Friday, April 12, 2013

Refinishing...

I have this little patio set that my grandmother gave me about eight years ago when she moved out of her home and into a retirement apartment.  I have no idea how old it is, but it's nice and heavy and really cute.  There's a little round table, two chairs, and a two-seater bench.  When she gave it to me, it was solid black, the typical color for wrought iron pieces.  But over the years of sitting in the sun, the paint had begun to bubble up a bit and crack and peel revealing the colors in layers below.

I had been considering refinishing it all for quite some time, and just this week I made the trip to my local Lowe's to pick up all the necessary supplies.  Paint stripper, rust neutralizer, primer, paint, drop cloths, steel wool.  I picked out a lovely teal shade of blue, and I was so excited to get started.  Until I actually did, and then I realized that I had a big mess on my hands.

There were thick layers upon layers of paint.  The first application of stripper only ate through the first coat of paint on most of the chair I began with, and so I realized I would need to apply more.  What I was left with was a gunky mess of old paint clinging to the lattice work of the seat and around the scroll work at the top.

Lord have mercy.

So I put a little muscle into it, and I began to scrape, scrape, scrape.  After quite a bit of time and sweat, I felt like I was getting somewhere and could actually see what must have been the original color.  Seemed like the piece of furniture had lost so much of its shape with all the coats of paint from over the years.  Where the iron work had been delicately formed into curves and had been forged together, layers of paint had settled making curves fatter and clean lines frumpy.  With a lot of hard work, each piece of furniture was looking more and more like what its maker had intended.

If you know me at all, you know where my mind is going...

I thought about my life, how I started out fresh and clean and void of residue and gunk.  And then we grow up, we start living our lives, we learn what is really out there, what really goes on.  We make mistakes, some big and some small.  We cover them up in layers of regret and pain and guilt and shame.  Things may look okay on the surface, but underneath is still that same old crap, and it's jumbled up the clean lines of who our Maker created us to be.

His Grace is like the stripping agent.  He pours His blood on us, and miracles happen, dissolving away years of disgrace and disgust.  With a little work, we become as close to our original self as possible, leaving behind mere faded scars of our past.

I don't think I am the only one who looks around me, in real life and in social media, and thinks, "Look at her... she did it all right.  Made the right choices, married the right person the first time, has the right number of kids and does everything so well."  I somehow think that just because I can't see what lies beneath her shiny finish that she must not have layers and layers of the same crap I do.  But she does.  And so does everyone else.  We are all covering up something.  It's in our nature.  Read about the first sin in the history of mankind... when we are ashamed of something, we do anything in our power to hide it.

In Christ, however, we need not be ashamed.  We need not apply thick coats of primer and paint to alter who we really are.  He knows what is underneath anyway.  We only do it to impress the others around us.  So I wonder what the world would look like if we all bathed ourselves in the blood of Christ, letting go of the past, letting Him strip us down to the bare rawness of the soul of our childhood, where is was safe to tell the truth and love freely with zero expectations?

I guess that is what heaven will really be like.  Until then, I will continue my scraping, both literally and figuratively.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Finding the words...

I've been struggling for words lately.  What normally flows from my heart to the tips of my fingers so easily has seemingly ceased.

It's April.

To most, it is April, the month of pollen, bright blooms, and the greening of trees and lawns.  But to me it's the month I lost my mother.  And it is hard to believe that April has already come back around.  How is it possible that she has been gone almost a year?  It feels like a day and decade all at the same time, and I still can't reconcile my emotions.

A year ago, on this date, we shared one last family gathering.  Easter.  It was a lovely day.  The sun was bright, and the kids were all so happy.  My mother was exhausted, her body already beginning to fail though we didn't know it yet.  It was one last day of togetherness before all things we ever knew to be normal would be forever changed.

I am beginning to realize that I will never be the same.  I am okay, but not the same.  It's as if I've gotten out a familiar jig saw puzzle to put it all together and one piece is missing.  Can't find it anywhere.  One would still be able to make out the picture, appreciate its beauty, but it can't ever be the same if it's not complete.  And that is how I feel exactly.

I feel my best when I am outside in my yard doing things she loved and that I never dreamed I would do.  Last week, I put out pine straw and planted a few things, laid rock in my backyard flower beds, pruned back some trees that had gone wild.  I felt close to her, so much like her in those moments.  I imagined how she would be so happy with what I had done, how she would have answered the questions I wished I could ask her.  I contemplated how strange this world seems without her, so different.

I am grateful for the changes in me that have come about since I lost her... not worrying about things that don't matter, being aware of what it is important in life, not taking anything for granted.  But what I give to have another day with her...

Spiritually, I am all over the place, much like the ups and downs of my emotions.  I open myself up to feel close to God sometimes, while other times I close my feelings off to protect myself from not feeling too much.  Some days I don't want to feel anything at all.  I just want to make it through the day with sanity in tact, so I float.  I know full well He has given me all I ever needed in every tiny moment, and I know He never lets go of me even on the days I don't want to feel anything.  His Love and Mercy are amazing.

In my devotional time this morning, I was directed to Hebrews 13:8.  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  How comforting to know.  Predictable.  Dependable.  Immovable.  The same.  The one and only thing in our ever-changing lives that remains the same.  And I cling to Him who never changes.