Running a Home While Running on Empty

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Several months ago Clint came home from work with a surprise.  He pulled a tiny princess coloring book out of his pocket and handed it to Aubrey.  Sheer ecstasy erupted.  She danced in circles, hugged him at least ten times, and profusely thanked him.  Then she sat down and colored every single page.

While she was occupied, I turned to him and asked, “Where did you get it?”

“The trashcan,” he replied.

It still makes me laugh.  I can picture her intently bent over each picture, carefully coloring, while Clint and I crack up in the kitchen.

Sometimes when I feel truly depleted, I think about Aubrey and her coloring book, and I wonder how much of what I treasure in my life is actually garbage.  I’ve never been physically anorexic, but there are spells when I feel spiritually anorexic.  I feast on all sorts of garbage—entertainment, distractions, rigid scheduling, my own ability to perform—everything but Jesus.  As a result, I’m crammed to the gills and starving just the same.  And somehow in this state, I manage to keep going for a really long time.  After all, the dishes always need washing, the kids always need feeding, and the floors always need sweeping.  So I truck along like the Energizer Bunny, ignoring all the signs of spiritual starvation, until one day the battery of my own effort finally runs dry.  Something touches this raw, cavernous hunger in my soul for Jesus, and before I know it, I’m crying and I’m not even sure why.

It’s ironic isn’t it?  God is ever present—the feast of His presence lies before me, and I pass the days munching on cocktail peanuts.  And I wonder why I’m so hungry.  The first blessed assurance God has given me in this journey, is that the food is there.  It is possible for all the longings of my heart to be satisfied in Jesus.  But how?  How do I find fulfillment in Christ amid the daily drudgery?  These two principles are helping me more than any other:

Practicing the Presence of Christ
Running a home is incredibly monotonous.  Not only are the tasks menial, few ever remain “finished,” which can make you feel a little like Sisyphus endlessly rolling the rock (or laundry basket) uphill.  But what if we changed our perspective to recognize the vast reward in the “doing” rather than the “accomplishing”?  Unlike the world, Christ does not ask us to achieve.  He asks us to be faithful.  Thus, as Oswald Chambers writes, “drudgery is the touchstone of character.”  Look at Jesus Himself, who washed the disciples’ feet.  Can’t you picture Him changing diapers with great joy and love?  I can, because no calling from the Father was ever too menial for Jesus.  He came to serve, to love the least of these, and to do it with or without the praise of men.  How then, can I refuse to do the same for Him?  Brother Lawrence, who lived out his days as a kitchen aide in a monastery, wrote, “I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.”  Like Brother Lawrence, you and I can practice the presence of Christ every time we wipe Desitin on a rash-y bottom, and rise happier than a king!  And therein lies the secret to running a home with joy and purpose.  We are doing all things as an act of love and worship for Him (I Corinthians 10:31).

Resting in the Presence of Christ
I find that practicing the presence of Christ in the hectic chores of the day is always easier when I spend quiet moments resting in Him.  Sometimes these moments come first thing in the morning, sometimes during nap time, and sometimes last in the day.  Either way, they are crucial because these are the moments when I feast.  I lay all my longings before Him, and I am overcome by His intense love for me in spite of my unworthiness.  To quote the Jesus Storybook Bible, His love makes me lovely.  His love makes my life lovely.

At times I’m tempted to skip these moments with God for love of a lesser idol, and at times I’m tempted to fulfill them dutifully and rigidly like a slave.  I know both attitudes must break His heart.  Yet graciously, every time I come to Him—whether for love of Him or love of myself—He meets me.  At the height of my joy, He meets me.  In the pit of my sorrow, He meets me.  In the thick of my drudgery, He meets me.

Surely, you and I don’t have to run on empty!  Not with a God like this.  We can run on His power and by His grace.  We can run through the happiness, through the failure, and through the ten million dirty diapers ahead.  We can run in the very presence of Jesus.

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17 thoughts on “Running a Home While Running on Empty

  1. Anne Wenger

    While diapers are no longer the drudgery I face, there are those things that can seem so unimportant and distasteful. Or as you observe, we can choose to focus on “love for a lesser idol.” Thanks for another insightful blog to nudge me never to run on empty.

    Reply
  2. Dana Hemminger

    I found your blog today on Facebook, and I’ve read a few of your posts. I feel like I’m reading my own heart! Thanks for sharing. I recently finished Brother Lawrence’s book again, and my heart cry to practice Jesus’ presence in all things. Some days are definitely easier than others, but I’m so thankful that He loves the process, even if I feel like the progress is slow!

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Thanks for this. I’m crying right now because this is where I’m at right now and I feel God speaking through your words and bringing hope and perspective to my heart that is oh so needed. Thanks for opening up your life and letting Jesus use you.

    Meagan

    Reply
  4. Kelli

    Jeanne, I’ve become addicted after only first visiting your page yesterday after a friend was kind enough to share “the mom who lies” on Facebook. You always speak such brutal truths and meet me where I am. This is yet another thing I am dealing with.

    Reply
  5. Stacey

    I’m so grateful I have found your blog. This is exactly what I needed to hear today (and for the last few months) as I have struggled to find joy in managing my home with two small kids. I desperately want to be joyful each day with them, but I am often so disappointed in myself for not accomplishing more and overwhelmed by the daily monotony. It’s nice to hear that I am not alone and hear that it’s possible to change my mindset to focus on Jesus and finding joy in serving in the tasks that are not so fun. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  6. Rebekah

    Ive just discovered your blog and pretty much everything ive read has inspired me. This one however just sums ups where i find myself right now and has really blessed me whilst bringing me to tears simultneously. Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts.

    Reply
    1. jeanneharrison Post author

      I’m so glad it’s been timely for you! To be honest, of all my posts I think this one also sums up where I find myself so often. Just read your comment on “establishing a schedule” and feeling very blessed you stumbled upon my blog :)

      Reply
  7. Heidi

    I’ve just come across your blog, and this post in particular has spoken to me so much. I’m often ‘running on empty’, trying to get everything done with house and kids, and not putting time with God first. And then I wonder why I can’t cope, why I’m getting cross/irritable or tearful. Thank you so much for sharing so honestly about your life, it really helps to know that others are going through the same things! And be encouraged – God has used your words today to remind me to put him first and draw energy from him.

    Reply
  8. Kristin Ruck

    I love that: do rather than accomplish…and do it all “as an act of love and worship for Him”. I’m a new mom and am already (or perhaps always?) falling into that trap of setting up mini idols of housework for myself. But like you said, they are always there to do again the next day and/or never fully get accomplished because there are so many little things that I can see to do.
    I’ve already realized that I am focused way too much on petty little tasks, and am actively working on making sure I stay present and engaged in just spending time with my daughter, because that’s what counts in the long run (although I still need to remember and do more). But what I am so bad about is not staying active in my relationship with God; thank you for reminding me of the need and joy of doing this too.
    BTW, off topic, but my daughter’s name is Aubrey, too! :)

    Reply
    1. jeanneharrison Post author

      Kristin, I think it’s awesome that you’re aware of the ways you want to grow. Honestly, I blog about time with God so much because it’s such a struggle for me to keep it my first priority. Thank God for His grace! He will faithfully grow us both. And what awesome baby-naming taste you have :)

      Reply

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