I braced myself and snuck up on the situation. I knew I would face resistance from my Sweet Al when I told him I was going to get rid of some of his things.
I made arrangements with Lisa, “The Organizer aka Marriage Therapist.” She would help me sort through Al’s closets, his man cave and my office, all of which occupy the loft of our log home.
My office space is one-fourth of the loft. I have a Canadian goose flying above my desk as I type this article. On the wall is a bear hide and thrown over the railing is a big coyote blanket. Pictures of ducks and elk hang to my right side, mounts of ducks and pheasants are positioned on the all-consuming divider on my left. They remind me I’m living in Al’s world as I work in mine.
My Sweet Al lives in his hunting memories and has a story for every little trinket. I type my stories as dust gathers on his knickknacks. The carved ducks, trophy mounts, hides, antlers and everything that represents hunting and fishing need attention. He isn’t dusting them and I’m tired of looking at them. Lord, deliver us and save our marriage. I need Lisa.
Two days before “the day,” I talked to Al like a Dutch uncle. I was selling, but he wasn’t buying. He didn’t need all that memorabilia or the big divider in the middle of the room. They were taking up space and needed to go away.
Our son offered his two cents. Get rid of all that furniture. I echoed his sentiments. That’s what I’ve been saying. Then Stephen saw how hurt his dad was because he didn’t know where he would display all of his things. Our son changed his mind and took Al’s side.
“Be nice to Daddy. He has a right to have his things in his own home. Leave the divider where it is.”
Al inherited his mother’s love for memories and things. She hung on to everything until her death and then it was all passed down to Sweet Al. It’s in his DNA. But what man needs 40 Hawaiian shirts, 30 pairs of tennis shoes, 10 leather jackets and totes of hunting gear when he doesn’t hunt anymore? His paraphernalia takes up two overflow closets in the loft.
I defended my side of the story. “I was just trying to make sense of all of this junk so Lisa would know what to do with it and where to start.”
The morning she came, there was still tension in the air and division loomed bigger than the big bookshelf divider consuming the room. Al was hovering around like the goose over my desk and he wasn’t landing. He waited around until he saw what we were going to do with his stuff.
She said, “Let’s pray. We need God in the middle of this.” I thought, “God doesn’t want to be in the middle of this mess. He’s left the building.”
She took pictures of the “before” and she studied our upstairs room. Then her gaze landed on an antique wooden door in the corner next to my desk. She asked, “What’s in there?”
“Oh, it’s my writings, books, art stuff and office supplies. It’s all organized; we don’t need to worry about that.”
“Let me look.” As she opened the door and panned the 6-by-8-foot room, she said, “This is where we need to start. God is moving us to this place first. Let’s drop the notion about working on Al’s things and work on your area.”
“Really? You’ve got to be kidding.”
As she pulled things out of my supply closet, she said, “You sit there and I will bring things to you. You sort.”
I began sorting. Boxes of books I had written, half-done creative ideas, note cards, inventory, designs, art supplies and 10 years of newspaper articles. I sorted through my life one item at a time.
I said to her, “I had some good ideas once. I need to keep these things so I won’t forget them. People won’t believe I did all of this. These projects represent my life, I can’t throw them away.”
She wasn’t listening to my whining. “Keep a couple of magazines, calendars and brochures from your gallery. We will have one tote for your art and gallery things, one tote for family keepsakes and one for photos.”
So, I sorted through my life and my creative ideas. I remembered writing in an article years ago, “What do you do with all your inspiration? Do you hide your brilliant ideas under a bed or in the closet?” Apparently, I did the latter.
She was on a mission and I was on memory lane. My stuff was in a safe place hidden behind a closed door until she prayed. Then God threw open the door and Lisa, the organizer, began to organize. She wasn’t here to play favorites.
“It’s all my projects. I need to remember my great ideas. They are who I am. Look at this cute brochure I made for a family reunion once. ‘Cheaper by the dozen’ with 12 people in the same bed, outlining our scheduled weekend. Isn’t it cute?”
She glanced over at it and said, “Don’t stay there too long. We’ve got work to do.” Ten black bags later full of trash, boxes of books going to the bookstore and things with no reason or purpose went out the front door.
I told her there was an article here to write. I was worried about Al’s things and God was nailing me to the wall with my things. We were both carrying way too much baggage.
It reminded me of a devotion we had that morning. It was about the Alpha and the Omega. Jonathan Cahn wrote, “God is the Alpha, the Beginning of all things and the Reason why all things exist. God is the Omega, the End of all things and the Purpose for which all things exist.”
Then he wrote, “God is the Reason and the Purpose for everything we do. We are just in between and are the vessels through which His love, His power, His purposes, His Spirit, His life, and His blessings flow.”
When we realize the Reason and Purpose for being here, all keepsakes will only be reminders that we have passed through.
In each piece of paper, and 33 ring notebooks breaming over with Bible study lessons, I saw my life unfold. A stack of Bibles with writings and notes in every color of ink on every page showed 50 years of my walk with God.
I said, “Allison wants my Bibles. I must keep them for her. The Bible studies will go in the fire. I’ve taught them and the knowledge I obtained by the Holy Spirit will remain in me. It’s God’s promise. I don’t have to hold on to them, His Word is holding on to me.”
The organizer is coming back next week. We will tackle Al’s two closets. I’ve got a week to convince him that he has only two feet and he can only wear one pair of tennis shoes at a time. Let someone else enjoy his Hawaiian shirts; they may never go to Hawaii. The large divider of shelves will remain in the middle of the room. Some things are non-negotiable.
Final brushstroke: All these things are not the end to themselves. They carry a warm thank you or a reminder of a time we passed by. Hopefully we have left a witness of God’s love in a story or article. God is the beginning and the end, and our lives are just traveling vessels passing through. It would be nice if we weren’t loaded down with so much paraphernalia and inspiration, but we are who we are.
Send your comments to email@example.com.