It was the toilet paper in the milk that did me in — and taught me a lesson I haven't forgotten.
The wind outside sent a chilly draft across the floor where I was picking staples out of the shag carpet. Two-year-old Becky had pulled out my desk drawer and spilled the entire contents.
"Mom," Peter, my 4-year-old, asked, "can we go outside?"
For the hundredth time that morning I answered, "It's too cold and wet outside. Go play — quietly."
"But there's nothing to do," he whined.
I sighed. How I wished I had nothing to do! If only the kids could go outside, maybe they would stop their bickering. Then I could actually get the whole house clean at once. By the time I finished cleaning one room, they had wrecked two more. The work seemed unending and pointless.
It wasn't the kids' fault. Spring was late that year. Instead of sunshine and warmth, we had constant dreary days of rain and wind. With four young children cooped up in a small house, tempers flared and messes were made. I wished I could shoo them outside to play.
"Mom?" This time it was 6-year-old Paul. "I think you want to see what Becky is doing."
"I did an axdent," Becky said. A pool of milk spread across my newly mopped kitchen floor. An empty milk jug lay in the puddle.
"I clean it up." She held up an empty toilet paper tube. Dissolving toilet paper floated like sludge in the river of milk inching its way across the kitchen.
I leaned against the refrigerator door, closed my eyes and counted to 10. Twice.
"All right," I said. "Everyone into coats and boots. You are going outside."
The children stampeded to the coat closet with shouts of joy. I shooed them and trudged to the kitchen.
With a sigh, I grabbed a towel but found that wet toilet paper is hard to clean up. It's too thick to mop, and it falls apart when you try to pick it up.
Some of the papers formerly stuck on the refrigerator door swam in the slime. Becky must have knocked them off when she went for the milk. I picked out a wet prayer card from missionaries who spoke at our church the week before. I gazed at their milk-stained faces and thought of their inspiring story. They had spent years in Africa serving God in primitive conditions, in constant danger from unstable political situations.
"We're not here to be comfortable and safe," he had said. "We'll have plenty of time to relax in heaven. Our job now is to serve while the doors are still open."
Springing into service
My spirit pricked at the thought. God had given me a mission field as surely as He had sent the missionaries to Africa. My job was to raise my children for Him. I was to show them God is good and worthy to be served.
Compared to foreign missionaries, my lot was comfortable — even cushy. So what if it rained and the kids made messes? At least we didn't have snakes dropping from the ceiling or snipers lurking in the street.
Spring would come eventually, the kids would one day be grown, and this mission would be accomplished. Now was my time to serve while I still had the opportunity.
With chastened spirit, I remopped the floor. Then the back door banged open, and the kids trooped in.
"It's too cold out there," Peter said.
I looked at the muddy tracks across my kitchen floor, the piles of boots and coats strewn across the chairs. Already another argument flared in the living room.
Once again I took out the mop and thought about heaven and spring, both of which I would surely see — someday.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
One minister, two jobs and the family that's at the top of the list. The number of bivocational ministers, those in full- or part-time ministry who carry an additional job, is estimated by some researchers to be as high as 30 percent of ministers nationwide.
"You should see the church they attend," Lucille said, armed with bulletin and newsletter. Creases formed across my brow as celebration gave way to comparisons a trap that had sprung too many times.