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“all settled happiness”

Alfiesfeet

Art by Shirley Hughes

At times it’s tempting to wonder if the efforts we make to serve our families are worth the trouble.

We might be tired of being relied on for comfort, stability and cheerfulness. Sometimes we want to give up on creating an environment of comfort and peace for our people.

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habits and joy

Before we leave the topic of working hard for our families, I have to give you the trick to keeping things going.

It’s all good to talk about work, but actually doing some every day…can be painful.

I know you’re all hoping my trick makes work easy.  In a way, it does.  But only because it takes out the drama/trauma of decision making.

…the effort of decision is the most exhausting effort of life.

-Charlotte Mason

Such an absolute statement!  But it’s so true in my life.  Decision is half the battle in most of the things I do.

Later she says it’s not all of those things we have to do that exhaust us so much, it’s the “making up of one’s mind as to which thing to do first” (or if we are going to do it at all…).

Each of us has in [our] possession an exceedingly good servant or a very bad master, known as Habit.

-Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Habits.  They’re your ace in the hole.  When put to good use (as your servant), they can save the day!

It is pleasant to know that even in mature life, it is possible by a little persistent effort to acquire a desirable habit. [A habit] falls in with our natural love of an easy life.

-Charlotte Mason, Home Education

She says that we are willing to work hard at first when we are promised that a habit will get easier as time goes on.

The beauty of a habit is that after a certain amount of time, we just naturally “do the next thing” if we are giving our attention to what needs to be done.

But where is the joy? Well, I think the joy is in the triumph of making yourself do the thing you know you ought to do.  And doing it well.

This power of making oneself work is a fine thing. Every effort makes the next easier.

-Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Charlotte reminds us to form a habit of distinguishing what must be done at once from what may be done.  Then, once we form the habit of singling out the important things and doing them first, we have saved ourselves and others a lot of annoyance and have gained what she calls “integrity in our work”.

Integrity (in our work) makes for [joyfulness], because the person who is honest about his work has time to play, and is not secretly vexed by the remembrance of things left undone or ill done.

-Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Sometimes we need a little inspiration to think how this might look in “real” life.  So of course it makes sense that I would quote some fiction…

Polly was tough as a pit pony, and a wonderful worker. But she did not find drudgery monotonous, and she was possibly the happiest person in the city…

…her face was flushed and beaming and instantly the atmosphere of the cold stuffy room was subtly changed because she was happy.  Polly’s chief joy in life was feeding people.

-Elizabeth Goudge, The Dean’s Watch

And there you have it… “she didn’t find drudgery monotonous, and she was possibly the happiest person in the city”.

Jean-Francois-Millet bread

Hard Work and Pride

Welcome back to more ramblings on work.

I have good news for us.  Maybe we can knock a few things off our list, because they aren’t about serving our family after all.

What if a lot of the work we are staggering under is self-imposed out of pride?

Pride is sneaky.  We have to constantly evaluate whether or not the work we choose to do is really something that will benefit our family.

Or is much of this work just for our self-image?

There is a great difference in the satisfaction of a job well done vs. the ceaseless drive to never let anyone outdo us.

In his writing on meekness and rest, A.W. Tozer calls this pride an “evil desire to shine”.

It seems common to our gender to make simple things more difficult than they need to be. Why we do we do this. Duh.

It could be simple to get dinner, do laundry, and tidy the house for our husbands.  But no, we won’t let it be simple.  We have to put that special twist on it to make it as complicated as possible.  Because our husbands and kids love it when we don’t have time for them, due to being super busy making certain strange things amazing.

Oh wait. Nope. They don’t really like that.

To do a few things well, (the things our family appreciates us doing) does take some thinking and planning.

Planning can be sort of boring.  Some of aren’t planners.  But it is worth it, because the things that take a ton of our time are most noticeable when they aren’t being done. 

We have to plan ahead so that there is food in the pantry, a continuous supply of laundry detergent, and various cleaning supplies.

Unfortunately, those things will do us no good sitting in our homes if we don’t get up and make use of them.  That food ain’t gonna cook itself…

If you aren’t sure how to do that, Auntie Leila has written all about it.

We also have to get up on time so that we don’t lose precious productive hours of the day. Getting up before our family may happen slowly, over time.

Somebody has to get up early, stay up late, do more than the others if the family is to be a thing of beauty.

-Edith Schaeffer

I love that quote, but I have a little disclaimer.  Edith means average beauty, as you will see if you read her book.  She wouldn’t advocate letting your husband go to bed alone most nights while you stay up making Pinterest crafts. That’s a potential love killer right there.

Edith means that sometimes there are difficult times in family life, and staying up with sick children was one of her main examples. She says don’t make the man who just went to work all day also stay up with sick kids just because you’re tired.  It’s our job.  And it’s hard, but rewarding work.

There is a sense of accomplishment when we have worked hard, and it makes us happy. We are not out to impress our facebook friends.  We answer to someone higher than that about how we care for our family.

A woman who puts aside ‘happiness and fulfillment’ as primary, and begins to think of the needs of husband and children, finds herself amazingly more fulfilled (if there is time to notice) as days go on.

– Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

I love the book because she gives very honest and real experiences.  One story was about the frustration of the family playing together and having fun while the mother is cleaning up the kitchen, and she threw five plates on the floor. (!)  She describes the long process of becoming selfless enough to have more successes than failures.

My family and your family are worth the effort to have more success than failure.  The work we do for the love of God has great significance.

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap the harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

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