Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sawdust and Buttons

Dear blog friends,

I had the delightful privilege of talking to my oldest daughter on the phone this evening, and she mentioned that I hadn't done a blog post in a while. (It's really only been about 5 days.) Mary is spending the summer in Princeton interning as a copy editor at the Wall Street Journal -- and missing her new husband, Ryan, who is here in Orlando working hard as an auto mechanic for the Orange County Sheriff's Office. (Our public safety depends on his excellent work!) Mary's coming home for a weekend soon, but unfortunatey, we'll be out of town. Ryan came by today, their first month-a-versary, to show us the 905 digital wedding pictures which came back from the professional photographer.

But that's really not what this blog post is about. It's about sawdust and buttons.

Sawdust? Buttons? I shall explain.

Sometimes I, who usually have my head in the clouds, need to be reminded that the mundane things in life really do matter, things like homemaking and tending to the smallish needs of my children. (I have never been one to notice that their fingernails need to be clipped, for example.) I am trying to keep this fresh on my mind. As Proverbs 14:1 reminds me, a wise woman builds her house. Again, Titus 2:4 encourages me to love my husband and children and be busy at home. And the noble Proverbs 31 woman is the epitome of creative diligence with her household tasks. It's not just doing the stuff, but doing it with enthusiasm and imagination. In other words, I need to put my heart and brains into it.

Yesterday, while grocery shoppping at Super Wal-Mart, I noticed a little figurine of San Jose -- St. Joseph -- who seems to be the patron saint of those who are trying to sell or build houses or something. I don't know because the explanation of the legend on the side of the box was written in Spanish, of which I only understand poquito. Anyway, the little figurine is of a dude dressed in Bible clothes (a long flowing robe) working with a piece of wood at a carpenter's bench, complete with wood shavings. So it's supposed to be Joseph (husband of Mary) doing his daily work. It reminded me that Jesus, too, grew up as a carpenter for 30 years before he even started his three and a half year ministry. Doing his job well with integrity and diligence was no waste of the Savior's life. Nothing elegant or other-worldly here. Just a good honest day's work, done with a spirit of excellence. Sawdust, simple sawdust -- that's what remained for Jesus to sweep after the satisfied customers picked up their tables or stools or storage chests. After all, cleaning up is part of the project! I bought that little figurine (hey, it was 75 cents on the clearance shelf!) and perched it on the back of my stove, along with the salt and pepper. Just a reminder to do the daily stuff with zest, even if only the crumbs and dirty dishes remain after an hour of slaving in the kitchen to prepare a meal that disappears in 10 minutes. (Oh yeah, I'm really "slaving" in a fully stocked kitchen with an electric stove and a microwave and a refrigerator and even an automatic can opener. Oh, and clean running water and grocery stores to buy fresh food! No slaughtering chickens for me! Living in the lap of luxury! Why should I ever complain?)

And buttons? This morning before leaving for church, I had a few extra minutes and decided to pick up a book called Biblical Womanhood in the Home by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I happened to be reading a chapter called "Portrait of a Woman Used By God" -- which, coincidentally, was about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and how she made herself available to God in the ministry of motherhood. (Remember, she had at least six other children with Joseph after Jesus was born.) Anyway, I enjoy reading in peace and quiet, and I don't always take kindly to being interrupted, but a steady stream of young visitors started approaching my rocking chair in rapid succession. Buttons! Naomi needed me to button up the back of her dress. Ben needed me to unbutton his shirt collar. (He actually buttoned the shirt himself and didn't miss any.) Melody needed me to do all of her dress buttons -- big chunky flower-shaped ones that seemed to defy my non-nimble fingers. I remembered after I finished this that I had intended to give her a bath before getting her dressed, but there was no way I was going to undo and redo that. Buttons. Little mundane things that my children needed. I am reminded that these "interruptions" are real life. They are little, practical ways to serve, to show love. They matter.

Sawdust. Buttons. Little things that really are a big deal in God's economy.

This all reminded me of a verse in my poem Corpus Christi, speaking of Jesus.

A body with hands: gentle yet tough are those hands
Which created this world we call home
Hands to work hard, stuff of daily life
Built with carpenter’s nails and beams of wood
Hands to heal, stretched forth in victory over pain and decay
Hands to break the meager bread and fish
Multiply in abundance to feed the hungry multitude
Busy hands, yet not too busy to embrace a wee child
To ruffle matted hair, to wash dirty feet
Or to scribble words of pardon in the sand
For a damsel in distress: no stone thrown.

I, as a Christian in 2008, am now a part of the "Corpus Christi" -- the body of Christ on earth. My hands are some of the ones he uses to get his work done. And today, he used my hands to give hugs, put a two year old's hair in a pony tail (never mind that she had taken it out even before we made it to church), make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches -- and button lots of buttons.

Virginia Knowles

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