Read an Excerpt
The Shoe Box
Walking in the Spirit
By Patsy Clairmont
W Publishing Group
Copyright © 2003
All right reserved.
If want to buy me a gift (as if), don't buy
me shoes. Yep, I said don't. Instead, give me a
gift coupon to purchase my own footwear. You
see, I'm really picky. Besides, I love toting home
shoe boxes. I feel so, so ... womanly. And it tickles
me to know the fun shoe choices tucked inside
will enliven my wardrobe. Even after the boxes are
empty they become the perfect spot to store stuff.
Good stuff like pictures, gloves, memos, scarves,
receipts, and even outdated shoes that I'm waiting
to come back into style.
Like that's going to happen. Oh, some looks do
go full circle, but the new version always has a
fashion adjustment that dates the ones I've tenaciously
Shoes are addictive. I think that's because they
come in so many flavors-mules, pumps, flats,
spikes, wedges, platforms, etc. And it's a good thing
they do because the wrong shoes can wreck a girl's
outfit, not to mention her feet and her attitude.
Imagine Martha Stewart in strapless pumps spreading
fertilizer over her garden while announcing, "It's
a good thing." Nah, it's not going to happen. What
about Laura Bush attending a White House news
conference wearing a classic navy suit accessorized
with iridescent-studded motorcycle boots? Tacky. Or
imagine the Queen of England horseback riding in
her house slippers. Uh-oh, call the royal shoe patrol.
Yep, shoes definitely leave loud statements.
But shoes aren't the only things talking. I remember
a declaration my feet made when I attempted to
hoof the length of the D/FW International Airport in
high heels. I know, I know, what was I thinking?
Obviously I wasn't. Less than halfway through the
terminal I thought I was terminal. My feet were pulsating
like hot dogs on a spit. After developing a
painful limp, I pried my now-swollen tootsies out of
my heels and finished the hike to my gate stocking-footed.
That did garner a few stares, but that's not
the sort of footwear news I want to make.
A kickier statement is made when, prior to the
Miss America pageant, the beauty contestants participate
in a shoe parade. How fun is that? The young
women, wearing elaborate outfits, perch on the backs
of convertibles, and as they cruise by, the spectators
yell, "Show us your shoes!" The bevy of beauties lift
their feet to show off the most outrageous shoes
you've ever seen. Some are arrayed in huge feathers or
trees (yes, trees a foot high). Other shoes are jeweled,
sequined, striped, and polka-dotted. After the parade,
the shoes are showcased with the contestants' gowns.
Now, while I have a slew of eclectic footwear, I'm
not sure any of it would qualify for a parade. I seem
to be the queen of scuffs, gouges, and fractured heels.
Besides, I don't have even one pair with a tree sprouting
out of them. Although I do have a darling pair of
slides with embroidered palm trees and golden monkeys.
Say, maybe I could be in a parade.
When the shoe fits both our outfit and our feet,
we girls are like a beauty queen or Cinderella-we're
having a ball.
Have you noticed that men tend not to be as
footish? At least my hubby, Les, isn't. He owns two
pairs of shoes, and he can't figure out for the life of
him why he bought the second pair. When in high
school, he chose to spray-paint his white bucks
rather than purchase additional shoes. But he varied
the hues so many times, including gold for the
prom, that the shoes finally crackled like land fissures
after an earthquake. So you can imagine Les's
confusion over why I would need several-okay,
okay, more than several-pairs of shoes.
Les and I went on an Alaskan cruise recently,
and he wanted to take out extra life insurance
because he was certain my footwear alone would
sink the ship. Men just don't get it.
Actually, I have trouble explaining it myself, but
life offers such a kaleidoscope of challenges, and I
love to be foot-ready so I can step out in style,
whether it's lunch with a friend (flats), a loop around
the park (sneakers), attending a conference (heels),
shuffling through the house (slippers), or dinner
with Les (one of the above). So it seems reasonable to
me that I need a healthy collection of footgear.
While Scripture doesn't endorse personal loans
for shoe fetishes, it does address our daily walk and
the importance of taking the right path. So what
shall it profit a woman to be dazzling in her
sequined heels only to be on the wrong side of
town while the party's happening?
I appreciate assurance that I'm using the right
map, and I despise discovering six exits too late
that I have to pivot and trod back over old territory.
