Archive | December 2015

Junk Drawers

 

junk

We all have one.  I have three.  Junk drawers, that is.  One of mine is in my nana’s beautiful hundred and fifty year old sideboard.  I think Americans call them buffets.  My nana inherited it from her mother. My mother had it after that. It’s mine now and I love to imagine the dinners and other gatherings it witnessed in another place, another time.  My mind’s eye sees it stacked with tea trays, silver platters, serving bowls and the “good” china.  An ivory lace runner with embroidered floral designs, daffodils and pansies mostly, soften the dark, rich oak and the immensity of this treasured family heirloom.  My nana’s legendary Sunday roast dinner is about to be served.  A savory, mouthwatering aroma fills the air in the small dining room with net curtains and powder blue walls.  New potatoes drip with butter and just a pinch of salt.  Steam escapes from a covered bowl filled to the top with carrots and onions cooked to perfection.  Yorkshire puddings, beef broth drizzled over them, arouse the senses and beckon.   A raspberry and rhubarb trifle, layered with jam, sponge cake and heavy cream tempts every sweet tooth in the room.

But, I digress, this sideboard, definitely regal in its day, has crossed an ocean and travelled many miles only to house a junk drawer.  This is an abomination!

Still, this ill placed junk drawer exists.  In it lives a collection of things no longer useful, outdated items, broken things, extras.  Batteries, do they still have a charge?   A handful of paperclips, some errant staples and half a dozen thumbtacks. Ouch!  A receipt for a dozen donuts, faded and creased. Was I hiding it?   Over-sized calculators from an age when we didn’t have everything we needed on a cell phone.  A miniature screwdriver long since separated from its handy, pocket-sized set. A very nice parting gift when it was whole. Three bottles of glue.  An empty tape dispenser.  Some sour hard candy.  Sticky and bitter.  A deflated balloon. An invitation to a birthday party, four years ago!  Pens with no ink.  Pencils with no erasers.  A faded picture of me beside my first car.  It was candy apple red and I was so proud.  And my son’s wisdom teeth wrapped in gauze tucked into a tiny yellow envelope.  That’s just gross!

So a collection of discarded items, hidden from sight, simply is.   These things are not wanted nor are they needed anymore.  They no longer serve a purpose for anything, to anyone except to take up space. They are an unsightly mess that we intend to get to, one day.  Why do we keep them?  Shouldn’t the drawers in this exquisite piece of furniture with brass pulls, claw feet and gold inlay be filled with a white linen table cloth and starched, ironed, neatly folded napkins? Shouldn’t it hold polished, carefully stacked forks, spoon and knives?  Pretty things.  Clean things.  Useful things. Best things.

I think the sideboard is a little like us.  We are a beautiful creation, crafted by a carpenter’s gifted hand.  None of us is anything like another.  We are one of a kind and serve many purposes.  We have sailed seas, sometimes enjoying calm winds and peaceful waters and other times weathering dangerous storms.  We have been boxed up, wrapped up and taken to new places.  Sometimes we remain in storage, waiting.  We may lose a handle, bare a scar, a watermark or two but eventually, we are restored to our former glory and purpose.

We may still house a junk drawer or two however and it is full of things that plague us and hold us back.   These seemingly bottomless spaces hold the things that are unnecessary, things that remind us of days long gone, things that are not part of our lives anymore.  Things that we hid, things that we missed and things that stung and caused pain.  Even things that are unsightly and tasteless.

Perhaps we need to clean out these junk drawers in our minds, rid ourselves of the chaos.  We are, after all a priceless work of art, a masterpiece like no other and the junk only takes up space.  The contents are redundant and embarrass us.  Perhaps that is why we hide it.  I say, empty those drawers.  Realize your worth.  Don’t mind the imperfections.  Polish yourself up.  Shine again.

 

“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold all things are become anew.”

2 Corinthians 5:17

 

 

 

A Bad Batch

IMG_6284

I am a terrible cook.  My family still laughs about California shaped pancakes,  boiled shrimp that could have doubled for a dog’s chew toy and venison chili that tasted much like swamp water.

But I love to bake, especially at Christmas.

I research recipes on line and try them out while donning my grandmother’s apron and listening to one of my favorite holiday movies.  I don’t have to watch the movie.  It simply keeps me company and puts me in the holiday spirit.

Today I attempted a recipe for cake batter cookies made with whipped topping and powdered sugar.  The first batch, lemon-flavored cookies, turned out so well I had to exert some real self-control so as to not devour them all myself, in one fell swoop.  Once they were securely stored in an airtight container, I began the second batch, strawberry-flavored.

