Yeah, I went there.
And I didn't pick that title just to grab your attention.
There is actually some good truth there.
The good truth is that when your child wakes you up on a Monday morning to inform you that they threw up, you get to start your week with really clean carpet, bathroom floors, and toilets.
Yep, my sweet little Merry succumbed to the same stomach virus that had Travis throwing up in his tent at the Cub Scout Cuboree this past weekend. Fortunately for me, my hunky hubby had rinsed off most of the damage before they got home so all I had to do was put the soiled items in the washing machine and they came out good as new.
All of this cleaning up of vomit-ish stuff reminds me of an important lesson.
Often in life, it is all about perspective.
I could have chosen to get a bad attitude about the whole thing. I could have felt sorry for myself, resented my husband that he got to leave for work and I had to stay home and deal with it, and I could have let it start my week off with a dark cloud hanging over me. Instead, I chose to see the good in it.
Now believe me, I don't always make this good choice. There are plenty of times that I let my attitude stink.
But maybe part of my positive attitude had to do with something I read yesterday. God is growing me up. I really am a lazy person who used to be a big time whiner. Just ask my husband. He can confirm that.
One of the things that God is using to change me is not only my involvement with missions, but the stories of other missionaries.
When I've been in Africa or other places serving, I've used plenty of squatty potties; eaten fish swarming with flies; visited hospitals so primitive and dirty that we wouldn't want our pets to be treated there; and seen women struggling to make a nice home out of sticks, mud, salvaged wood, sheet metal, and pieces of cardboard. Yesterday, I read a blog post that was fresh in my mind as I placed the soiled clothes in the washing machine and used my electric carpet cleaner to take care of the mess.
Here's what an Adventures in Missions team member, Melody Brewer, had to say about doing laundry in Tanzania without the luxury of electrical appliances or even running water:
Washing clothes takes a while. Especially when you are washing 40 bed sheets. By hand.
Working at Camp Joshua Christian School for the past week has been wonderful. On Friday, we asked the headmaster what we could do to help today. He asked if we would be willing to wash some clothes, "Sure!" was our response. We were told Isaac, a 12 year old boy, would help us begin.
The first step was to draw water out of the 50 foot well with a bucket and rope. It was exhausting to say the least considering we had to make probably six or seven rounds of drawing the water. When we finished getting water, Isaac had brought the detergent. He proceeded to take a handful of the powder and put it in the bucket. And then another handful. And then another. And then he just dumped the rest of the box's contents into the already sudsy water. I just looked at my teammates, knowing this was the soapiest water to ever be used. Isaac took his hand and mixed the water. Soap bubbles were flowing over the sides of the bucket. So we began to wash. One sheet at a time. The bright pink sheets are difficult to wash, not only because of their size, but because when they get wet it is very difficult to tell where the spots were to get them out, so you just kind of have to guess. Two of us were washing and two of us were rinsing. We realized that rinsing in the one bucket of clean water was not going to cut it considering the sheets were still slimy from the soap. So we proceeded to rinse again. And again. And again. After rinsing these 40 bedsheets (plus other clothes) four times we gave up. We decided to just hang them up on the line to dry, they were going to be starchy and stiff anyways.
So after washing for over two hours, we finished the laundry the headmaster had asked us to do. Jacob, one of our local friends, asked us why in the world they allowed us mzungus (white people) to wash clothes, considering all we do is "play with them" and not actually wash them. But, we did it. Forty bedsheets, numerous clothes, way too much soap, and four rinsings later, we finished. Welcome to laundry in Tanzania.
The thing is, these young missionaries are only having to do this short-term. In the not too distant future, they'll be like me, back in America with the wonder of electricity, modern appliances, and clean water straight from a faucet.
But I bet, like me, they won't forget the women and children who have no choice but to draw water from a well and scrub their clothes by hand every time they have to do the laundry. And it changes your perspective.
Two principles usually apply to any negative situation.
First of all, don't complain because in almost any case, it could be worse. Yeah, I was cleaning up vomit, but at least I had time saving devices to make the process a whole lot easier. I also had a husband who had done his part the day before. I wasn't trying to clean up a mess with no running water. I wasn't having to just scrub it with a brush. And the kids sickness got spaced out so I wasn't dealing with two sets of messes at the same time. And I could go on and on with "worse than this" scenarios.
Second, God promises us that out of everything, He can bring good when we love and trust Him. That's Romans 8:28 by the way. Now sometimes, this principle is lived out in the practical. As I said at the beginning of this post, because my girl got sick all over the carpet and bathroom, I was motivated to get things good and clean. I even cleaned a few non-vomitose spots in the process. But I have to choose to see the good and be thankful for it. Sometimes, the good goes beyond the surface. The circumstances might actually stay bad or even get worse. But God has promised that He'll use even the bad --- even the "worse" --- to make me more like Jesus if I'll only trust Him and follow Him.
Now that is something I can be thankful for ... even if it sometimes involves a whole lot of vomit.
To read more about the missionary adventures of Melody Brewer and her team in Tanzania, visit their blog: http://expedition.adventures.org/