As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled. –Victor Hugo
Remember the good ol’ days? Footloose and fancy free? Not a care in the world? I do…and what I remember most about them was that everything that I truly NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand. Gone are the days of tucking cherry-flavored Chapstick into my pocket and heading out the door. No more securing a dollar bill to the inside of my sock…you know, just in case. Forget about making room in your shoe to save that last piece of gum for later (seriously, forget about that–it’s a bad idea.) All of these good times ended at about age 16…the year where freedom (a.k.a. driving) meant that you had to carry proof that you were indeed legal behind the wheel! Thus one enters the era of THE PURSE….
At first, having a purse made me feel all grown up. My purse contained nothing but the necessities, right? This is sorta funny because at the time I remember searching my room frantically for items to fill my purse. You know–a comb, lipstick, gum/candy/breath mints (sometimes ALL three), a pen. perfume (I know…I’m sorry,) a stylish journal (for all my important thoughts) and of course a wallet for money…plus that prized driver’s license (the reason I desperately needed a purse in the first place.) In the beginning the purse was pretty small…always messenger style so I could wear it across my body. This is important, because when you’re new to carrying around a purse you need one that you can’t lose…just saying. The purse and I became sympatico and a love/hate relationship was established.
By the time college came around I had to re-evaluate the whole purse thing. Life was changing–big time! I found that college life required a backpack and not necessarily a little messenger purse. The school that I attended was situated on top of a hill, so a lot of walking was a given. Fortunately, I found an item that I refer to as a wallet-keychain. This nifty little gadget became my best friend for four years. It tucked nicely into the backpack, held the bare essentials (license, student ID, money, and bank card) and was attached to my keys! Genius. I wished I had discovered it in high school. This would make everything better…or so I thought. But the purse would eventually have its revenge.
After graduation I ventured into a career path that required some “primping” to say the least (I am only slightly embarrassed to say that I wanted to be the next Connie Chung 🙂 ) Carrying a make-up bag, a brush and comb, etc. was just the norm for this girl with big dreams. Add onto that the things I needed for work: a pen (a back up pen,) a notebook, tapes (and back up tapes,) and HAIRSPRAY! Then there were the snacks (you wondered when I would get to this point?) You see, when your lunch hour varies (or doesn’t necessarily exist) you need more than gum to sustain yourself. Small packages of crackers, cookies and even instant coffee started entering the picture and filling my (now bigger) purse. My shoulder aches just thinking about those days.
I wish I could say that changing career paths meant less stuff and a smaller purse. It didn’t…and mostly because I moved to California. You’re probably wondering why that matters, but it does matter and maybe not for the reasons you might think. It wasn’t that I needed a big purse so that I could keep up with the Kardashians, but rather I needed a purse filled with survival supplies. While California is amazingly beautiful, it’s also a jungle! And jungle life meant that you had to be ready for your 11 mile commute to take as long as two hours. If you had to cross a bridge, someone else’s fender bender might have you looking at a 3 hour delay. Traffic is ridiculous there and so you had to pack ridiculous things in your purse. Water was just as big a deal then as it is now. Carrying around water bottles was not only in vogue, but it could save your life on a warm, Cali day if the traffic was particularly uncooperative (especially when you AC goes out!) Food in your purse was a must, but because this was the Golden State you felt obligated to have “healthy” food. Fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers were the standards–and “fresh” food meant carrying a cold-pak, too. I pity the person who got busted stuffing their face with Cheetos on the California freeway! (Really, you should know better!)
But never was the purse’s revenge as terrible as the day I become a mother. It’s like I could hear the purse saying, “You will never, EVER go back!” I tried making my purse into a diaper bag and when that didn’t work I asked the diaper bag to do double duty as a baby-things-carry-all and a purse. Either way you look at it, I was carrying around a bunch of nonsense. Okay, you’re thinking…”Well, your kids weren’t toddlers forever, right? Eventually you went back to carrying around a plain old purse.” Well, yes AND no. Now that I was a mom I discovered this unwritten rule where you are forced to carry things for your kiddos. This form of servanthood is sneaky, even to the most savvy mother. So many times I have told my children that if they brought it, they had to carry it…only to find my purse a little heavier and their book, toy, or gadget safety tucked inside while my child proceeded to run and do hand stands all over the place with their newfound freedom.
