A small yellow hexagon box, just a wee bit larger than a top hat, sits on the top shelf in my closet. Red poppies, now faded almost pink with age are sprawled across its lid. A banner wraps around the sides with the words, “Count it all Joy…” Packed inside the “joy box” are little bundles of memories and souvenirs of special moments in time.
I lift the box down. I blow the dust off the lid and remove it. Goodness! I wonder how long it has been since I looked inside this box. A glimpse of something red is peeking out from behind a stack of envelopes. It’s a gift bag with hand drawn flowers on it. Scrawled on one side with permanent marker, “Happy Birthday Debbie Choplin!” and on the other, “From Central Baptist Youth.” I smile. The face of a little bubble man wearing a sailor’s cap with a wand tucked behind his arms is smiling back at me. I remember this bottle of bubble liquid. It’s from our mission trip to the gulf. They sang happy birthday to me at every restaurant we stopped at along the way hoping that someone would get a free dessert. Those kids! Most are married now with children of their own.
Hmm…what’s this green envelope? Inside it is a black card with a cartoon figure and a bubble cloud above its head. “You’ll live a healthier life if you can learn to laugh at yourself.” On the inside it reads,”We’ve been laughing at you for years, and we feel great. Happy Birthday.” A heart is drawn on one side of the names Stacey & Adam, Brandon, Dennis and a smiley face on the other side. Nuts! They still enjoy laughing at me.
I pull another envelope out. On the front is printed, Dear Guest “Welcome” and a smiley face. In the return address corner is the logo of Bent Creek Baptist Church. It’s a reminder of the time I visited the church with my daughter and her boyfriend (now husband.) They were still in college and were excited to show me the church they were attending with some of their college friends. Odd how little things like that stay with you.
What in the world? A black and silver deflated Mylar balloon is laughing up at me. “Ha Ha. You’re 40!” Ooh yeah…my office buddies at one of the hospitals I worked at gave me an over-the-hill party. You should have been there. The gifts were a hoot…a bedpan, a walker, a box of enemas, a catheter. They trashed my office with black streamers. Gosh that was a great day.
I pull out another envelope. Now why I am I keeping these old pay stubs from the school system? They can be ditched!
Ooooo…what pretty postcards of aerial photographs of downtown West Palm Beach, Florida looking towards the Atlantic Ocean. That was the last mission trip I chaperoned the teenagers on. Boy was it hot! One hundred and five degrees in the shade. The kids worked hard that year. We stayed at the Atlantic Christian College and were bused out into different locations each day. Some kids had to work outside in the heat all day, others worked with nursing home patients. One day I had the pleasure of helping in the office at one of the Alzheimer’s care facilities. I was actually offered a position on staff. I wonder what it would have been like, if I had taken that position……nah….don’t think so.
I pull another envelope. It was from Trudy Bean. (You remember me talking about how the lady known as “Grandma Bean” was one of the “Proverbs women” in my life and I couldn’t remember her first name? Well, now you know her first name.) A thank you card is in this envelope. It was sent after she had gotten sick and moved back to New York to be with a daughter. She died not long afterwards.
The front of the card reads, “The sun shines not on us, but in us. John Muir.” I must share an excerpt from her card. In old fashioned curly-cue script she writes:
“My Dear Ones, can you forgive me for being so late in thanking you for the delightful picture. I was very pleased & had looked at it a lot but by the way I am saying, “Thank You” you would never know that I cared! But I was so happy to see the 4 of you & your cap & gown. And I do pray every day for all of you. I pray special for Brandon, as he is away at school & the world is so unkind to our young people. Brandon is so quiet, when I see him. The last time I saw him at church I had a wonderful hug!! Please tell him that hug meant so much to me. Grandmothers don’t always get such good real hugs as he gave me that day. – Often I shut my eyes & re live that hug!! It truly meant a lot to me!!…”
I keep digging through the contents of my joy box. Oh my goodness!!! Here are pictures from the 80’s. I’m about 20lbs lighter and look like Michelle Dugger. I’d forgotten I had that hairstyle once upon a time.
The thing I treasure most though, and what it represents, cannot fit into my joy box. It is the little black King James Translation Bible my father gave me when I turned eighteen. I have several Bibles. But that one is my favorite. It’s an old friend. It fits my hand like a glove as I flip through the pages, once so crisp and clean, now yellowed and dog eared from a lifetime of use. The once blank pages in the back are filled with scribbled notes. The ink has faded so badly that I can hardly make out what I wrote. Favorite passages have been underlined or highlighted yellow and pink throughout the scriptures. The spine is now held together with silver duct tape. (That stuff is good for just about everything.)
I treasure all of the memories in my joy box. Each card, each picture, each souvenir, even the Bible are but stepping stones to the most cherished thing in my life. That is my relationship with Christ. Had it not been for my faith, I would not have all of those cherished memories. My faith in Christ helped build the memories. My faith journey helped mold and make me into the person I am today. Life isn’t always easy. We tend to file away the best part in the deep recesses of our mind to bring them out again to reminisce about the “good ‘ol days”. One memory that will burn in my heart and mind forever is the day, I should say nights that I knew Christ and Satan were real.
Let’s journey back. I’m seventeen. It’s a Friday night. I wake up in the middle of the night screaming. I’m paralyzed with fear. I see, standing at the foot of my bed, a figure wearing a black cape and top hat. I can’t see a face. I feel pure evil in my room. My father runs down the hallway to see what’s wrong. He gets to my doorway and can’t enter. The hair stands on the back of his neck. He calls to me and finally I quiet. I explain to him what I saw. He assures me there is no one in the room.I can’t sleep in that room any longer, so mom and dad let me change bedrooms.
It’s a Saturday night. I’m in my new room, praying, asking God to let me know that Christ is real. I feel a presence in my room. Then, the side of my bed indents as if someone sits down. I pull the covers up to my neck and say I will go forward in church tomorrow to speak with the pastor at the little church I have been visiting.
Some folks say that I was just hallucinating, or dreaming. Some say it was just the stress of being a teenager. Call it what you may. I only know that once I accepted Christ as my Lord and savior, life changed for me. The emptiness and loneliness that I felt disappeared
That faith helps me meet the challenges of life when I think I have no strength left. That faith helps me reach out to help others whom I might not otherwise help. That faith helps me look past the color of a person’s skin or ethnicity and see the person God loves. That faith has seen miracles of healing take place when doctors have given up. That faith has witnessed loved ones pass peacefully into death. That faith is priceless.
It is my prayer that if you do not possess this treasure, that you may find it.
Matthew 6:19-21 (KJV) 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the memories stored in my joy box. Thank you for walking with me each step of the way. Thank you most of all for the treasure I have in the hope and forgiveness you give through Christ Jesus. Lord, as Ms. Grandma Bean said, “It truly meant a lot.” Father, I lift up that one who needs you at this hour. May they find their heavenly treasure in you in their hour of need. In Christ name, I pray. Amen.