Unfortunately, I have to do that a lot because
directions make me dizzy. Even when I'm sporting
the latest hiking boots, I`m clueless as to which
direction is southwest or northeast. I was born
compassless. All the more reason to keep my holy
"map" of God's Word before me.
Join me now as we lift the lid on our shoe boxes,
don the contents, then walk, boogie, jog, stroll, and
meander through our day, securing our direction
and delighting in our shoe wardrobe. Along the way
we will do our best to find a good fit by aligning our
heart with our footpath. We'll be concentrating on
the path set before us in Galatians 5:22-23: "But
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Now that's a yellow brick road worthy to
be trod upon by dazzling Dorothy shoes.
So c'mon, girlfriends, slide into your favorite
footwear, gather up your shoe boxes, and let's step
into high fashion and toe-tapping truth in style.
Show me your shoes!
It won't be how many steps we take in our
spectator pumps-some of us will live longer
than others-but the quality of our inner lives
that leaves indelible footprints behind.
Flippin' the Lid
In the opening chapter, I mentioned items we
could store in a vacated shoe box, but I left out
a few creative uses you might not have considered.
My older brother, Don, was a preemie, but
unlike today, with our teams of medical specialists
and preemie wards to assist newborns, my nervous
parents had to take their infant son home to nurture
him. Because he was so fragile, my mom
swaddled him and tucked him inside a boot box on
a pint-sized pillow. That way she could take care of
her household chores and still have him within eyeshot,
as she and the box moved from room to room.
I guess that was Mom's version of a portable crib.
On cold winter days, Mom heated the oven and
left the oven door ajar to warm the kitchen so her
precious cargo in the boot box, propped on a nearby
chair, would stay toasty warm.
Imagine tucking the first fruit of your womb
inside a shoe box. How inventive.
Speaking of fruit, Don gave Mom plenty of
opportunity to grow spiritual fruit as she cared for
him because he wasn't interested in eating. She had to
display tons of patience and gentleness to nudge Don
to take enough nourishment so he could, in time,
grow out of his boot box and into a big boy's bed.
While my dad's shoe box became a bed, my
friend's dad's shoe box held bread. Singer, songwriter,
and friend Babbie Mason told me of a difficult
journey her parents took in which their shoe
boxes became picnic baskets.
Babbie's parents, who were African-American, lived
in the deep South in the 1940s but had been encouraged
by family to move North for jobs and greater
personal freedoms. Even though they wanted to make
the journey, her parents knew it could be chancy for
African-Americans to travel so far from home. But
concerned that poverty would rule their existence if
they didn't, they packed up and headed for Michigan.
Babbie's mom prepared meals and packed them in
towel-lined shoe boxes to avoid the prejudices or
potential threat of eating in restaurants. They drove at
night to draw less attention to themselves during this
racially tense time and then stopped in African-American
neighborhoods in towns along the way to ask
around for some folks who could rent a sleeping room
in their home. After days of patiently planned travel,
the brave family made it safely to their new home.
Now I want to flip the lid on my last shoe box. A
ministry called The Samaritan's Purse conducts a
loving outreach called Operation Christmas Child
to benefit the world's poor children.
My young friend, six-year-old Christian (Sheila
Walsh's son), filled a shoe box with items for a boy his
age in an impoverished country. Christian lovingly
tucked in a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, candy, pencils,
notepads, Band-Aids, small toys, and even a pair
of sunglasses. Get this, in 2001, five million shoe boxes
like the one Christian packed were sent to ninety-five
countries as children blessed other children.
The next time you lift a shoe box lid, remember
that the shoes inside, represent our walk through this
world. And remember, it won't be how many steps
we take in our spectator pumps-some of us will live
longer than others-but the quality of our inner
lives that leaves indelible footprints behind.
I think stepping into God's love would cause
us to step out of our spiritual baby booties
and right into big girl's shoes.
See Granny. See Granny grin. See Granny leap
into the air and click her heels!
On June 8, 2000, I leapt into the stratosphere
and almost put my sacroiliac out of whack when I
became Nana to Justin Robert Clairmont. One
glance of my grandson's brand-spankin'-new
little toes, and my heart turned to Silly Putty
and my stature shot heavenward. The cushion of
grandma-glee I was walking on elevated me.
