By Kim Stokely -
Everyone knows a woman’s purse is a black hole in which a myriad of objects can be lost or found. If she carries a big purse, it can weigh up to thirty pounds and carry the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. A woman who carries a small purse may fool others, but I know she’s mastered the game of Tetris and is probably carrying the same amount of stuff, just packed more economically.
Young mothers often use their purses as supplemental diaper bags. Diapers, wipes, plastic containers of Cheerios and teething rings are often stuffed next to wallets and key chains. I know women who are prepared to survive in the wild for months. Swiss Army knives, water bottles, first aid kits and granola bars; not to mention GPS devices, flares and a box of matches somehow find the room to coexist amid mundane checkbooks and pens in their handbags.
I often feel like I’m reenacting a scene from Mary Poppins when I decide to tackle cleaning out my purse. I may not have a lamp stand like the practically perfect nanny, but I’ve found some mighty strange objects of my own.
This morning, as I waded through the inevitable sea of receipts filling the bottom of my purse, I found a carrot cake muffin. Fortunately, it was still in the take-out bag I’d stuffed it in after lunch with a friend last week. Unfortunately, I could have sent it to the NHL to use as a puck in their next game. I guess I should be thankful it hadn’t exploded into tiny carrot cake pieces of sand. That could have been a real disaster.
Every time I discover something like this I promise to do better next time. I won’t horde receipts as if I want to someday create the world’s largest paper mache′ piñata. I won’t let unwrapped cough drops melt to the bottom of the bag until I have to use a chisel to remove them.
I need to periodically take a look at my soul as well to see what kind of garbage I’m carrying. Sometimes I think, because I’m not bowing under the weight of some major sin, everything must be going okay. But it just isn’t so. I often let stuff creep into my life that I need to remove- old habits, negative thoughts, judgmental attitudes and other “small” sins can clutter up my spiritual life so that I can’t find what I need; God’s grace and His mercy.
Psalm 139: 23-24 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting”(NIV). As much as I might hate the process, I know it’s the best for me. After all, I’d rather be filled with God’s blessings than a stale carrot cake muffin any day!
By Kim Stokely -
I have a confession. I am directionally challenged. If there’s only one way to get to a location, I’ll still manage to take a wrong turn. I’ve accidently gone to another state. Even with that handicap, I’m one of the only people I know who doesn’t have a GPS device in the car. I don’t think I ever will either.
The one time I tried using one was in a friend’s car. We were on our way to a retreat and plugged in our destination. I’d been told it would take us an hour to get to the center. An hour later, my friend and I were lost in some rural town with no name out in the middle of nowhere. Her Garmin kept telling us to turn right which would have sent us into a cornfield. The disembodied voice seemed quite put out that we wouldn’t obey her command. Every time we tried to find our way back to the main road I could hear Garmin sigh as she told us she was, “recalculating.” If she’d been a real woman, I know she would have crossed her arms and tapped her foot with impatience. We finally turned off the GPS and called someone we knew was already at the retreat center to help us find our way. I have no idea where the GPS wanted to send us, but it certainly wasn’t the place we wanted to go.
Others have had similar trials. One friend told me their GPS led them to the edge of a lake before ordering, “Find a way to the other side.” Sounds pretty much like Garmin was telling her to go “jump in the lake” to me! Another friend was trying to find an ice skating rink and instead ended up in a cemetery. Fortunately, he’s not paranoid. Me? I would have been convinced Garmin was trying to tell me something.
Give me a plain old map. I love to unfold the colorful accordion of paper and locate my destination. My fingers enjoy tracing the route. My brain likes to read the different towns along the way. And, I admit with a small amount of pride, I can usually re-fold the map into its original slim rectangle without a problem.
I feel the same way about my Bible. It is God’s map for us. It’s the same today as it was thousands of years ago. Although it never changes, it is new every time we read it. I know there are fancier ways to read scripture (apps on Smart phones and I pads) but I like to crack open the pages of my leather bound Bible. My fingers like to follow along certain passages and I love to mark out new “routes” that I discover along the way. Whether you choose an old-fashioned Bible or an electronic app, make sure to be in God’s word daily. As Psalm 119:105 says, it truly is “a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (ESV) and will keep you from getting lost in the rural cornfields of life.
By Kim Stokely -
“Mom!” My son cried from the kitchen. “Where’s the parmesan cheese?”
“Top shelf of the refrigerator,” I yelled back from the basement. Where it always is, I thought.
“It’s not there.” His voice sounded mournful. Like someone had killed his dog.
I trudged upstairs to find him staring into the open fridge, dejected. At first glance, I didn’t see the missing jar of grated parmesan cheese either, but then, feeling like Gandalf, I moved a gallon of milk and it appeared. “Voila!” I exclaimed as I handed it to my son. “Don’t say I never gave you anything.”
I like when things that are missing are so easily found.
I’ve come to believe, however, that there’s a black hole in my house sucking in odd socks and lip balm. I don’t know where they get sent, perhaps some distant planet where alien beings only have one foot and dreadfully cold, dry air. It’s amazing how quickly those items disappear from my house. I’m thinking of calling NASA in to investigate.
