TITLE: The discipline of first things first
By Lesley-Anne Evans
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I had to apologise to my children yesterday after school. I have been home Ďsickí for the past few days, and after my energy level began to pick up I found myself cleaning and tidying like I havenít done in some time. And the only reason I can think of for the renewed interest in cleaning, is that Iím actually AT HOME.
My life as a homemaker is usually quite busy, and I donít enjoy all of the chores that come with my job description. Many of my tasks are outside the home too, and most of those are more enjoyable. So, my days usually include a variety of things, from walking my dog, to helping in the classroom, to grocery shopping, to errands, and even the occasional coffee with friends. I have tried a number of different ways to accomplish my tasks in the home, both scheduled and non-scheduled. The scheduled approach is best for me, so that on Monday I know itís laundry day. There isnít any doubt that its laundry day, it just is. I donít have to justify, rationalise or wonder, Itís just laundry on Monday.
Problem is, on monday Iím not always home for the day. And our laundry piles are pretty prolific. So, making it laundry day doesnít get it done. Only being at home and working through it systematically gets it done.
So, this week, being at home and sick, reminded me that I havenít been home enough. As my husband kindly reminds me from time to time, itís all about balance. And when the scales are full of dirty clothes on one side and empty of clean ones on the other side, then thatís definitely not balance.
When I was home I saw other indications of unbalance in the form of cobwebs, burnt out light bulbs, grubby bathroom taps etc. And I felt badly for two reasons. One, that the job that Iíve been entrusted with isnít being done to the best of my abilities, and two, that Iím setting a less than excellent example to my kids. How can I, with good conscience, tell them off for not making their beds, when I havenít made mine.
So, my apology to my kids was for both of these reasons. I want them to know that I blow it some times, and that Iím human. But I also want them to know that our family values include doing our best, keeping our commitments, and meeting our responsibilities, even when itís not fun stuff. Would I rather be out grocery shopping than scrubbing toilets - absolutely! Does the thought of 10 loads of laundry fill me with joy? Not really, but I do feel joy when the job is complete. Even if the hamper stays empty for only a few hours, I feel a certain sense of accomplishment at a job well done, t having given my best to the task, and at having been true to my commitment to care for my family.
Because I love words and the impact they have on me - they stick - I thought of a little line of words that I could think about when the lure of e-mail is greater than the messy kitchen. Itís simply this, ďThe discipline of first things firstĒ.
The word discipline might not sit well with you. Itís received a bad rap, I think, as we immediately consider the negative connotations of disciplining our children, or the stern teacher disciplining students. But discipline has another side to it. Itís about choosing to do what you have already committed to. Itís about meeting priorities, even when they are not pleasant. Itís about choosing the important things over the needful things of the moment. Itís about lining up my behaviour with my values.
My spiritual life requires discipline. Itís so much easier to call up a friend for emotional support than to pray to my heavenly father. Itís easier to keep on doing chores and running errands than stop for a quiet time of reading, meditation, and praise. Itís so tempting to sleep in on sunday morning rather than joining together with Godís people for worship and teaching. You may think that choosing the latter in each case sounds like legalism, but for me anyway, the discipline combined with the desire allows me to make better choices. Better choices for me anyway. You will have to decide whatís Ďfirstí in your own life.
Today was a good day. I chose to read my devotional before I started my dayís work. I chose to clean the kitchen before I answered personal e-mails. I chose to finish what I had started, before beginning a new project. Not martyrdom, simply honouring my priorities. Everyoneís will be different. But everyone has them. Itís a matter of sticking to them, and that does take discipline.
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