The sandpaper diaries

     Over the years, I have garnered a reputation for my ability to sleep late and nap (I usually can do both in the same day), and I am also good at watching multiple seasons of a show in one sitting. Many would think I was made for a stay-home order. Strangely, I have found I am relying on projects around the house to calm my anxious tendencies. Clay and I have picked up a love of woodworking and joke about how if we had an HGTV show, we’d call it “I Think I Might Could Do That.”


     This weekend we decided to renovate our bathrooms. As I was sanding one of the boards, I remembered one of those monumental counseling moments in graduate school, where we learned about the sandpaper effect: the idea that our hardest moments are what shape and refine who we are for the rest of our lives.


     I remember being a little girl standing in the driveway the day my dad died, and my grandmother telling me I was too young to go inside. It was rough, and it hurt, and not to get too counselor-y on you, but it’s shaped who I have been for the rest of my life — always wanting to earn a spot to be “good enough” to be in the room. It’s created in me this intrinsic motivation to find purpose in my pain. I think it’s one of the main reasons I write and often include my experience with grief when looking at my own motherhood. I hope and pray that this current crisis will be another sandpaper effect for many of us.


     Many people would consider Job as the poster child for loss. As I was reading through Job, I found a note in my Bible from Passion Conference in January. Less than three months ago, I was in a stadium full of 65,000 people who were definitely not six feet apart. My mind went back to where I was in that moment: no real fear, no idea what was ahead. My note from Levi Lusko’s sermon was from Job 22:24-26 and read:


“If you lay gold in the dust, God will be your gold. And you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift your face to God.”


     What I am learning is that as much as I would have wanted to say that my head knowledge was my heart knowledge, I still have so much to learn about God’s character. My “gold” for all 31 years of my life has been systems in place. I love my school so much that I both went there and now work there, and now it’s empty. I would fill days with as much activity and “social nearing” (I hope that becomes a phrase when all of this is over) as I could in a 24-hour period, only to wake up and do it all again.


     My external circumstances are not an accurate indicator of God’s love, yet over time, I have allowed them to be. The truth is, this pandemic has stripped us of just about every system we know — we have lost all sense of the control that we never actually had.


     What we see in Job is that God was refining him. Job was honest about his pain and honest that he didn’t feel like he had the answers to why his world was crashing down around him, but he kept holding on to God’s truth, even with a loose grip.


     My Bible has an important note for us to remember with Job’s story: Gold can only be refined to its highest quality when it’s melted down. I, like gold, have had my fair share of meltdowns over the last 40 days. But Job’s story reminds us there is purpose in pain. That’s what I see God teaching me over and over.


     This time at home doesn’t have to be your most productive — you don’t have to gut bathrooms or build tables — but I do hope it’s a reflective time for you.


     I pray we can find purpose in our pain, as our greatest teacher, Jesus, has taught us. There was purpose in His pain on the cross. It’s why you and I can praise Him in the hardest of circumstances. I pray we don’t waste this crisis. I pray that our sandpaper diary is written in the hardest of times, to remind us in the good times how great our God is to each of us.




Libbo Haskins Crosswhite and her husband, Clay, live in Madison and attend Pinelake. They have one daughter, Mary Thomas, who is 6 years old, and a son, Russell, who is 4 years old. She is the high school guidance counselor at Madison-Ridgeland Academy and can be emailed at