On a summer morning we walk toward the house amidst air so moisture-laden you could wring it out. My sister Megan knows somebody who will give us a tour of the beautiful old house, the same house that is featured in a new movie called August: Osage County. I don’t know much about the movie except that its backdrop is the county I grew up in, it’s based on a play, and it stars Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Meryl Streep.
The house creaks with history, and we enjoy learning parts of it while the kids run circles in the cavernous rooms. I wonder what the original owners would think if they knew Hollywood had camped in their kitchen and driveway. I also wonder what the producers would have done if this house hadn’t been here. Osage County isn’t chock-full of hundred-year-old spacious homes surrounded by acres of property. But this one is here, and as I stroll the second story veranda, a thought wades through the thick air,
This house stands strong today because someone invested in building something of quality long ago.
You just never know how your actions today will alter your tomorrows.
I keep thinking of this as the calendar slides to August sticky and slow, like popsicle juice down my arm. I lick every last drop because I don’t want to miss the last taste of summer. Our family has been traveling and hiking and gardening and reading and swimming and wearing jammies ’til noon. I love it all, but there’s a price for all this summer fun.
In the Strong house, dust camouflages the color of every furniture piece, laundry loads stand tall as my daughter, and piles of disorder threaten to stage a coup. About the time I get down about this is when I hear my grandma’s voice calling Cleanliness is next to godliness! If I actually bought into that, I’d be concerned for the state of my soul.
But sometimes I do buy into the wrestling that goes on in my mind, the kind that convinces me no matter what I’m doing, I’m making the wrong choice. For example:
When I hang with the family. (You should mop these floors rather than rely on the dog to do it for you.)
When I clean. (You should pay more attention to your family than your dust.)
When I write. (You should be doing either of the above or a thousand other productive things.)
Sometimes the Enemy goes to not-so-great lengths to steal my contentment. But the Lord gives my anxious heart rest by asking one simple question:
Kristen, how will your actions today alter your tomorrows?
I turn a new direction where a cool breeze meets my face and a sincere message meets my heart: God wants me to care for the hearts in my home first and foremost. For me to do this, the above (and so much more!) must all be invariably accomplished, and in different seasons the amount of time spent on each one changes. But when something other than what I’m doing in this moment wearily tugs on my sleeve, I can choose the action that will best influence our tomorrow so that a hundred years from now, my family legacy will still stand strong.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. We are free from any agenda other than what He guides us to this day. This moment.
That big white home in Osage County, Oklahoma stands strong because someone invested in building something of quality long ago. For today and all our tomorrows, may the same be true for your family and mine.
Do you sometimes struggle with the pull to be somewhere other than where you are? How do you tune into God’s agenda and rest in His contentment moment by moment?
Kristen Strong, Chasing Blue SkiesLeave a Comment
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
Your words echo the wrestling match that goes on in my head all the time, but I love the litmus test that you pass those feelings through – how will my actions today alter my tomorrows? I also had to chuckle at your reaction to your grandmother’s stern reminder that cleanliness is next to Godliness…my soul would be in deep trouble as well. I suppose my criteria for judging how I will spend my time goes back to basics with the first two commandments: Love God first, Love others as you would love yourself. Sure, I may be honoring God with my clean basket of laundry and I may be showing love to my family by giving them clean underwear to put on, but am I really loving them to the very best of my ability? What points my children’s hearts to a personal relationship with their Savior – a well mopped floor or loving them as Christ would love them – which to me means investing time. My son remarked the other day about remembering how we used to pull up our lawn chairs together and sit and talk and “watch the world go by”. He really doesn’t remember how many clean loads of laundry I produced.
Kristen Strong says
Yes, so many things – like laundry – can’t be ignored forever, but they can slide indefinitely. Other things – like living out a relationship with Christ – are always a priority. May we all keep first things first and rest in the contentment that comes with remembering this.
Adore you, Bev ~ thank you!
Kathy Cheek @ In Quiet Places says
Just yesterday dust bunnies and a messy laundry room reminded me of week of household neglect, but then I smiled remembering why I had been so busy that I hadn’t even thought of those things, because I knew I had been tending to what God had put on my to do list and that was keeping me immersed in a writing project that I knew He was giving me permission to make a priority. I did love the way that freedom felt because I knew I was tending to the more important work and it was okay to let the other slide for a little while.
Kristin Taylor says
Only you could nail my struggle in such beautiful words that leave me feeling thankful for the tension. I love this and adore you.
