It was December of 1999. We had just moved from a house we had remodeled in Georgia to a tiny apartment in Wake Forest, NC to attend seminary. We had a 2 month old baby as well as the older boys who were then ages 4 and 2.
We worked so hard on making that house our home. It was the first place we had purchased completely on our own and I was dangerously content. After our rocky marriage being restored, Luke’s call to ministry, and four years in college I believed we were finally in a place of stability. As with all things ministry, locational security is not exactly a word that God allows us to wrap our hearts around. Case in point – we had closed on my birthday in July of 1998 and had a For Sale sign in the lawn by August of 1999. No. This address wasn’t to be our landing place but one more in a long list of transitions.
So, knowing this decision was the right thing even though it hurt so badly, we sold, packed the U-Haul, and pulled out of the driveway that December day. We’d determined we would get moved to campus and then shortly thereafter return home to the in-law’s for Christmas while we waited for the January semester to begin.
My first order of duty when we move – I say when, not if, because we’ve moved 17 times (I’m not kidding) - is always to get the children settled first. The two oldest boys had to share a bedroom and were currently in love with Buzz and Woody of Toy Story. We bought the comforters and tried to make the tiny space comfortable for them. My oldest didn’t adjust well. He had a comparatively huge John Deere room in our old house and was completely confused over all the change of scenery. He missed his tractors. He missed his family. He began crying a lot. The more he cried, the more I cried. And of course, there was the baby crying. As loathe as I am to quote from The Shack, it was my own Great Sadness though I can assure you God didn’t show up in my kitchen as a black woman. But that’s not the point.
I’m telling you all this because prior to our returning home for the Christmas holidays, Boy One had left a sippy cup under his bed full of milk. You can imagine what happened next. It leaked all in the carpet and we didn’t have a clue until the tiny bedroom was reaking. I scrubbed and cried (shocker) and scrubbed some more. For some reason, that awful smell just sent me over the edge of what was already an emotionally overwhelming time. Packing up and leaving the confines of The Cave (as we not-so-lovingly referred to two-windowed apartment) came not a moment too soon. I soaked the floor in Febreze and baking soda, cracked the window, and got the heck out of Dodge already dreading the day we’d have to come back.
Fast forward to last week. I bought a gallon of milk and didn’t realize I had forgotten to take it out of the car. It was in there for three days. I jumped in the Suburban to take the kids to ball practice and that unmistakeable, unforgettable smell greeted me. I opened the hatch, saw the swollen container that had spewed almost half the milk into the carpet, and was immediately transported back to those days in that apartment. Isn’t it funny how that can happen? How a smell, a song, and/or a television show can take us back to a specific moment in time and even put us in the same mood? Huge tears swelled up in my eyes. Boy Three (who was the crying baby in NC) saw me and couldn’t figure out why I was suddenly so distraught. I chanted to myself, “do not cry, do not cry, DO NOT STINKIN’ CRY!”. Do not cry over this spilled milk.
It’s interesting to me how something so insignificant can mean so much now. What’s the use in being unhappy about something that can not be undone? But here’s the question: Would I want it undone? The spilled milk of our time in North Carolina is the place where my ministry was born. One of the things the Lord taught me in those days is that we can either sit on our hands and bemoan the trials and hurts that come upon us, or we can get busy cleaning it up. If that spill of loneliness and dare I say it – depression – had not occurred, God could not have taught me to redeem it through the power of talking with Him and devouring the truth of His counsel.
And here’s the biggest thing: God will only cleanse in partnership with us. He’s given the Baking Soda of His Word and Prayer, but Child WE, WE, WE have to be willing to apply it. To read the Scripture, to talk to our Father and then for heaven’s sake, DO what He says is best for us – even when it hurts!
It takes dogged determination not to dwell in those places of sadness. It takes work on our part, girls. Don’t wait for a knight in shining armor or a bff or a better situation to rescue you. Join with God in seeking out what He would show you when the milk is spilled. Only then will the stink be neutralized for His Glory.
p.s. Baking soda is very effective for spoiled milk – in case you needed to know..:)