Trapped in Your Basement

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Trapped in Your Basement 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

– Philippians 4:6

“I forgot my keys.  Wait right here.”  My feet pounded down the basement steps.  Midway, I heard the door slam behind me and lock!  I had no idea my two-and a half-year-old knew how to lock the bottom lock on the basement door. I ran back up the basement steps and told my daughter to unlock the door.

“Mommy, I can’t.”

“Yes…you can.  You locked it, so just slide it back the other way.”

“I can’t. It stuck.”  I knew she couldn’t because I could barely unlock it myself half the time.

I heard my daughter crying softly.

“It’s okay.  Mommy will get out,” I assured her, even though I had no idea how I was going to get out.  There was no other door, and there was just a very small tightly sealed window that led to an alleyway between row homes.

Just when I thought, it’s a good thing she’s a very calm child, I heard her little footsteps run back and forth across the living room floor in a panic.  Then, I started to panic because I remembered the gas fireplace was still on in the living room.  I instructed my daughter to stop running and sit down by the basement door.

“Jade,” I talked to her through the door, “don’t move.”  I decided not to mention the fire.  “Mommy’s going to get out through the window.”

I walked in the basement bathroom and stared up at the small window that was blocked by a piece of wood.  I thought, You‘d have to be anorexic or on crack to fit through that window. Still, I unhooked the alarm wires, moved the slab of wood and yanked and pulled on the mesh screen. It would not budge.  In between pushing and pulling, I ran up the basement steps to reassure my daughter that I was okay and would be out very soon.  The more I pushed and pulled the more discouraged I became, thinking, I’m going to be trapped in this basement until my husband comes home from work, and there is no way my daughter is going to stay in one spot for hours.

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I began to pray, “God, you have to get me out of this basement.”  I knew it was more a command than a request, but I was terrified, even though God’s word says, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).  At the time, I didn’t mediate on that verse.  My heart beat wildly in my chest, and I just did not know what to do.  I knew there were many scriptures where God promises to help you in your time of trouble, but I didn’t know any of them off the top of my head.  The only thing I knew was that I needed God’s help before my curious toddler found something harmfully interesting to do, like examine the blaze in the front room.

Suddenly, I got an idea to get out of the window by cutting through the mesh.  I put my keys in the pocket of my sweatpants, so I would have them to unlock the front door once I got out.  I ran to the back of the basement and got a hammer out of my husband’s toolbox. I ran back to the window, stood on the toilet seat and started tearing the mesh apart wildly with the back of the hammer.  I worked insanely; there was no time to be cute about things.

I finally made a hole just big enough to get my shoulders through.  I hiked myself up on the ledge and wiggled through the small window.  Mesh scratched at my shoulders, but I didn’t care; I was almost out.  Then, I got stuck.  I cut the hole just big enough to squeeze my shoulders through but it was still too small to squeeze my bottom through.

I struggled, grunting, groaning, and wiggling.  I knew if I really forced my way out, the mesh would tear into the skin on my behind, but what other choice did I have?  My toddler was upstairs alone.  With my hands on the red brick ground of the alleyway, I scooted my lower body through the window. By that time, my sweatpants were down by my ankles!  They had gotten caught on the mesh.  I laid on the dirty brick ground of the alleyway in a t-shirt and drawers with my sweats scrunched up by my ankles, praying my neighbors were not looking out their windows.

I laid there in shock a few seconds before pulling my pants up.  As I pulled them up, I noticed my legs were scratched and bloody.  I laughed and exhaled, thinking, This is unbelievable. I ran to the back of my yard and climbed over our brick wall.  I felt like a stray cat, scaling walls, dodging trashcans and running down alleyways.

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When I finally reached my front door, I jammed my key in the hole.  When I ran in the house, my daughter was still sitting at the door of the basement.  When she saw me, she jumped up, still in a panic. “Mommy! You haf to get youself out the basement!”

I asked, “What? What do you mean?”

“Mommy, hurry up!  You haf to get youself out the basement!”

“Jade, Mommy is out of the basement, I’m right here,” I said, pointing to myself.

“No…” she cried, “You haf to get youself out the basement!”

“Fine, fine,” I gave in, thinking, she can’t be this dumb.  I wish I could say those were not my exact thoughts at the time, but they were.

I unlocked the basement door and walked down the steps.  Then I had a scary thought.  I yelled up to my daughter, “Do not shut the door!”

“Mom, you get youself out?”  My daughter whined from upstairs.

