Disheveled Theologian: Sorting the junk drawer

O'Donnell Gretchen

Do you ever feel that your life is like a junk drawer?

Now don’t get me wrong. I find junk drawers to be incredibly valuable. They’re receptacles for everything that needs a home but doesn’t have one. They’re repositories of vital bits and bobs that you don’t want to lose. They’re the go-to when you can’t find that hex key, that harmonica, that cool little do-hickey that you know will be perfect for the weird little job you need to get done. They’re catch-alls for your life.

And yes, my life itself has felt a bit like a catch-all lately.

Starting with Thanksgiving, the junk drawer of my brain gets stuffed with oodles of items. As soon as Thanksgiving ends there’s Christmas decorating; shopping; menu-planning (which entails more shopping); gatherings to attend and/or plan; cards to write, address and mail; gifts to wrap; meals to prepare; New Years day, and finally my birthday, on the third of January, to face, analyze and accept. And this year, the birthday was a big one.

Yes, I turned 50 yesterday.


Both literally and figuratively, the junk-drawer of my life is simply brimming!

I’ve crammed lists, receipts, gift cards, random buttons, keys, phones and tools into the physical drawer in the past few weeks. I’ve jammed thoughts, emotions, analysis, happiness, worry, pride, humility and even collegiate spirit into my metaphorical drawer. Both drawers are full to the brim, and it will take a while to sort things out.

As for the real drawer, it will stay messy and my life will go on and the tidiness of the junk drawer will not affect me very much. From time to time I may sort things or re-distribute them throughout the house, but whether or not that happens won’t really matter.

As for my brain, that will take a little more deliberation. The good thing about thoughts, of course, is that they can be analyzed at random moments. When driving. When falling asleep. When washing your hands. I expect it will take many of those moments to figure out how I feel about turning 50. The other things — reflecting on Christmas, basking in the warmth of my Alma Mater’s Rose Bowl win — those things will fade more quickly to be replaced by new thoughts, new focus, new urgencies, shoving the old thoughts into the dark recesses where, like Bing Bong in the movie "Inside Out," they’ll be forgotten.

The truth is, the fact that Oregon beat Wisconsin doesn’t really matter. But the fact that I’ve lived 50 years in the light of God’s grace, well, that does matter.

I remember when my mom turned 50. I was a junior in high school. I remember thinking that she was pretty old, but I didn’t want to think about it too hard because no one wants to think about their parents getting old. Now I’m the one turning 50, and I don’t want to think about it because no one wants to think about themselves getting old. And even though I know that 50 isn’t really very old … it’s the oldest that I’ve ever been.

In my head, I’m still about 20. Young. Confident. Clueless. But starting to sort things out. Starting to figure out how to manage the junk drawer of my life. The random, wonderful, cluttered, full, blessing of turning 50.

Thanks to all of you for being a part of my blessings.


“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Psalm 27:4 NIV

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is .

Related Topics: FAITH
What To Read Next
This week, gardening columnist Don Kinzler fields questions about planting potatoes, rabbit-resistant shrubs, and how to prevent tomato blossom end rot.
Trends include vegetable gardens in raised pods and a continuing surge in using native plants and grasses.
With its soft and gooey center surrounded by a crisp exterior, kladdkaka is the perfect cross between a brownie and a molten lava cake.
This week, gardening columnist Don Kinzler fields questions on hibiscus plants, beating apple trees and how long grass seeds will last.