I had no idea grandmotherhood would be so,
well, invigorating. I definitely have picked up my
pace since that little darling sprouted on our family
I realized, having birthed two sons, that new
life was life-changing, but I found becoming a
nana was a futuristic kick. Having a grandchild is
like a promissory note with compounded interest.
It goes deep into the marrow of dry bones, replenishing
them. Why, I became almost aerobic.
I was barely twenty (by twelve days) when I tied
baby booties on my firstborn son, Marty. My
mother, crochet-woman extraordinaire, whipped
up a rainbow assortment of tiny booties for Marty
in colors to match an array of outfits showered on
us by well-wishers.
Before long Marty's feet were cramped, and his
toes were tied up in the booties' threads, suggesting
he was ready to move on to big boy shoes. Phooey.
Oh, I know that's how it should be, but, golly, I
would have loved to savor a little more infancy
time. You know, those moments when babies still
nuzzle and coo (and take multiple naps).
I would wait nine years before I heard more
baby sounds and had the thrill of slipping another
set of blue booties over pink toes. This time it was
for Jason, our younger son. Mom again came to
the rescue with her magic needles, allowing Jason
to follow the booties-galore tradition of his big
brother. Then Jason grew into high-topped walking
shoes that all too soon would be replaced by
high top (stinky) tennis shoes.
These three baby boys-Justin, Martin, and
Jason-wiggled into my heart with their tiny toes
and button noses bringing gurgles, giggles, and love.
I don't think anything is more appealing to a
woman than love, whether it comes wrapped up in
a blanket needing our nurturing touch or we're
wrapped up in a loved one's hug, delighting in that
When my grandson turned two, I was away on
a ten-day trip. Once I returned, I made a beeline
over to see him. Just as I entered his home, Justin
turned the hallway corner and spotted me. He let
out an ear-piercing squeal as he ran full speed into
my outstretched arms. We both giggled with
delight at the joy of being together again. I've
replayed that scene in my mind many times, and it
serves as a sweet reminder of the blessing of mutual
love. My husband was pleased to have me home as
well, but nary a squeal came forth from his lips,
and I'm grateful he didn't cast his two-hundred-plus-pound
body up into my arms.
Of course, love can sometimes trip us up. Take
my friend Cindy. When she was nine months
pregnant, she decided to take her toddler with her
for a last-fling shopping spree before her new little
one arrived. (Probably needed to buy baby
booties.) As she dressed for the occasion, she chose
to wear her favorite pair of shoes-okay, the only
pair she could squeeze her swollen tootsies into.
She loved those shoes. The only problem was one
of them had started to fall apart, with the sole
coming off where the bottom of the shoe was
tacked to the shoe's front.
Cindy rolled herself out of her car and then
pulled the stroller from the backseat. With a flick
of her foot, she hit the pedal that should have
sprung the stroller open. It did, but Cindy's flapping
shoe-front caught in the device, and the
stroller wheeled forward with Cindy struggling to
remove her foot. Next thing she knew, she was on
her back in the mall's parking lot. Hello, I've fallen
and can't get up! was her first thought, I'm sure.
Now, when Cindy tells the story, at this point,
she says she "popped up" quickly, but you and I
know that she was more like the sea rolling in large
waves as she worked to stand up. She glanced
around to make sure no one but her toddler had
witnessed the incident. Then she moved forward
with purpose-toward the shoe store, as a matter
I haven't stepped out in the same way Cindy
has, but I have found learning to love is a steppin'
out process-stepping out of me to extend myself
to others in meaningful ways. If I don't purpose to
extricate myself from my busyness and preoccupation
with my own tangle of thoughts, I miss priceless
opportunities to invest lovingly in those
around me. However, my grandson, Justin, keeps
me on a short rein. If my eyes begin to drift away
from his to look across the room while he's talking,
he emphatically states, "No, me, Nana, me!" I
believe our relationship with others rescues us from
drowning in our self-absorbed tendencies.
In my mid-twenties I was in the throes of struggling
to become a healthier person when a friend
told me, "Patsy, you need to get a job." I was
floored with her assessment because I was fragile
emotionally and physically. If she had suggested I
needed counseling or medication, that would have
seemed reasonable, but a job? Why, I could barely
handle my daily chores. Then she risked telling
me, "You spend too much time thinking about
yourself. It's no wonder your nervous disposition is
Excerpted from The Shoe Box
by Patsy Clairmont
Copyright © 2003 by Patsy Clairmont.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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