Some things you misplace and you know they’ll turn up eventually on their own. Things like car keys and cell phones. I’m convinced they roam the house like cats only to reappear when it suits them or they need to be recharged.
Lately, however, I’ve been losing weird things. Like spaghetti squash.
I mean really, how does one lose a spaghetti squash? I remember buying it at the store, but for the life of me, I can’t find it in my car or in the house. Unfortunately, I’m sure in another week, the smell of rotting pulp will lead me to the missing gourd.
In Psalm 139, David tells us that there is never a time we are out of God’s sight. He doesn’t misplace us on some cosmic counter in heaven. We can’t be lost amid a pile of clutter. Even if we want to disappear, there is nowhere we can hide. “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:8 NIV). My husband, a former Navy submariner, took great comfort in knowing that even though he was on the bottom of the ocean, God could still see and protect him.
It’s a blessing to me as well, to know that I am never out of God’s sight. At least somebody knows where I am, because most days, I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to sniff around my house to try and find that missing squash.
By Kim Stokely -
On a recent business trip, my husband and two co-workers wandered the streets of Old Town Albuquerque looking for a place to eat. The guide book had said this was an eclectic section of the city filled with delightful shops and restaurants, but on this Monday night, things looked dead.
An old car rattled up beside them. Like something out of a movie, the driver rolled down his window and asked, “You want to buy some turquoise?”
My husband and his friends looked at each other, shook their heads and the guy drove off. For the rest of their visit they wondered whether the dude was really selling precious stones out of his car or was “turquoise” local slang for crack?
Some behaviors, like wandering a deserted part of town, instantly point you out as a tourist. Staring up at the skyscrapers in New York City or bringing a case of bottled water with you to anywhere in South America are other examples. Here in Omaha, visitors always seem surprised that cows don’t roam the streets and every house doesn’t have a cornfield in the backyard.
Sometimes, however, it appears that just our attitude can single us out as different.
I’ll never forget visiting relatives in England when I was a teenager. My aunt brought me down to her pub for dinner one night and before I’d even spoken a word, the cook asked if I was American.
“How’d you know?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Americans have a certain way they walk.”
I thought about that a lot. How someone could tell I didn’t belong somewhere because of the way I walked.
Did I swagger obnoxiously? Or maybe I slouched in like a thief? When I asked my cousin about it later, she told me Americans walk with a certain confidence that most others don’t.
I’d like my walk with God to single me out in the same way. Not that I want people to think I’m overly confident, but I want them to sense that I don’t fit in. After all, this isn’t my home. That’s not to say I shouldn’t walk in it and help out where I can, but people shouldn’t think I belong here. If I become too comfortable with the world around me, it means I’ve stopped focusing on God. I need to be like the tourists in New York City, my eyes looking up. Not on skyscrapers, but on my heavenly home.
By Kim Stokely -
There’s nothing quite so pathetic as a dog who has to wear “the cone of shame.” If you’ve seen the movie “Up” you know what I’m talking about. It’s that huge, Elizabethan collar device meant to keep a pet from licking or scratching at some medical anomaly – could be a rash, could be stitches.
Our older dog, Cali, is presently wearing the “cone of shame” because of recent eye surgery. Believe me, she knows she looks stupid. She keeps glaring at me with a “You did this to me,” stare. I tried to explain that I didn’t know the cone would be a necessary part of her recovery, but she doesn’t seem to believe me. She thinks I planned with the vet to humiliate her.
The first night home she’d obviously not worked out all the anesthesia and spent the evening walking into walls. Not only walking into them, but then standing in front of them as if she could miraculously move them with her doggy brain. Spatial relations seemed to be a foreign concept to her as well. Used to walking through doorways without any problem, she’d start through only to have the cone catch on the threshold. She’d stop in her tracks for several minutes again trying to move the threshold instead of her head. I won’t even try to describe her walking outside in the snow, other than to comment that the cone makes an excellent scoop.
Now that the anesthesia has worn off, she’s back to her ornery self. Instead of stopping when the cone gets stuck on something, she shifts her head and pushes through whatever obstacle is in her way. She’s always been fond of sleeping under our nightstand. I would have thought it impossible to get a two foot “head” into a foot wide space, but she keeps shoving her head around until the cone collapses enough for her to get through. This is done with much scraping, grunting and bumping- often in the middle of the night. 2:00 a.m. seems to be a favorite time.
I’ve been thinking how she and I are alike. You see, when she first came home with the cone, she got frustrated with bumping into things and so waited until I stood in front of her and led her into the next room or through the door to the outside. She was glad to keep her eyes on me so she wouldn’t get hurt. In my own life, I know things are easier when I choose to follow God’s voice and daily seek His will. But just like my dog, I get stubborn and want to go back to old habits or follow my own path.
Several verses in Proverbs 16 warn us about trying to do things our own way and the blessings that come when we follow God’s way. In the big scheme of things, I’d rather wear a “cone of shame,” than follow a path that “leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25). Sometimes a little humiliation is just what we need to keep us on the right track.