There was a day when all the laundry was done. I mean DONE. Everything was washed, dried, folded, and put away, and the baskets were empty.

That had been kind of a pipe dream of mine. The day when all the laundry was done. I got to live the dream! I got to experience the exhilaration and heady joy!

But it didn’t feel like I imagined. There wasn’t complete satisfaction. In fact, there was more than a little echo of emptiness. I was honestly surprised that achieving momentary success in this one overwhelming area didn’t come with more fulfillment.

Stephen Covey once said that efficiency isn’t the goal. Effectiveness is.

I’ve never been a particularly streamlined person. So I regularly get determined bouts of “efficiency.” Just this morning I’ve adopted a new checklist for each of my kids, so they can have a tangible, daily way to mark their school progress. Oh, I do love that. I love tools that make things run more smoothly.

But, in the end, I have to remember that my goal for my kids isn’t a streamlined schedule.

In the end I long for each of my kids to live out their purpose. To know God and to make Him known in their beautifully unique way.

And a checklist on a big index card could be one happy tool to that end. But it’s only a happy tool to the degree that it helps accomplish the main purpose.

So there is value in keeping the house clean, the meals on time and nutritious, and all the homeschool boxes checked daily. But it’s not the main goal.

There are days when the cursive paper isn’t completed, but instead I’ve spent an hour snuggled up with my daughter reading “Little Women.” Part of my hope for this tender girl is that as she grows she will learn to be kind to all sorts of people, even to those who may hurt her. So, as we get lost in the world of our friends the March sisters, we talk about Amy’s amazing feat when she chose to forgive and serve her enemy at the art fair. We marvel at how the four sisters cheerfully gave their Christmas breakfast to a poor family. And this hour deepens Bekah’s resolve to be different from most people and to stand up for kindness.

So, it’s not efficient. We weren’t able to check off the cursive box that day. But it was effective in helping to mold her heart a tiny bit more into the purposes He has for her.

It’s not an easy call, of course. The tools of efficiency are a great boon in helping me to be effective.

But when I’m tossed in the turbulence of self-reproach as my systems come unglued, or maybe worse, when I’m self-satisfied with a smoothly operating machine, I just want to check in with the One who clearly defines what is actually effective in my little world.

May I not squander these precious, formative years of raising my amazing people by simply checking boxes and keeping the laundry basket empty.

May I revel in the many messes and pray that some of them affect progress in important life goals.

May my kids appreciate order and efficiency to the degree that it helps them be God’s.

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