I've had six big, cardboard boxes in my garage that I've been ignoring. I've been turning a blind eye to their existence, simply because they were handed off to me by my dad (another sentimental pack rat) and are filled with my childhood. You think you can't box up a childhood? Well, if you try hard enough you can. It's not that I didn't want to take that black hole of a tour down memory lane, I just knew it would be a massive undertaking. And tonight I had to face the music. My husband has been looking at the boxes for six months and started "consolidating," which means I quickly got roped into the project.
These boxes were full of things I chose to save from late elementary school through high school. I saved some normal things people save, like yearbooks, awards, and my high school letterman's jacket. But that was a small fraction of the stuff. A sampling of the items won't even do justice to the craziness I encountered, but I'm gonna give you one just to entertain you. Here are a few things that, turns out, I didn't need to save after all:
1. Concert Program from Amy Grant's "Lead Me On" tour
2. Keno game sheets from my first family trip to Vegas
3. First parking ticket, neatly stapled to a piece of paper next to the receipt I received after paying it.
4. Old scantrons. Yes, you heard me. A stack of them.
5. Every single card, postcard, or folded up note ANYONE ever sent me or passed me in class. Ever.
6. A Cotillion dance card, filled out with the names of 10 boys I was friends with and was planning to dance with. (Perhaps even stranger than saving this is that I was in Cotillion, and that they made us fill out dance cards, like in the days of Pride and Prejudice.)
7. Every single paper I ever got a grade on, and every notebook for every class. (Do you understand how much paper that is?)
8. About 30 cassette tapes, and one CD - George Michael's "Praying for Time" (Why haven't I been listening to this!!??)
9. A torn-off portion of a poster I helped paint to advertise a dance in Jr. High, dated (I dated everything), and complete with comment that a boy I knew died that same night. Always documenting the facts.
10. This item below. This was the clear winner.
Let me just say first that upon seeing the front of this folded piece of paper, I thought, "OH, good! Finally this might be something actually worth saving..."
BUT, this is what was inside.
Can you read that? It says, "wrapper from Christmas box of Sees Candy I won at Cottillion 4 the swing." Wait, WHAT? It's a wrapper from a candy that I ate 22 years ago. I saved that. I pasted it to a piece of paper. I gave the wrapper a caption. I dated it. I folded the paper over and then wrote "DON'T THROW AWAY!" on it. And I'm just glancing over the fact that I used the number 4 for the word "for." Apparently, I wanted to forever remember how awesome I was at the swing.
Another thing I found was my first "big girl" Bible, and a Bible study notebook that I used for years, jammed with notes, outlines and pieces of paper. I was given this Bible on Christmas Eve when I was 10 (which I know because I had dated it). I began attending my first small group sort of Bible study in 7th grade. And what astounded me, even more than the loads of crazy I found in those boxes, was how much of the word of God has saturated my years. It seems like always. Verses, bookmarks, of course all the encouraging notes I ever got from my leaders were spilling out of this pile of childhood.
And yet, here I am decades later, finding it so hard on some days to remember truth, and hold onto God's promises. I found one page of notes on verses that apply to relationships between men and women. It is baffling to me that I learned those things while I was not yet a woman; I was a child. And yet, I still need to learn them today. I'm still learning how to follow God, and truth never expires. But honestly, I feel uncomfortable about still needing to learn the same truths that I learned 20 years ago. Isn't God thinking, "You should know better by now..."?
I wonder why it is so hard. And tonight, I don't have a good answer. I only have the reality that life is a series of challenges, and you can face them with God or alone. I'm so thankful that for most of mine, in childhood and now, we've faced them together. And even though life is terribly hard at times, facing it alongside our good and gracious and faithful God is enough.
I flipped through the Bible I found, and discovered some writing in it. Some verses were circled with hot pink marker. Some Psalms were boxed with the word "Song" next to them, indicating one made into a worship song I sang in youth group. A bookmark said "JOY: Delight and peace not affected by circumstance." And on a blank page in the back, I wrote the reference Isaiah 41:10, which reads,
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
I'm so thankful some things never change.