Keep pruning and prepare for tomorrow

By Becky Spell Vann - Contributing columnist

Have you been blessed by the burdensome task of cleaning out a closet? Hopefully, these last two closet cleaning messages will bless you and glorify God our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who works things out for good in ways beyond all understanding.

Three months after James and I were married, we cleaned out his home together and welcomed a wonderful family as his first renters. The long week end of emptying his house wore us out physically but strengthened us spiritually.

Late Saturday afternoon, James worked in his living room, while I packed up the middle bedroom. James loaded boxes in his truck while I cleaned out the closet. Standing on a stool to remove a stack of books from the top shelf, I realized I was holding a dozen Clement School yearbooks in my arms.

They were clean as a whistle and stacked in order from 1957 to 1969. Memories of my alma mater flooded my mind as I sat on the floor and thumbed through the treasured annuals that belonged to Sarah, James first wife. Opening the 1958 yearbook, I squealed with delight when I saw my picture beside Reid Autry; we were mascots that year. Then, I thought I saw myself again on the first grade page and gasped when I read the name beside the picture: Sarah Carroll.

I was still and knew this was God. With a quiet reverence, I walked into the living room and showed James the treasure I found while cleaning out the closet. He thought both pictures were Sarah or both were me, until I uncovered the names. Emptiness of the room echoed our every move and word while we sat studying the pictures and sharing stories of our lives with Tim and Sarah. This together time, in the middle of our moving mess, gave us an even greater appreciation for God’s wondrous ways of weaving beautiful love stories and blending families. We closed the yearbook in awe of God’s love and ours!

The most recent closet story is still a work in progress, one sent straight to my closet with lessons of practicing what you preach hitting home hard. Surely, the chambers of your heart store similar stories that surface without warning. Such divine encounters keep us grounded in love and looking to God for help in cleaning up our messes.

Meeting James at Tim’s Gift is one of those stored stories that continuously waters my heart with loyal love for them and deepest gratitude for Him…the One who never leaves us, the beginning and the end! Remembering the first day James came to Tim’s Gift rises inside as I write. That chapter replays in living color the conversations we shared about cleaning out James and Sarah’s closet and giving some of her clothes to people he knew could wear and would cherish them. James blessed several people with Sarah’s beautiful clothes; I was one of them. Some of Sarah’s clothes hang alongside mine in the closet where beautiful memories start and end my days.

Remembering a Sunday morning when James neatly tucked in his shirt and picked a matching tie on one side of our closet, while I buttoned the jacket of a suit that belonged to Sarah in front of our mirror on the other side of our closet, makes me happy. James looked at me with a smile that still lights up my heart. For a moment in time, we were still and knew it was God, for only He could work such a miracle of love in our lives. James fixed the collar on Sarah’s jacket as I straightened Tim’s tie that complimented his suit to a tee. Honoring our first loves in our love blessed us from above. James wrapped his arms around me and whispered words my heart recalls often while dressing in my closet.

“Sarah would be so happy for you to wear her clothes!” I told him I would always wear them humbly with a thankful heart. And I do!

When James passed away, I knew the task of cleaning our closet and sharing his clothes was coming. The first Christmas, I gave aprons made from James’ dress shirts to loved ones, special shirts to his golfing buddies, and shirts and ties to his brothers, but James’ side of the closet still looked as if he would walk in and change clothes any moment. The way he lived was evident in his closet. Everything was neat and in order, clean and pressed, shoes shined and arranged perfectly, and I humbly decided to leave his things just as they were.

A few weeks prior to writing this story, something happened in my closet that got my attention…again! My friend Rhoda was waiting for me outside, I pulled on my jacket and surveyed my clean closet with a nod of approval. Two steps from my closet door, a loud noise stopped me in my tracks. Rushing in to see what happened, the divine lesson engraved on my healing heart taught me once again…’never declare (even in humility) what you will or will not do’!

I could not leave James’ clothes piled on the floor. So, I kneeled beside the things he wore and had a little talk with the One who always listens and never leaves His children, even in the middle of a mess. I held one of James’ shirts close; his presence comforted me. I said a prayer as I picked up piles of precious pieces of clothing that would soon belong to someone else. Then, I stacked them neatly in the middle bedroom while promising our Maker to take care of the task at hand soon and very soon. And I will.

Do you have closets in your home and your heart that need to be cleaned out? We should never procrastinate with excuses that keep us living in the past, for God will send signs in His perfect timing to remind us to keep pruning and preparing for our tomorrows…today.

Becky Spell Vann is owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.

By Becky Spell Vann

Contributing columnist

Becky Spell Vann is owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.

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