Jul 14

Broken Stuff

Fullscreen capture 7132014 72215 PMThe past few weeks I’ve been pretty focused on stuff . . . . too much stuff, old stuff, worthless stuff, in-the-way stuff, and piles of who-knows-what-it-is stuff. Dresser drawers, closets, cupboards, baskets, buckets, and tote bags overflowing with stuff. That’s what happens when a mama isn’t looking and the kids are supposed to be helping to “clean up.” Just pick it up and shove it any where that isn’t already full of stuff!

Our spring cleaning began with a thorough purging of first one closet, and then another. Followed by emptying out one dresser drawer at a time, then the kitchen cupboards, the craft and sewing cabinets, and the office area. We were quite successful in tossing out a bunch of stuff that never should have been kept in the first place, stuff that the girls had out-grown, stuff that we had accumulated when we went out and bought more stuff because we couldn’t find the other stuff that we knew we had somewhere but just couldn’t find.

Fullscreen capture 7132014 74317 PMAfter numerous trips to the local thrift shop (I know, we usually take bags full of stuff in the back door and then go in the front door and buy more . . . . STUFF!) things were becoming a bit more manageable. We still have a ways to go, but at least we can now find an ink pen that actually works, a roll of tape that actually has tape on it, and the flip flops without tripping over the winter boots. Usually. We’re getting closer every day.

But as we were sorting and tossing, storing and pondering what to do with all that stuff, we came across some broken stuff. You know, the usual: broken pencils, a few old broken dishes, broken boxes and baskets, broken toys, broken crayons, broken lamps, and broken tools. And it got me thinking about broken stuff.

It got me thinking about broken hearts, broken relationships, broken lives, broken promises, and broken people. Like me. And you. And all of us. Because, really, no matter how much we might want to pretend, we are all broken. That’s the point. If we could be perfect, or if we could put ourselves back together on our own, we wouldn’t need God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Fullscreen capture 7132014 74436 PMSorting through all of the stuff in the junk drawer(s) gave me an opportunity to contemplate the messes that are created when we have piles of broken stuff just sitting around. But what to do with it all? Well, if it is broken stuff like pencils, plates, cups, crayons, or toys, we can either get out the glue and put the broken stuff back together, or we can just throw it out.

Since my mama grew up during the Great Depression, I learned early on that we didn’t throw away hardly anything at all. Her motto was, “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.” And so we did. Broken plates were glued back together, clothing that was worn and torn was updated with a patch or two or a reinforced seam. Broken down shoes were stitched and glued back together and with a new coat of shoe polish, they are good for another few months.

Broken furniture was glued or nailed back together, and if there was a tear in the upholstery, the needle and thread came out of the sewing basket and if all else failed, we had a pretty (probably mended) doily to cover the repaired place. Old clothes and coats were upcycled into new garments for the kids, and for mama as well. Learning to live with very little in the way of material possessions certainly does teach one how to be resourceful!

Fullscreen capture 7132014 74823 PMBut when it comes to broken hearts, broken relationships, or broken promises, our options for repair are limited. We all know that forgiveness is the place to start . . . . asking, giving, and receiving. But that doesn’t always happen, and so we must learn to go through life – broken. But that doesn’t mean we are defeated! We must realize that broken is the state of all people, throughout all of history, through all of time, and in every place. It is normal. And it makes us “real.”

And so, we can learn from one of my favorite fictional characters (although I believe he lives within the hearts of many who believe), the Skin Horse from the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. One day when the Velveteen Rabbit asked the old Skin Horse (whose hair was all thin and worn off from being hugged so much) if it hurts to be real:

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” 

Since we are all broken, perhaps we should stop pretending and love one another with God’s love, forgiveness, patience, and kindness. Because, after all, don’t you want to be “real”? If you do, it is going to hurt sooner or later (probably sooner rather than later), so you might as well get ready to be broken – but then, just like the Old Skin Horse, remember that . . .

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”  Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Fullscreen capture 7132014 81314 PMIf you are broken, take heart! You are on a journey to becoming a real person, one who will have compassion and understanding for others when they are broken. You are also on a journey to discover God’s grace, mercy, comfort, and healing, if you will but seek Him. He died for broken people, and He understands your broken heart and all other kinds of brokenness.


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  1. Deb McCarragher


    Thanks for keeping it “real” in your blog post. We came across some broken things when we moved and also while cleaning out our storage unit while we downsize. Moving is stressful enough – but trying to part with “stuff” after 30+ years of accumulation is harder. This is our 4th residence since we married – but this time we’re in a much smaller place. Broken things brings to mind broken promises, broken dreams and broken relationships. We all deal with brokenness and loss. As you rightly point out – only God can mend our broken hearts and unfulfilled desires.

    The Velveteen Rabbit (as do most classic children’s books) leaves us with important truths and virtuous lessons. You tied them together beautifully in this post. May we continue to go to our Heavenly Father with all things broken…

    1. Nina

      Hi Deb – thanks for stopping by and for your words of encouragement. Hope you have time in the future to join the Ruby writing team again ;o) Love your articles in the magazine! HUGS, Nina

  2. Jan Campbell

    Nina….I needed this today….God knew …thank you for following Him!

    1. Nina

      Hi Jan – so glad you found this post encouraging. Would love to catch up with you one day . . . . please stop back again soon! Nina

  3. laurie

    I love the way you tied all of this together – the cleaning and purging of broken items, the broken people, and The Velveteen Rabbit. All so very true and beautifully written. laurie

    1. Nina

      Hi Laurie – thank you for your kind words. I am glad that you found the words that God put on my heart to be an encouragement to you. Please stop back for a visit again soon! Nina

  4. Katherines Corner

    lovely post my friend xo

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