Sometimes we think too much?!! I look at my Mom who would iron our “carefully cut out of old catalogs” paper dolls smooth while she ironed all our clothes. I felt love. She was busy buffing the floor but stopped to pack us an exploring lunch (so she could finish I’m sure!) but I felt love. She daily laid down by us and told us stories. We would dry dishes and play word games. I could hardly wait to grow tall enough to hang out more than the handkerchiefs and washcloths. You see, as we grew, she kept us a part of it all. If we helped make dinner, we didn’t have to do dishes! Saturday deep cleaning was divided but daily she took a few minutes to do a quick wiping up all over, even when she worked. We always had a loving house ready for drop in company. Yet I felt loved. I did the same with my kids. We made it “lets hurry and do our chores so we can…” Or we’d whistle while we worked so to speak. Until they hit 16. Then their rooms were disasters and I could not understand!!! My perfect parenting? Their happy helping? Out the window!!! And so it goes. Now I’m disabled and long to keep cleaning but cannot. So I weep but that’s part of the injury. It’s humiliating to me that I can’t get my dust bunnies myself. I’m embarrassed someone has to clean for me. I keep things fairly tidy but its not the same.
My rambling point? Life ebbs and flows. Enjoy. Don’t “use” kids as an excuse for not being responsible for keeping the home God has blessed you to live in, rented or buying, clean. Remember to make even that fun. But I’m afraid my kids remember none of those happy moments for those teen years overshadowed all years before and I was upset. I believe now my Mom said shut the door. And I should have? But who knows… And as for me? I have to remember my disability now helps someone else.
Kristen Strong says
Gwen, I echo Izuba down below, and offer up arms to hug and hands to pray. Your comment is so warm and genuine ~ I believe your kids must – absolutely must! – have the same kind of memories. You are loved, good mama!
And infinite thanks to *you* for sharing such wise, wise words here…may we all cherish them in our heart of hearts. You are a gift, Gwen!
Katie B says
Yes!! Thank you – my heart has really been struggling with this for a bit. It is so comforting to know you are not alone. Iron sharpens iron… <3
Kristen Strong says
It’s comforting to know I’m not alone as well. Thank *you*, Katie.
I SO needed to hear this! I have a hard time allowing myself to do certain “fun” things until I have cleaned, done laundry, and x y z etc. and then am frustrated that I haven’t really done the things that bring me joy. I always feel guilty or that someone will look down on me for the dirt or whatever. I know no one says these things to me – it is a struggle within my soul. At 55 I am finally awakening to the fact that, yes, housework matters, but I NEED to do what brings me joy. Thank you for confirming that it is the enemy stealing my joy.
Becky Kopitzke says
Thank you, Kristen. You’ve given me new perspective on an old and nagging issue. Love this.
Ruthie Lewis says
So, the dishes can wait till tomorrow! 🙂
Is this house in Guthrie, OK?
Kristen Strong says
In my book, they can wait until there are no other options for holding your food. 😉
And the house is somewhere near Pawhuska, close to the Kansas border.
Linda Cannon says
Thank you for your timely words and for a new perspective!
This is a very thought inspiring post. Well done Kristen,
The mention of daily tasks reminds me to try and balance the needs, wants and allow room for the meant to be .
What an outstanding home .Thankfully it was allowed to stand.
This is exactly what I needed to read today. It speaks directly to what is going on in my life. Thank you so much for being faithful to God in your writing. God used this blog entry encourage me and who knows how many other readers.
So.needed.this.today!! To Gwen*here is a ((((big bear hug))) with the prayer that our Lord will comfort you for your dissapointments and in turn use you to comfort others with the comfort you receive from Him.*
Jeanette @ Creating a Life says
Your are singing my tune! I have ALWAYS struggled with this. Feeling like no matter what I’m doing, I “should” be doing something else. Only in the last few years have I really recognized my need to stop and ask God where the value is in my day, and steer my thoughts and intentions in a different direction. I know SO many will need to hear what you have to say in this post, so bless you for sharing from the heart!
Kristen – your beautifully written post, filled with poignant reminders of the importance of legacies from then, now and tomorrow – washed over my spirit. As I breathed long. Eyes closed. Allowing God to minister to me through your words; I felt a peace, deep in my soul.