“Yes.  Yes, I am getting my-self out!”  I walked up the basement steps, hoping she didn’t expect to see two of me. “See,” I smiled at her, “I got myself out the basement.”  She smiled back.

During that time in my life, I was filled with more anxiety than word.  I wish I could have recited a verse back then that would have kept me calm, but I didn’t know one.  I only knew bits and pieces of verses.  However, today, I have a verse that may keep you calm when you are locked in a situation that doesn’t have an easy way out.  Isaiah 41:13 states, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Every now and then, you may find yourself locked in your own basement.  Sometimes it is a comfortable area. Other times it is dark and dingy.  Either way, it’s your basement—a place that is familiar to you, and as long as you can come and go in and out of it at your leisure, you’re okay being there.  However, when you least expect it, you may get trapped in a familiar place you no longer want to be.  In those times, if you pray and study God’s word, He will help you get out of a seemingly impossible situation even if it is not the same way you came in.  However, don’t get discouraged if you get a few scratches and expose yourself along the way.  Pull your pants up, climb over brick walls and “run with perseverance” (Hebrews 12:1) because the door you need to go through is just around the corner.

Dear Lord, I can look back now and see how blessed I am to have made it out of so many difficult situations.  I am certainly grateful for the number of holes I have had to crawl out of in order to appreciate the blessings on the other side of the door.  

580255_10200497831313680_1355160852_nMy daughter and I in NY  (Summer of 2013)

By Shawn R. Jones

 website: www.shawnrjones.com

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1

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No Blessings are Small

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“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:23

“When I was little, I thought it was cool to live next door to an abandoned house,” my son smiled across the dining room table.

Every Sunday my husband and I have the family over for dinner after church.  I particularly enjoy it as we get closer to the holidays.  The house is decorated with red poinsettias in large vases and the wooden banisters are lined with pine garland, pinecones, and red berries. Laughter and holiday music travel from floor to floor, wood hisses in the brick fireplace, and balsam-scented candles burn in every bathroom. Outside is quiet, and the red metal sleigh and six reindeer light up our front lawn like noon. There are no sidewalks, the streets are wide, and our neighbors are not close enough to hear our private conversations. Things are so different than they were decades before.

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Early in our marriage we did not have as much as we have now, but we loved each other deeply, trusted God completely, and took care of our “small” blessings. And even though there was a row of abandoned houses to the right of us, we took care of our brownstone like it was a palace.

My son didn’t mind living next door to an abandoned house because he imagined he was Batman, hiding out in Wayne Manor. Besides, my husband and I often glorified our town, saying some of the greatest people in the world lived there, he and his sister, and we made life as enjoyable as we could for them in the place my son often called “Gotham City.”

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When a developer came in and finally restored the abandoned properties, my son thought it was an adventure when displaced rodents escaped to our house for shelter. It was a very interesting time in our lives, but I definitely would not describe it as “cool.”

Earlier on, I set the scene for how we live now because it is relevant for you to know how different it was in the early years of our family. There is a glaring contrast that is important to note, especially if your present situation at all resembles the scene I am about to describe.  If it does,  reread the beginning of this devotion and ask yourself if it is possible for your current situation to lead you to a better place.

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Our first home in “Gotham”

My husband and I were in our twenties. We owned our inner-city home and took great pride in it, but since it was over one hundred years old and next door to a row of abandoned houses, there were sometimes problems.

One night, I woke up because my husband had gotten up to go to the bathroom.  Our bedroom door was cracked, so there was enough light from the hallway to create shadows on the walls.  While in bed,  I saw something circling around the ceiling. In my delirium, I thought it was the shadow of a rat that was running around on the floor.

After my eyes focused, I realized something flying.   Of course, I thought it was a bird because I really wanted it to be a bird.  I gasped and pulled the covers up around my mouth and nose before I screamed, “Honey, there is something flying in our room!”

My husband ran from the bathroom and turned on the bedroom light.  It was a bat!  I had never said so many expletives in one sentence in my life!  I screamed, twisting and turning under the covers.  I figured the bat would have a more difficult time attacking a moving target. Every now and then I peeked out of the covers. It was no longer circling the room smoothly.  Its wings hit the walls, sounding like someone smacking leather gloves together erratically.

My husband was telling me to calm down, but I couldn’t hear him over my own cries. He eventually fetched me from the covers and guided me out the room as I screamed with a blanket over my head.  Once I was on the other side of the door I thought of every horror movie I had seen with bats attacking humans. I asked my husband if he were okay.

