My oldest daughter returned home late last night, after having been away for two months at sleep-over camp.

On my mind now is what is on every mother's mind when her child returns from camp.

Yes, of course, I am thrilled that she is back. I know that over the next few days we will stay up into the late hours of the night as we catch up on all her experiences and adventures. Snuggled up on the couch over hot chocolate or tea, I will eagerly listen to her share and reminisce, as she fills me in on all her new friends.

But, no, that is not what occupies my thoughts at this moment.

And, yes, of course, the fleeting thought has crossed my mind that now my in-house babysitter and right-hand helper has returned. Yes, I considered how now, once again, I will be able to take up my late night strolls with my husband or accept invitations to affairs at a moment's notice.

But, no, that, too, is not on my mind right now.

I am thinking of something far more mundane — what every mother thinks about with the return of her child from sleep-over camp.


Loads and loads of it.

All the suitcases and duffel bags — still unpacked — have been directed straight to the laundry room.

Load after load of whites and darks. Heavily soiled and lightly soiled. Delicate wear and regular cycles.

So I stand, engulfed by the piles on the laundry room floor neatly grouped according to task, water temperature and degree of soil.

And I wonder about Your laundry. Do You, too, have different piles of missions and goals that you allot to different individuals? Do You group Your loads based on respective talents and capabilities? Do You, too, choose the varying life temperatures, the alternate degrees of ruggedness or gentleness, according to Your creatures' cares and needs?

The washing machine whirs incessantly. Around and around it agitates. Stopping here, adding water, rinsing and spinning. Non-stop motion. At times the endless movement seems like pointless repetition. But eventually, I see the laundry exiting, clean and fresh.

And I think of the many aspects of life that seem pointless. Do You ever watch the constant motion and wonder at the necessity of the repetition? Sometimes, only the power of hindsight clues us in on the purpose of life's turns. Sometimes, even that, is lacking. Often, all we have is our trust in You that ultimately everything is for a purpose, and our lives and world will emerge clean.

Then there are those clothes that are so stained or soiled that they require extra treatment. There are the whites that only return to their sparkling whiteness with the addition of strong bleach. There's the deeply ingrained soil that needs to be rubbed and scrubbed with harsh cleansers to erase their stains.

I cringe, as I think of Your bottles of bleach and Your containers of harsh cleansers. I think of the brushes that You use to scrub us. I wince as I think of the many trials, tribulations and challenges or our lives that You use to purify refine and teach us.

And then, once the laundry has been cleaned, dried and folded, there is the special-wear clothing. Those blouses or shirts that get the extra care, reserved for special occasions, when we want to look our absolute best. For those, I spray starch on the collars and I take out the hot iron to press hard against any creases or folds.

I ponder the special people around me who seem to be pressed continuously by Your hot iron. Yet the only crease on their faces is their ever-present smiles. I think about their perpetual words of comfort for others, despite their own predicaments. And I imagine You personally and affectionately tending to them.

So, the task is completed. I can finally sit down to relax. With great effort, the loads of laundry have been washed, dried, folded and put away.

Just as I am thinking that the workload has finally ended, I hear it — a new piece of laundry being dropped into the hamper.

There is still what to do.