We Will Rest

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Osheta Moore -We Will Rest3

When I first heard in church that Christians were to observe the Sabbath, I was told it was a whole day—Sunday—on which we did not work. We went to church, had a good meal with our family, and reset our souls for the week.

This is one very valid way of observing the Sabbath. But what if you’re hungry so you have to work two, sometimes three jobs to keep food on the table? How do you “Sabbath” then? What about if you cannot get to church because you don’t have a car, or because you feel isolated from Christian community, or because you’re simply struggling to trust God? What does Sabbath look like then?

When a Shalom Sista says, “I will rest,” she proclaims mercy and goodness for every single person on this planet who is weary. She thinks about her rest, yes, but also about the rest of her sister in need. When we say “We will rest,” we plot goodness for the poor by thinking of ways to provide them rest. We offer to babysit, bring meals over so they don’t have to cook, leave care packages with a favorite movie, a fun family game, or a funny joke. We give weekend getaways to couples who need to reconnect.

This counters the narrative that Sabbath-keeping is only for the comfortable or wealthy. If we identify that someone cannot themselves practice Sabbath because of constraints like poverty, then as shalom-seekers, we look to facilitate opportunities for them to rest.

Thus, “We will rest” is both a proclamation of counter-cultural living and a declaration of our calling. We are woman of mercy and goodness.

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I learned the power of creating Sabbath opportunity for those in need from my friend Michelle. Right after I had my daughter Trinity, I went through therapy for postpartum depression. Thanks to the therapy, I was managing the depression. Nevertheless, I was drowning.

Under ten loads of laundry.

Sometimes this is still the case. If you can’t find me—if I do not show up for our coffee dates and you don’t see me at church, and if I’ve gone radio silent on Facebook and the kids are running around disheveled, dirty, and smelling of mildew—please come look for me. When you walk into my home, follow the trail of dirty towels and crumpled jeans to the laundry room. There you will find me, passed out under a pile of laundry.

I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’ll never get all the laundry clean. There will always be something in someone’s basket. The people in my house are insistent on using a new towel every single time they shower, and just when I think I’ve gotten on top of it, my son will come home with an armful of gym clothes that need to be washed immediately.

I just wish someone had warned when I was waxing poetic about becoming a stay-at-home mom— before I had kids. If you are a young, eager mother, you might speak of staying home with your kids so you can spend more time with them and really pour truth into them. You might show off your children’s-director approved Bible plan to get your kids “in the Word.” You may have visions of making cookies, building Lego sets, and then ending the day with a frolic in the park. No one tells you that all those things—the cookies, the laying on the ground to build with Legos, the frolicking in the park—make for dirty, dirty clothes. No one tells you, my dear Sista, about the loads and loads of laundry that three children ages four and under will create.

Let me be the bearer of truth: Laundry’s gonna get you, Boo. Every single time. Also, Amazon delivers Tide in bulk. Happy shopping. And frolicking.

So right after I finished therapy and felt like I was managing my depression well, I was surprised by how overwhelmed I still felt by the sheer force of work that came with being a mom of littles. It was hard enough making sure these kids were alive by the end of the day. The laundry? Well, it kept getting pushed off and off and off until finally, I considered burning it all and starting afresh at Target. Part of the reason we stopped going to church as a family during that time was—you got it—the laundry. I was in survival mode. I whittled their daily clothes use to one outfit: one pair of clean pants, one pair of underwear, one shirt, one towel. That was as large a load I could manage daily; everything else was shoved up in the closet.

My sweet husband knew that I was suffering from cabin fever, so one Sunday morning shortly after our daughter turned five months old, he said, “Let’s just go to church this one Sunday; everyone is dying to see the baby!” He was right. We didn’t even have a chance to sit down when we arrived before the line started to form to hold Baby Trinity. With every hug and outstretched hand to take the baby, I prayed that no one would notice that we had been wearing the same outfits we wore when many of them visited with casseroles and greeting cards just five months prior. No one seemed to notice. I think we still had that family-with-a-newborn powdery fresh novelty on us.

