Lessons from a yard sale dresser
It was so unexpected, really.
An ordinary yard sale.
A much-needed lightening of the load.
A minimalist's dream.
An organizer's happy place.
But a sentimental, snuffling buffoon's 13-year extended nightmare of purging of all things memorable.
Of course, that was me. And my inward-focused limited perspective ("all things memorable"...really? Overdramatic much?).
I live in a really great country. I love it. I really do. I also really love old family treasures that carry even a half-forgotten story with them. And I seem to have an extra special soft place in my heart for anything unusually large, heavy, or impossible to move....an ENORMOUS thick, heavy, woven jute rug comes to mind.
And so does a previously unloved (most definitely not treasured, as I would have cared for it) mid-century modern dresser that we picked up at a yard sale the first year we were married, as we were coming home from the YMCA after an early morning swim. We both fell in love with it on first glance and with the idea of restoring it to it's 50s glory. We easily parted with the $35 they were asking and hauled it home with visions of displaying Joel's (also heavy) vinyl record collection on it.
However, support raising tours took us around the country multiple times, jobs in foreign lands pulled us away from our Oklahoman slice of paradise and my mid-century dresser didn't need to come on any of those trips, but it was always loyally waiting when we came home.
When we could see that we were going to be living in Central America permanently and we saw the prices of home goods where we live (ouch!), we looked up the cost of shipping containers to bring a a few cubic feet of our earthly comforts with us. But it's hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars to put a $35 dresser on a boat, so I asked my parents to keep it at their house, which they did, dutifully, for many years.
And then it came time for them to move.
I was, shall we say, beckoned to "help with the move" (read: "Come sort through all your stuff because it's not going to Florida!"). I was fine with selling Joel's record collection for 10 cents a piece to the music store in Tulsa (shhh!). It was a little harder to try to catalog his vintage Hawaiian shirt collection (mercifully, a collector in Hawaii took interest and helped me get through that). And we hosted yard sales several weekends in a row (even one in the snow!) to keep culling the storage shed into something more manageable that would fit into 6 suitcases to be loaded on a plane and come home with the girls and me. Remembering the tropical climate of my host country made the decision process fairly straightforward many days, but on the days I was tired, or sentimental after reading college notes or Grandma's birthday cards, I wanted to keep everything!
So, when a wonderfully kind woman my age answered my Facebook ad and showed up to take my mid-century dresser to her house, I lost it. I tried to make small talk (and it turned out her husband is in ministry, as well), but, truth be told, I hated seeing my dresser getting loaded into her minivan. She talked of staining it and taking good care of it for their child's room and I imagined it with gouges from preschool scissors and scribbles of permanent markers. Once again, I did the math in my head..... $2,500 for a shipping container.....to carry a $35 yard sale dresser......maybe it was worth it?
After she left, I went inside and sat on the floor in the (now) guest bedroom of the house (that I would soon never return to) and cried. It wasn't the dresser. (Well, ok, not just the dresser.) It was the hundreds and hundreds of things I had been asked to give up over the years in order to answer this "call."
The things that tug at my heart when I walk through a store in my home country.
The fluffy pillows.
The soft towels.
The blender that works.
The car that starts.
The family Thanksgiving dinners.
The platter that serves the turkey.
Turkey. (And I don't even like turkey!)
But I cherish the stories that are represented by our family eating turkey on a particular day in November.
Seriously, if God knew that He was going to put me in a foreign country to serve Him (which I'm convinced He did), why (oh why?) would He also make me one of the most sentimental people I've ever met? (I mean, I saved napkins from dates with Joel!) And then He had me marry someone who, I'm pretty sure, is equally sentimental (here's looking at you, Fisher Price Adventure People in his parents' garage).
My two favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and 4th of July.
Think of that for a second. Isn't that hilarious?
We're most definitely the wrong people for this job.
I think my new (dresser-stealing) friend must have known that by the look on my face, and that night, she messaged me:
Thanks again for your help with the dresser. If you ever are at a place where you can use the dresser again, I would be happy to sell it back to you for the same price. Maybe that’s silly, but I know there are little things that you give up when you’re overseas that are not a big deal but also make you kind of sad to get rid of. So I mean that. If you’re in the States again and thinking about that dresser, let me know.
I mean, can she be any nicer? That was the kindest gesture.
(And I'm documenting her message here, so that I remember how to get in touch with her when I figure out how I'm going to get that dresser back.)
Ok, fine. I'm not.
When I finally made the flight home from that weeks-long purging trip, that "farewell to sentimentality," I was emotionally spent and collapsed into the safety of being back with Joel.
But something good had happened to me, maybe not outwardly to the level my Marie Kondo friends would approve (I still have a long ways to go!), but in my heart.
Where I had wanted to dig deep and put my hope in the stability of having my life memories safely cataloged in storage bins in the shed, God had asked me to rely on Him to find my roots deep in Him. In the prone-to-mold-in-the-tropics bins of things in which I had tried to place my treasure, He gently loosened my white-knuckled grip and reminded me to store up my treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust don't corrupt and thieves don't break in and steal (quite literally, all considerations I had had to weigh when deciding what to keep).
So, I found it particularly heart-calming one afternoon just a few days later in my own backyard, when I read Jesus' words to his disciples, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." (Mt. 19:29-30)
Isn't it interesting that, in the midst of all of the instructions about leaving the cares of the world behind for the sake of the gospel, and preparing for suffering, He did acknowledge that leaving behind the family members as they chat merrily at the Thanksgiving table without me, the house where I learned to cook, and maybe (just maybe) even a favorite mid-century dresser would cause my eyes to sting and my heart to long for a Heavenly home?
He knows me.
And He said He is in Heaven preparing a place for me.
I think He knows what I'm hoping it will look like!
PS: Of course, this week I got an email about these dressers!! (Why does this keep happening to me?!) Apparently I'm not the only one hoping for a mid-century dresser in Heaven.