The Shoe Box

I was cleaning my room the other day. You know, the kind of cleaning
where everything comes out from under the bed, the drawers get emptied, the desk gets organized and all that! I’m looking for a specific piece of paper. I was pretty sure it wasn’t in my room, but you can’t prove it till you go the distance. And…truth be told, it needed that kind of cleaning anyway. I made a nice size garbage bag of “stuff” to throw out, and a bag of “stuff” to donate. I got a little sidetracked when I got to our bathroom. It sort of needed that “on your hands and knees” kind of scrubbing from winter dust settling and the house being closed up in the winter. It really was one of those deep cleaning kind of days.

In the process, I was gathering little kid toys. I grabbed a big empty shoe box and as I cleaned areas of my room, I picked up all the little toys that generally seem to migrate to my room. Since Lexie and Livvie don’t have their things where they sleep, not enough dresser space, they tend to bring their toys into my room. I know that this too shall pass, except for that moment in the dark when I step on the sharp corner of a Duplo or Polly Pocket! I found Nerf darts and Barbie clothes and Duplos and enough other toys to fill the shoe box. I called the girls to come put it all away. No sooner had I turned around and back again and I realized that most of the toys were out of the shoe box, laying on the floor right next to it. Olivie was still there and I said, “what are you doing? I just had those all thrown in the box!” She looked at me and said very patiently, “I’m organizing it.” I looked over her shoulder to peer into the box and there were all the Nerf darts neatly lined up next to each other. The Barbie’s were laying side by side and the Duplos were stuck together to make one toy, not many. She was right. She was organizing.

The thought struck me how there are moments for hurrying up and throwing everything in a box, like right before company comes! And there are moments for deep cleaning and organizing. It’s likely the same way I approach scripture. Some days, I just need a word! A word from THE Word! I need to go to one spot, re-read it for myself and use it right then and there. But other times, I need to learn and grow and dig and sort it all out. I need to arrange it chronologically with other scriptures and compare them to each related reference.

Thank God it’s ok to do it either way. Thank God, scripture is applicable both the moment I need it and at the times where I need to dissect and learn and grow from it. Lately, I’ve been in dissecting mode, studying lessons for an upcoming women’s retreat and for a series I plan to teach over a few weeks time. But I don’t question for a moment that it’s available to me at the exact moment I need it too. What isn’t ok? Not to do either!


Disappearing Ink

I just poured my coffee for the morning and started filling my tub.  This is my quiet place.  With windows on each side of the corner it sits in, the sun will come up while I study.  I gather up the few things I always take with me. My pen, my reading glasses (yes, that is now the norm), and my Bible, my notepad and a Sudoku puzzle book.  The Sudoku is my reward at the end when I can fill in the blanks without thinking about anything else.  Now if I could figure out how to take my laptop in, that’d be awesome!  The Bible I take in my tub looks like it’s been through a war.  It is separating from its binding and pieces are coming off the cover.   It is now twice as thick as when I got it, or so it seems.  But it has been the Bible I have used for 29 years. I once broke down and bought a new one, bemoaning the notes that wouldn’t be in the margins or the familiarity or the ease in which the pages separate.  I picked out what would probably be my companion for the next 25 years, nice leather cover, gold leaf on the pages, even the version I like.  I took it in the tub with me the next morning prepared to start breaking it in.  Within ten minutes, I dropped it in the water!  Never before has that happened!  It was ruined instantly.  As thin as the pages are on a Bible, have you ever tried to peel apart all 1,392 wet pages?!  It can’t happen.  So I continue my study with the Bible given to me from my grandparents when I graduated high school almost 30 years ago.


This morning I contemplated adding something to my usual tub fare.  As I made my coffee, I noticed a loaf of three cheese bread sitting on the counter and thought for just a minute how nice it would be to have some toast in my tub today.  And then I remembered how much a little useless piece of carbohydrate will do to my day.  I’m not sure how old any of you are, but I figured out a short while back when you hit this mark in life, one slice of bread is about as many calories as three English muffins, a donut, and a candy bar at lunch used to be when I was 18.  I think when you hit mid 40’s, you could start to eat like a bird and still gain weight.  If I’m going to eat something, it needs to count for some much needed vitamins or proteins!  I managed to leave the toast behind and will opt for some yogurt later.  But I’m suddenly feeling a theme this morning and age seems to have something to do with it. 


I can see for the first time how important it was that my family instilled and drilled scripture into my head when I was little, because at this spot in my life, my brain feels like mush and my body slows to a snail’s pace, (I’m praying it’s all going to change when I come out the hormonal “other side”!), and I can hardly commit my grocery list to memory!  I know why scripture says in Psalm 119:11, “Thy word I have hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”  It’s because when you get to that menopausal state, if it were in your brain you wouldn’t know how to find it! 


I recently went to a conference where I felt amazed and confirmed in what God has called me to do in life.  It was heart changing!  And then I came home and read a blog I wrote a little over a year ago.  I had already discovered all that!  But apparently, I forgot!  I’m not “old” by any stretch of the imagination…well maybe to my kids.  But as soon as you hit the mid 40’s, everything has to become a much more diligent purposeful process.  No more empty carbs of life in general!  Everything has to count.  So I’m off to my tub to get in the Word and soak my mind and heart for the day.  Have you had a moment to do the same?  Be purposeful about it today.  Study it deep into your heart where it has a chance to stay long after it leaves your mind!

Figuring it Out….

As a momma of ten, you’d think I’d have it figured out when it comes to raising kids.  There should hardly be a situation we haven’t seen or experienced with kids from 25 to 5!  Heaven forbid we should ever figure it out though and own the secret!  Can you imagine, knowing exactly how to raise a child and never making a mistake?  That would be a best-selling book!

Up until now, we’ve had many things that were similar in the process of raising the children.  They all were nursed babies, they all grew up playing outside, they’ve all had pizza crust as their first food (yes, that was a daddy encouraged right-of-passage!) And till now, everyone potty trained quite naturally at two year’s old.  But wouldn’t you know it, right at the tail end, is one little one who hasn’t followed the mold.  She is truly the youngest, even though she’s a twin, and even though she’s five, the process has not been mastered.  The twins have done everything the same.  They have always weighed within an ounce of each other, from beginning to now.  They like mostly the same foods, they dislike the same foods.  They love outdoors, they love animals.  One sleeps first, the other sleeps the latest, but always the same amount of sleep.  They got their teeth at the same time.  But… just doesn’t want to poop in the potty.  It all started with those automatic flush toilets at stores and rest stops along our travels.  The potty training that started off well just hit a brick wall.  Now she will “pee” on the potty just fine.  But “poop” is a whole other ball game.  I’ve never had one of these before!

I was just getting to the end of my rope one day when I heard a Christian family radio program announce that they were doing a Question and Answer session that day.  I listened to the first caller, “  I have a 5 year old who won’t poop on the potty.”  Oooooooh…..I was listening to every word!  Surely, my answer had come!  The world would be better tomorrow and there would be no more washing out poopy pants!  No more frustration!  “Yes…yes…..what should I do?”

The child psychologist that was answering all the questions said, “Well, you’re not going to like what I’m going to say.  This is a battle you can not win.  NEVER enter a battle you can not win!”  Seriously???!!  My hope and excitement just dropped like an elevator with no cable.  “You’re child is completely in control of this situation.  There is no way you can exert control over this function of his body.  Don’t make it a battle.  He won’t go poop in his pants when he’s 8 years old.”     I wanted to scream with my fear of the future…”yes they will!”  With the wind escaping my lungs, the realization set in, she’s right.  I am trying to control someone else’s bodily function.  What was I thinking!?

I thought about Mary, Jesus’ mother.  She had the perfect child.  But I bet she wasn’t a perfect mother.  In fact, I think of the time Jesus was hanging in the temple and she and her family had traveled on for almost a day before they realized he was missing.  This was the mother that God himself had chosen for His son!

Luke 2:41-51   Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this?Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Even the mother of Jesus didn’t have it all figured out.  Now my kids aren’t perfect like Jesus and I know I am no special mommy among mommies, like Mary.  But what a relief to know I may never figure it all out and that’s ‘ok!’.  I may never get it all right.  This may be the last of ten, and the first to poop in her pants for what seems like forever, but God didn’t pick out perfect mommies, He picked out real ones, with real frustrations who make real mistakes who function in real life.  I’ll have to remind myself, I’m certain, as I’m scrubbing out pants, but at least we will both be less frustrated.  I promise I’ll rejoice when this phase ends, but in the meantime…I’m still learning…God can still use me… child at a time.


Today we’ve received yet another batch of snow.  Now it isn’t one of the big ones, mind you.  But about this point in the game, it’s snow nonetheless.  The topic of the weather around here is huge.  It’s one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record for our neck of the woods.  In fact no state has more snow and ice per square mile currently than our state.  And it has been cold, so very cold. So about this point, everyone here is just a little weary of more fluffy, cold, white stuff.  The first few snows are beautiful.  But with such bitter cold temperatures, the snow has gotten icy.  You can walk a few steps on top of the couple of feet that are still on the ground and then suddenly, the crusty top gives way and you find yourself with snow up to your thighs. 


Now here in Michigan down in the cities, the snow on the side of the road turns an ugly grey and speckled black.  It’s not very pretty.  But up here in the hills, on the back roads, it’s a consistent white.  With two ice storms throughout this winter season so far, trees in our pretty woods are broken with their light blond, bare soft wood showing through.  And as I look across the snow toward those woods, I see dotted dark brown blobs on the top of the snow.  You might wonder what these brown blobs are from a distance.  With no pattern to it and with some areas heavily dotted and others bare, from the windows you would probably not identify it quickly. But you have only to meet our three big Labradors to have the light bulb go off.


I’ve wanted to head out and clean up after them, but the bitter cold temperatures and below zero wind chills find me putting it off, day after day.  I’m praying a sunny warm day comes quickly before the multitude of blobs sink beneath yet another layer of fresh snow.  If I wait till true spring comes, what a mess there will be.  But if I can catch it layer by layer, I might have a chance of staying on top of it. 


Last weekend, I was blessed to escape the miserable cold and head to Houston, TX, for a fabulous “Women of Faith” conference.  The weather was warm and sunny.  My friend and I worked on our Bible study by the sun around the hotel pool.  We walked a lot the first day,  soaking up the warm air and getting some much needed outdoor exercise.  I felt relieved of my winter coat and gloves, my scarf and the two pair of socks I normally wear to keep my feet warm.  Just shedding those layers of clothing is freeing and movement was easy and comfortable.


Layers.  More layers than I cared to think about seemed to fill my head that weekend.  Just as the snow covers our dogs’ poop, layer by layer, so you don’t see the cumulative amount and just as the multiple layers of clothing cover me so you don’t see the shivering human inside…life tends to brings layers of experiences that eventually cover over the person we once were.  During the conference, I had opportunity to look back over the layers that culminate in my life, to this point.  I realized that eventually spring comes.  And all will be seen for what it is.  Slowly, the layers are peeled back and we are seen for who we are.  Under all the layers, the original person and all the experiences have either shrunk us under the weight, or grown us up because of it.  I’m not one for major personal revelations or serious deep feelings.  In fact, I shy away from that often.  But there was no escaping last weekend.  The Lord really chose that moment to peel back much of what covered me.  And hard and difficult as the process seemed, as unexpected as the depth of the feelings were…there I was…me for who I was, and who I’ve become.  Truth be told, it was difficult to experience feeling to that extent.  But I also realized, that when the layers are removed, one thing still remains covering over it all.  It’s almost see-through really.  Right over the original is a layer of love and grace from my Maker.  So the original looks a bit better than I remember!  I thank God for the message of the weekend.  Like me without all my winter garb, I walk a little freer, a little easier, lighter than before.  Seeing who I am for who I am, but grateful for the covering that is so close to my original, I can almost see through it.  It’s an amazing God we have!  I had no idea that’s where the weekend was going.  But what a relief!  Spring isn’t to be feared, it’s to be welcomed!  Peeling back the layers might be difficult, but the lighter version of ourselves is so much easier to move around.  Now, I don’t think that works exactly the same in my backyard.  I’m sure spring will find us many more brown blobs than anticipated.  But once it’s all cleaned up….the green grass will move freely in the sun and the wind, both beautiful and welcome.  Any layers you need to peel back?  Get down to the grace of the Master and be free!  Go on! 


John 10:10  “…..but I have come that they may have life and that they might have it more abundantly…”    Amen!