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12th of January

Basket Case

Early one morning, I decided to do the unthinkable—organize the pantry. Not that it was a disaster or anything. I have all these Tupperware containers I earned in a barter with a friend for teaching her kids piano lessons years ago. But some of the containers were labeled incorrectly and I decided some items would work better on a different shelf.


So right when I’m finishing, our 17 year-old son comes into the kitchen, wearing his Star Wars fleece lounging pants, a bad case of bed-head and halitosis to match . . .

“So, you havin’ an OCD flare-up?”

I laugh at Smarty Pants and take those three capital letters (O—C—D) for a wild ride, right there in the kitchen.”

“Why yes, in fact, I am! I decided to alphabetize all eighty of my spice containers and you’re just in time! Here, start spreading them out. Let’s start with the O’s, and then the C’s, and then the D’s, and then all the rest. Here, start lining them up.” I point to the side of the island.

“You’re kidding me.”

He’s questioning me?

“Nope. Get going. While you’re doing the spice, I’ll make breakfast. What some oatmeal with an “O”?  And how about some Craisins with a “C” on your oatmeal with an “O”? And would you like your oatmeal with an “O” and your Craisins with with a “C” in a dish with a “D”?

“MOM! STOP!” He’s smiling.

“What? Are we not having FUN? Get crackin’ on those spices, Smarty Star Wars Pants!”

So he does and we discover there are a whole lot more spices that begin with “C” than any other letter. Now, don’t you feel enlightened? I’m sure this piece of pantry trivia will make an excellent conversation starter at your next Pampered Chef party.

After all 80 spices were alphabetized (by first letter only because I’m seriously not clinically OCD, at least not that I’m aware of), I came upon a quandary.

How do I store 80 spices so I can see the labels?

Do I put them in a drawer on their side? Do I put them in a drawer standing up and put labels on lids? Do I buy a rack and screw it into the pantry door? How many racks would that take? Would they all fit on the pantry door?

Honestly, Pinterest can drive a woman to jump in her own pantry and hide!

So after much ado about nothing but spices, I decide to put them all back the way they were—on two, two-tiered lazy Susans (did Susan invent these? And, if so, why is she called “lazy” because these are crazy-awesome inventions!) But even on two, two-tiered lazy Susans, I still have a dilemma.

What will I put in the middle of each Susan? I won’t be able to see the labels of her innards. This won’t do. I solve the problem rather quickly by putting a category of spices in the middle of each two-tiered lazy Susan. Spice concoctions! You know, that Cajun steak rub with the rather large man in a chef hat, the stand-by lemon pepper seasoning salt with no salt, the Old Bay Seafood seasoning in a can, the Italian seasoning, which, in case you didn’t know, does not come from a single plant called “Italian seasoning”. I keep all the pure spices on the outside where everyone can see and all the hybrids on the inside, where no one can see. Then I slide spices and pantry containers into perfect position.

I stand back, cross my arms, and marvel at the beauty of my pantry, all done by me (and Smarty Star Wars pants). I even take some pictures. And I got a close-up of the container labeled DOG TREATS. See?


Then, Smarty Star Wars Pants shows me how he turned around a couple containers so the labels face backwards, just to see how OCD I am, really. Which I’m not. Because I didn’t notice. (Phew!) When he walks away, I turn the containers around so ALL labels are visible.

BEAUTIFUL! I do declare!

Then, I look beyond my perfect-looking pantry.


Every counter is an avalanche waiting for one stronger-than-normal footstep to start it rolling, burying both dogs beneath. Papers, magazines, electronic handheld devices, chargers, ponytail holders, paperclips, dog toys, books, Christmas cards, stray socks, wrapping paper, scissors, paper bags, plastic bags, snacks, dirty dishes, and probably one more category I’m forgetting to mention. Oh yeah . . .

Cosmetics and toiletries. Is that two categories?

Anyway, needless to say, I noticed a stark contrast between my photograph-worthy pantry and the rest of the kitchen. Or the rest of the house. Yes, the rest of the house is actually worse than the kitchen. It looks like I forgot to switch the hand mixer to the OFF position before pulling up the beaters.

My office—the upstairs loft—is the worst. Piles of papers on both desks and all over the floor. Books on every surface, including the couch, and not neatly piled either. The spare queen bed’s green quilt is now brown from one yellow lab who has declared it her own. And the printer with the yet unidentified illness causing it to projectile vomit paper all over the floor faster than I can pick it up? I find this sort of mechanical rebellion repulsive.

And if the house wasn’t bad enough, I find my Yorkie, Baker, holding a Post-It note in his mouth.  I kid you not.  Where he got that attached to his lips, I’ll never know.


So I’m thinking about how I posted my perfect pantry on Facebook last week. And I’m thinking about how I didn’t photograph the rest of my house. I’m thinking about how I want people to see my all-together lovely, all-together wonderful but I don’t want people to see my baskets. I don’t want people to see that I’m a basket case. Why? Like what’s the big deal anyway? Because really, I don’t like people who have to have their homes all-together lovely, all-together wonderful before they’ll let me in the front door. I don’t like plastic-covered sofas and I don’t like plastic-covered people. I like real. I like to know what’s behind the smiles people plaster on their faces because they want to hide their all-together not-together, all-together not-so-wonderful.

So I decided to do an experiment. I decided to show you my all-together not-together, my all-together not-so-wonderful. I picked that camera back up and starting shooting the disaster area. About 80 rounds, I figure. One for each perfectly positioned spice. Of course, I can’t show every single shot here or your phones and tablets and laptops would probably explode, or never load. So you’ll have to imagine some of the mess beyond these cyber-windows. So here goes . . .





Now, don’t you feel better about yourself? Compared to me? Because really, we’re all kind of a mess, aren’t we? Know it or not, God knows. God knows how overwhelmed we are trying to clean ourselves up, trying to make ourselves acceptable, notable, preferable to others, even to God. God knows the gazillion ways we try and hide—that we try and pretend we’re more together than we are.

So who cares about spices and pantry containers and papers and dishes anyway? What about that temper I lost today? Or that not-so-nice thought I had behind my smile? What about that homeless woman I just passed in the airport on my way to Riviera Cancun, Mexico? What about all the starving children in Africa—or Syria—or inner-city Milwaukee who I don’t care enough about? What about all I do—and all I don’t do? I do what I shouldn’t and I don’t do what I should. One can plumb lose her mind with inner accusations flying off the KitchenAid beaters on high—in the ON position.

I need more than a tune-up. I need a transformation. And I can’t possibly clean up this mess myself because I’m mostly blind to all that needs re-arranging in me. But thankfully, you and I have a God who takes us as we are and works with us, re-arranging and transforming until we are ready for heaven.

Unlike my near-perfect pantry, one day Jesus will say I’m ready. He’ll stand back, open the doors of my soul, look on all his handiwork and declare, “She’s good. Just the way I made her in the first place—before she became a basket case.” Or something like that.

And in the meantime, wouldn’t it be nice to help each other along with our messes, knowing we all make them? Wouldn’t it be something if we could find a safe group of people where we could declare our mess-ups without trying to one-up, where we would hold each other up, where we would never give up on ourselves or one another? I do believe that’s what Jesus intended for church. You know, drop the fig leaves? Be real? Offer grace? God knows, we all need it.


Categories:  grace humor

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