Outside the Box

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Sandra Clifton, D. Min.

After Mother went home to be with the Lord, the family held an
estate sale of her possessions that had been sitting in boxes for

As I rummaged through the boxes of elegant china, laces and
linens, one box in particular caught my eye. This one smelled musty,
and a piece of straw was poking through the top. I pried it open with
scissors and began to sneeze.

What was this? I came face-to-face with an ugly rock. Its moss on
top made it look like a man’s head. Aha! I remembered! Years before,
Mother had been a special education teacher. Her passion was sharing
the beautiful creations from her nature walks with her students. That
meant her bedroom was filled with rocks, plants and seashells. Torn
between keeping the old rock and tossing it, I prayed, “Lord,
what would be the best thing to do here?”

Before I waited for an answer, I had an idea. The hairy rock was
to stay and grace the estate sale table, alongside the fine china.
This was turning out to not be your usual estate sale, but a display
of one mother who was definitely outside the box!

Next I found a plate. Not the typical plate offered at an estate
sale, but a paper plate, handcrafted into a clock with Popsicle-stick
hands. On the back was a message scrawled by a child: “To Mrs.
Stickum, with love from Billy.” It didn’t matter to Mother that
her last name was really Stithem or that the back of the plate was
smudged with pizza sauce from Billy’s lunch. Mother had considered
this a treasure from one of her special ed students, so it had to
stay. Onto the table it went right next to the fine china.

If plates could talk, I would have heard a sigh from the fine
china: “What’s he doing here? He’s a smudgy thing with
51-year-old pizza stains! We’re so fine, and we’re prettier!” I
cut the imaginary scene of the battle of the plates and resumed
emptying the musty box.

Suddenly, I screamed and jumped back. Had worms crept in? Heaven
knows what had crawled into this old box from sitting in the basement
for half a century.

Then a memory came to mind. One Sunday, I had called Mother and
was greeted with, “Hey honey, I’m up to my elbows in worms and
dirt. I got a Mother’s Day gift of a worm Jell-O mold and chocolate
dirt cookie kit! Can’t wait to try this out on the neighborhood kids!
Hee-hee-hee!” This was so Mother—saving Jell-O molds to make
“worms” with chocolate dirt for cookies. No question about
it—Mother was outside the box!

I was reminded of a Scripture describing us as being “fearfully
and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14,).
This described my mother—so wonderfully and uniquely made by God.

If you are a mom, just know that you are unique and special in
your role. As for your mother or aunt or grandma—remind them that
their role is not by accident, but divinely appointed by God—to
nurture uniquely as God so uniquely designed them.

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