Wednesday, April 27

Sometimes the process isn't pretty

Did you ever plan a project only to have it go very wrong?

I was so excited to get a much-needed improvement underway here last week. After months of waiting, my front door was going to be refinished!

Here it is, all sanded smooth, ready for its new look.

This photo from last fall gives you an idea of how the door had become pretty weathered:

Here's a closer look from Christmastime:

As you can see, the door was a golden color, but badly weathered at the bottom. What's really sad is that the door was never supposed to be a golden color.  In general, I prefer painted doors, but this one is solid mahogany. So I decided to have it refinished in a darker stain.

I knew I wasn't up to doing this project myself, and I'm glad I didn't. I never would have made it through all that sanding.

Although the professionals I hired spent lots of time prepping the door for its new stain, no one could have predicted the outcome:

Sometimes things do not work out as we had hoped--like the refinishing of this door that didn't go well!


So while I had planned to have my front door all beautifully refinished and ready to show off by now, it turns out that it's still in process. And the process isn't very pretty.

But isn't that the way life goes a lot of the time? We dream, we hope, we plan, we do our best. . . and sometimes things don't turn out at all as we'd envisioned.

Sometimes things take a lot longer than we'd imagined.

Sometimes things get worse before they get better.

Sometimes things aren't pretty when they're in process.

But we press on. If necessary, we regroup and re-imagine, but we don't lose heart.

This is one of the ways we can help each other, I think. When one of us is stuck in a difficult part of the process of life, the rest of us can gather around. We can offer one another a word of encouragement, a pat on the back, a much-needed hug, a reminder that everything is going to be okay.

What about you? Are you going through any processes that aren't very pretty these days?

Wednesday, April 20

The most important part of spring cleaning

I'm so grateful that it's finally springtime!

Here in North Carolina, we have to delay our spring cleaning a little bit until after the onslaught of pollen has passed. Now that most of the pollen is gone, we can open the windows, let in the fresh air, and get down to some serious cleaning.

But as much as I love letting in the fresh breezes, I've discovered that my cleaning sprees only make things seem fresh for a little while. Very soon things are back to looking like they need to be "spring-cleaned" all over again.

Determined to do things differently this year, I thought long and hard about what really needed to happen in my house. My husband and I sat down and talked honestly about it. That was a hard conversation for me, for I tend to feel ashamed and guilty when the state of my house isn't what I think it should be. But with God's help and my husband's input I realized that our home was never going to look and feel the way I wanted unless I was willing to take the critical step of getting rid of stuff.
The most important part of spring cleaning: here's the question to ask yourself

There was no way I could clean up our home until I had cleaned out our home.

When faced with a daunting task, my tendency is to get overwhelmed, which leads to paralysis. Sometimes I can't see what I should do first, so I don't do anything at all.

The solution I found this time wasn't perfect, but it worked for me: I rented a dumpster.

There was no way I was going to be able to de-clutter our home without some way to dispose of the things that were no longer useful. Useful items I could donate to thrift stores, which of course I did. But there were so many items poked here and there that were simply of no value whatsoever. Like it or not, those items were trash.

Renting a dumpster allowed me to
  • do a massive cleanout all at once (I had the dumpster for two weeks only)
  • get rid of items of all sizes and shapes
  • worry less about the trash, knowing that part of the fee I paid was to lessen the environmental impact of disposal
Always before when I attempted to clean out clutter, I asked myself this question: "What if I need this?" But all too easily that question led to my keeping things just in case I might need them.

This time, I asked a different question. Instead of "What if I need this?" I asked myself, "What will I do if I need this?"

Asking this question forced me to look at things more honestly. I realized that many things I might need in the future I could simply borrow or rent if the need arose. Or I could--surprise--do without them entirely! 

Then I was free to keep the things I need and the things I value most--and let go of the rest.

The unexpected blessing of this exercise was realizing anew that I can trust God to meet my needs. Without admitting or even realizing it, I had been putting my faith in holding onto possessions. My old "What if I need this?" question enabled me to continue thinking that I would have to meet my own needs. It enabled me to operate under the delusion that I can and must meet my own needs.