My migration to the extra-large purse didn’t end with just the kids’ stuff. My purse also doubles as a medicine cabinet. Bandages, Neosporin, allergy medicine, etc. all make their home here as well. I am the keeper of Kleenex, keys and bubble gum (of various flavors nonetheless.) My purse houses accessories for cleaning glasses, and extra contact lenses as well as a portable hair salon equipped with fashionable hair-ties for my daughter. Need to write something down? I have pencils, pens and SHARPIES (assorted colors) in my bag! Not to mention lotion, hand sanitizer, post-its and a small magnifying glass (BTW I’m aging and my eyes were the first things to go.) I have ear buds, sunglasses and occasionally pizza crumbs (don’t ask.) These are just the staples, I could go on (and on….)
So why am I telling you all this? Because I want it to stop. REALLY. I am over the purse thing. I want to be the kind of person who just goes with the flow (sans the “luggage.”) The kind of person who doesn’t need a million accessories just to go to the grocery store or to watch my kiddos play ball. I want to go back to the days when everything I NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand. I am craving simplicity and I think the reason all of this has to come to a head is because physically AND spiritually the purse is weighing me down. Stop. I know that’s a pretty big leap, but hear me out. I finally understand the reason I carry around the equivalent of a briefcase everywhere I go, 365 days a year. It’s because of fear and control. Every time a situation has come up in the last 20+ years and I DIDN’T have the tools I needed to handle it, another “something” was added to the purse. This is a pretty big revelation for me. While feigning having it all together, what was really going on was a lack of trust. I didn’t trust myself, I didn’t trust life and in someway I was also saying that I didn’t trust God (at least not completely.)
After so many years, it’s going to be hard to change this pattern…to fight the urge to cover all the bases, at all times–EVERY time. The desire to be superwoman, superwife, supermom, etc. is so very strong. Listen, I know this isn’t the biggest problem on the planet, but I feel convicted to make a change. I want to trust more…to put myself out there. In some suburban-housewife-kind-of-way…this is my next faith test. So here’s where I am–I purchased a wristlet (which just may be the grown-up version of the wallet-keychain that I loved so much in college.) Full disclosure–right now the wristlet resides in my purse (along side a million other items,) but I am making a plan to downsize to this little dandy. Just the NECESSITIES! Those of you who know me, know that this is a tall order! I think I’m up to the challenge. Don’t worry, I’m not going cold turkey…I will still have a large bag (NOT a purse) for sporting events, kid-related activities and church projects. So what if I don’t have a bandage for every boo-boo or a just the right flavor of gum for my kiddos? I have a funny feeling (and a whole lot of FAITH) that we will survive…and it just might save my shoulders, too!
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. Luke 22:35
When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go. –Alexandra Stoddard
Never, EVER, did I think I would be writing about a midwest BBQ chain and Easter Sunday. Yet, here I am. This goes to show two things…first, that the cliché holds true (again): Never say never. And second. that convenient, tasty, family style BBQ is perfectly acceptable as a go-to meal for ANY holiday or celebration (and in our family’s case, especially religious ones!)
For the past six years we have “dined” at Famous Dave’s on Easter Sunday. Okay, I know it’s not fine dining. Yes, I am aware that they are a paper napkin establishment (gasp!) And I understand that French fries are not typical Easter dinner fare. (Glad we got all that out of the way 🙂 ) Still, I think Famous Dave’s is just as good a place as any to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a Spencer family tradition that’s often met with puzzling looks, stammering comments and even a little pity. But that’s okay. We like Famous Dave’s and we especially like the reason we ended up there in the first place (insert sappy background music here….)