After the service, our church had a fellowship time, where we could enjoy refreshments and catch up with one another. This was probably my favorite part of Sunday morning. (Well, actually my second favorite part of the service. Sista: I have a confession. Until my kids turned three, I only went to church for the childcare. I mean, I loved Pastor Dan, and his sermons were usually encouraging. But if we’re being honest, the forty-five minutes without kids sitting on me pulling on my cardigan, digging in their nose and wiping it on my lap—that gorgeous sliver to time was the only reason T. C. got me out of the house in my regulation laundry-crisis outfit. When a new mom comes to me all flustered and in need of a hug, I hug her and then tell her to find a church not necessarily for Jesus. Jesus is good, but get there for peace and quiet offered by the childcare. I really don’t think Jesus minds; he knows what’s up.)

So I was sitting there in the fellowship time, balancing a plate of meatballs on my knees. My middle child, T. J., was grazing from my plate and the women were passing around my baby when Michelle came over and sat down next to me.

Let me tell you about Michelle. Michelle ran in a group of four brilliant women at our church. They had all attended Ivy League schools. These moms’ children were older than mine, so they had that air of sanity that comes when you don’t have to listen to the Caillou theme song on repeat. They all cared about justice in the city, but they still managed to take their kids on camping trips and wilderness hikes. They loved Jesus and quoted Scripture with a sincerity that actually made me want to memorize it too. They served faithfully in various roles at church nearly every Sunday, and they all took it upon themselves to care for the booming population of new moms in our congregation, myself included. When it was my turn, I wanted to be the same type of role model for young moms that they were to me.

So when Michelle sat down next to me, I knew she was on Mentor Mom business. She smiled at me and asked, “How are things going, Osheta?”

I studied her face to see if her nose was wrinkling at the slight mildew smell on my baby’s onesie. “I swear, Lord,” I prayed silently; “Please let me not be embarrassed before I get through a plate of meatballs.”

“We’re doing great! Thanks for asking,” I answered as somebody handed Trinity back to me. Michelle reached her arms out and asked to hold Trinity. One does not refuse a Mentor Mom who offers to take your babies, especially when the semi-warm meatballs your toddler is never going to finish are up for grabs. I placed Trinity in Michelle’s arms and she patted Trinity’s back. As she did so, she touched her nose to the baby’s onesie and said, “The smell of babies is one of my favorite smells in the world; they’re so sweet.”

I was praising the Lord within my spirit that he masked the stank of my baby. Or maybe babies just smell amazing to anyone who didn’t birth them or feed them at 3am?

“Yeah, so sweet … ” I trailed off while poking at a meatball. (Hold up! Did they simmer them in BBQ sauce? The Lord saw me and loved me.)

Michelle moved Trinity to her other shoulder as Trinity’s eyes slowly closed. “You know, Osheta,” Michelle started. “I’ve been thinking a lot about you. I realized the other day that Jim works close to you. So, I was thinking: maybe on his way to work, he could stop by your house and pick up a few loads of laundry. Then I could wash those clothes for you, and then Jim could drop them off at your house again on Friday. How does that sound?”

I sat there, stunned. First of all, how did she know I was overwhelmed with laundry? In the Pentecostal tradition, we have this phrase: “She read my mail.” This is basically a churchy way of saying the Holy Spirit is Big Brother who ratted you out to the Thought Police. That’s how I felt: like Michelle read my mail and she was forcing me to air all my dirty laundry— literally. I guess I’m still something of a Pentecostal refugee.

Michelle could sense my hesitancy, so she added, “Just for a few weeks! We could just see how it works for a few weeks; then that way, maybe you could get some rest. You can take a nap or catch up on a movie. You can maybe read a book. I know you like to write—maybe you can get some writing in?”

