My grandmother never wasted anything, not a plastic butter container, not a milk jug, not a scrap of fabric. What didn’t clutter her kitchen counters, cluttered her storage spaces. She didn’t throw away anything, not even leftover scraps from a meal. Surely a sheer reflection of the Depression. Because a scrap of fabric could be used to make a quilt, a milk jug could store water for electrical outages.
Watching her scrape off the plates, all extra food going into a tin plate, is a sweet memory. “I’ll throw it out to the dogs,” she’d say, and wipe her hands on the front of her flour-covered blouse. When all the plates had been cleared and washed, the counters and tables all cleaned, we’d take the tin plate, heaped with food scraps, and head to the back door. The screen door would screech open, and the dogs would come running. There was no disguising or mistaking her scrap-pile… the dogs ran to it and so did the swarming flies. Stomach-turning remnants covered the ground.
Memories—it’s what we bring into the storehouse of our hearts and minds. It’s a precious commodity, something we keep. Something we hope to hang onto all our lives, until our last breath.
But we have good, and well, we have bad.
And sometimes it seems like the bad just grows and grows, like yeast has been added to the disagreeable ingredients. Just gets fatter and fatter, busting and bursting out the doors and windows of our minds and hearts. The guest overstays his welcome and takes up too much space. The guest gets bossy and decides who’ll eat where, who’ll sit where, who’ll sleep where, and who’ll need to make accommodations for the night. He pushes out all the good.
And he just eats and eats away at your nerves, your confidence, your faith, even your memory of good.
And we look around and see that our counters are covered and cluttered with leftovers, dirt and grime, and a stench that can’t be described, unworthy of description. Even the cow-trails remaining are threatened. Leftovers needing to be thrown out to the dogs and the flies.
We can’t always choose what comes in and out of our lives, but we can choose what stays, what stays inside. We can choose what needs to be thrown out.
Like standing at my front living room window, at only eight years old, watching my daddy drive away … away forever from my family. Tears pouring out my eyes, I cried, “Daddy, Daddy, I love you.” Oh, my daddy.
Like feeling the sting of rejection. The 8th grade boy who walked by my middle-school desk and said with a scowl, “You have long, skinny fingers. And your hair looks like Medusa.”
Like grieving over a huge mistake. Only a kid and ruining my life.
Those are leftovers, throw-out memories. Not throw-away, just throw-out. We’ll never be entirely free of them. But our good memories don’t deserve to be pushed out the door. Our good memories deserve the guest of honor place at our table.
And O Soul Within, some ground-breaking news, that’s what we’ll make up our mind to do. We have to be intentional in this life, tend to the memories, because another has unhealthy intentions for us.
O Soul Within, gather those leftovers, one by one. The ones that stink and destroy. Scrape them into the tin scrap bowl of honor. Because that tin bowl deserves a place of honor, too. It’s the temporary storage that keeps our counters—our hearts and minds—free and clean. Free of all the dirt and grime, leaving room for all the clean—the China, the teacups, faith, Christ-esteem, space, lovely space.
Take those steps, one by one.
Open that back door and bask in the beautiful sounds of the screechy screen—the gatekeeper to our hearts, the one that stays closed and only opens when you choose. Only opens when the bad needs to be thrown out or used … blessedly used for good. Not used for bad. And that’s why they aren’t throw-aways because sometimes God uses our throw-outs.
Scrape it out, sweep it out, let it drop, let it fly. Toss it to the bottom-land, like nobody’s business. Let it stay. Let the dogs come, let the flies swarm. Because that’s the back door. The scrap pile. No one else needs to go there, because it’s nobody’s business. Only your selected few come through there.
And then you smile, walk back into your clean kitchen, take a deep breath, and bask in the wonderful sights and smells of the new, the apple pie scent wafting, the fresh bread baking, the sun shining in through the front window, rays so vivid and beautiful you could reach out and touch them—
Like knowing your daddy loves you with all his heart and remembering how he tells you often, how you’ll always be his little angel no matter how old you get.
Like being named Homecoming Queen your senior year, and the one who called you all those names wants to escort you.
Like feeling the tiny fingers and toes of your newborn, 18 years ago, and counting them one by one. And knowing your mistake may very well have led you here, to this child, to this beautiful place.
Like knowing with all your heart that God knows what’s best and directs your steps, and even uses your past.
Prop open the front door, and hang the welcome sign. Bring out the white, clean tablecloth, unfold it a tad, and thrust it out. Open wide. Spread it out over the dining room table in your spacious heart, and place the best China because … well … it’s time for a new meal, for a real meal, for a feast. A beautiful, clean, new feast. With guests of our choosing. Only guests of our choosing. Welcomed guests.
With remnants of love, blessing, and honor.