Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday Reflections: Bundling

One of my favorite shows is American Pickers.  It follows Mike and Frank as they drive around the country looking for treasures in people's junk piles.
They see themselves as preservers of history, giving new life to bicycles, signs, lamps, tchotchkes--did you know that's how that word is spelled?!? crazy--that would otherwise be collecting rust and schmutz--once the Yiddish gets rolling it's hard to stop--in people's barns and garages.  Basically, they buy people's junk and turn it into profit.  It's fun to watch because the guys are hilarious and they find some really cool stuff in their travels.  They also meet some very...interesting people along the way...people who are often reluctant to let go of things they never even look at and often forgot they had.  So Frank (pictured on the right) has a strategy that's called "bundling."  Rather than haggling over every piece he wants to buy, he bundles a bunch of stuff together and offers a large figure that sounds impressive and usually seals the deal.  This idea of bundling is a good negotiation tactic, but it also has a more practical application that I want to offer.

I am the sort of person who flourishes in the midst of chaos and drama.  Back in college, extensive sleep deprivation made me somewhat manic.  I had very high highs and very low lows.  I was thoroughly unhealthy, but life was exciting.  I never knew when the next break down or victory was coming.  And I liked it that way.  I liked having big problems to solve, big challenges to face, big questions to answer.  It kept me on my toes.  Then I got married.  I adopted a responsible lifestyle of sleeping regularly and eating three meals a day.  It took me a long time to understand why my life felt so flat-lined.  It was because my life was balanced.  I was living a much healthier, measured life.  The problem was that I didn't know how to relate to God in a healthy, measured way.  All of a sudden, my life felt so ordinary.  Now that I am a stay-at-home-mom, the contrast is even more striking.  There are no more big problems to solve, no big challenges to stare down, no big existential questions to despair over.  My life is day after day of ordinary tasks.  Change the diaper.  Fold the laundry.  Wash the dishes.  Do it again.  Where is my big God in the midst of such ordinary life?

The church calendar is divided into seasons.  Different churches vary slightly, but for the most part, it follows this pattern:
This chart is taken from this website, which gives a good, concise explanation of each season.
It's encouraging to me that over half the year consists of what is known as "Ordinary Time."  It's also helpful to me that that time is traditionally designated with green.  Because the truth is that we do most of our living and growing in the midst of time that feels rather ordinary.

It took me a long time to come to grips with embrace the ordinary.  Admittedly, part of the problem was ego...the conviction that I was way too awesome to be wasted in living such a menial life.
But another issue was that I didn't know how to live an ordinary life in the presence of God.  How do I relate to Him when things are going just fine?  How do I notice the movement of His Spirit when I'm not trying to discern the mysteries of the universe?  How do I walk in His presence when I feel no desperate, aching need for Him to come and fix me?  How do I spend ordinary time with God?

The best answer I have bundling.

As a stay-at-home mom, I am always on the clock.  I don't have huge stretches of time to devote to silence and solitude, and if I did, I would most likely fall asleep.  So instead, I take the ordinary tasks of my day, and I bundle them with grace.  I make them little checkpoints and reminders of God's presence in the midst of ordinary time.  For example, when I change Judah's diaper in the morning, I sing a song like "Holy, Holy, Holy."  "Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee."  Every time I put Judah in his highchair to eat, we pray together.  Sometimes all I can manage is, "God, thank you for this food.  Please help Judah to eat it instead of throwing it on the floor."  But more often, I take the time to pray that God would nourish our whole family.  I pray for my husband while he's at work.  I pray for God to make Himself known to us in the little things throughout our day.  Every time I carry Judah down the stairs, we sing the doxology together.  I sing a few words on each step and don't move to the next step until he finishes the line.  It's a game, and it's a little silly, but it's also an opportunity to teach Judah a part of the Church's liturgy and to sing praise to God a few times every day.

Bundling prayer and praise with ordinary life is nothing groundbreaking, and it certainly isn't an original concept.  But it has helped me to be more present throughout my days and more aware of God's presence in the midst of it.  It has reminded me that God is here in life's little moments.  And it has borne the fruit of joy and patience in moments when my natural inclinations were exhaustion and annoyance.  Just like Frank on American Pickers, bundling a bunch of little things together can make a big impact.

There are countless ways to bundle our ordinary tasks with grace.  Maybe every day when you shower, you could meditate on the cleansing power of Jesus' blood.  Maybe you could pray for the members of your family as your fold and sort each person's laundry.  Maybe doing the dishes could remind you to be grateful for God's provision of daily bread.

Living in the presence of God does not require us to go on a retreat or take a pilgrimage.  He doesn't ask us to abandon our daily responsibilities, the people and tasks He has given us to steward.  He doesn't overwhelm us with demands of great acts of sacrifice and devotion.  Brother Lawrence once wrote, "A little lifting of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless acceptable to God."  God wants us to live with Him in the midst of our ordinary lives.

So what are some ways that you can (or already do) bundle your ordinary tasks with grace?  Do you have a particular hymn you sing when you vacuum?  Do you pray for missionaries in China when you eat Chinese food?  When your children ask you for a snack, do you recite Matthew 7 and thank God for giving good gifts to His children?  What reminds you to be grateful and aware of God's presence throughout your day?


  1. This is wonderful.

  2. Agreed, Jen! I think a lot of times I feel like if I don't have a good-sized chunk of time for alone, quiet, reverent worship, I don't do anything at all. This puts a bit of a creative spin on praying constantly, and I especially love that you sing the doxology while coming down the stairs, Robin. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.... I'm reading Jesus Calling (this morning Jesse woke up early and rad it with me - sweet, sweet boy!) and I finally started a gratitude journal...and now I'm planning on doing a lot more bundling! LOVE you, sweet sister!!

  3. Nicely written, Robin! I love your faith and your beautiful vision of life, ordinary and otherwise.