I didn’t know how to receive Michelle’s offer. When you take on any task, you want to feel like a competent person. The common notion is that if you can’t handle all facets of a job, then maybe you were all wrong for the job in the first place. I felt all wrong for motherhood—from the postpartum depression to the laundry. I knew I needed the help, but I didn’t want to invite Michelle into my mess. My mess smelled, my mess was wrinkly, and my mess tripped me up every day. In truth, I needed help with my mess. The memory of weeping on the bathroom floor haunted me every time I passed a piling load. I desperately needed someone to take it off my plate, because I was feeling the overwhelm deep in my bones.

“Well . . . I suppose I could send the kids’ stuff to you—”

“No!” Michelle interrupted. “Send whatever you need to have washed! I know T. C. is going back to work soon, and he’s taking classes again. I’m sure he’s going to need lots of clean clothes. So send with Jim whatever you need cleaned. I just want to help.”

I nodded and finished up the meatballs. The next morning I passed off four loads of laundry to Michelle’s husband, Jim.

The whole time that laundry was in her care, I second-guessed whether or not I should have let her help me. Yes, I was in need of help. We didn’t have the resources, the time, or the energy to get all of it washed within a reasonable amount of time. There was just no way I could get all those loads done while still taking care of my family. Still, every day that week, I wondered, “Oh my gosh; what did I do?”

But here’s the cool thing: my closets, which had once housed our dirty clothes, were finally empty. I could see the board games that were pushed to the back. I found a pile of library books that I thought I had lost. (They were way overdue, but when I called the library and explained my story, they extended the time.) With Michelle’s help, I had a bag full of books and a few hours of free time in the week. Since I wasn’t trying to fit in a load here or there, I could sit down with one of those books while the kiddos napped. In releasing my laundry to Michelle, I also cast off the weight of “failure,” of “Do more,” and of “Git ’er done.” I walked through my home, light and hopeful once again, breathing a sigh of relief that I didn’t know my lungs needed for the past three months.

That Friday morning Jim stopped at my door, gave me the load of laundry and a little note for Michelle that said: “If you need it again next week, just let me know.”

Michelle ended up washing my laundry for several months. To this day, whenever I mention it to her, she shrugs it off as just something Christians do.

Yes, that’s right. Helping others find rest is just something Shalom Sistas, ambassadors of Christ’s mercy and goodness, do.

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Excerpted from Osheta Moore’s forthcoming book, Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World.(HeraldPress, 2017) Used with permission.

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Osheta Moore
Osheta Moore is an Anabaptist-y, stay-at-home mom right in the thick of moving her family from Boston to Los Angeles . She's passionate about racial reconciliation, peacemaking, and community development in the urban core. At the top of her bucket list is dance in a flash mob—all the better if it's to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" or Pharrell's "Happy." Catch up with Osheta on her blog, Shalom in the City.
Osheta Moore
Osheta Moore

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  • Christina S

    Thank you Osheta for this wonderful story! It made me laugh and cry at the same time -“Oh yes!!! I so know what you mean, sista!” I think I am in the middle stage between being overwhelmed with all my laundry and being able to help others with their laundry… The other day I was reading the wonderful phrase to give others “the grace of being needed”. I think that is a wonderful thing, and so hard for me to do. But I`m learning slowly – yes, we can bless each other with our dirty laundry! 🙂 Love and blessings to you from a tired mom in germany.

  • Oh, how I love this excerpt!
    Laundry is my sanity litmus test as well — and I can always tell that I’m ready to go over the edge when I’ve started counting the number of times I’ve handled each piece: “first off the floor and into the basket; second into the washer; third into the dryer; fourth out of the dryer; fifth for fold; and sixth into the right bedroom.”
    I used cloth diapers, and I’ll never forget the dear woman who came to my house and helped me by folding a basket of clean diapers while I lay on the couch with sciatica and an ice pack feeling unworthy and grateful all at the same time.
    Is it possible that Laundry is a Love Language?