{This year we did hay on the farm where we are living.  Besides the fact that I was laboring with Jay Paul–walking back and forth through the field–while the oats were being planted around me this winter, and I drove the truck on the day when the square bales were being loaded onto the huge trailer you’ll see (with Jay Paul screaming in my lap :)), I really can take no credit.  However, there was an inexplicably wonderful feeling to seeing a harvest happen all around us.  Knowing that we (the same “we” that Jeremiah uses when he says, “We just had a baby.” ;)) had a part in taking something from the ground that would feed our horses through the winter…  I don’t know.  I’m not a farmer, but there is something…cathartic in it.  There was also something really nice about seeing Jeremiah driving a tractor 😉  As often happens on this blog, the pictures and the words do not go together at. all.}


I have a wooden box, with a latch I cannot trust.  It looks beautiful from the outside–a color gray that has weathered enough storms to be lovely, but not so many tempests that the wood has begun to rot.  There are delicate carvings that twist and wind around the border–obviously trimmed by a Master’s hand.  The click of the latch is as steady as Time but unstoppable as well.


My box is filled with living pictures–the kind that can be held at a distance and casually observed, but more often, they pull you tumbling head-long right inside.  There are two kinds of experiences that result in pictures being taken.  The first experience are the pictures that have been lovingly and purposefully preserved.  Moments that, as I lived them, I never wanted to forget.  So, I breathed them in deep, capturing every smell, and sound, and crinkle in a living snapshot, then rushed to my box and delighted in the click of the latch as I preserved that which I hoped to never lose.


The second experience are the pictures that were taken without my knowledge–and sometimes against my will.  They are not all moments that I want to forget but many of them are.  There were times that I heard the latch, clicking open and close, and wondered, “Why this moment?”  Some of the pictures, however, sneak in while I am entirely unaware.


Most of my pictures have grown more beautiful with time, and I am unsure if the change is perspective while the details remain absolute truth, or if I’ve learned to lie to myself so craftily that I no longer know the difference.


One of my favorite pictures, of the purposeful kind, is my first date with Jeremiah.  After a long horseback ride, that lies outside the borders of my shot, we ended on a windswept hill.  There is a tree with our two horses tied carefully round its trunk and a single round-roll of hay.  Jeremiah is on top of the hay, leaning back on his outstretched arms and I am resting with my back against his chest, my forehead hovering dangerously close to his cheek.  We are looking at countryside falling away below our feet as though we’re looking out over the future.  All of this can be seen without tumbling inside the shot…But why not dive in?  Because inside it gets even better.  There, I can smell his shirt–the freshness of a dryer sheet mingled with the duskiness of the oil-skin coat he often wore over it.  I can feel the excitement of being so near to him, mingled with the inner admonishment to not believe this could be a date.  “He thinks of you like a sister,” I kept telling myself–willing my heart not to get caught up in something, only to be hurt.  I can remember the jumbled emotion of wanting so badly to turn my head up and look him in the eyes, mingled with fear that it would be awkward if I did.  I can remember him talking about how amazing it would be to build a house directly on that spot and biting my lips, wishing I had the right to dream with him.  I remember taking the picture in that moment–never wanting to forget.  Wondering if that moment would be the only one we would ever share…


But I mentioned at the start, that I cannot trust the latch.  Sometimes it opens and a picture drifts out that I don’t want to see.  I can run to my box and stuff the picture back inside, only to find that it has slipped back out before I can turn my back.  These are usually the shots that I didn’t take on purpose.  There is one that has been haunting me lately.  It was the last time Mom was ever in my home.  She was in Birmingham for one of her doctor’s appointments and she had ridden with Aunt Alice and Grandma.  Mary Aplin had just been born and Pace was still in Dothan giving me recovery time.    I had stripped the sheets from Pace’s bed–leaving only the mattress cover and the naked pillows.  I have two pictures from this day and the first is of Mom and me lying there on the bed, two friends worn thin from two different battles.  In the picture, her hand is placed on top of mine and tears are streaming down her face.  Inside the frame, I know exactly what she is feeling.  She is scared and hurting, but she is crying because she wants so badly to be there for me–to be taking care of me and Dapples–but she just. can’t.  She, the strongest women I’ve ever known, did not have enough strength.


The second shot happened minutes later.  She was mad at herself for crying.  She was believing she was going to be healed and mad at both of us for our weakness of the moment–for crying as though she might die.  Grandma and Aunt Alice were already in the car as we hugged on the porch, and as I held her all I could think was “Take it in.  This may be the last time you ever see her in your home–ever.”  She felt it.  She felt me caving in, and she broke from my arms and walked away in the grass, towards the car on the street.  “Mom!” burst from me–loud and painful.  She wouldn’t turn around…she couldn’t.  She threw her hand up in the air in a wave but kept walking.


I guess I sort of took that last one on purpose, but I still can’t control when it slips from my box.  I don’t want to look at those pictures…or the others that seem to follow them.  They fly out and whirl around me, demanding to be seen, and I can’t. control. the. latch.  I begin to wonder if my box can decay from the inside, if the bad pictures outweigh the good?  Finally, I cry out in despair to the One who built the box in the first place.  “Can’t you control your own latch?!” I am frustrated and hurt.


“I can,” He says, “but I want you to trust me with the whole box.”

