The Parable of the Backpack

close up photo of brown backpack
Photo by Hiago Italo on Pexels.com

I wrote my first parable. Here it is:

  One day a girl, carrying a backpack, enters a coffeeshop. She notices an older woman is in line in front of her with a refrigerator tied to her back. The woman is struggling under the strain of it. It makes her frown and complain. She has a difficult time placing her order through gritted teeth and then is obviously straining to move down the counter to wait for her coffee. After placing her own order with the barista, the younger girl moves over to the woman who is now looking through the contents of her refrigerator exposing a stench from a collection of rotting food inside.

  The girl begins breathing through her mouth so as not to gag and asks, “I know this may seem a little presumptuous of me but, why in the world are you carrying a refrigerator on your back?”

  The woman replies, “Are you kidding? I’m the woman with the refrigerator! People everywhere know about me! It’s a part of who I am.”

  “But it looks so heavy and not to be rude, but there really isn’t anything of value in it. It’s actually really sad to see all of that rotten food in there. I think there are other things you could be known for.”

  “You’re young. You probably haven’t been through anything as difficult as me. You don’t understand what it means to live with humility. It means you lug around your burdens and feel their weight so that you never forget the things that are a part of you. They are a lesson that you should never forget.”

  The girl sighs and takes off her own backpack and unzips it. She invites the woman to look inside. The woman looks down, feeling a little annoyed at being asked to do something else. But when she does, her expression quickly changes to shock. Inside of the backpack is an ocean liner. It’s bigger than the Titanic! 

  The woman asks the girl, “How, in God’s name, do you carry that huge thing around all the time?” 

  “Exactly,” replies the girl. 

  We all have a story. We all carry something really heavy. Sometimes we think we are being brave by holding onto it and refusing to let it go. Some of us have been holding onto things since childhood, an idea of who we are or a traumatic event we lived through. The weight of it often changes us and without proper healing, it can make us hardened, stubborn to accept the idea that we can be anything different than those things that we carry. We cope with it in a hundred different ways. It can manifest as addiction, anger, anxiety or depression. 

 But we are not meant to carry refrigerators on our backs! We can never erase things in our past. They’re there. But we don’t have to continue to carry the burden alone, either. Faith has healed so much in my heart. We are supposed to use that backpack of faith like a Mary Poppins carpetbag. Shove anything you want in there! Oh, it will be there if you really want to look at it, but don’t let its weight change your posture; we are not meant to live in the weight of our past. We are meant to live in the present and even though we carry our past, it doesn’t define us. It teaches us, but it doesn’t define us. You are not more humble by visibly wearing your past. You are not more loved by showing how much pain you can hold and how much it affects you. You are loved simply because you are, because you exist, because you are breathing and matter to others in this world. Your presence is the answer to someone’s prayer. Don’t ever forget that.

Strength

Hope Springs Eternal

This is a story of hope for all of you parents out there who may be enduring the struggle of a child with picky eating habits. Now, our sons Noah and Luke are notoriously picky eaters. For those of you who have followed this blog from the beginning, you know that my children survived the first three years of their lives on chicken nuggets, peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh and fruit; they do love apples, berries, bananas, pears, and cantaloupe… I did earn those small victories. And I give them Juice Plus Vitamins (I am a rep if you’re interested in filling the gaps in your kids’ diets). We eventually graduated to spaghetti and hamburgers, but I have had to coerce them to eat any sort of vegetable for most of their lives. 

  Monday through Thursday there is usually at least one kid at every meal, whining about the smell or the texture of the item on the plate in front of them. But  Friday nights in our home are pizza and movie night. It’s the one night of the week when no one whines about their dinner. It is glorious. I look forward to Friday night like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. We hold this as a sacred ritual and have for the past several years. I believe this has helped me hang onto a little of my sanity. 

   I usually make a salad to go with the pizza so that we don’t only eat dough and cheese— though it’s delicious— and we have always thrown a few of the veggies onto the kids’ plates mostly for color but also to pretend like they will someday enjoy biting into a carrot or a red pepper. 

