Thursday, August 28, 2003

Dust if You Must

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” ~ Luke 10:41, 42

Two weekends ago, my daughter-in-law, Lisa and I drove to Ames, Iowa to attend a Women of Faith conference with my sister Connie from Minnesota and sister Peggy from Des Moines.

I don’t know if any of you have heard of the Women of Faith conferences, but if you ever get a chance to attend one I would highly recommend it. I had never been to one before, but a friend of mine gave me some free tickets so we decided to give it a try.

The five women who make up the Women of Faith team are: Luci Swindoll, author of I Married Adventure and Celebrating Life; Marilyn Meberg (they call her “The Professor” because she holds master’s degrees in English and Psychology), author of The Zippered Heart and I’d Rather Be Laughing; Sheila Walsh, author of All That Really Matters and Life is Tough But God is Faithful; Patsy Clairmont, author of The Hat Box, The Shoe Box and Mending Your Heart in a Broken World; and last but not least, Thelma Wells (author of Girl, Have I Got Good News for You! and Bumblebees Fly Anyway). You can learn more about the Women of Faith team and their conference schedule on their web site at

All of the women were dynamic speakers with a great sense of humor, but Patsy Clairmont was my personal favorite. She was so full of spunk. Patsy told about the time she was reading to one of her grandsons when suddenly she just couldn’t contain the love she felt for him. So she gave him a big hug and said, “I could just eat you up!” Well, his little eyes became as big as saucers. Then he pointed his “instructional finger” at her and said, “Grandma! You….be….nice!”

Patsy also recited one of my favorite poems called Dust if you Must – a popular poem that has made the rounds on the email circuit. My sister Peggy had never heard it before, however. She said she learned a lot because he had just been thinking about how she couldn’t wait to retire so she could dust! We all had a big laugh about that.

Dust if You Must
Author unknown

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
to paint a picture, or write a letter?
Bake a cake, or plant a seed,
ponder the difference between want and need?
Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
with rivers to swim and mountains to climb!
Music to hear, and books to read,
friends to cherish and life to lead.
Dust if you must, but the world's out there
with the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
this day will not come ‘round again.
Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go, and go you must,
You, yourself, will make more dust!

With four boys in the house (five, including Keen), I had several plaques that reminded me of how futile it was for me to try to keep my house perfectly clean. Here are my favorites: Cleanliness is next to impossible; Cleaning the house while children are growing, is like shoveling the walk while it is still snowing (Phyllis Diller); I cleaned my house yesterday; I wish you could have seen it.”

When I was growing up, I recall a plaque my mother hung in our home which read: Come in, sit down, relax converse; our house doesn’t always look like this, sometimes it’s even worse!

Here’s a poem I wrote about this subject back in 1996.


My life with kids is not as clean
as it would probably be
Nothing I clean is clean for long
as you can plainly see.

There are fingerprints on the windows
games and toys strewn down the hall
Sometimes I wonder why I bother
to clean the house at all!

For kids leave a trail of crumbs and dirt
wherever they may roam
So daily I remind myself,
this isn't a house, it's a home.

My life with kids is much noisier
than it would probably be
With constant questions like, "Mom can I?"
and "When are we going to eat?"

There's rarely a moment of peace or quiet,
when they all talk, it sounds like a roar.
If someone eavesdropped at supper time,
they'd think we had nine kids, not four!

The brothers, they love to wrestle
they laugh, and scream and run
And though I want to tell them to go outside
I just hate to spoil their fun!

So my life with kids is not clean or quiet
but none of that really matters
I'd give up those things any day,
for the love, the joy and the laughter.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a few excerpts from a piece written by the late Erma Bombeck.

If I had my life to live over again
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the
carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room
and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted
to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose
before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried
about grass stains.

There would have been more "I love you's"… more "I'm sorry's" ... but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it ... live it...and never give it back.

Keen, Kirk, Jared, & Josh