Thank God for Dirty Laundry?

And so this is the post in which I air some of our family’s dirty laundry. That is, if posting pictures of dirty laundry counts as airing it.


Everybody has dirty laundry, but some of us do have bigger, stinkier piles than others. Just imagine the big, stinky pile of laundry the Pilgrim women faced on their first “wash day” once the Mayflower finally reached land. After several months at sea, and with so much sickness on board, the foul smell must have been unbearable.

I remember my own wash days being especially loathsome when my daughters were very young and nearly every day was wash day. And nearly everything I washed was small, pink and heavily stained in multiple places. Or it was large and wet and demanding my attention in the middle of the night.

Somewhere along the way, these two little girls started helping me sort and fold more and more clothes, and slowly I began to dread the piles less and less. And then somewhere along the way, God gave me the wildest encouragement in regard to dirty laundry.

Be thankful for your dirty laundry.

Thankful? For dirty laundry? Clean laundry, yes. But the message was to be thankful for the dirty laundry. Really?

Yes, really.

This load of wild encouragement was washed brighter with the perspective that not having dirty laundry would mean we have no clothes. Some families we know in Ethiopia are hardly able to clothe their children. It is only by the grace of God that my children, my husband and I have any clothes to wear. It is only by the grace of God we have this pile of dirty clothes that fit our bodies and keep us warm.

Be thankful for your dirty laundry.

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This wild encouragement to thank God for dirty laundry was also rinsed in the perspective that all the moms we know in Nicaragua wash their family’s clothes in a nearby river. It is only by the grace of God that my family has clean, hot water, scented detergent, a washing machine, a dryer and baskets to contain the pile. It is only by the grace of God that I have hands and arms and legs capable of hauling those baskets to and fro, switching those loads in and out, and folding those endless piles of clothes.

Be thankful for your dirty laundry.

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Tumbling around with this wild encouragement was also the thought that half of this laundry keeps getting regularly exchanged for the next size up. Those little arms and legs and feet who wear it are growing. Someday those legs and feet will walk right out the door and move into apartments near laundry mats or even homes of their own, with washers and dryers of their own. The responsibility of scrubbing grass stains out of size 6x Levi’s was only available to me for a limited time, a time that I should treasure. Someday the baskets won’t be nearly so full.

Be thankful for your dirty laundry.

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So yes, as wild and backward as it seems, I’m really thankful for our dirty laundry. And somehow, being grateful for stinky mismatched socks and stained hand towels fraying around the edges makes the mundane task a little more meaningful. The next cycle, then, is to determine what to do with such gratitude for dirty laundry.

Do I neatly fold up my gratitude and try to somehow save it for the next season?

Do I carefully hang up my gratitude for a special occasion?

Author Ann Voskamp asks,

How are you changing the world because you are so grateful? What if gratitude always meant a question mark — asking how will you let your gratitude to Christ mark the world for Christ?”

How can I change the world today because I am so grateful?

Maybe I can gather up clothing items for this — The Big Bundle Up — to benefit our neighbors in Wisconsin? Or gather coats for the local coat drive? Or maybe I could make a donation to Forgotten Children, a ministry that collects, packs and ships used children’s clothing overseas to help orphans truly in need of these basic necessities.

How can I wear my gratitude today for the glory of God?

How will you wear your gratitude today?

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” -Colossians 3:12-17


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