Whatever you do, do it well

Yesterday was my birthday. The older I am, the more reflective I become at milestones such as anniversaries and birthdays. The closer I get to 50 (still in the future but looming ever nearer), the more I seem to wrestle with life choices: what do I really want to do with my life, how do I want to be remembered, what can I do that will make a difference, and what changes ought I to be making to better utilize my gifts and the time I have on this earth? These are all questions that come to the forefront of my mind during these times of contemplation.

Looking back, I remember accomplishments of which I am proud, such as returning to school after a 13 year hiatus to complete a Masters Degree with 4 children ages 12 to 1 underfoot. But, strangely, as proud as I was to have completed that degree, and to walk across that stage to accept my diploma, there was something else that happened on that day that made me even prouder.

Shortly before the graduation ceremony there was a reception for the graduates and their families with the faculty and staff of the school. I was pleased to have the opportunity for my husband and four sons (then ages 16 to 4) to attend this function with me. Several of the professors took the time to congratulate all of my boys, husband included, for their help in my accomplishment, recognizing the sacrifice that our entire family had made. It was an enjoyable time with my teachers, classmates, family, as well as additional faculty and staff, including the school President.

A short time later, we all assembled in the auditorium for the graduation ceremony. My name was called and I proceeded across the stage. Imagine my surprise when I shook the President’s hand and he leaned in to say, “You have very well behaved boys.”

Oh, how my heart swelled. On a day when I was being publicly recognized for an accomplishment the world values, I was privately commended for something which I valued even more.

Last night, reflecting on life on my birthday eve, my husband shared a verse with me that puts life contemplations into perspective. Ecclesiastes 9:7ff. encourages, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.” Looking back on my life choices I realize the blessings of a life lived in relationship with God. Looking forward, this verse also gives me a plumb line to live life fully. As I read further in Ecclesiastes 9, I realize that I can relieve a lot of the pressure I have felt in making my life choices so complicated and monumentally heavy by following the words of the writer.

It is not so much about what we choose to pursue as it is about doing well with whatever we choose.





On a week when I was feeling a little miffed about some changes in monetary obligations in the approaching new year, with upcoming increases in a house payment and insurance premium, an air conditioner going out in a vehicle (in a state that still gets hot enough to require it, even in December), and a clogged clothes dryer vent that creates a potential fire hazard, I was not necessarily in the best mindset as I headed to the laundromat with 5 baskets full of my family’s clothes.

Avoiding using our dyer as we attempted to clear the clogged vent had created a mountain of work. Several attempts to unclog the vent from both access points in and out of the house proved unfruitful. So, as we investigated how to reach the inner working in the labyrinth of tubes deep within our home, the laundry piled up. (Note to builders: all dryers belong on an exterior wall with minimal footage for the lint and air to vent outside, in as straight a path as possible.) Friday night, after attending a holiday festivity in the park, we drove past the local laundromat on the way home to assess how busy it was. The place was empty. I went home, sorted and gathered up everyone’s garments from the week, then hubby delivered me back to the self-service laundry.

As we entered, there were two guys up front, and a couple spooning on the bench in a back corner. As soon as I walked past, the couple hurriedly rose, collected their items and departed. The younger of the two men up front finished his laundry and left about the time I completed filling all my washers, converted my bills to quarters, and started the machines. The remaining man left momentarily, but quickly returned and walked past me with his backpack on his shoulder, disappearing around the corner in the back of the store. I settled onto a bench, pulled out a book and began to read.

When my first wash cycle ended and I rose to retrieve and move my items to a dryer, it took me past the back corner where I noticed the older man had laid down on the bench, using it as a bed, with his pack as a pillow.

While a few other people came and went in the next hour and a half, the man dozed in the back of the laundromat, seemingly oblivious to the bright lights, the beeping of the machines as they ended their cycles, and the whir and click of all the motors in force.

When I finally gathered up my several containers of freshly laundered clothing to place in my van to take home and put away in individual drawers and closets in separate rooms for my family, I couldn’t help but think of a man with one backpack sleeping on a bench at the back of a laundromat. It gave me a completely different perspective on my earlier frustrations and complaints of the day. Sometimes I see blessings as burdens and need a reminder of all I have to be grateful for. Sometimes it takes a change in perspective.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13