) I find that peace can be restored for me. It’s not a peace that supersedes life but rather one that permeates it and teaches me to live grounded in truth and hope. And so today I am going back to my laundry snapshot, reading, pondering and putting it into action. I’m confident that I will come out with a plan to do one thing at a time until order is restored and my blessings no longer look like burdens. I hope it helps someone else…
My son Matt learned to drive through a drivers training program at school. He was a good driver….for a 16 year old. A few months after Matt got his license, Budd decided to teach him to drive a standard transmission – his prized ’66 Volkswagen. So off went my husband and my son….a beautiful bonding moment.
Literally 5 minutes later Matt came through the door visibly upset. “What’s wrong, honey?” “Nothing….I’m just deaf and stupid.”
A few moments later Budd came through that same door. “What happened? Did you tell Matt he was deaf and stupid?”
“No, I asked if he was deaf OR stupid.” (Thanks for the clarification)
You see, Matt knew how to drive. He had figured out how to coordinate the gas pedal, brake, steering wheel, to look ahead while glancing in the rear view mirror, to check side mirrors and use his blinkers….there were a lot of moving parts but he was certainly mastering them. The only thing that happened in that ’66 VW was that two more things were added: clutch and gear shift. And those two things are not easy. (I about broke my uncle’s neck when he tried to teach me to drive his VW.)
Juggle one orange…easy. Now add one…tricky. Now add another…nope.
Isn’t this like life? We feel like we are adulting ourselves pretty well and then something gets added: a job issue, a family issue, financial, spiritual, mental, emotional…and suddenly we feel miserably and completely unable to deal with our life. It can feel as though there is no way forward.
Once, speaking with a person who was utterly overwhelmed with about every facet of their life, a picture came to mind:
A giant mound of laundry sitting next to a tiny washing machine. The laundry was a giant jumble of dirty clothes, linens, denims and delicates of every possible color and size. It was not possible to get all that laundry into that wash machine. The washer was not built or ever intended to handle that enormous load. So what do we do (assuming we can’t just walk away and buy all new stuff)?
We sort the laundry. We separate this giant mound into smaller piles that can be handled with the resources we have. We may know how to sort jeans from towels but how do we sort the laundry that is our life? It all seems important and immediate. Take the time to sit and even list every issue that plagues you. With each item – each pile of laundry – what is one thing you can do toward neutralizing that issue or stress?
This may all sound a bit simplistic but what happened in my conversation with this young woman is that she went from feeling completely overwhelmed and hopeless to, at minimum, having a plan. There were things she could let go of, some that she could postpone, and others that had a helpful tangible step to take toward regaining her sense of balance in life.
I realize that this can be a complicated exercise so I encourage you to read on….
There are seasons when I find myself feeling overwhelmed and almost hopeless. I’ve learned to sort the laundry. This is what it can look like:
- Let’s say the towels represent my house. That is one load. What does my house need? A lot…its an old house. What does it need right now? Call the yard guy, paint that room or get a painter, purge a closet. Don’t try to do it all but do something. Just one thing to start.
- Denims can represent your job. What is the stressor? What is one thing you can do to reduce that stress? Don’t say ‘nothing.’ That doesn’t help. Do you need to talk to your boss? Fix your attitude? Change your focus? Do one thing.
- I hope you’ve learned to wash red things separately. If not, you probably have a lot of pink undies. Lets say the red load is finances because that colors everything! What do you need? Balance your bank account, set up a budget, talk to a financial advisor. Don’t keep worrying and wallowing…sort the laundry. Do one thing.
- Delicates are those things that have to be laundered carefully, they are more fragile. This load represents your personal life…your heart and soul. What are you doing for the health of your heart, mind and body? Are you taking care of your very soul? If not, you probably will never find your life in order. We need to care for the tender inner parts of us.
There are many more loads but I think you get the idea. You may deal with an ex-spouse, difficult adult children, difficult parents, a sour neighbor, physical issues, mental issues….so many things can overwhelm us. Some things we can handle, some need help and some we need to let go of…like trashing those really ratty t-shirts or sending that suit to the dry cleaners. I encourage you to sort your laundry, sort your life. You didn’t get to this point overnight and it won’t fix in a day but you can begin to take back control of your life if you’ll do it steady and sanely.
Matthew 6:34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
This verse often leaves me feeling a bit fatalistic like Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Eyore: “Oh bother…tomorrow is going to be as bad as today…or worse…just keep plugging along…”
But this verse is a promise. We are made for today…for wholeness and joy and peace and purpose. We will never have more than we can bear, never more than we can carry if we will trust ourselves and our ‘laundry’ to God’s gracious and capable care.
You are not in this alone. God truly does see you and he cares. Even though some of what we deal with in this life is the result of our own choices, he does not leave us on our own. He invites us to move close into him and to learn his ways. He knows what our life is to look like. He knows what we can handle. Sort the laundry. Do one thing.
Matthew 11:28-30 8 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
Jeremiah 31:3 Long ago the Lord said to Israel:
“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
1 John 3:1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.
Lamentations 3:22-23 The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.