Harnessing the Power of the “Greater Yes”
Many of us are just on the cusp of starting a new school year; others of us are already several weeks in. In another month, most of us will have settled into a daily rhythm of life, and the newness of starting school will fade. As the dust settles, we can lose motivation to do the small tasks of keeping house and teaching lessons. Or, maybe in the bustle of starting school, things piled up around you in your home and you dread tackling the mess that is staring you in the face. If any of these challenges apply to you, keep reading!
You have probably learned by now that it’s easier to do the things we don’t particularly care about—left to ourselves—if there is a motive that springs from something that we do care about? For instance, I might not vacuum my floors for a couple of weeks because I can live with the dust bunnies and, besides, I have other priorities for my time. But, if my kids call to say, “Hey—last minute request: can we come for the weekend tonight with the grandkids?” you can bet that I’ll be vacuuming those floors by mid-afternoon, no matter what other plans I might have awoken with for that day’s activities. Why? Because suddenly what’s most important to me is that I love my children and grandchildren by giving them a clean and orderly environment when they come to visit. This sudden desire on my part to vacuum this afternoon is an example of the concept of the Greater Yes.
The same idea has been expressed in other ways. We can think, “Do I got to, or do I get to give my children nutritious meals today?” Framing it that way seems to give importance to the daily chores of cooking (or cleaning) tasks. In my example, “Have I got to clean for my visiting family, whom I love, or do I get to (because I’m so blessed that they actually want to come and see me!)?
Another way to come at this is to observe that most of us do what we want to do most of the time. The reason that obedience to God’s Word and ways is commanded is because, as sinners, we often do not want to do His holy will. However, for Christians, obedience is also a “get to”—a Greater Yes. One way that you can take your spiritual temperature is to go about your day and notice how many times you do things for His sake: either to obey Him, or to glorify Him in the eyes of others, or just to serve Him in secret as His hands and feet in the world. When you do things for the Lord but unto others, you are in a real way doing what you want to do. You’re walking in good works prepared for you from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 2:10)—and you’re doing that because you want to. Why do you want to? Because the saving power of God has put a new nature in you, one that delights to do His will (Jeremiah 32:39-41) on an increasingly frequent basis (Proverbs 4:18). And the converse is true: resisting the grace of God and seeking our own pleasure above serving others for His sake should alert us to the need to renew our spiritual lives—and soon (Romans 2:4-5)!
Our two Eyesores in Feb
I recently had this brought home to me in my capacity as a farmer. You see, at Storybook Farm, we have this large shed. It is OLD. One side is half falling over–there are cables that stretch from side to side to keep it from bowing. My daughter Christy aptly named it “The Greater Eyesore” and has plead with us for almost three years to tear it down. (It’s the *greater* eyesore because it has a smaller twin shed across the driveway, as you see in the pictures.) This shed is 1800 square feet: 82 feet long and 20 feet deep.
No one had used The Greater Eyesore–except wild animals, birds, and insects–for over 30 years when we bought the farm. It had a lot of random stuff: seriously old hay, butternuts, a brand new electric dryer, and ancient freezer, sheet metal, old wood, rusted and useless farm tools, spiders, bird nests, wasp nests, etc. You get the picture. The Lesser Eyesore was similar, but it had lots and lots of old lumber, some of it quite useable.
Interior upon purchase
The Greater Eyesore used to be a chicken coop, so there are four holes in the ceiling where they used to have wood stoves to keep the place warm in winters. There are holes in the roof in those spots now; the stoves are long gone. There are rows of windows and doors down both sides; none have screens or window panes left. It used to be electrified; no longer. It used to be plumbed, but that’s disconnected. We cleaned out some of the junk when we arrived… that which could be salvaged (like the dryer) we sold or gave away, and that which could go to a dump we put in a corner. We didn’t have a truck, you see, and being new in a rural county, we didn’t even know where the dump was!
same view: 3 years later
For going on three years, we’ve used The Greater Eyesore as a storage spot for all the stuff we didn’t want right at the moment in our not-so-big house. So, our boxes and extra “stuff” has been disintegrating slowly in this shed, some of it under tarps and some just in the “open.” My husband and I have been saying to each other since last summer: “When it rains, instead of doing outside chores, we’ll sort the junk in the shed.” Well, at first it just so happened that there was a six-week drought so we worked on the riding ring each evening, and then in the fall life was busy, and who wants to go into a stinky old shed to sort stuff anyways? First it was too hot and then it was too cold. We never did; and every time we finished some other farm or household project, we jumbled more stuff into the poor old Eyesore.
looking the other way
But, last week we finally assembled enough bits and pieces of our lives that we had a truck (and a horse trailer) and loaded both up with junk from the sheds (including about six old mattresses and box springs that were full of fleas) and Scott took them to the dump (which, it turns out, is in Petersburg, if you want to know)! While we were in The Greater Eyesore looking for stuff to dump (and trying to discern what to save–which was getting increasingly difficult) I got a glint in my eye: I decided that there was a future for that shed! It would make a swell barn for my horses this winter! You see, our current, small barn’s shelter for cold wasn’t much good for our one horse last year, and since we now have two horses, it’s that much less good. I’ve been concerned as I’ve looked ahead I wanted a place that I could put my horses in stalls when the weather is really nasty.