Epic fail.  Since they are cake batter cookies it is very important to space them apart from one another.  If the spacing is not good, what emerges from the oven is a misshapen conglomeration that looks less like cookies and more like a flat, very sad cake. It’s actually, worse than that.  My cookies looked like a medical lab experiment gone terribly wrong.

Frustrated and embarrassed by my flop, I needed to get rid of the evidence quickly.  But I was curious, so I broke off a piece and sampled it.  The grotesque “cookies” actually tasted pretty good.  There was no way, however, that I was going serve these to friends and family. The neighborhood volunteer fire department and city workers who faithfully collect my trash every week would not receive a festively wrapped batch of homemade cookies from me this year! What a waste!

This disaster was discarded and forgotten.  Almost.

It did make me wonder though, “What if God discarded the bad batches that we so often become even when we know Him?”  Despite careful preparation and the watchful eye of our creator, we often disappoint.  We often fall short.  We are sometimes quite unsightly.  We might be considered a waste.

Did God discard David when he bedded another man’s wife and set up her husband to be killed?  Moses when he lost his temper?  The Israelites when they repeatedly questioned and outright rebelled?  Simon Peter when he denied Jesus?  Martha when she became rattled about work and her sister and complained to the Lord, almost missing the whole point?

Pretty bad batches all of these.  Disappointing.  Short.  Unsightly. Wasteful.

But He doesn’t throw us out.  He knows the sweetness that lies beneath the ugly surface. He made us.  We may not be pleasing to the world’s eye, but that doesn’t matter to Him.  He doesn’t discard bad batches.  He makes kings, leaders, nations, prophets and object lessons of us.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Lord, help me to remember that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” and never a bad batch in your eyes.

Perspective

lunch break3From the Driver’s Side Window     

Few things bring teachers more joy than an in-service day.  They call them professional development days now.  It’s not the meetings we enjoy really. We actually abhor those.  There are few things worse than people with no classroom experience being paid big bucks to tell us how to do our job and re-invent the wheel.  Usually it goes like this, we are ushered into an auditorium or school cafeteria, forced to take part in an icebreaker activity, and made to watch a motivational video. Then, there is a power point with about a hundred slides and they read it to us!  Finally, we break up in groups to analyze data… for hours!

It’s the extended lunch away from campus we love.   We get to go anywhere we want!  A place that serves alcohol is not a good idea, but it’s amazing how excited we get at the mention of a buffet. A chance to actually enjoy a midday meal at our leisure with co-worker friends is the real draw. We might even order dessert and refills on tea.

Anyone who is or has been a teacher knows that the twenty-seven minutes, on average, you are given every day to gulp down a tuna sandwich or last night’s lasagna left-overs is just not enough time.  This is especially true when you have run out of copies of a worksheet and the copier needs paper! Maybe you get a phone call.  Your baby sitter has cancelled for tomorrow.  You’ll figure that out later.  Perhaps you need to turn in a survey to the front office secretary, or you need to seek out a tech savvy colleague because your printer is acting up again.

Let’s not even talk about a restroom break.  Teachers have super-hero bladders.  It’s in our genetics.  Clearly stated in the legendary teacher handbook, and in your hire contract there is a clause that reads something like this, “The teacher must never, ever, even on pain of death, leave while students are in the classroom or during passing periods when she is supposed to be on duty guarding the hallway for all manner of danger and disruption.”

Well, it says something like that.  If you have “C” lunch and seventh period conference, you are out of luck.

Suffice it to say, a real lunch hour if definitely a treat.

On this particular day, we stuffed ourselves at a Chinese buffet, savored every bite and every moment.  Suddenly, someone noticed it was 12:50. We had ten minutes to get back to school and be back in our uncomfortable seats.  I had volunteered to drive as my van held more.   So, in my haste, I might have exceeded a few speed limits along the way and just maybe slipped through one yellow light.

Oh my goodness! A train!  Like students who had slipped away from campus without permission and feared a tardy slip, we desperately wondered if we should back up and take an alternate route.  Alas, a line of cars had already formed behind us.  We were going to have to wait.

