Commit to narrowness

When you choose anything, you reject everything else.” G.K. Chesterton

The digital economy has created an endless buffet, and it’s easy to overeat. When confronted with infinity, is it okay to blink?” Seth Godin

I’ve been buying the same toothpaste and laundry soap for years. I buy it from one of those membership programs where you have to order a certain amount each month and if you skip an order they’ll automatically ship you some items you’ve preselected. My preselected order has always been vitamins and toothpaste and laundry soap.

The nice thing is I really do like the products. They’re natural and effective and it’s easy. I order online, or if I forget, the box magically comes to my door anyway. The not nice thing is that the shipping has gotten expensive and my vitamin needs have changed. I canceled our membership a couple months ago and now I am in need of toothpaste and I’ll have to go to the store; there are 46 different tubes of toothpaste to choose from at the store. I will be overwhelmed. I won’t know how to prioritize: save time, save money, save the planet, save our health, save our teeth from the effects of our habits?

This is freedom.

A few months ago someone was discussing the many options their family was considering for schooling their children this coming year. They live in a bigger city with more choices, but I could still sympathize with their quandary—time, money, benefits, etc. I realized during our conversation that five years ago we severely limited our choices in this area. We chose one very specific option for homeschool—because you don’t just choose between public, private, or homeschool; you choose one broad category and a hundred other options cascade from that. We got involved with a community that thrives on commitment to one another. If we pull out and choose another course, our community suffers because, though we are replaceable, we homeschool together with a group of like-minded people and the dynamics change with every shift in involvement. We are free and responsible for our own children’s education, but we are interdependent within that freedom.

Making this very specific choice has allowed me to trash and unsubscribe from the multiple homeschool catalogs, conferences, curriculum publishers, and magazines that provoke parents to question their choices. Prior to our decision, every summer was spent poring over websites and catalogs to plan The Best Course for the following year, chasing the greener grass and smarter schedule. I enjoyed some aspects of this planning, but my attic holds boxes of books that, if their marketing was correct, should’ve produced National Merit Scholars who radically love Jesus and Shakespeare and art history.

Did we make the best choice for our kids? Are we missing something? Are there gaps and holes and regrets? Yes. Yes. Yes and yes and yes.

We made a choice and then a commitment, and that’s what is important. My husband and I prayed over our decision, made mental pro/con lists, and counted the costs of this choice as best we could. There were unknowns, but calculating potential risks and worrying about the million other things we are not choosing by making this one choice will only leave the one choice unmade. Sometimes you just have to make a decision and commit to it.

Everything is imperfect. Every imperfect thing teaches us contentment.

The commitment to imperfections and problems may be the most important part. There will be issues with any choice—even following Jesus, which we would say is the best decision a person can make, will bring problems. But our decision to commit and to proceed confidently within our limitations is the real deciding factor, not the fact that our choices will bring problems.

This is the place we have to settle. In rejecting everything else, we are free to pour into our one choice, freed by our limitations to funnel our energy into this one decision. Marrying one man makes all other men off limits, and we are free to pour our energy into that one covenantal relationship. Living in one place takes all other places off the list, but we are free to be a visitor in the world with a refuge to return to. The side benefits are that healthy marriages produce healthy people who have healthy relationships with others; peaceful homes house peaceful families who welcome friends and strangers into that peace. Having children, having a job, keeping a schedule…all these give framework to a life that will not hold up if we have unlimited freedom.

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We are on the last lap of our homeschool, with only one child and four years of high school left. I will have to make other choices with my time. The schedule will change, will flex and tighten with the seasons, but the need for limitations is still there. I have to look at busyness differently in this season because I am not a mother of small, needy children; not the mom who schedules playdates and nap times, who posts chore charts and daily lesson plans. I am the mom who is shifting from the primary voice in her children’s lives, to an ear, an eye. My prayers now are that my children narrow their own way and limit themselves to the wide expanse of kingdom God gives them dominion in.

Choose your limitations and commit to your decisions. Opt out. Unsubscribe. Narrow and refine until your freedom feels like it will hold up your life.