In 2009, my husband was called to lead what I will politely label a “broken” church. You see the pastor had decided to leave our denomination and he additionally took the congregation with him. For whatever reasons, all that was left were about a dozen people, loads of tech equipment and a lot of questions. This clearly would not be easy. And, did I mention this was Steve’s first senior pastor appointment? Despite the best efforts of many, the prayers of many more and the sheer broken-heartedness of the situation, a decision was made to close down the church. All of this took place in a matter of weeks. It was one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed. So here’s the worst part…the last worship celebration for this now defunct church would be on Easter Sunday. (I can hardly type these words!) CLOSING A CHURCH ON EASTER. (There really should be a law against such a thing!) I could barely stomach the idea. I thought of the church members who stayed behind. Those who wanted to restructure and carry on. And all those who put their heart and soul into trying to make this church a healthy, functioning place of worship. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Much work went into that final worship celebration. First, there was the cleaning. Since worship would be held in the church’s youth building, couches had to be moved, chairs brought in and EVERYTHING had to be wiped down. The sound system was reconfigured, light bulbs were replaced and a small room was readied to serve as a nursery. A sweet woman who had hoped for a different outcome for her church set aside her sorrow and assembled Easter baskets for any children who would arrive on Sunday morning. With just a few musicians, songs were selected to praise a newly risen King. My husband crafted a sermon of hope and promise…in the midst of all of the responsibilities of closing a church. It was a sad and rainy morning. I felt like God was weeping right along with us.
But if you know how the Easter story ends…then you know that there are no limits to what our Great Creator can do! As worship came to a close, the sun and the SON broke through! The rain moved out and although we closed the doors on that final worship celebration, what we didn’t know was that God was already opening another. It was almost three o’clock in the afternoon when we left the church parking lot that day. Our children, ages 7 and 4 at the time, were tired and hungry. In the midst of all that was going on we neglected to make lunch plans…and that’s how we ended up at Famous Dave’s.
The restaurant was practically empty. The lunch crowd was gone, the wait staff looked spent and here walks in this family of four…dressed in now wrinkled Easter wear, tired and clearly saddened. We crawled into what would be called our Easter booth…to be honest, while we always sat in a booth on these occasions it wasn’t the same booth every time–and that was okay. Steve ordered ribs, I ordered the baked potato with chili and the kiddos put in their request for chicken strips and fries. Then we waited. Not just for food, but for everything. We honestly didn’t know where we would land…although we knew it would be another church, most likely in another town. And yet somehow, in that little booth our spirits lifted. The children made us laugh and we counted our blessings. We were together and life was in fact GOOD! There was safety and warmth in those comfy, red seats. The little kids’ menus reminded us that at Famous Dave’s we’re all P.I.G.s…Pretty Important Guests! I liked the thought of that and when the meal arrived, we prayed. The food tasted extra delicious that day, too–satisfying in a way that I cannot explain. An afternoon at Famous Dave’s was just what we needed.
Obviously, we kept going back. Steve was appointed to a new church in a nearby suburb and our Easter lunch plans practically wrote themselves. After a busy Holy Week and all its activities, we found a sanctuary at the east side’s Famous Dave’s restaurant. The pig-themed decorations, the fishing signs and decals, and those red colored booths–we loved it all! I have several photos of our kids in their cute, little Easter outfits posing with their Daddy for our annual Easter pic. Good times. Blessed times. Necessary times…but as you can guess, “the times they are a-changing” (thanks, Bob Dylan.) Famous Dave’s closed this past fall…and the Spencer family DID NOT find out about it until January 😦
Holy Week has arrived again and the question on everyone’s mind is “where are we going to eat Easter lunch?” I don’t have any answers. I have tried to coordinate just how long it will take us to drive to the nearest Famous Dave’s (too long unfortunately.) I’ve looked into dining at other BBQ establishments. I’ve tried to sell myself on the idea of having Mexican food on Easter (it’s not working.) I’ve even thought about preparing and cooking a meal myself (and if you know me, then you know this is a desperate thought!) The reality is we’ve lost our Easter booth, but we certainly haven’t lost Easter and all its promises. So tonight as I type this, I still have no clue what we will be doing for lunch. Somehow, though, I’ve gone past worry and fret to a place of “wait and see.” Not a flippant, inactive state, but rather an active, hopeful resolve. My husband and kids are not with me in this place. They want answers and our P.I.G. status back! But please, don’t feel bad for us…because I so clearly remember a gray, downcast day not so long ago when the sun and the SON came out. It’s Easter, everyone, and we KNOW how the story ends. I’m not sure if the booths will be red, but I know that wherever we end up we’ll be fed (in more ways than one)…and it WILL certainly be good!
Praying that the Holy Spirit moves you to worship this Easter Sunday and that you experience the hope and renewal that Christ Jesus offers to us each and every day. Amen.