Christian reflections · Family life

A Broken Washer and Other Lessons in Gratitude

photo-1443641998979-d59cfcf800c4I can be a complainer.

Most of us can, if we’re honest.

It’s too hot out today.

I can’t believe the waiter got my dinner order wrong.

I definitely didn’t need to get a cold this week.

Why can’t my husband ever remember when it’s trash day?

Oh great, it’s allergy season again.

It’s often easier to complain than not. Sometimes complaints even bring us closer to others. I grew up in the alternately freezing and roasting Midwest, and griping about the weather was how 93% of conversations with strangers started.

“They say another cold front is moving in.”

“Oh geez… not again. I hope it doesn’t bring more snow. My snowblower’s about had it.”

Repeat, with minor variations, for eight months.

Most of our complaints fall into the category of “first world problems.” We complain about our water bill, not that there’s, you know, no water. We gripe about a mosquito bite, not from the malaria that could go along with it if we lived closer to the equator. We roll our eyes at a fender bender, not at being stranded for days because we don’t have a car.

I was reminded of how many of my “problems” are first world when our washer broke. Granted, we had a lot on our plates at the time. My husband had tweaked his knee and was on crutches. We had a one-week old newborn and a preschooler. The oven was on the fritz, too.

In a long-and-annoying story I’ll spare you, it took us five weeks to get a working washer. Five long weeks. Five irritating weeks where both my husband and I lamented with gusto the Psalmist would have been proud of: HOW LONG, O LORD?!

The laundromat was a no-go because of my husband couldn’t carry anything on crutches and I wasn’t allowed to haul big loads postpartum until week six.

My sister – who lives in Minnesota – suggested I take the wash down to the river and beat it on a rock to wash it. Then she remembered that we live in drought-plagued southern California.

“Oh yeah,” she giggled, “you don’t HAVE any water there!”

Yet in those five seemingly-endless weeks, God started to etch a new sort of gratitude into my heart. Our next-door neighbors heard of our plight and let us use their washer and dryer. A woman from our small group picked up five loads of laundry and did them at her house for us. A number of folks from church offered to help out by picking up a load or two or inviting us into to their laundry rooms.

Amidst it all, no one at our house went naked. Everyone had something clean to wear every day. The laundry piling up showed me just how many clothes we actually had – and that even in the midst of me drastically and quickly changing body size and shape postpartum.

Laundry Mountain taught me that we have a heckuvalot to be grateful for.

Friends and neighbors who help out.

Enough clothes to wear.

A husband who can usually haul things up and down the stairs. (And a husband who usually does 90% of our laundry!)

Two healthy kids, one of whom plays hard enough and one of whom spits up often enough that consistent laundry-doing is needed.

Modern conveniences – a fridge, a microwave, a dryer, even indoor plumbing! – that much of the world could only dream of or hope to afford.

It reminded me of Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog post a couple of years back about realizing how rich she really was.

At the end of the day, I’m grateful the washer broke. I’m BEYOND grateful that we now have a working washing machine (bottom-of-the-line Sears sale washer for the win!), but I didn’t appreciate the ability to so quickly and easily wash clothes in my own home until that privilege was taken away for a bit.

It’s inspired me to watch the attitude of my heart and the words of my mouth more closely. Instead of hopping on the Complain Train, I want to speak peace, hope, and gratitude. I want my children to learn to echo that tone as well.

Maybe I can learn to bond with strangers with a word of kindness instead of one of complaint. Maybe I can.

For now, I’m headed back out to the garage to wash more things.

Who knew that doing laundry could be so fun?

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