  Today, friends…today was that day. October 11, 2019, Luke declared the following words (and I quote): “I can’t decide what I love more, Benito’s breadsticks or salad.” 

SALAD…I want that to sink in for you all.

Luke. The pickiest eater in Michigan, arguably in the United States of America, hater of mac and cheese and tacos, despiser of lasagna for crying out loud?! Said he loves salad…

…I held back tears. I beheld his little ranch smeared face and stifled a sob of joy. 

  Moms and dads, let this story light a flame of hope in your frustrated hearts. When your hands cramp up from grating carrots or zucchini into your spaghetti sauce or you wonder how many pouches a kid must eat to stay alive and not become malnourished, prepubescence will come and your child will eat new things. I promise. You won’t be sending them to bed hungry forever or fearing the threat of scurvy. 

Keep up the good fight.

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Luke tried peas a few years ago. This was the last time.

Not Today.

Today I am fighting for my heart. 

Today I am fighting by surrendering. 

Today I am surrendering to grace.

  It’s a grace I don’t deserve and could never earn, but it’s mine anyway. God gave it to me and I did nothing to earn it. In fact I have done more to lose it than to deserve it. 

  This world is filled with obstacles designed to trip us. Today was one of those days for me. And it is no one’s fault but my own that I am vulnerable in that way, but here I am flawed, broken and susceptible to falling and God never tires of picking me back up, handing me my sword and saying, “I’ve got your back. Keep going. I’m not done with you. There is more work to be done.”

  So here I am, God. All 5’4” of me, shaking and scared and I am asking you to help me keep going forward. I’ve been humbled by falling so many times and I’m so bruised up that I don’t know how anyone could love me anymore, especially not you, God. 

  I feel like most of the time, he’s probably thinking, “Are you serious, kid?! You’re down again? 

  But He doesn’t. He sends his angels to pick me up under my arm pits and says, “You’ve got this.” It reminds me of when the kids were learning to walk. They looked like they’d knocked back a few too many bottles and could trip on a piece of lint if it was sticking up too high. And always head first! Why is that? Is it because their heads are the heaviest part of their bodies? It was unnerving following them around! Now imagine poor God, chasing after a seven billion drunken toddlers careening through life head-first…

Hey God, can you childproof the world for us? We need a little help down here. We’re tripping on everything. The devil just likes throwing things right in our path and, sorry but we are kind of klutzy. At least cover those sharp corners for us, will you?

  So anyway…I was starting to hit a comfortable stride in life again. I was feeling pretty solid because I am working again, doing something that I love, helping people gain strength in their bodies and confidence in their abilities. I have been going to a spiritual ministry on Monday nights for three hours and have been feeling so alive with divine purpose and identity. I felt like my efforts were gaining some traction. But that old devil showed up with his stick and threw it out when I wasn’t looking. 

 Something unexpected triggered it, and really no one’s fault but my own. I spiraled from there to self-hatred and then hopelessness and despair. Sometimes I can pull myself out of it, but this time I was not able to by myself.

  I was praying hard after that. “God please take this from me. Please help me. I need you to pick me up again.” I shouldn’t have been surprised when God gave me three angels today. They know who they are…I am so grateful for your souls. I am grateful for God sending you to pick me up in my hour of need. Thank you for your compassion and love. 

  But my point of this story is, we are never without God’s love. We are going to fall. It’s an occupational hazard of life on earth. You don’t get out without skinned knees or head injuries. But you don’t have to stay down when you fall. We have to GET UP! Keep fighting. Let those angels do their jobs!

  So I am praying for you, whoever is reading this because I was blessed enough to be prayed over today. I pray that you know in your heart how loved you are. I pray that you feel your divine worth. I pray that you pick up your sword again and keep fighting. That devil has an endless bag of tricks to trip us, but don’t you let him. God has more. He has all his angels and seven billion of us down here to help each other. That is our job. Help each other to get back up. Give compassion. Offer grace. Show love. And we can all tell that bully together, “Not today, Satan.”