Purple Crayon Catastrophe

About ten years ago I had a conversation with Bethany that went something like this:

Bethany at 5. She has always liked to accessorize.

Bethany: “Mommy, do people need clothes in Heaven?”

Me: “I don’t think so, Sweetie. Why do you ask?”

Bethany: “Well, I really like my clothes and I want to take them with me when I go to Heaven.”

Bethany’s love for pretty clothing and accessories has only increased over the years, and I must say, she gets it honestly. I “get” this child of mine, truly. So today when I heard a scream coming from the laundry room just three hours before she was to leave on a weekend youth retreat, my heart sank. “Did I do something?” I wondered. It’s not easy being the mom of three teenage girls with varying laundry schedules, rituals, and demands. I wondered if our 18-year old machine “greased” her favorites. Did a sister throw in a black hoodie with her favorite white tee? While I had no idea what awaited me as I entered the laundry room, one thing was certain … Bethany was not happy.

The culprit was, and I mean “was” in the most past tense possible… a purple crayon. The only thing left of the crayon was the wrapper. The rest of it was distributed in spots of varying sizes all over Bethany’s very favorite shirts. Yes, the shirts that she’d carefully selected and planned to wear on her weekend away – ruined.

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The culprit… the crayon that is no more.

Esther, seeing and seizing an opportunity to make a bad situation worse stated, “Bethany, just be glad you didn’t break the washing machine. Your clothes actually don’t matter too much, ya know.” (Did I mention our washing machine is old??)

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Sarah’s spotty camp shirt. Hoping it can be replaced this weekend

Sarah entered the scene and realized her camp T-shirt, a souvenir from one of her favorite weeks of her life, suffered the worst purple-spottiness of the whole load.

Anna and Christina were frantically trying to finish homework so they could enjoy their weekend away and needed quiet. There were some un-quiet requests for me to “Make it all stop!”

I will spare you all the details, but suffice it to say that the Jobe house experienced a wee bit of drama this morning. I know I should expect such tension right before a spiritual retreat. Doesn’t Satan like to attack on Sunday mornings as well?

I may or may not have added to the emotion. Haven’t I instructed these girls of mine to check pockets? Ugh. This was the day I was *supposed* to catch up on school work. We had stuff to do! The kitchen needed attention. I like rooms left clean. And there is always math. Besides, the girls do have other things they can wear, and I’m a believer in natural consequences. They’d just have to deal with it and get back to packing and leave me alone.

I instructed them to separate to cool down because there became a bit of blame-casting. Who *really* threw the clothes in the dryer where the setting-in-of-purple occurred? “Who really cares?” I thought. I told Bethany to google “wax-removal.” I went to my room to pray. And the Lord reminded me of an incident that happened on my wedding day.

A young child had thrown birdseed from a punch cup on me as my groom and I left our reception site. After leaving, we escaped to our new apartment to gather our suitcases before heading off to our honeymoon. I panicked and fought back tears as I noticed little spots all over my dress. Because I borrowed my wedding dress, I spent quite a bit of time selecting the “perfect” going-away dress. Money was scarce, and I got it at a good price, but I could not afford to replace it. I knew in my heart after seeing those spots that my “going-away dress”, after only a 20-minute debut, was truly “gone.” However, I spot-treated it, threw it in the wash, and hoped for the best. Of course, having only been married a few hours, I had not mastered the art of communication with my new husband. I failed to tell him it needed to drip dry. He, being quite eager to leave to make our dinner reservation, put the dress in the dryer once it completed the “gentle” wash cycle.

The dress, which was punch stained and, after drying, small enough to fit a doll, was certainly ruined. I tossed it in the pile of wedding-gift-wrap garbage before leaving for the first dinner of our new marriage.

Today, after I left the laundry-room fiasco and escaped to my room, the Lord reminded me of a precious gift and the ending to my wedding-day story. When Daniel and I returned from our honeymoon, a $100 check awaited me. My mother-in-law heard what happened and wanted to replace my dress. This gift spoke love to me. She cared about something that I felt silly admitting even mattered.

So, today, after a few minutes with the Lord, I left the house and headed to Old Navy, praying as I drove that I could find a blessing for Bethany… and quickly!

I love Jesus. I love how he cares about little things. Bethany lost a tan striped shirt, a true favorite of hers. I found one, slightly different, but very similar for only $7.50. Other casualties of the purple-crayon wash were two flannel button-downs. I found prettier ones that, with my coupons, cost only $10 each. I quickly glanced at the clearance section and spotted a coral cardigan that looked beautiful with the tan-striped shirt. On one of those manequins, a lovely tan scarf that would “tie it all together”caught my eye. It was 35% off.  So, I de-scarfed the dummy, and, in only ten minutes of total shopping time, left Old Navy with all these items for an extremely reasonable price. I have shopped multiple stores on all-day trips with much less success!

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After arriving home, I walked in the front door, glanced upstairs, and saw Bethany working on her soiled items. I eagerly walked up to the laundry room, handed her the bag and received one of those hugs that a mom does not quickly forget. The new clothes… a perfect fit. Another small miracle.

I document this event so that I will remember that the Lord doesn’t always care about those “natural consequences.” He wants me to love and show compassion. He wants for me to always be willing to alter my to-do list – a list I hold onto pretty tightly sometimes. He wants me to leave the drama that is so rampant in this highly hormonal home and ask him for direction. His ways are good.

It’s true that Bethany can’t take her clothes with her to Heaven. She has matured quite a bit since our conversation years ago and knows her stuff has no eternal value. However, a pretty new sweater for this weekend is a symbol.. her mama loves her and her father in Heaven loves her even more.

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