Remember my word of the year was “new?” Well, here’s a whole new blog format with a new focus. I will always be a Miniature Clay Pot…but my focus will be on maintaining joy in the midst of all the things that would try to steal it from us. Here’s the first post under the new name. <3 Marie with a 🙂
From a few texts and social media comments, I know that at least a few of you have been wondering how in the world I managed to lock myself in a shed.
Obviously, I didn’t mean to do it, trap myself in a small, dark place with miller moths and spiders as, uh, companions.
But really it wasn’t all that difficult. Getting into a dark, unwanted place isn’t, in fact, hard. Sometimes you just find yourself there.
On this particular day, the quiet house and perfect Colorado weather pushed me outside to do some writing. I was alone, except for our new house guest.
Briley is an Australian Shepherd Mix who has huge, chocolate-colored eyes, and a rather mellow demeanor. But apparently Australian Shepherd Mixes are known for their mischievous tendencies, and in keeping with that personality, Briley had previously (and quite joyfully) ripped apart the colorful cushions on our outdoor furniture. Not one cushion, but all four. After purchasing a new set, hubs and I decided to keep them in the shed to prevent our lovely canine friend from being tempted.
I plopped my books and laptop on the dusty glass topped iron table beneath the pergola, and I headed to the shed to grab a couple of cushions. Briley was racing all around, eager to follow me in, so I gently pulled the door behind me -never intending to latch it. It happened so fast that I can’t be certain if it was Briley or the wind. I had just managed to pull two cushions from the stack, when I heard the distinct and horrifying sound of the latch closing. That’s when the panic set in.
“NO, NO, NO!” I shouted and dropped the cushions. The 10 x 12 structure that I love for its reminiscent appearance of a freshly painted, bright red barn, suddenly became a place of darkness. I was already aware of the moths, and the spiders. When I frantically shouldered one of the doors, I noticed a wasp nest in the upper corner. I shuddered. I wouldn’t be shoving on THAT door again.
I knew my husband would not arrive home for an hour, and then he would likely assume I was out at the track or walking a nearby trail, and would not worry that I wasn’t around. He had an eye appointment scheduled for a little later, and I realized it could be 5 to 6 hours before he started wondering where I was. I pushed, kicked, and shoved at the door, but my 4’11” 120-pound frame was more battered than the door.
For those of us who have experienced traumatic events like mass shootings, being trapped anywhere can be a terrifying experience. A dark, spidery, moth-filled shed increased those panic levels. Not gonna lie, I cried. Then I prayed.
While doing so, I recalled a time when my grandson and I were playing disc Frisbee. It was his first time, and he was getting frustrated with not being able to catch the little green ring. “It’s too hard, Grandma,” he complained, stomping his tan little leg. I picked up the Frisbee from where it had fallen, and told him to repeat after me: “This is hard, but I can do it!” I danced in a circle. He giggled and complied. We repeated it a few times and it changed his defeated attitude. It wasn’t long before he was catching everything I threw his way. We did happy, squealing dances and threw ourselves down on the grass.
There, in the dark shed, I could hear his sweet voice. “It’s hard, Grandma, but you can do it.”
Yes. I. Could.
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to bust the door down, but after much kicking and pushing, I bent it out enough that I could shove a muddy weeding tool through the door. After several attempts, I managed to lift the latch. (I did also manage to break parts of the door.)
Forty-fiveish minutes had passed, but it seemed like eons. Still, I learned a few things in those moments of darkness.
First, Take a breather. Stop, take a deep breath, and pray. In the moments of crying out in fear, or lifting praise and gratitude, we are changed. For the better. The Scripture says in Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You.” Prayer doesn’t always change our circumstances, but it gets our focus away from them and onto the Trustworthy One who is able to work all things for good. When we are focusing on the Light of the World, at least some of the darkness is dispelled.
Listen to the voices of wise and positive people. I know, I know. Sometimes we don’t want to hear trite or placating speeches, pithy bits of positivity. We think they don’t work, or no one knows what we are going through. We would rather let the darkness swallow us, or stay stagnant, and avoid others at all cost. Yet we glean a great deal of wisdom, encouragement, and laughter when we surround ourselves with a healthy group of others. Even (especially) young grandchildren have words of wisdom and sage encouragement for us! Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future Proverbs 19:20
Be kind to yourself. My first instinct when I heard the sickening sound of the doors latching, was to berate myself. “You idiot. Why didn’t you at least put something between the doors? You won’t ever get out of here. You’re crying? What a baby!” But I have learned to treat myself the way that I would treat others. In Matthew 22, Jesus said, next to loving God, the greatest thing we can do is love others as ourselves. This presupposes that we love ourselves. Love is patient, kind, and forgiving. I reminded myself that I was not helpless, and I WOULD find a way out. That I was actually kinda smart. When we are feeling trapped or in a dark place, it can be helpful to think about how we would treat someone else in the same situation. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39
Do something. We don’t have control over many things in life – people or circumstances. Often this is what puts us in a dark place to begin with, thinking our circumstances or we ourselves are never going to change. When we pray, and seek God, and then follow up with some action, we are more able to break free from people and places and thoughts that seem to hold us captive. God created us as three part beings – body (physical), soul (mind, will, emotions), and spirit (the part connected or disconnected to God)- and each part impacts the other. Many studies on trauma and the brain are showing that the more we are able to take action in traumatic circumstances, the less impact it has on our body and minds. “Being able to move and do something to protect oneself is a critical factor in determining whether or not a horrible experience will leave long-lasting scars.” Bessel A van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score.
The Bible tells us that we are foolish if we look in the mirror and see something wrong, but do nothing about it. “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror: for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks in the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25
And finally, find ways to prevent a return. After hearing about my experience, the ever protective husband Jerry-rigged some kind of twine through the latch and onto the inside of the shed so that the latch could easily be lifted. (After he repaired the busted doors.) I was not going to be trapped in that particular shed again!
When we are in a good place, we can look back and see what led us to the other place, the unwanted one. Then we plan ahead so we don’t have repeat cycles of ending up in the same circumstances. Ephesians 4:22-24 speaks of putting off old ways and exchanging them for new. A good step forward, is asking ourselves how we got there, what we could do differently, and implementing a plan.
Rejoicing at the end of the day. Although I had a moment of complete and utter panic, and although I shed (pun intended 🙂 ) a few tears while trapped, at the end of the day I found myself actually rejoicing about the experience. I learned that I am stronger than I thought, and by seeking God then taking action, I can free myself from dark places.
Grateful for the joy,
Marie -Ellen with a 🙂