A few months ago, I sent my husband to the store with a list. In my mind, it was fairly simple. Basic grocery items, shampoo, toilet paper. Thankful for the blessing of not having to make the trip to the store, I happily waited to unload the bags when he returned. But as he walked into the kitchen a hour later, arms loaded, I noticed something amiss.

“What is that?” I asked him, my eyes tracking suspiciously to a package he’d dropped on the floor.

“Toilet paper,” he responded. “It was all they really had.”

I walked over to the large package lurking on the floor and took a closer look.

“This looks bad, like, really bad,” I muttered as I shoved it into the closet.

A few days later, when the last square of our usual thick and glorious toilet paper had been flushed, I opened the mega pack of off-brand toilet paper and pulled out a roll.

It was worse than expected.

Over the following days, I grew accustomed to pulling a 6-foot piece off what I’d deemed our “jailhouse TP” with each bathroom break. The paper was so thin, but the roll was SO BIG. Even after two weeks, that first mega roll was still going strong.

As badly as I wanted to take the whole pack and trash it, my tree-hugging heart couldn’t go through with it. It seemed my bathroom was destined to feel a bit like a prison cell for a very long time.

Most of the summer in our house has left me feeling the same way, stretched thinner than the never-ending see-through TP. I had all these big plans. Not incredibly over-the-top things, but I wanted to make the most of these twelve or so weeks. I wanted to read and write. I wanted to spend time outdoors with my family. I wanted to get up early every day so I could finish work before the kids woke up, then spend the day sitting under a tree eating freshly picked strawberries, a big stack of books nearby, my perfectly content children making animals and airplanes out of the puffy white clouds overhead…

Okay, maybe my plans were a bit much.

But for real, whether it was too much or not, it ain’t happenin’.

In June my 2-year-old began refusing to ride in a cart – anywhere. This was problematic. And my 9-year-old decided now was the perfect time to try on a new tweeny-bopper, “I know more than anybody else” attitude. My home feels much more “thunderstorm” than “puffy clouds” these days.

And then, there’s that little voice telling me I’m not checking enough things off my list, that I’m not trying enough. That if I don’t work harder at everything, I’ll never be enough.

But a few days ago, in the midst of a little pity party/prayer session, a question softly fell on my heart.

What do you think I want from you?

My first response was to begin listing all the things I wanted to accomplish, tacking off all the reasons they were so important, why I needed to do them for me, for my family. For GOD!

And suddenly it hit me. Instead of asking him what he wanted for me, I was telling the God of the universe what he needed from me.

It was all so much heavier than I’d realized. And all the lists and self-importance I’d been carrying around were killing the joy waiting to be found in the big and small gifts God so graciously gives each day.

Lay it down, I heard. So I did.

Rest, I heard. So I am. Trying, at least.

Yesterday I pulled out the very last roll of our jailhouse TP. Tempted as I was to throw it out, as I held it I thought about all the ways it has reminded me to look beyond my circumstances and expectations, to a divine plan that will always include me, whether I’m feeling ultra strong or more fragile than an off-brand one-ply.

I decided not to throw that last roll out. Through about the end of the month, it will remind me to be more specific when I send the hubs to the store. And also that while this summer didn’t turn out exactly how I planned, it’s been full of good gifts from my Father – gifts that will last even longer than all those 6-foot pieces of jailhouse TP.

Jen Spiegel

Author Jen Spiegel

Jen is a wife and mother of three and work as a medical editor. A cancer survivor, special needs mom, and sociologist by degree, Jen is passionate about natural health, the power of storytelling, and choosing hope and gratefulness even on the tough days. In spare moments, she enjoys reading voraciously, making music with friends, and indulging her travel and adventure bug.

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Nancy Holte says:

    Love this! Funny AND thought-provoking. By the way, Anita Renfroe texts her husband pictures of what she wants at the grocery store. Not a bad plan. Now, if I could just get my husband to get a cell phone!

  • Melodee Hall says:

    Love this Jen – Unfortunately, even as the years go by there is still is not enough time to sit and read to your hearts content like I would like but you learn to enjoy the few moments you do find. I have also learned to avoid certain brands of TP. 🙂 Keep writing, it’s a joy to read.

  • Jen Spiegel says:

    Thanks, Melodee! You’ve always been great at finding those moments – I remember you squeezing in a few minutes to read during lunch in between taking care of all of us crazy kiddos.

  • Cindy Dullum says:

    Enjoyed your story! Thanks for sharing! Don’t know if I could have been that patient….. A 4 pack would have tried me!

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