I rinsed the cottage cheese container and started to drop it in the recycle bin when I heard myself say “This is a nice – sized container. I should reuse it.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized that I was becoming like my mother AND my mother-in-law!
Why did this bother me? Both were fine Christian women, loving wives and mothers and doting grandmothers. Like the excellent woman in Proverbs 31, my mother, Frances, and mother-in-law, Doris, provided for their families, cared for their neighbors and helped those in need. Their character and actions were worth emulating, but not their habit of collecting plastic containers.
As children of the Great Depression, both women spent money wisely and made their possessions last. Frugality was their watchword. No doubt, that’s why they felt compelled to keep every single plastic container that came into their homes and reuse them.
While repackaging leftovers after holiday meals, I saw a portion of their collections. However, the enormity of each woman’s stash wasn’t revealed until after her passing.
My mother went to her heavenly home first. Cleaning out her house, my childhood home, brought back warm memories and overwhelmed me all at once. What did I want to keep? What should I give away? What should I throw out?
After spending a lifetime helping my mother in her kitchen, I’d used all of her dishes, cookware, silverware and, yes, some of her “storage” bowls. But I didn’t anticipate what I encountered while cleaning out her cabinets. Towers of empty margarine tubs and columns of whipped topping bowls lined several shelves. Beside them sat stacks of lids secured by rubber bands. Mom may have had more containers than dishes. Boxes and bags of them went to the recycling bin.
Five years later, Doris passed away. The scene repeated itself, as our family cleaned her house, sorted her belongings and wondered what to do with all the plastic containers and lids.
After living through these two experiences, I vowed to never let the same thing happen to my children. I would avoid buying items in plastic packaging and, if there was no alternative, I would recycle. Yet, here I was holding an empty cottage cheese container, contemplating all the food, garden seed or craft supplies it could hold. Yes, I would reuse it. Better still, I would repurpose it.
At that moment, I realized the value of those plastic bowls. Frances and Doris filled and refilled their bowls with gifts for family and friends. My children loved getting a bowl of goodies from their Grandma Smith or Grandma Bunse. Would they find a favorite leftover from a family meal? Homemade cookies? Or, best of all, Christmas candy? The lid might say Cool Whip but the contents said “Grandma loves you.” Doris and Frances had many bowls because they had lots of love to give.
Using a cottage cheese carton, God taught me a lesson about my life. I’ve filled many roles: child, daughter, student, teacher, wife, farmer, mother and mother-in-law. Currently, I’m a wife, mother of grown children, mother-in-law, retiree, volunteer and author. Some roles ceased. Others changed. I added new ones. Whenever my life seemed empty, God refilled it with new opportunities for joy, love and service.
I’m not sure what I ‘ll put in my cottage cheese container. But I know what I got out of it – a message of love and the assurance that I’ll always have a role in God’s Kingdom.
Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-19
“For this reason I bow my knees before the father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.
English Standard Version
Author’s Note: Since writing this devotion, I’ve decided to put homemade laundry powder in my cottage cheese container. I found it in an excellent book by Megean Weldon. It’s called An Almost Zero Waste Life, Learning How to Embrace Less to Live More. I bought my copy at a presentation given by Megean at the Remington Nature Center in March 2021. Her books are available on Amazon as well.
Homemade Laundry Powder
Ingredients: 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup washing soda, a 5 oz. bar of castile soap.
Finely grate the bar of castile soap.
Mix the baking soda, washing soda and castile soap together in a bowl.
Transfer the laundry powder into a container and keep by the washing machine.
Use about 2 to 3 tablespoons per load, depending on the size of the load and the soil level.
Instructions found on p. 129 of An Almost Zero Waste Life.