[title subtitle=”WORDS Stoney Stamper
IMAGE courtesy April Stamper”][/title]
My six-year-old daughter, Gracee, spills stuff. Lots of stuff. If she’s drinking something, there’s a very high likelihood that all, or part of it, will get spilled on something before she is done. I can’t give exact percentages, but I am betting they’re high. I can’t count how many times I have walked barefoot through the house only to step in something sticky or wet. “Gracee! Did you spill your drink in the floor?” Generally, there is a bit of a pause, then she’ll walk in the room with a sheepish look on her face, and timidly say, “Yes sir.” Sometimes, she’ll say something like, “I tried to clean it up, but I guess I didn’t get it all.” It’s a constant chore for her mother and I, and her sisters too, to get Gracee to start cleaning up her own messes. It’s certainly been a process, and not a short one, but as she has gotten older, she has gotten better. I wouldn’t say she’s terribly good at it yet, but she’s improving.
Once upon a time, this sort of thing might have made me mad, or at least very irritated. I haven’t generally had a reputation in our family of being terribly tolerant. Thingstend to get on my nerves. Someone coming into a clean kitchen, making a sandwich and leaving everything out on the counter…cabinet doors left open…jelly on the countertops. I admit, I am still not a big fan, but before, I may have overreacted. I may have had a little temper tantrum. And I am sure I still have my moments. But I have had an awakening. It hasn’t been easy. But it’s a lesson I needed in my life. As the saying goes, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” Or Kool-aid, or water, or cereal, or any other number of things that Gracee has managed to spill in her short lifetime.
I never had a true understanding of that concept before November 8, 2017. I really like a clean house, a clean truck, a clean office. And something as minor as someone moving something out of its place could send me into a mini tirade about my “things.” But on that cold, drizzling day in November, and in the months that followed, the important things were shown to me very clearly, and the unimportant things were, too. A small cup of juice being spilled on the floor was a pretty minor problem compared to the physical disabilities caused by the November wreck, the financial strains of me not being able to work, and the terrible emotional strain that my injuries and multiple surgeries put on my beautiful wife and our three daughters. Those were real problems. Spilled juice, milk, or whatever it was, was nothing. Something that can be wiped up with a rag. Nothing more than a quick thirty seconds out of someone’s day. Although, to be completely honest, after hip surgeries, knee surgeries, back surgeries, arm surgeries and dozens of other medical procedures in the last two years, I will admit that it is usually not me wiping that mess up off the floor. Because Daddy doesn’t bend quite like he used to. But it will be cleaned up, and our day will be no worse because of it. Don’t cry over spilled milk. Simple concept, but harder than it sounds sometimes.
One of my coworkers many years ago said something to someone, and I think of it often. He told them, “You need to learn what a big deal is.” Things happen in our day to day lives that seem like a big deal. But when we take a step back and look at the overall picture, they are actually not big at all. Sometimes, the things that cause us the most worry and anxiety are little things that begin to add up. They aren’t one big thing. They are small things that pile up on one another and begin to feel suffocating. Car trouble, something that upset us at work, a minor disagreement. My friend’s words have stuck with me for years. I think many of us have the tendency to take something small and ultimately insignificant and turn it into a major ordeal. All this does is cause more strife and stress and worry in our lives. And you know what worry helps us with? Absolutely nothing.
The scripture says in Philippians, “Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”Sometimes, scriptures can be wordy and difficult to understand. But that’s about as simple to understand as anything I can think of. Now, actually using it in your daily life, that’s a little more difficult. Praying is the easy part. But casting away your worries when you have medical issues, family issues, financial struggles or any number of other things, that’s a tough task. But it all comes down to one thing. Faith. And that’s why it was such a struggle for me for so long to simply cast my worries on the Lord and leave them behind me. Although I certainly believed in God and knew His word, my faith was weak. I took more of the burden on myself and gave less of it to Him. But no matter how strong I believe I am I am not strong enough to carry that load. I need His help. And I believe that because He knows more than anyone just how hardheaded I can be, He had to put me into a position where I had to lean more on Him, and less on myself. And still, I fought it like my daughters Abby and Emma fight over the last Pop-Tart. But when the day finally came, that I surrendered myself, it was as if all the weight in the world had been lifted off me. I felt free. I felt relaxed. I wasn’t clenching my jaw. I was just me. For the first time in longer than I can remember, I was this fun, kind, happy person. I had missed him. It was like seeing a friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in years. My wife, April, could see it, my girls could see it, my parents could see it. It felt so good.
But the devil is sneaky. He likes to catch you off guard and test your faith. He likes to plant doubt, and he tries to chip away at your confidence. One day, on my drive home from work, in a new truck, I had a flat tire. Something that would generally put me in a bad mood for hours. I got out, looked at the tire and chuckled to myself. Not today, Satan. I got out my wrench and jack, gingerly lowered my broke down body to the ground, and changed my tire. Yes, it took me about an hour instead of fifteen minutes, but I did it, and I was back on the road. No big deal.
Another day, we had our yard mowed and they did a great job, as usual. But when they left my wife noticed the back glass on her vehicle had been shattered by a rock from the lawnmower. Glass filled the back of her car. I began calling around to auto glass stores and found the cheapest price would be five hundred dollars to get it fixed. Was I happy about it? Of course not. Was my confidence shaken? Not at all. I got the glass fixed, and we moved on. No big deal.
On my fortieth birthday, we were getting ready to go spend a night in Oklahoma City with some of my best friends that I don’t get to see very often. April had arranged a fun filled night and I was excited. It also happened to be the hottest day of the year. Our house has two central air conditioner units, and they both decided to go out on us that morning. It was sweltering inside of our house, and it was a Saturday, and we couldn’t get anyone to come out and work on them. The temperature inside the house was ninety degrees and we all felt like we were dying. But I wasn’t going to let it ruin my day. I bought as many fans as I could and had them all around the house to keep the girls comfortable. As luck would have it, April’s hairdresser’s husband happened to be an HVAC mechanic. He came out and got both units running again. Did we get hot? Yes. Did I let it ruin my day? Absolutely not. No big deal.
Where would I be today if I continued to choose to try and fight all my battles alone? What kind of person would I have become? Would my marriage have survived it? Would my relationship with my daughters be as strong and healthy as it is today? I don’t think there’s a chance. Because finally, after all these years, I finally figured out what a “big deal” was, and that really, most things aren’t a big deal after all.
Stoney Stamper is the best-selling author of My First Rodeo: How Three Daughters, One Wife, and a Herd of Others Are Making Me a Better Dad (WaterBrook) and author of the popular parenting blog, The Daddy Diaries. He and his wife, April, have three daughters and live in Oklahoma, where they are heavily involved in agriculture and raise and show a variety of animals.