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The Third Sunday of Advent

By December 13, 2015 2 Comments

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  Philippians 4:6

by Beth Carroll

It had been three days since I had lost my job. In my stunned stupor, I had spent those few days stumbling around the house. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself. I could hardly speak. My friends and family were completely unavailable during those three days, so I had no one with whom to commiserate; no shoulder to cry on. I was useless. I was numb; alone in the purest sense. What would happen to me? What should I do? Does God care about me? How would I get through this next life obstacle?

By the end of the day three, I could hardly stand myself anymore. “Must do something useful”, I mumbled as I looked around my messy home. I prayed God would give me the energy for just one small project. “The utility closet. Clean out the kitchen utility closet.” A pretty ridiculous idea considering the stacks of dishes waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher. There was also Mount Laundry at the base of the stairs that had grown so monstrous, I briefly considered entering my street address into Google Earth to see if the mound was visible via satellite imaging. But the utility closet fully equipped with attack mops that impale you each time you open the door, unorganized cleaning supplies, and Hannah Montana paint by numbers craft kits untouched by my daughter since 2007 was the one project that I had any iota of motivation to tackle.

I purged with the passion of an exorcist who has crashed a house party of demons. Hundreds of broken crayons were thrown out. Multiple half packs of batteries combined. Legions of vacuum cleaner bags discovered. Through this process I learned my definition of the word “utility” is perhaps a tad too liberal; as I am assuming most homeowners do not store two year supplies of heartworm medication with 22 sponges. Never the less, I managed to empty the entire closet and was down to the three drawer organizer that I needed to pull out in order to sweep out the floor. I awkwardly maneuvered the drawers through the narrow opening of the small closet and with a final firm tug the unit was free from the closet and I set it down on the kitchen floor.

I turned from the drawers to admire my now empty closet. What was supposed to be an empty closet, anyway. As it turned out, the drawers were sitting on top of a long forgotten relic. There on the floor covered by dust, dog hair, and disregard, was a framed Bible verse. The glass in the frame was cracked, the frame matting was an unattractive floral mauve and the frame itself a passé metal that appeared to be at least 20 years old. Ironic ugliness that housed 21 of the most powerfully beautiful words I had ever read.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. Philippians 4:6”

It took me about ten seconds to read the verse. In those ten seconds I went from apathetic, numb, and stunned, to a heap of raw emotion sobbing on the floor. It was as if those words of encouragement had been waiting for me at the bottom of that disorganized closet for many years. Waiting for when I needed them. Waiting for the perfect moment when I would have ears to hear them. God knowing I would need a 21 word anchor to steady me through day 3, as well as day 53, day 503, and day 10,003, and all of the other lonely and discouraging days in between.

The beautiful mauve, metal, floral, cracked, frame now sits where it should; in my living room, right by a hallway, so I can see it every time I walk to my bedroom and be reminded that God hears me. He hears my prayers, he hears my confusion, and reminds me he is there to listen to me when I think no one else is around and is even actively working on the solutions, despite when I feel there is no hope.

Every cleaning project should build such a mountain of hope. Surely that could be seen by a satellite.

About Beth Carroll: If sarcasm were a spiritual gift, then I surely would be on the Christian bookstore speaking circuit right now. But because it is not, I am busy finishing up my theological training at Western Theological Seminary, while also working as Director of Youth Ministry at Hope Church in Holland, Michigan. I have two beautiful, intelligent, and equally sarcastic teen aged kids, who bring me much joy, as well as fodder for Facebook status updates. I also enjoy reading, running very slowly, and coming up with creative answers to people who ask about my naturally curly hair. Ask me about it some time; I dare you.

Beth Carroll

Rev. Beth Carroll is the Senior Pastor of Oakland City Church in Oakland, California. She is a graduate of Western Theological Seminary and Hope College, both in Holland, Michigan.  She is married to Richard Perez, who is a theatre artist, and she has three kids - Josiah, Natalie, and a cat named Kate Spade.


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