In 2020 my husband saved up enough money to purchase a shed for the backyard. This was a long-awaited blessing, because for years he had arranged, rearranged, purged and organized all of the ‘stuff’ in our one-and-a-half car garage. For years prior, lawn implements, tools and toolboxes, fishing and sporting equipment, beach chairs and toys, and all the other various and sundry items you keep “because you might need that someday” all had to find their places in the tiny space around my mid-sized car. In addition to the numerous items in the garage, our unfinished attic held numerous boxes of extra dishes, collectibles, toys, seasonal decor, my sealed and boxed wedding dress, and countless Christmas decorations. Having the shed meant that he would finally have the workspace and storage space he needed, and our attic would no longer be burdened with the weight of heavy boxes sitting directly above us. We transferred everything that the shed could reasonably hold. I was amazed at what all our little garage had held, and even more amazed at how my husband made that space work all these years.
Like many others, our family likes to decorate for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. We put in a favorite Christmas cd and hum along while decking the halls, all the while reminiscing about Christmases past and sharing favorite memories made with family and friends. Last Christmas, my sweet husband hauled all the Christmas boxes and sealed totes out of the backyard shed and placed them in the garage for our daughters and me to unload and begin decorating. Everything was going splendidly and the house was festively beginning to take shape until we opened a red and green plastic tote which contained the fabric decor.
Then I spotted it: the light dusting of mildew (or maybe even mold) that coated every. single. fabric. item.
The hand-crocheted Christmas-patterned afghan and pillows that my husband’s MeMe had painstakingly made for us on our first Christmas, the hand-crocheted placemats and doilies that she lovingly presented to us at our second Christmas, the needlepoint reindeer pillow that his aunt gave to us one year, our girls’ sweet little handmade pre-school decorations, door hangers, and handmade ornaments, tea towels, dish towels, hand towels, and stuffed animals that our daughters lovingly collected over the years… all of it, ruined! We had no idea that storing these items in the non-climate-controlled environment of the metal fabricated shed would provide the perfect conditions for mildew or mold to grow.
It is not an exaggeration to say that I immediately let out a wail and crumpled to the floor in a devastated heap. So many memories, sentimental treasures, many of which were given by people who are no longer living, gone, gone, gone. It was completely heartbreaking for a soft-hearted nostalgia lover like me. While I realized that it was probably unsafe to keep these items, let alone bring them into our home, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. I tearfully asked my husband, Clint, to bag them and toss them while I went inside and mourned their loss.
It’s funny, up to that point I never considered myself a material-oriented person; I never felt that I had an unbalanced attachment to “stuff.” And I still maintain that I am not like that, as a rule. It wasn’t the “stuff” per se. Normally, I don’t choose crocheted blankets or tatted doilies as my decor at all. It was just that these things were made with love by people who we love and who loved us very much. They were irreplaceable in that the care, memories, and love that surrounded them couldn’t be bought in a store or ordered online. Even if another person had made facsimile replicas by hand, it wouldn’t be the same or have the same value to us.
Even as my husband gathered these things in black trash bags and hauled them to the curb while I sat inside teary-eyed, it occurred to me that Jesus talked about this very thing in part of His Sermon on the Mount: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6: 19-21.
While it was true that those irreplaceable heirlooms and sweet child-made creations were special to us and helped bring a festive, homey atmosphere to our Christmas celebration, they themselves were not Christmas. Even lovingly crafted things made by our cherished relatives are really only “stuff” when viewed from the eyes of eternity. No riches here on earth can ever hold a candle to the incomparable riches awaiting us in heaven. Here, the things we consider treasures are always susceptible to mold, mildew, moths, rust, rot, and decay. Valuables on earth are vulnerable to thieves who can break in and steal them.
The disappointment of losing those cherished items last Christmas served as a concrete reminder of the truth about what Jesus taught. Anytime our focus is on the material world, possessions, money, or some perceived security we obtain through those things, our devotion follows in some way, shape, or form. Instead of treasuring items that will not last, this Christmas, let us turn our hearts wholeheartedly to the One most deserving, most permanent, to the One who even in death did not see decay (Acts 13:37). Let our hearts follow towards our treasure that is found only in Christ.