The Nalgene

Anybody else have a weird attachment to a “thing”? Maybe your car, or a piece of jewelry, or a t-shirt? I had that too, only mine was…to a water bottle. Just call me Crazy Nalgene Lady. I got The Nalgene before working at a summer camp in 2010 and proceeded to carry that thing around with me literally everywhere I went for years afterwards, just like Linus and his blanket. It shows up in a lot of my pictures actually…

At a health center in Beijing in 2013…
In Phnom Penh in 2015…
At the Grand Canyon in 2016…
Even on public transit in Hong Kong in 2014, where strangers sometimes sleep on your shoulder.

So eight years after I got it, when I lost it and thought it was gone forever, I was legitimately upset.

My friends and I had gone to a conference, and I had The Nalgene on the drive there, but I didn’t see it the whole weekend. With four adults, three kids, and umpteen hours in the car, I assumed it had fallen into the depths of the Suburban and decided to check once we got home and everything and everyone was out of the car. Well, when we got back, we all but turned that Suburban upside down, and The Nalgene was nowhere to be found. I started retracing my steps, and to my horror, I realized I had done something terrible.

I had thrown it away.

In a hotel room.

Hundreds of miles away.

Three days ago.

And before anybody thinks I dropped it straight in the trash can like it belonged there, let me explain. On the way to the conference, we had stopped at a Moe’s and ate in the car, and of course, we put all the trash from our meal back in the bag when we finished. Once we got to the hotel, I was trying to get all my stuff and the Moe’s bag out of the car so it wouldn’t stink it up, and since I only had two hands, I stuck The Nalgene in the bag for a hot second…totally forgetting I had put it there between that moment and the four minutes it took to get to my room and throw the bag away.

Once we were back and I realized what I had done, my friend suggested calling the hotel to see if they’d check the garbage can in the room where I had stayed. I told her no, that that was silly and that I was sure they’d emptied the trash already anyway. But at some point that night, I got desperate enough to call. I relayed the story to the lady at the front desk, trying my best not to sound like a crazy loon…

“Yes ma’am, I was wondering if you could check the trash can in Room XYZ.”

“Well, I threw away my water bottle in there, but it wasn’t a water bottle you’re supposed to throw away. It’s a Nalgene. It was an accident…

“I’ve taken it around the world with me and… The color? Well, some people say it’s green, but some people say it’s yellow. It’s like lemon-lime Gatorade. And it also…

“Oh you’ve already checked?”

Little did I know, my friend (who actual had called the hotel before I did, so the staff had already looked. I thanked the woman at the front desk after hearing that the trash had been emptied earlier that day, but that they’d call if it turned up. I considered it lost. I had made a careless mistake, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was fine. After all, it was just a water bottle.

A couple of days later, the hotel called. Someone had gone through not one, but TWO dumpsters and found my Nalgene. I didn’t believe them. There was no way somebody spent their time on the clock going through two nasty dumpsters for a ten-dollar piece of plastic. But a few days later, it was on my doorstep. What I had thought was irreversible had been reversed.

This whole thing was so bizarre to me that I really couldn’t make sense of it other than to think this had nothing to do with The Nalgene and everything to do with the character of God. He had given me a personal, tangible example of his redemptive nature, most likely because this was an aspect of His character that hadn’t been emphasized in my Christian upbringing, and still wasn’t on my radar. I honestly thought since I was already saved, there wasn’t any redemptive work to be done in my life–sure, I had things to work on and areas to grow in, but up until that point, I hadn’t experienced anything that seemed like a “lost cause.” I’d never made a mistake big enough that I wasn’t able to erase or fix in one way or another. Where was the need for redemption if everything was already redeemed?

Through getting this water bottle that I had unintentionally, absentmindedly left in a hotel room hundreds of miles away, without doing any of the heavy-lifting myself, God made it clear that He is able to redeem what, from my perspective, looks like a lost cause. He’s able to fix things that are beyond my control. He remembers that I’m only human and is incredibly merciful to me, even when I least deserve it (Psalm 103).

I’m so thankful that God doesn’t leave us stuck in the messes we make. I’m so glad He gives us second and third and fourth chances. And I’m forever grateful that He is in the business of redeeming every aspect of our lives, helping us repair and restore that which has been long destroyed (Isaiah 58:9-12).

I honestly don’t know if anyone besides my mom reads these (LOL), but if you’re reading this, and you wonder if the mistake you’ve made is too big, or the problem you’re in is impossible to solve, it might be. It might be impossible for you to fix it yourself. But you’ve got a very present help in your time of trouble (Psalm 46:1), and as Lauren Daigle reminds us, He alone has the “Power to Redeem”.


6 thoughts on “The Nalgene

  1. Ms. Charlsie, this story speaks to me a lot. I am currently going through some difficult moments due to my own bad actions (?) and choices, and I have been thinking “well, girl, you’ve messed up a lot. There is no way things can get better. It is clearly over. All hope is lost. Just admit it and move on.” I still think all hope is gone, but your story reminded me of something similar that happened to me two months ago: I went to a field work and lost one of my most important tool in the field! There was NO WAY I could find it: the place was heavily wooded and very grassy at some other locations; I could have dropped my tool anywhere, and searching for it would just be a desperate waste of time. So, I decided to give up and order another one once I get in town and have it delivered days later, which means I would have to work without my tool! But, my field partner told me to return to our previous stop and check there, which I did (of course with no hope of finding it). Guess what? I found it! I was just there on our previous spot. What a joy!!! Few days later, it was the same tool that I dropped AGAIN. I wanted to give up again, but I remembered how miraculously I found it the previous time. And yes, I had to redo my walk in the opposite direction, with an ups-and-downs topography, and found it! This time though, it wasn’t as easy to find it as the first time.
    In each of these findings, I told myself “see how God can change the impossible to possible. There was NO WAY you could have EVER found your tool. But TWICE, God showed you HE is in control of everything. HE can. HE is GOD! Yes, your current situation seems unsolvable. There is no way you can get what you’re looking for. But know that GOD is powerful to make it possible. Even if HE doesn’t give it to you, still, know that HE is Almighty. ”
    Your story just reminded me of that. And even yesterday, I told God “I understand that I don’t deserve what I am asking you. But I need Your Mercy, LORD. I know You can. But if You don’t give it to me, You will always be just.”
    I know HE can. But even if HE doesn’t redeem me from my current mess, HE will always be just, and I will still trust and obey Him.
    Thank you so much for your stories. They remind me of some of my own experiences. It is always good to have these encouragements from other Christians.


    1. I’m so encouraged by your stories too! Thank you so much for sharing those examples. Amazing! I believe, like it says in Revelation, that we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony…so sharing about God’s faithfulness in your life is important! I’m glad you shared those here. Your faith in your current situation is inspiring. Please remember, nothing and no one is beyond His redemption. The last part of what you wrote reminds me of Daniel 3:18…even if He doesn’t, He is still God and He is still so good! Be blessed 🙂


      1. Nothing and no one is beyond His redemption. That is so true!! I love what David said in Psalm 103:8-14 about God’s goodness and mercy, especially verse 11 where he compared the height of God’s goodness to the height of heavens above the earth. HE surely has the power to redeem everyone who comes to Him, for His love is so big!
        Thank you again Ms. Charlsie!


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