A few years ago after selling my house, I found myself between homes while I waited for the bank to process the short sale on the townhome I was buying. I had to put my belongings in storage and move back in with my parents for three months. The storage unit was chock full of my furniture so I stowed all of my pictures, mirrors and lamps in my parents’ garage. While I bunked with my folks, I decided some things my mother had around her house might look nice in my new house. I went treasure-hunting through her discarded box of pictures and found two French-inspired bird illustrations. I decided her dancing girl figurine lamp would look nice in my new place. I asked her if I could have her hall table. And her yellow chippy kitchen cupboard. Along with a shabby picture frame with no glass, a few pieces of her vintage china and some magazine illustrations. I moved so many of her things to my stockpile that she said if she noticed something was missing, she would just start looking for it in the garage.
Sometimes I wanted things she wasn't ready to discard. Like the chippy pink paint-peeling dresser she had in her guest room but was reluctant to give up. It was literally falling apart but looked nicely shabby on the outside. The sides are split, the paint is peeling, and you can’t open the drawers since they are jammed shut. She finally said I could have it and when my movers unpacked it from my storage unit, I cautioned them to be careful that it didn’t collapse into a pile of boards and nails. One of them stared at its dilapidated condition and said, “You know, it really wouldn’t take that much work to make this dresser usable.” I know he thought I was crazy to keep it. Someday I might get it fixed, but I’ll certainly never paint it. I love the pink peeling paint with bits of green flaking through. The paint tells its story. Remnants of what it might have been. To cover over that would remove its history. I can buy a shiny new painted dresser anywhere. This ramshackle, broken-down dresser is one of a kind.
I often wonder about all of the places in my life where things are a little off-kilter. Those things that I can't seem to get straight. Like how I dearly desire to avoid conflict with friends and family yet get so worked up over something trivial. How I want to extend grace and be tolerant to everyone for just one day yet get so annoyed by people’s quirks and unique habits. How I know in my heart that God wants to work all things for something good in my life yet I doubt his delicate mastery over the details when something unexpected messes up my schedule. Those parts of me that don't quite make me a nice, shiny, new person. The splinters, flaking paint and rusty nails that cobble it all together. I have to realize that all those old, broken parts and pieces are part of me. To work with. To continue trying to smooth out. To accept. It's after all what makes me who I am. I'm grateful. And I'm learning to say it, out loud, to God, because it changes me.
I actually felt pretty good about taking my mother's stuff during my extended stay at her house. I figured that it was just my way of helping her move a few pieces of clutter out. Whether she wanted it or not. Until she said that all my efforts to weed out her overstocked objects only gave her some additional space to bring more stuff in. I guess that means one thing. There will be some new inventory arriving soon for me to browse through.