My husband and I are beginning a new journey. He resigned the pastorate of a wonderful church so we could heed God’s calling. A nudging for us to spend more time – real, doing life messy time – with our families. So much of our time was consumed with “ministry,” we put off building/maintaining relationships as the years rolled over to the next. Decades change people. Moments change us, and often alter a bright future, full of “our” plans. So. We. Take. Life. For. Granted.
I praise The Lord for His new mercies refreshed daily. His grace. And your words. Fitly spoken. Today touched me like apples of gold, framed with silver.
Thank you. A thousand times thank you.
Rather than struggle with my to-do list and never accomplish it all anyway, I am trying to rely on God’s direction in my life for what is important to Him that day; what He wants me to accomplish. Sometimes I feel like “But, this needs to be done, and this. Then I’ll tend to what is God-directed.”
But I am learning, slowly, that the trust I place in God for every other part of my life also extends into trusting that He knows what needs to be done. And the rest is always there, and eventually will be tended to. I pray that we can hear His voice and know His direction in our lives. And also, have the courage to let the rest go.
Enjoy your summer! 🙂
Noelle Kirchner says
Hi Kristen, Thank you for your words. Putting it all in perspective is so important. I had intended for summer to be a time to take it easy and reflect, but it’s run away with me! Your reflection reminds me to focus on what matters most. Blessings!
Sue Tell says
One of your bestest posts. Keep listening to the voice who calls you to write. Can’t wait for that Starbucks date.
What timely words, my friend…Thank you…Yes, I can so relate to that daily struggle of listening and then doing what is in front of me today…hopefully, with His love 🙂 Glad you are enjoying your time with your family…it is time well spent 🙂
I think you put it so purely so sentimentally like that one fine well built house in the community you loved and perhaps greive that familiarity. I could feel the longing of your summer just dripping off slowly like the beads of sweat produced from another labourous tedious day of domestic duties.When you just would prefer to relish every moment every mental photograph you make in cherished love with ypur family. Before time and obligations prematurely push forth another season before this one has ended. If we could just stop the world from spinning.Reminds me of summers game we played on the front lawn putting our arms out to the side twirling and twirling our bodies around till we dropped to the soft green grass and laid on our backs.Opening our eyes we would see the tree tops and everything wizz by feeling competely whoozie but secure solid and safe on the ground in front of our home on our street.Like we ask God daily to be our rock not just quite willing to let go or be rushed to step off yet.But grasping another day to savour and bask in the warmth.I too feel that but comforted knowing His presence in a song or pur aprayrt like cracking open that picture bible.
Beth Williams says
I loved your phrase ” how will my actions today alter my tomorrows?” That statement speaks volumes as to how we choose to spend our time. I believe parents should spend time loving and playing with their children while they are home. All to soon they fly the coop and move on and away. What memories will they take away with them? I pray it will be memories of fun times, sitting and talking about life.
Blessings Kristen and others! 🙂
I kinda skipped through so much of life
always cleaning, planning ahead, nothing really mattered about all that “toil” but my
children were always my focus in my heart. My dance today is beginning a new
step: the moment is important, savor that!
Thank you so much for this post and for being so genuine. I often feel that I must be the only woman who struggles with the Mary/Martha choices, and it is so encouraging to know I am not! I am going to hit “submit” and go sit on the floor with my boys and kiss those sweet faces and tickle bare toes. I so needed to read this today- I am grateful for your ministry!
Jessica Sheltrown says
Boy, did I need to read this! Just last night I broke down into a puddle of tears over soap bubbles everywhere but the kitchen sink thanks to an imaginative 6 yo boy. I’ve been feeling so stressed and overwhelmed by all that is NOT getting done around my house and just today God has been speaking to my heart about priorities. I am letting the urgent (clutter, dishes, dirt, laundry) come before the important (reading, snuggling, playing and laughing with my children).
Praying that my eyes will be changed and that I will see the eternal first not the temporal.
Marianne Wilson Viera says
I am reminded of the quote from Truman Capote’s beloved novel – Breakfast at Tiffany’s…… “I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods.” Beautiful post.
What a profound story – I have these struggles every day. I have been a single parent since my son was born (he’s now 11!) so I’ve trained myself to not allow things to slide. Sometimes, to my own sanity. I have always tried to keep things straight, right, not drop the ball, work more, play less. So here I am at 45 and feel like the memories I should have been making with my son were replaced by my need to do it all. As I get older, grow closer to Jesus, I realize that sliding on some of these domestic duties frees me to worship more, care more, live more. Thanks for sharing the story and affirming the direction for my life that I’ve prayed about!