The Eighteenth Letter: St. Francis Didn’t Have Toddlers


Dear Daughters,

I recently heard an apocryphal story about St. Francis of Assisi:

One day, while working in his garden, Francis was approached by someone and asked what he would do if he found out that he would die before sunset. Francis replied, “I would finish hoeing my garden.”

I love this story.

I really do.

There’s beauty in understanding that the task at hand, however small or trivial, is what you are called to be doing in that moment.

There is beauty in attention to good work, complete work.

There is beauty in feeling the dirt under your fingernails, piling up a basket of peppers and tomatoes, seeing the freshly turned-over ground when you’ve pulled out a row of weeds, smelling the basil you’ve pinched off, the cilantro that’s gone to seed. This is God’s creation.

But let’s be real.

I would totally not finish hoeing my garden.

I would not clean a toilet, not wash dishes, not run the vacuum, not if I knew I were dying. I would not pick up toys or fold laundry. And I certainly wouldn’t go out and weed my garden.

I wouldn’t take time to cook food. And I probably wouldn’t exercise. Because then I would need to get a shower and that would be using up valuable time.

I wouldn’t sit around on my rear and watch TV either; don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I would be a lazy bum, but I wouldn’t do menial and mindless things.

It’s hard for me to see those day-to-day practical and necessary things of life as important enough to do if I knew my time was limited. Because right now, in this season, I have a hard time not seeing those things as ultimately life-sucking.

So, what would I do? Snuggle. Laugh. Take lots of pictures. Definitely order Thai food for dinner. Go outside and not put on sunscreen. Maybe eat cookie dough right out of the frig.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

What I’ve been thinking about recently is how to balance being a good steward of my time, that is, keeping the Most Important Things at the top of my priority list, with remaining attentive to the everyday, boring things I need to get done.

Because, to me at least, those aren’t the same things.

But I have this hunch, this sort of feeling deep in my chest, that there’s more connecting the Most Important Things to the Everyday Boring Things than I’m usually willing to recognize.

Because that’s what this story of Francis suggests, girls. That dirty, annoying, frustrating, or just plain old boring tasks can actually give our lives meaning. We can find God there. We can find purpose and vocation there.

I believe that. I do.

Or think I do.

But I’m not really in that place right now.


Your Momma