Early in our marriage, my husband and I invested in an older camper trailer. Although we thought we had inspected it well before we bought it, inexperience and oversight got the best of us when we forgot to peek beneath the welcome mat that was laid over the vinyl floor at the entrance. When we got the camper home and happened to move the mat, we saw that the floor underneath it was black. As it turns out, water had come in through a hole that had been made to attach an awning to the outside of the camper, and caused extensive damage. Thankfully, my husband is very handy, but what ensued was a fairly involved process of dismantling and replacing the majority of the camper’s floor.
I remember being stressed about finances at that time. Not only had we borrowed money to buy the camper, but our computer had recently broken down, and we needed to buy a new one. My twenty-something year old brain swam with numbers, struggling to make sense of whether we could pay for it all. I didn’t have a good sense of what things cost, or the value of money. (Was that $1,000 – or, $10,000?) Sure, I had done well in high school math classes, but real-life numbers were harder to comprehend.
We lived in a century-old home, that we had purchased for cheap, in a rough neighborhood. The roof leaked, and so did the basement. When it rained, we ran for buckets, and towels, and wondered what kind of damage lurked behind the plaster and lath walls.
The bathroom of that home stank of urine, no matter how much I cleaned it. I think it had permeated the walls, and the floors, somehow. As I tried to scrub it clean, I wondered what the previous inhabitants had done in there for it to get so bad. (Although I’m sure I would never actually want to know.) And Joyce Meyer’s words would ring through my head. She said to be grateful for the house you had, and clean it with joy – rather than complaining about everything you didn’t have. To be thankful that you had a toilet to sit on every morning.
I learned to be thankful for that bathroom, but I also prayed for a better one. A few years later, we would tear it down to the studs and have professionals come in to rebuild it from scratch. We got right into the guts of that house, and in some ways it got right inside of us too. I still have dreams about it. In the end, the bathroom, and the entire home, was beautiful. And although I don’t live there anymore, I’ve had very nice bathrooms ever since. When I clean them, I’m always thankful that they smell good afterwards, and that they don’t forever smell of urine.
Besides Joyce Meyer’s teachings, which just resonated with me during that season of life, I practiced a few other mantras to keep myself sane. When our bicycles were stolen, I tried to think of it as a “community donation.” When unexpected fees, tickets, and expenses drained our meager bank account, I reminded myself: “It’s all God’s money.” His resources were unlimited, and our situation could turn on a dime at any moment. We were where He wanted us. We were learning.
And sure enough, as the years passed, we eventually moved into a time of plenty. We bought land in the country. We built a lovely home. Generosity came easily, because we had a lot to spare. I didn’t worry about the grocery budget, either. Though I’ve never been a frivolous spender, I was able to go out and buy whatever we needed or wanted that month, and the money was there.
Nonetheless, as our monetary accounts grew, our spiritual and relational tanks were running dry. Unexpectedly, change came again. It was time to take care of what was most important. The pendulum had swung from one extreme, almost all the way to the other – and now, was settling somewhere in the middle.
That is precisely where I find myself today. Although we didn’t expect to leave our country home, after working so hard to get there, I would not go back to that life if I were given the option.
A couple of weeks ago, we bought a camper, for the second time in our lives. This one is cheaper – a pop-up tent trailer. I endeavored to be very wise about looking for water damage. I searched every inch of that floor, felt the wood, opened every cupboard, inspected the plumbing, looked under every mattress, and had my sniffer on full duty to detect the smells of dampness. But although I try, I’m just not very smart about these things. Turns out, in pop-ups, it’s common for the roof to become water damaged. (Why did I not think to check the roof?) So this evening, as my husband was redoing some of the seals, he noticed that the boards at the front and back are water-logged, soft, and one of them is even growing mushrooms. How gross is that?!
As I laid in my bath tonight, pondering the situation, the following verses came to my mind:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Isn’t it funny how quickly, a person can forget such a hard-won realization? The memories of the early days came flooding back. (No pun intended.) The water-logged camper floor, the leaking roof and basement, the urine-soaked walls and floor. My treasure isn’t here. My heart isn’t here. My heart is held by the Savior of my soul, who keeps my real treasures secure.
I didn’t know a leaky, damaged camper roof could become such a precious reminder. Do I call the previous owners, complain, and ask them to help fund the repair, or do I call and thank them for the timely object lesson?
Realistically, I will not be calling them at all. But I will be thanking God for the life that I have. The toilet to sit on. The leaky camper roof. And, more importantly: my long-suffering, indelibly handy, husband.