“You don’t feel very safe!” I snap back, but then immediately regret my words.  Frightened of my own honesty.  There is quiet, and in the pause there is not the anger I am expecting.

“Is Aslan a tame lion?” He asks.  “I am not safe, in the way you use the word.”

“That makes me scared to give you the box.  I don’t want any more storms.  Can you promise me no more storms?  No more bad pictures?”

“No.”  There is more silence between us.  “I can promise you three things, though.”


I feel hopeful, but can’t bring myself to look him in the eyes.  His hands hold mine, our noses are only inches apart.  “You can trust me, even though I’m not safe.  Your box will never rot or decay, and–look me in the eyes.”

“I can’t.”


“Are you my daughter?”


“Then you CAN,” and with the last word my eyes are drawn immediately up to His.  My will and His will, suddenly the same.  His eyes fill me inside with abiding warmth and peace, as my own eyes brim and overflow with tears.  He is grinning, almost mischievious.  “You ready for the third promise?” he asks.


“That box… …we’re going to fill it up.”  His excitement catches me.  Yes, we are.


27 Responses to “My Box”

  1. Mary Grace says:

    Wow Abby. Just so, so good.

  2. Ashley says:

    My eyes have welled up with tears at least twice while reading this. Beautiful.

  3. Melissa says:

    Oh Abby, this was absolutely beautiful! Trust…it’s the theme of our VBS this week. The kids are learning each night “No matter ______, trust God.” No matter who you are, what others do, how you feel, etc. I think maybe I’m needing to hear that a lot!

  4. Caroline says:

    Deeply felt and bittersweet..

    Yet very sweet and much needed to hear.

    Thank you for knowing how to say it!

  5. molly says:

    Crying up here in nyc. Absolutely beautiful, Abby.

  6. Kehler says:

    Lovely, just lovely.

  7. Emily says:

    I loved this, Abby. And I so needed to read this today.

  8. Nancy says:

    Wonderfully written. We must trust, you are right.

  9. Konie says:

    Abby, ken just told me you had written a new blog ( and of course I felt excited!) and then said ” she says it’s sad”……I said ” I don’t think I can read it”:(( BUT I just did…Sweet, Sad, and Beautiful, those were my emotions in that order. ( some of those words might not be emotions but you know what I mean)……….love, mama b

  10. Kellie says:

    I’m Breathless. Beautiful.

  11. Maria says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how much this meant…to me…today in particular. Your raw honesty is overwhelming, beautiful and rare. Thank you again for using your heart so selflessly to touch someone you’ve never met.

  12. Dana says:

    Abby, this was so beautifully written. Makes my heart ache and happy. Loved getting to spend time with you the other week!

  13. ashleigh says:

    Can’t wait to read the book you author! Your writing is so real..

  14. kristen says:

    I’m crying. So beautiful, Abby. Wish I could’ve known her.

  15. Gail says:

    What a blessing YOU are to many! It’s true…All blessings flow through and by HIM! Your words touch my spirit, soul and body, Abby. Your heart continues to heal through your words, Honey.

  16. amy sharp says:

    1 week post baby…hmmm! Many tears but has encouraged me what the Lord has been whispering to me…just trust Him during this sweet time!

  17. nicole lane says:

    i don’t know you but love thinking i know you through your blog. i’m pretty sure it goes without saying that your writing is unbelievable, your word pictures are amazing, and your ability to express yourself so beautifully is a rare and precious gift. i love reading your thoughts!

  18. Olivia says:

    I was so moved by this story. My sister lost her courageous battle with cancer seven years ago, and every now and then I come across a picture of her that was taken near the end of her fight. I cry and cry while I look at the photograph and miss her, but I’m also encouraged by her strength during such a sad and hopeless time. Thank you so much for sharing these precious moments with us.

  19. Jillian says:

    Simply beautiful, Abby! You make me want to be a better writer/blogger.

  20. Laura Stronach says:

    Thank you for such eloquent words. I think most days we forget to look for them in our hearts and instead are caught up in the harsher day to day things that can tear us down. I always hit a reset button when I check your blog every few months. Thank you for your beautiful observations and faith that I am unable to put into words on my own.
    Miss you all a great deal and will send you our most recent antics and escapades of Clan Stronach by email, as ours may be too embarrassing for public consumption.

  21. lee says:

    wow, you take my breath away-perhaps unbeknownst to you, your willingness to be so nakedly honest pricks things deep within me that have been hidden- what a gift you have been given! perhaps, one day, it will all make sense 🙂 thanks for you! lee

  22. Andi says:

    Breathtaking. Raw. Powerful. Beautifully written.

  23. Jessica says:

    Your writing is beautiful…Your mom is proud…

  24. Kelly Maddox Hensley says:

    I don’t know you, but your writing is absolutely beautiful! This one definitely brings tears to my eyes!

  25. Gina says:

    Oh my, I don’t know how I missed reading this a month ago. So raw but beautiful at the same time. I think we all have those pictures we don’t want. But God is all wise, isn’t he? 🙂 You haven’t blogged in awhile. I hope you’re just busy filling your box with happy pictures. 😉

  26. Crystal says:

    I lost my mom in November. She had after a 15 month battle with ovarian cancer. Your writing about your mom and your loss has been helping me and giving me encouragement. This post is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart.

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