The jackhammer pounded the garage floor all day. Periodically, a saw blade screeched and the jackhammer took a brief rest. Next, the old floor was broken up and carried away by the bucket full, into the trailer and then driven to the landscape place and tossed into the awaiting pile. Saw, jackhammer, gather, fill, load, drive, unload, and drive back. It was back-breaking, monotonous work that went on for hours and the heat that July day was unrelenting. Thankfully, the new cement would come the next day. A new garage floor! There was an end in sight after all. Maybe that's what allowed the men to laugh, joke and seemingly enjoy themselves, in spite of the sweaty brows, calloused hands and sore backs that were sure to follow.
Much of our lives are filled with monotonous tasks. Things we must do every day -- brushing our teeth, showering, eating, waiting in line-ups, changing diapers, cutting fingernails, homework, and cleaning are a few duties which pop into my mind immediately. Not such a big deal, are they? Seasons come and go as we all know and even the most treacherous journeys have a decline at some point, right? I wonder," How can I find joy in the midst of these everyday duties?" Where I am going with this? After all, kids grow up don't they? Seasons change? Some do, some don't.
Kirk and I have four children. Lily is 13, Russell is 12 and our twins, Audrey and Annie, are nearly 10 years old (technically). They function at about a 2 year old level and have much less verbal ability than that. We are still changing their diapers and fight to get their teeth brushed twice a day. Both girls used to have very long hair, as they are afraid of scissors. Medication is required to control their seizures and must be given 3-4 times daily. It's a challenge and can cause us to scramble in search of the right show or device, which distract them, so the pills can get down. I used to hover over Annie or Audrey, flashlight in my teeth, clipping their fingernails and toenails, as they slept. Vacuuming and showering were primarily only done when someone else could watch the girls, since both noises can cause upsets. Annie and Audrey are both autistic, globally delayed, and have epilepsy, as a result of having Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). Monotonous tasks are here to stay and may be ours to do forever, in this lifetime. A sobering thought to say the least.
I can't ignore the little plaque hanging in my home: "It is pleasant to labour for those we love". There is something in us, as human beings, which finds pleasure in completing a task for someone else, especially for the ones we love. But joy, in a lifetime of spoon-feeding Audrey or constantly defending myself physically against behavioural outbursts? A tough pill to swallow indeed.
I have wrestled with this for some time now and have needed reassurance from my Heavenly Father that monotonous tasks will not drive me to insanity. During a particularly trying time, I took my own advice and decided to start reading through the Psalms. How familiar David`s words rang in my ears:
"For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime, weeping may remain for a night but rejoicing comes in the morning."(Psalm 30:5) I am encouraged as I read those words and my spirit calms. But how easily I can slip into the sentiments offered in verse 7: "Oh Lord when you favoured me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face I was dismayed." Up and down. My faith is strong but my body and mind are weak.
Haircuts can be monotonous tasks. All of our children have lots of thick hair. Hair brushing and braiding are tasks I do every day. At age 6 and again at 9 years old, our eldest daughter, Lily, had grown and cut her hair and donated it to organizations which make wigs for children affected by cancer. One week, in the summer of 2010 our twins were about to do the same thing, yet they were completely unaware of their act of generosity. Over the years, doing Audrey's hair has been relatively easy, although she has been terrified of scissors and often refuses to comply due to a stubborn streak! She had not had her hair cut in nearly three years. Annie on the other hand has always detested having her hair done and can be sent into a meltdown at the sight of a brush. Taking them for a haircut is no simple task.
I shared my dilemma with my new hairstylist. When she offered to come to the house and cut the girls hair, I was thrilled! I struggled with the idea of donating the twins' hair. Mainly because they had no idea and, they have been through enough...right? Logically, it made complete sense. I kept trying to justify my apathy with the idea that no one expected this of me. Besides, who would care either way?
The morning of the haircut came and I happened upon a daily devotional by Joni Eareckson Tada. Phil 4:1 "Therefore my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord dear friends." I was reminded that every time a person benefits from our life, our account (our joy and crown) is credited in Heaven. That includes my twins! So, who was I to stand in the way of them blessing others, even if they are unaware? Was it so different from how my life should be lived? The things I do should, ultimately, be done in order that someone else might be blessed or their life made better in some way. Whether I saw the blessing or not was beside the point.
The construction of our new addition has ceased but the musical toys, iPods and DVD players my twins are obsessed with, play on. Annie and Audrey continue to fill their days with repetitive actions and seemingly monotonous tasks. At times my back aches, my mind is weary from problem-solving and my heart is heavy as I trek through another day with my 10yr old toddlers. It seems the jackhammer may never stop.
As we learn how to manage meltdowns, rejoice at the good reports from the teacher or simply watch our girls play, as other children play; my heart sings and joy floods my soul. Our prayers are heard and answered. At times joy is unspeakable and unexplainable but there is no doubt this joy does not come from within. Joy is not something any human can muster up. It is poured out onto our lives from the source of all life; our Heavenly Father himself by the power of his Holy Spirit. Perhaps there is joy in monotony after all because it's the very thing which is drives us into the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ.