I have lived in this house six years longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else, including my childhood home. I’ve discovered, belatedly, that the frequent moves of the first half of my married life served to keep our belongings thinned down. Frankly, we had a lot of stuff that just wasn’t worth the effort and expense to move, so we shed belongings every couple of years.
But now, after all the years in this house, closets and shelves and drawers and cupboards are stuffed with stuff. You know, the things you stick away thinking, I might want that or This could come in handy.
My normal commitments don’t allow me to go all out and dedicate two months straight to cleaning everything out, which is probably what it would take, but I’ve tried to sustain forward movement by just tackling one closet or cupboard at a time, usually while I listen to an audiobook.
Sometimes I feel like the Old Testament woman with the unending jar of oil, or Lucy and the wardrobe with no back. I cannot believe the amount of stuff crammed into one shelf or drawer. No wonder I can’t find things. I can open the exact right door but never see the item I’m looking for.
Admit it. You know what I’m talking about.
Recently a pantry style closet in the corner of my dining room came up for its turn. Tablecloths. Small appliances. Christmas dishes. And I really have no idea where all those vases came from. Somehow, they are breeding in the dark.
I dutifully went through them, setting aside the ones I didn’t even remember I owned or hadn’t used in the last two years. (That’s sort of my new standard for household items.)
I came to a pretty lilac colored vase, which I remembered I had but had not held in my hands for a while. On one side it says, “Thank you.”
The flowers that originally occupied the vase came from a friend with whom I had closely co-labored in ministry for several years. I think we were equally thankful for the opportunity to be shoulder-to-shoulder in a particular season of the church we shared at the time. It wasn’t an easy season. Rather, it was fraught with challenges and turning points as together we tried to make the most faithful decisions we could and celebrate small victories.
Now, as I fill the vase with flowers cut from my yard, the pretty little square that says, “Thank you” reminds me to also offer thanks to God for the journey that continues to shape my faith and service in whatever season I find myself.
Thanks be to God.