I glanced to my left where vacant field had been razed and yet another office building was under construction. Dust rose from the ground and filled the air.  The August sun made a rainbow mirage near the ground. It was blazing hot, furnace hot, blistering hot.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The air was heavy and stifling.

wter

 

And then I saw them.  Six men in long-sleeved chambray shirts and dirty blue jeans.  They were seated on the ground, huddled together in the only shade available, that made by an enormous flatbed truck parked on the construction site.  Sweat stains marked their armpits and collars.  Tired legs and heavy work boots stretched out in front of them, construction hats lay discarded beside them.  Each man had a wet cloth draped around his shoulders.  Their heads were soaked with sweat, faces weathered by too many days outside in the heat, rain and cold.

One of them was young, probably still in his teens.  Another was old, wrinkled and gray-haired. The others looked to be middle aged.  I wondered about each of them.  Did the young one have a sweetheart, a wife?  Was this a summer job and might I see him when school started in a couple of days?  Did he like to dance, play baseball or video games?  Who were these men to him?  The one to his right could have been his brother.  Their smiles were the same.

I wondered if the gray-haired man was a grandfather.  Did he read to his grandsons and had he taught them to make things with their hands like his grandfather had taught him?  Had he told them how important it was to mind their manners, always tell the truth and pray? And could anyone possibly know how much he loved them?

Though I felt like an intruder peering not so surreptitiously in on these men’s few minutes of freedom from their labors, I couldn’t help myself.  They ate sandwiches from brown paper bags and shared a large bag of chips.  There was a cooler from which they refilled their cups with gallons of water and drank thirstily.

What I noticed most about these men though, was the laughter that came in bursts followed by elbows, nudges, pushes and slaps on the back.   They talked constantly, taking part in what seemed to be a playful banter.  I couldn’t hear what was said.   The train and noise from the machinery muted their voices. I didn’t need to know what was being said.  These men were friends, maybe family.  They had worked hard all morning and now they were taking a break.

Suddenly, a whistle blew above the noise and the dusty scene quickly dissipated.  They were gone, these players on an impromptu stage.

“Clang! Clang!  Clang!” Up went the arms of the railroad crossing.  A green light and we were in motion.

 e90ae6bd8c483dd7068ade87aa724964

What God taught me that day from the driver’s side window was PERSPECTIVE.

Wasps

wasp

The condominium complex, I have called home for the last four years has been alive with activity this month. Each of the tiny houses connected like random strings of dominoes will soon sport a brand new roof and a fresh coat of paint.  The safety of the roofers and painters necessitated the wasp nests that populate my second story balcony be removed.

I was ecstatic when I learned this because lately I have been unable to enjoy the little sanctuary that abuts my bedroom.  This quiet nook provides a private view of the greenbelt behind my home.  I have watched the moon rise and the sun set whilst enjoying a good book and a cup of tea.  Sometimes, I watch the squirrels as they race about doing whatever squirrels do.  Up one tree and down another, I am mesmerized their busyness.  Occasionally, I have seen a careful doe stroll quietly along the sometimes creek and watched as she leans her long neck toward the water filling her thirsty belly.  Then she stretches toward low lying branches and grazes heartily.  Eventually, she motions to her fawn who is still in spot and playful like a child.  They move on.

Unfortunately, fearing the fury of wasps disturbed in their nests and the excruciating pain they can inflict when angry stinger meets skin, I have avoided my grown up tree house.  Yesterday evening, however, as I changed from my work clothes, I noticed the wasps were magically gone, exterminated and dangerous no more. Their empty nests lay on the ground, discarded and benign.  So, I slipped under my covers and rested my head on the pillow eagerly anticipating the morning, hot tea on my lips and pages of a new bestseller devoured.

But when the sun peeked through my ivory lace curtains this morning, and I took in the view, I noticed much to my distress, a brand new nest.  A determined queen, I suppose, and her obedient workers had inhabited the copper wind chime hanging from the eave above the railing.  The queen had already attached her paper umbrella to the base.  A new generation of her offspring were working furiously to create another home.  Strangely identical concave circles were being created and a nest was being constructed before my eyes.  From the edge of my bed, I stared, open mouthed, intrigued by the persistence of these evil creatures.  They had done this on purpose!  Denying me my little piece of heavenly real estate, my moment of peace and quiet.

Isn’t that the way though with most things dangerous, most things painful, most things scary? Be it creature, feeling or object, we can exterminate those things temporarily from our minds, our lives, even our surroundings but they always find a way to return.  Sometimes, they come back in the least likely of places, under difficult circumstances and when we are not looking.  They may be unfortunate, unwanted, even unnoticed but the wasp nests in our lives exist and so we must be ever vigilante.  We need to look and listen.  We need to pay attention and recognize them for what they are.  And we need to persist as much as they do.

“The thief comes only to steal and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10