“Get me a towel!” He yelled. “Hurry Up!”

I opened the door just enough to squeeze the towel through.  A few seconds later, I heard my husband whipping the towel through the air. I envisioned him in his blue-stripped pajama pants, jumping on the bed and holding the fluffy lasso angrily with one hand. Every now and then, I would hear a crash.  It sounded as if he were in a battle with Goliath (1 Samuel 17), someone much bigger than he.  The last crash I heard was the lamp being whipped from the nightstand onto the floor. There was silence.

“Oh God!  Are you okay?  You didn’t let him bite you, did you?” I had visions of black and white movies from my childhood with handsome vampires, wearing black capes.

“I’m fine, Dear.  I got him.”

I opened the bedroom door cautiously just as my husband was opening the towel. He looked into the bat’s face.  His leathery wings were still.  I had a moment of remorse.

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You think we would have moved after that ordeal, but we didn’t.  Instead, we lived through similar nightmares.  Not long after we got rid of the bat, there was a sewer rat in our upstairs bathroom.  We caught him sleeping in the wall behind the toilet.  He had eaten the paint and plaster.  Thankfully he couldn’t eat through the steel mesh that trapped him inside the wall like a cage.

Every night for a few days, I heard the rat chew through the wall.  I had no idea what it was at the time.  It sounded like a couple men trying to break in the house.  I only heard the sound at night when my husband went to work.  On the third night, my husband’s night off, the sound seemed to get louder and closer.  We walked in the bathroom, trying to determine where the sound was coming from.  We peered behind the toilet.  Its thick body slept exhaustively with its tan, black, and gray fur rising up and down between the mesh with each breath.  I was both sick and astounded.  Suddenly, it got up and stared at us with its fingers wrapped around the steel wire. I could not speak, and I struggled to digest my dinner.

“That thing is huge!” My husband yelled, noticing it was the size of a fat house cat. “Hurry up and get me the uh- Raid!”

I remember thinking, Raid is for ants, but okay

My husband shook the can of Raid a few times before removing its red plastic lid. He sprayed the creature in its face, thinking it would run back through its tunnel in the wall.  Instead, it clawed at the steal and showed its teeth. We both cussed like two teenagers discovering new words.

Convinced that we could not scare the rat off, we called my father-in-law.  Now, my father-in-law was not an exterminator, but he did have a gun. Unfortunately, we later discovered there were hundreds of rodents, looking for shelter.  To solve the problem, we would have had to shoot them all, so we eventually, called an exterminator.

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1994

You have probably surmised that “Gotham” was not a safe place to live, but we were blessed there; God was doing great things for us (Proverbs 20:27). We didn’t have a ton of money, but we were able to save and take our children on trips because our mortgage was only $393 a month. We were not perfect, cussing and fussing under stress, but as contradictory as it may seem, most times we were joyful because God was with us then, just like He is with us now (Hewbrews 13:5). We didn’t feel that our lives were any less valuable because we lived in a depressed area. We knew God examined our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) and not our finances.  He is not like people who determine your value based on your material wealth (Luke 16:15). God values you and loves you unconditionally.

No matter where you live or how you live, do not determine your worth based on your bank account.  Instead, ask yourself if you have the capacity to love.  Love is what is most important when you consider the quality of your life, so trust God, and do not fret about your “small” blessings. If you take care of them, bigger ones will follow (Matthew 6:33). However, bigger blessings are not always material.

You may be blessed with immeasurable things like freedom, peace, wisdom, and love.  If that does not excite you and you would much prefer huge houses and fancy cars, remember, those things are temporal (2 Corinthians 4:18). The danger in desiring worldly riches above everything else, is the danger of rejecting  Godly love. If money is your heart’s desire, you may turn people away who can only afford to give you love.  To turn them away would rejecting  love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7), the greatest gift of all.

When I met my husband, he had more love in his heart than he had money in the bank. Had I rejected him when he told me I was going to be his wife, I would have missed out on a multitude of immeasurable blessings. Yes, we had to contend with rats, bats, and even more incredulous adversaries, but we had an unceasing love for each other and God, and I am grateful He has blessed our faithfulness.

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By Shawn R. Jones

 website: www.shawnrjones.com

Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames   http://t.co/BxiNwWRG

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain, 

http://www.amazon.com/Womb-Rain-New-Womens-Voices/dp/1599242699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1337717218&sr=8-1