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My Aunt Bet was my daddy’s sister. She never married, never had children, never left home. That may or may not have been because of her Magnum P.I. mustache . . . .

All I know is she loved us — each one of her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. She’s been gone since 2012, and I still miss her so bad it hurts.

She kept everything. And I mean everything. One day I convinced her to let me throw away sale papers from years past. I said, “Bet, come on. Those things aren’t on sale now. Matter of fact, I’m pretty sure they don’t even MAKE some of this stuff anymore.” She glared at me and reluctantly agreed to let me throw them away, along with some junk mail from 1997.

After I left, my cousin John called me and said, “She’s outside going through the trash can, getting all those sale papers back out, fussing about you the whole time.” Sigh. There was nothing anyone could do. She was a hoarder, and she never changed.

Although she kept a bunch of junk only important to her, she also kept things that are of value to those of us left behind. Treasures such as my Grandpa Bunton’s wallet, exactly the way he left it the day he died in 1973, and my Uncle Howard’s letters from Germany in WWII.

(We also found someone’s ponytail. Yes, actual real hair. We have no idea who’s it was, or why she’d keep it. Come to think of it . . . .maybe its a clue about why Bet also felt so attached to her mustache that she refused to shave or wax it, but I digress . . . )

I’m a sucker for sentiment, too. I’m not a hoarder, but I have some boxes of my kids’ things from when they were growing up. Report cards, stuffed animals, homemade Mother’s Day gifts. Lindsey’s beloved Big Bird from her Nanny. Kaitlyn’s Lee Middleton doll that looks like her. Daniel’s one last shred of the cloth diaper he used to hold when he sucked his thumb (only his right thumb. He never sucked his left thumb). The blankets their Grandma Bunton made them when they were born. Birthday cards from their great grandma Bare.

Nothing in there means anything to anyone else but us. If my kids ever go through those boxes, I’m sure their minds will flood with memories at the sight of those things as well. They may actually even decide to keep some of it for themselves when I’m gone.

However, there is one thing in those packed away boxes that only means something to me. You might think its gross, but here goes . . .

I kept their bellybuttons when they fell off.

Those little dried up pieces of their umbilical cords that looked like raisins? Yep, no lie — kept ’em in ziplock baggies. Why would I do that, you ask? Why would I save what is essentially a SCAB?!

Because it was the one thing that belonged to both of us. It was my connection to them. It was how my body nourished their bodies. They don’t remember it. They didn’t even know I was there, holding them next to my heart, taking better care of them than I ever would the rest of their lives. I was never closer to them than when they were in my womb. No one but me would love them enough to save something no one else would possibly want!

(Okay, maybe I’m more like Bet than I think . . . if I ever decide to rock a mustache, please hold me down and WAX THAT PUPPY!)

When I die, my children aren’t going to fight over who gets to keep all the dried up umbilical cords. I’m the only one in the entire world who will ever pick up that bag and be moved by its value. The umbilical cords won’t be passed on to the next generation. My grandchildren won’t be telling their grandchildren, “This was your great grandmother Kaitlyn’s bellybutton! Here is your inheritance! Protect it at all costs!” 

Think what you want, but I’m not ashamed! Matter of fact, I’ve got some pretty good company. Look what God saves from His children. David said in Psalm 56:8,

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

Let that sink in a minute . . . .

He has a BOTTLE with YOUR NAME on it, and it has every tear you’ve ever cried. Every time you felt alone, like no one knew your private pain, God was and is keeping track of your broken heart. Every time you put on a happy face for the rest of the world, but inside you’re dying, God is writing it down in His book. It matters to Him.

In my mind’s eye, I imagine a room in Heaven full of bottles. Each bottle has a different name on it. A bottle for all my tears, and a bottle for all your tears. Some bottles are more full than others. But they’re all there. None is lost.

Why would God save our tears? No one else would care. Nobody in Heaven will ever pick up a bottle with loving memories — because they weren’t there to see each tear fall. Bottles of tears would never matter to anyone but the One who made you, the One who loves you the most.  No one but God would love us enough to save something no one else would possibly want!

And why would He save tears? Why not something else? What’s special about them? It’s His connection to you. Psalm 34:18 says,

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

He’s never closer to you than when your heart is broken. Even if you were oblivious to it, He was close. He was meeting all your needs, just like a baby in the womb is being fully and completely cared for by his mother. God was taking care of you when you needed it the most, even though you might not have known it.

When our spirits are crushed, when we cry, when we are full of sorrow and anguish, God cares. He doesn’t turn a blind eye. He is close enough to catch every tear we’ve ever cried. And He saves them. In a bottle that belongs only to Him.

Chew on this a while, let it invade your soul:

You’re so loved, so incredibly special, that the God of the Universe keeps all your tears in a bottle.