Housekeeping

We all like things that resolve. This is what Netflix binges are founded on—we feel the need to keep watching, keep watching, until the particular issue is satisfactorily resolved. The trouble is, they always bring in some new issue and turn in to a great overlapping of storylines and cliffhangers, unlike the Little House on the Prairie TV series, where every episode was a full story in itself and all the problems were solved in one short, 20 minute span.

I rarely binge-watch anything but I know the feeling of un-resolve. I feel it daily in the projects, the piles, the priorities that stack up on each other. Housework itself is a continual coming-to-terms with un-resolve: clean it, dirty it, repeat.

I used to bleach my floors (we had white linoleum and babies and I didn’t know any better) and obsess over nooks and crannies, but not so much anymore. On the one hand I’ve come a long way in my housekeeping skills; on the other, I simply don’t care as much about dirt I can’t see. And my eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

I have lowered my standards, I suppose, but I still like a tidy house. I just value my time and sanity more than I used to.

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I’m currently reading Hannah Anderson’s All That’s Good and dutifully going through the questions and reflections at the end of each chapter. Chapter 3, Worldly Wise, is about discerning “the difference between lasting goodness and temporary pleasure”. One of the reflections was to “Share something mundane that you do everyday that has eternal value,” and the first thing that came to mind was the daily, unending work of bringing chaos back into order in our home. I feel like there is a more spiritual answer that would be “right”, something like reading the Word or praying for others, but mundane is the key word in the question.

Daily ordering is a creative act and we are acting in His image when we create, looking forward to the resolving of all this disorder. One fine day God will deliver creation from the bondage of corruption (Ro. 8: 21), and until then, we’ll keep ordering creation, ordering our homes, best we can.

Speaking of mundane, here is how this practically works out in our home *right now:

Mondays everyone is gone all day so my only homemaking goal is to have a dinner plan and clean the kitchen before bed. Most of the time the sink will be empty at bedtime. Sometimes the dishwasher is full and no one cares to unload it, so the dirty dishes sleep in the sink. No one dies from this scenario.

Tuesdays I catch up on any laundry, plan our school schedules, and do the inevitable paperwork necessary for life. Lately, I’ve been washing several loads of laundry and piling them up so I can have a marathon fold-and-put-away session while I listen to podcasts.

Wednesdays I start early on housekeeping projects and do any school with my youngest that he will need me for (which is minimal), so that I can sequester myself in the guest room for a writing day by 10 a.m. By 3 or 4, I emerge, go for a walk, and come home ready to work like a whirlwind for the evening. This is the day for cleaning bathrooms, dusting, and watering plants.

Thursdays are for vacuuming and mopping. This doubles as a work-out, unless I have one of the kids do the vacuuming. It’s also dump day — the one day a week our local transfer station is open.

Fridays are heavy school days, so minimal housekeeping.

Saturdays and Sundays we might do a bigger house project or work outside if the weather allows, but I generally let the house go. Honestly, it never gets too bad because we have a daily routine that keeps a semblance of order. On Sundays I plan the week ahead: meals, appointments, and activities go in my bullet journal.

Daily, we are doing things like emptying the dishwasher, wiping down counters and stainless steel appliances, swiping dirty toilets, running a load of laundry to completion, and constantly putting stuff back in its proper place. The kids are a big help and also a big producer of stuff and dirt, so it balances out. They all do their own laundry hallelujah; I’m sure someone’s dresser or closet needs an overhaul but I don’t check often. I make our bed daily; the kids’ are all upstairs and, again, I don’t check often. These things aren’t worth battling over right now—when they were younger we lived in a house with downstairs children’s rooms and they made their beds everyday. At this point, some do, some don’t; mom doesn’t care as much. About once a month I inspect upstairs and “request” things be put back in order.

Housework will always be part of our quotidian routine on earth, and one more reason to look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). The best scenario is to be thankful for a house to clean and set a timer, remind yourself how little time it actually takes to tidy up if you do it daily, and intersperse the daily with times of whirlwind house cleaning that doubles as exercise.

*As with all things in life that you try to make routine, this changes with the seasons. I used to really struggle with not being able to make a plan and stick to it, forever. But life is just not that way. I plan more specifically week by week, and I offer a lot of grace for changes.