It was a half-roll — not quite the full eye roll, but just enough to push my buttons. I looked at my 12-year-old girl and took a deep breath. “Sami,” I said, “are you giving me attitude?”
“Yeah,” she said honestly. “Mom, I just don’t want to spend all day cleaning.”
I took another deep breath. I wanted to rattle off the 15 zillion fun things she’d gotten to do that week. I wanted to talk about the rides she’d been given, the food she’d been served. I wanted to deliver a tirade to her with all the examples of my sacrificial love until she squirmed with guilt, changed her ways and with delight began to scrub the toilet.
But then I remembered how guilt affected my perspective: It usually made me grumpy and resentful. So I took another deep breath and forged ahead. “To be honest, I’m not in the mood for toilet cleaning either. But when I do it, I try to be thankful that I don’t have to tread outside in my bare feet to use an outhouse in the middle of the night,” I made a face. “What a bummer it would be to get prickles in my toes or worry about critters that might join me.”
Sami giggled, “Yeah, can you imagine if a big spider crawled over your feet? Or a snake slithered by? What could you do? It’s not like you can jump up!”
I handed her the toilet bowl brush while we were still laughing, “So maybe cleaning the toilet isn’t such a bad thing, huh?”
She nodded and in typical 12-year-old fascination with all bodily functions, continued to make up stories as she cleaned. “Oh Mom, can you imagine? What if a jumping fish lived in there?”
And we laughed.
Later, when Sami was through cleaning, I sat her down. “Honey, we have an awesome home,” I said. “We’re so fortunate to have this place. I know that cleaning is not the most exciting thing to do on a Saturday morning, but it really is a gift. Everything we’re cleaning is a blessing that God has given to us. Sometimes I forget that too, but it’s important that we take the time to remind each other. OK?”
She nodded. “OK, Mom.”
Proof in the pudding
It was several nights later that our dog, Reeses, went outside and proceeded to roll around in the back yard. Before I could stop him, he bounded up the back steps and raced into the living room leaving a trail of mud, old leaves and grass in his wake.
I yelled. He growled. I griped. He pouted. Sami came upstairs to see me picking up dirt, telling the dog a thing or two about rolling all crazy-like in the leaves.
She walked over to Reeses and turned his fluffy face toward mine. “Mom, look at this face. How can you get mad at him? He’s adorable!”
“Pretty easily,” I grumbled.
“But, Mom,” she said, “at least we have a carpet to clean! And the cutest dog in the entire universe! Be thankful!”
I looked at her; I looked at Reeses and his furry face. “Yeah,” I finally said, melting a bit, “I guess he is kind of cute.”
Reeses agreed, and let me know by wagging his way over to my legs and resting his body against them. Sami followed, wrapped her arm around my waist and kissed me on the cheek. I grinned. So what if there were a few dirty leaves on my living room floor? The warm bodies nuzzled against me made every bit of it worthwhile.
I want my daughter to see the good in life. I want her to focus on the blessings that God has poured into her world and to willingly work to take care of them. While she has experienced loss, messy bits of leaves and mud in her history, she also has moments of play and of warmth and safety in my arms. When I think of that, I get it. I understand what God continues to try and teach me: no matter where we are or what has happened, thanksgiving and joy can be found in His arms — if we only take the time to rest against Him.