So, this past week, I wrote up a floor plan for the new BARN (no longer the Eyesore) after measuring all the internal structures, doors, and windows, etc. I figured out where we would put: the hay, the fencing wire, the tractor, the tractor implements (like its plow attachment), the generator, the lumber, the family storage stuff (in sorted tubs, thank you), and the animal stalls (7 stalls–totally exciting to me!). Scott and I agreed that this was the next project we would tackle.
new shelve; stuff sorted
Right on cue: Saturday, it rained all day off and on. We spent the whole day in there. We built shelves in the family storage section out of old doors and scrap lumber. He mostly built while I mostly sorted. I had clear tubs of old and new, clean ones from WalMart, and I went to town. THEN, I went and got our labeller machine and started using it as well. SATISFYING. I figure another week of evenings and we’ll have it about licked. After waiting and being so intimidated for so long, it feels like a miracle.
Now, note: for two years, I had other things to do than attack this mess. But, after I saw that this could be a wholly sufficient barn for my beloved horses for the winter—and not only for them but for other animals (goats and ponies) that we hope to get next spring—I became filled with passion for the project. To me now, cleaning and organizing that HUGE mess of a shed is a pure delight. I run to the task! In fact, I’m in serious danger of neglecting other priorities for this one project. Go figure! What changed? I harnessed my Greater Yes (the desire for an animal barn) to the task I had been putting off for years (cleaning and organizing the shed) and found great reserves of untapped energy!
Of course, this wasn’t the first time in my life that Scott and I have observed this dynamic on ourselves or in our kids. But, as I was talking with my husband about what to write for a blog post this week, he pointed out this recent, rather dramatic shift in my attitude and advised me to apply it to homeschooling as a source of encouragement to my readers.
It wasn’t hard to do! So many times in my homeschooling journey there were those ignored corners of my life that amounted to “got to’s” and that I had no motivation to tackle for days or weeks on end. In those seasons, I steadfastly ignored them for as long as I possibly could. There were the uncorrected lessons, the unfiled papers, the closets that were crammed and jammed with jumbled stuff, the never-ending laundry piles waiting (and waiting) to be folded, the same hum-drum meals served over and over without a spark of creativity applied… You know how it goes. We all have these kinds of corners of our lives.
Here’s the thing: ignoring those corners gives the Devil room to guilt us. And, because of how women are wired, to feel justly accused in one area can tempt us to feel like overall failures. And that can lead to temptations to just throw in the towel and quit. No matter how successful we are in many areas of home tending and mothering and teaching, where we do walk in loving obedience to Christ and put first things first in our homeschooling, those ignored corners remain as tokens of our weakness, our neglect of duty, and our stubborn independence. The Accuser of the Brethren (Rev. 12:10) knows how to capitalize on that guilt and torment us.
Here’s the advice I want to offer: look around at your life this week for some niggling area (or huge challenge) that needs your attention, but for which you have no motivation in your heart. Start with prayer: ask God to help you find fresh reasons for tackling this area. Then, seek to harness your Greater Yes and use its power to address just one area of your life this week as an experiment.
Though you might have a mess the size that I did in mind, I’d counsel you at first to make the exchange small enough to be realistic. For instance, let’s say that you love to sew or do other crafts, but never get the chance, given your busy season of life. And, let’s also say that you need to clean out the kids’ drawers and closets in order to change over clothing for the upcoming colder weather. Try this: ask your husband if he’ll help you. Plan to clean one of those closets during the week ahead because he’s agreed to take the kids on a field trip and give you all of next Saturday afternoon to sew your little heart out. Start early in the week, and remind yourself that there’s a tangible reward coming if you can just get over the starting hump!
Or, say you love to read fiction and never get time, and you know there’s that pile of school papers that need correcting and filing. Alrighty: harness your love for reading to that paperwork. Plan that you’ll do 15 minute attacks on that paperwork per day, and reward yourself with reading two chapters of an exciting new book that you’ve been wanting to peruse. Hold that line: if there’s a day with no filing (which can happen in a busy homeschool environment), then there will be no reading! But, if you manage to find a way to squeeze in that paperwork each day, then you get to read!
What you may find, as I have found in this recent cleaning out of my shed, is the unexpected sense of delight and satisfaction in the job well done. For me, cleaning that shed has become a delight in itself that is now only heightened by the anticipation of enjoying a barn this winter. I’m finding things that were lost, throwing out junk, and seeking order emerge from chaos. All of this delights me and keeps me coming back to do more. Similarly for you, tackling some of those ignored corners of your life may not only cleanse a guilty conscience, but the task may become a joy in itself! Try it and see: pick one small area to tackle, and think of a corresponding delight that will give you fresh motivation to do what’s right to the glory of God, and as an example to the small people around you who will watch, notice, and learn from your example.