The truth, of course, is that God provides what we need. Every good and perfect gift is from above, after all. And one of the amazing ways that God provides is by giving us one another--family and friends and neighbors who help one another.  So what if I do need something? One way or another, God will provide.

You know what was most wonderful about renting that dumpster?  This sight:

The freedom of de-cluttering

My useless clutter was hauled away, never to be seen again.

Now to open the windows--of my house and of my soul--and let the spring breezes blow!

How about you? Are you doing some spring cleaning? Do you need to clean out before you can clean up?
I'm joining these lovely parties:
Tell His Story with Jennifer Dukes Lee
Coffee for Your Heart with Holley Gerth
Inspire Me Tuesday with Marty at A Stroll Thru Life

Tuesday, April 5

The human drama

Years ago, I lived somewhere else. Back then and there, basketball didn't matter so much.

But now I live right in between two of the greatest powerhouses in the world of college basketball. It's true: my house is less than 15 minutes from Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke University and less than 20 minutes from the Dean Smith Center at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

On top of that, my oldest son graduated from Duke University, and my second son graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill just last May. No, he didn't play basketball; he's just as tall as a basketball player.

Around here, basketball matters a lot. And last night, most of my friends were pulling hard for a Tar Heel victory in the NCAA National Championship Game.

It was not to be.

Unless you're completely separated from the world of sports, you already know that the Villanova Wildcats won that game in one of the most exciting endings in college basketball history.

As I watched the final seconds of the game in replay after replay, I couldn't help but think of the iconic opening lines to the ABC Wide World of Sports program I used to watch on Saturday afternoons. In my imagination I can still hear Jim McKay's voice intoning "Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport. . . the thrill of victory. . . and the agony of defeat. . . the human drama of athletic competition. . . " Does anyone else remember that?

For sure, Monday night's game gave us some awfully memorable images of both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

But as thrilling and as agonizing as this game was for Villanova and Carolina fans, there's a story of human drama that captured my imagination even more than the electricity on the court. It's the backstory of the young man who made the game-winning three-pointer for Villanova. Have you heard it?

His name is Kris Jenkins, and if you haven't already witnessed his performance in Monday night's game, don't worry: you'll see it again and again. No doubt every montage of college basketball highlights from this time onward will include that shot of his. But did you know that one of the members of the opposing team is Kris Jenkins' brother?

Nate Britt, a junior guard for the Carolina team, was once an AAU teammate of Kris Jenkins. When Kris's family went through tumultuous times, including the death of his baby sister, Kris stayed with the Britts. Later, in middle school, Kris's mother Felicia--herself a coach who had taught Kris to play basketball--noticed that Kris was making poor choices. She knew that Kris could have a better future, but not in the home environment that she was able to give him at the time. So in one of the most incredible stories of courage and compassion I've ever heard, Felicia Jenkins asked the Britt family to take Kris in as one of their own--and the Britts agreed. They raised Kris as their own son, guiding him through the difficult teen years and helping him to gain a place in the basketball program at Villanova.

So it is that a member of the Villanova Wildcats team and a member of the Carolina Tarheels team grew up as brothers. Can you believe it?

This is a complicated story. This is a story of a grown, educated woman and her family, a loving mom who knew that her son needed something she couldn't provide. Can you imagine how it must have felt for this mom to humble herself, to reach out for help, to willingly separate herself from her child? And can you imagine how it must have felt for the family who were called upon to help to such an extent?

Such faith--on both sides--is rarely seen.

I'll be honest with you: in a world where it sometimes feels that we're all absolutely obsessed with sports, this story is especially riveting to me.

I can well imagine that this basketball game will be the stuff of family lore for the Britt and the Jenkins families for a long, long time. Kris Jenkins has bragging rights about the big game, for sure. But as I see it, both the Britts and the Jenkins have bragging rights when it comes to being the kind of people the world needs.

And so today I pray for the Lord to help me be like that. Lord, help me to become the kind of person who acts with that kind of faith, that kind of courage, that kind of compassion. Will you join me?