I dreaded doing it.
The shed at the back of my house was overdue for a purge. You know the kind… It is hard and dirty, and requires having to sort through things, organize, and throw out or donate what is no longer needed. The kind that means you are going to have to make decisions…. I hate how oddly paralyzing it is.
My shed is pretty large. When it’s empty, you can walk into it several steps and do the same from side to side. The problem is, it is far from empty, and the burgeoning chaos inside would stress me everytime I opened up the double barn-like doors in search of something I prayed would be towards the front, sandwiched between lawn games and gardening tools.
The reason why I even have a shed, is that with four kids, three pets, and issues too complex to go into here, my garage is everything but that. It is more like a multi-purpose room with a Tim the Tool Man vibe. And so, the shed became a much needed addition to store the eclectic what nots that came with managing life. Drum sets, paint, beach chairs, Christmas tree stands… all are odes to seasons past, improbable as they are to ever be used or needed again.
Oh, how we love to hang on to “stuff.”
I figured, after climbing my way over a small mountain in search of a sprinkler that I swore was in there somewhere, that it was high-time I did something about it. I needed to roll up my sleeves, put a canary on my shoulder, and head on in, fearless in my quest to toss and purge. I had to make sense of what was there, and it was going to take effort.
What I quickly recognized, was not the physical work that cleaning out the shed would take. It was the emotional work. It was the feelings that come attached to things that represent my life, my identity, my family, from a time when we had “the tiger by the tail” of a younger us. It was the strings of emotion that tug at me, thinking of loved ones that have changed and grown or just moved on, and of the parts of me that still have not.
How do you let go of what you never want to forget?
I think that’s why we have sheds, and boxes, and drawers… We throw things in them — these odd, mis-shaped antiquities of our lives — into spaces where we don’t have to look at them but where we know we can find them. Our mementos become monuments for who we used to be.
There is so much that my heart is yearning to share here. I know you understand how it is, that in our vulnerability, we mourn for our used to be’s. We’re afraid to let go in the deepest part of our spirits, and we groan because we do not know how to put to words what our hearts would say if they could.
Maybe it’s that we miss others, or that we yearn to feel just one more time the hustle and bustle of a growing family, of being needed, appreciated, loved. Maybe it’s just the recognition that you did the best you could and would do it all over again. Only this time, you would cherish more and complain less.
These are the things that we need to open up to the light and give them to God so that He can lead us out and expose them to His love, His care, His ability to take the broken pieces that we hang onto and put them in proper order.
God has new things for us — new seasons, new hopes, dreams, and tomorrows. He wants us to fill them with new life and to watch Him manifest all our past blessings into new ones.
We have to make room. We have to not be afraid to let go of things, people, habits, and hurts that hold us back.
I managed one Saturday to get through it. I tossed and swept and stacked and hung… Truth be told, I cried a little bit, too. But when it was done, and I could walk into my shed, turn around, and clearly see that what mattered most was still with me because it wasn’t in the things after all. It was in the realization that everything wasn’t lost. It was just different.
My kids are young adults now and they are thriving, good, wonderful people of whom I am proud every day of being their mom. They were well loved by their dad and me, and we had lots of truly fun and amazing times. There was a lot of, well… life here. Yes, I miss all of what we shared. But I can look forward someday to a new branch of the family tree, of beautiful babies to rock and sing, to whiffle ball games and family fun nights, to reading the same special books, and to secret jokes and giggles that come from silly sayings.
Focusing on these things, and on the promises of God who never leaves us nor forsakes us, takes the blinders off. He is always working things out for us. He is always turning the soil of our lives so that we can cultivate a new harvest of blessings.
Open up the doors and don’t be afraid. Sweep it out. Let go. Find that sprinkler and turn it on. You’re growing. We never lose what we used to have. It’s with us always. It just changes as we go.
God is doing a new thing in your life, and it is good. Cherish every moment, and look ahead. The best is yet to come.