It’s not the cold, snow, and wind that get to me. 

Not our
house’s perpetually crunchy, dirty floors. 

Not even the
smell of the litter box and the cat food scattered near and far. 

No, in
winter, it’s the laundry that gets to me most, causing my spirit to

It’s the
pile in the twins’ room and the way the bathroom’s carpeted with cast-off
clothes and towels. 

It’s the
three baskets of unfolded clean laundry and two more of dirty all waiting
for my attention while the washer and dryer sit, still full. 

It’s piles
folded for six people spread across the dining room table – stacks of p.j.s,
pants, and shirts that refuse to stay on their hangers.  

And, of
course, it’s the endless pile of left-over, never-matching socks, the odds and
ends, that even if I tackle the whole mountain, squirreling it all away in open
drawers and closets, still remain.

Looking at
the laundry piles first thing in the morning can cause my heart to sink.  Drowning in the unwashed, I feel lost, like a
swimmer caught an the under-tow watching the rapidly shrinking shore-line

The laundry
seems to whisper to me – you have no help, you will never catch up, you are

And, in this
way, I suffer.  I feel alone,
overwhelmed, sinking.

In this way,
my life is hard.


Listening to the radio while driving, I heard an interview with a woman in Yemen
where the government has recently collapsed. 
She and her neighbors carry their wash, daily, to a water-source in the
center of the country’s capital city. 
There they stand washing, while others fill buckets with drinking water
to haul to their houses.  There is no

her situation, the woman concludes, “Life is very hard now.”

She and her neighbors suffer in a way that makes her description “very hard” entirely accurate.  Hearing her
words I wonder whether her laundry, her desperate situation,
whispers to her in the early morning hours.  

my drive, I think of my own laundry piles waiting at home, the bright white
washer and dryer, the sun-filled room in which they sit, and the electricity
which keeps them humming at the touch of a button.


In the past,
such an interview would bring with it the temptation to write off my own small
sufferings as insignificant at best and signs of my own selfish entitlement at
On facebook we acknowledge the
difference between suffering and Suffering with the hashtag

this comparison, this acknowledgement of privilege, provides a much needed
perspective – yes, I’m drowning in laundry, but isn’t that in part because
I’ve been gifted with four lovely children? 
And isn’t the fact that I have more than one set of clothes for each of
these children, a fact which precipitates a great increase in laundry,
something also to be thankful for?

sometimes this comparison is helpful for the way it reminds me that while I do suffer,
there is still much cause for thanksgiving.

More often,
though, I’ve used such comparisons as a way to push off my own needs, to in
fact, separate myself from suffering. 
Even, at times, to punish myself for suffering.

“You think
this is hard?  What’s wrong with
you?  People all over the world have it
much worse.  You don’t hear that poor
woman in Yemen complaining,”
goes the inner dialogue.

The problem
with this, I now see, is that it hardens my heart and introduces the idea that
one’s situation has to be “bad enough” to truly warrant compassion.  When I deny my own suffering,
I take dangerous steps toward a heart that is primed to deny the suffering of
And, worse yet, this denial is
fed by a necessary distancing – to deny my own suffering is
indeed to find myself alone and separated from those with whom I may have more
than I think in common.


What does
this have to do with Lent?

Lent and
laundry.  Lent and suffering and

Lent offers
us the opportunity to embrace our humanity, to walk with Jesus for awhile
in the wilderness as we draw closer to the cross.  In Lent, we embrace some small measure of
suffering for the way that it awakens us to need, to desire, to the questions
our own suffering raises.

We give up
or take on some small thing in order that our lives would be opened further –
to the suffering of Christ and others, to compassion and reconciliation, to a
deeper acceptance of Christ’s suffering on our behalf.


My friend
came and did nine loads of laundry for me three days ago.  Today I’ve done three or four more and so the
story goes, on and on, socks and shirts and pants for a family of six. 

Standing in
the laundry room, pulling cold, wet clothes from the washer and cleaning out
the lint trap, I think of her – the woman in Yemen.  I think of us together, as sisters in the
battle against laundry, in the battle to keep something clean and in
  I think of our despair at the
disorder of our lives, the way it can be both “hard” and “very hard.”  

In remembering her, I remember myself and
remembering myself, I remember her and I am no longer alone. 

Maybe this also is true of Lent. 

In our small
sufferings and surrenders, may we find ourselves reminded of Christ.  

In the “hard” that is our daily lot, may we
be reminded of the “very hard.”  

remembering Christ, may we remember ourselves and remembering ourselves, may we
remember Christ and find that we are never truly alone.


This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog reflecting on suffering during the Lent season of 2015.  To read more articles in this series, go to  To find out more about MennoNerds in general, go to

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