Friday, July 23, 2010

The Pure Pleasure of Hard Work

There's nothing like clean windows. As my grandmother says, "It's a pleasure to see them clean." I appreciated this fact even more so after some recent cleaning jobs with my friend, Cathy.

Earlier in the week I was to meet her at 6:00 a.m. for a cleaning job just up the road from where I live. Early in the morning because the place had no AC. When I arrived, Karen, another fellow worker, directed me as to what needed to be done. The house had recently been emptied and a real estate company needed it cleaned before showing it. "We need to dust from top to bottom and take the windows out to clean both sides of the storms before putting them back in," she instructed. I knew the vacuuming would be last, along with the bathrooms and mopping.

The dusting and vacuuming I was used to, but this was the first someone requested all the windows, inside and out. After one look it was clear why. I don't think some of them had ever been done. Not to mention the painter who never put masking tape down, so that when the trim was painted, it got all over the edges of the windows. Yuck! Dusty cobwebs coated the basement windows on both sides.

I don't even remember how long it took me. I had to clean many of the windows three or four times on each side so there were no streaks. Cathy had a razor blade for going around the edges to scrape off the excess paint. Time consuming, but well worth it. When I returned to the house yesterday, one of the neighbors pulled up in a small pick up truck. "Can I help you?" I asked. An older man with white hair and glasses stepped out, walking towards me.

"I just came by to check on things," he responded.

"I was told to come back and do some more windows. The realtor requested the garage windows be done as well," I explained.

"You ladies did a beautiful job. I thought you took out the glass in the front by the door," he commented.

"They hadn't been done in awhile," I said.

"Probably not since the builder in 1976," he kidded.

Soon enough, the friendly man was on his way and I continued with cleaning. While scraping off more paint and sticky residue from one of the storms, I thought to myself, "This is a lot of work, but they sure do look nice when they're finished."

I began to ponder how it might be similar to the work and love involved in caring for others. Many lives are tarnished, beaten from the storms of life and entangled by spiders' webs, but what a pleasure to see all of that icky residue wiped away and the gleaming luster restored. Just look at the difference in the windows. When the glass is clean, all kinds of vibrant colors can shine through, lit up by the beaming rays of the sun.

Note: the images posted above are not the actual windows of the house recently cleaned

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Heat or No Heat

While reclining in her periodontist's chair, Ellen was asked, "How did you get this tough, Ellen? I have so many patients come in that are so fragile and then you come in."

"I get it from my flowers. I look at them and see how tall they stand out there. They're pretty tough. Heat or no heat, they're still there. When I see them I know I can be tough, too," she responded.

Ellen is pretty tough. She's my neighbor and friend from the laundry room who's battled cancer twice and now going for a third time. Her scan was not clean. She is not cancer free, but her spirit is. This week she's helping out with vacation Bible school at her church and loves it. Recently, she got the neighbors to plant a garden under our apartment sign out front. She continues to be a blessing and inspiration to all.

When she told me "Heat or no heat.." I thought of blooming cacti in the desert. So I did a search online for blooming cacti. Did you know the pink hedgehog cactus blooms dainty pink flowers and they only open at night? I was astonished to discover there are several different types of cacti that bloom in the desert in spite of its extreme temperatures. Amazing and unthinkable, which brings me back to my friend, Ellen.

I'm thankful for people like her. Regardless of another bout with cancer, she like those flowers stands tall, producing some of the loveliest blooms ever seen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fill 'Em Up!

It's white and cakey, almost like the texture of Noxzema, but without the smell. Pastor Marlow, the GC of our River House project, dipped his pointer finger in and began to demonstrate how to apply it to the nail holes in the freshly primed, wooden door frame. Patch and Paint works just like magic. After you fill the holes and wipe away the excess residue, it's as if there never were any. Pretty easy and mindless work, but necessary before painters would be able to set about to paint. This was my task. I was the designated nail filler. For a few hours, I went from room to room, inspecting all the windowsills and door frames and filling the nail holes upstairs in the River House.

An hour into this project, the irony suddenly hit me. On Sunday, I created a fabric collage illustrating the infamous story, Nails in the Fence, by an unknown author. I received it quite some time ago as a forward via email. It tells the story of a little boy who had a very bad problem controlling his anger. He was instructed to hammer a nail into the fence each time he lost his temper. When he was able to control himself, he could remove a nail. The day finally came when the boy was able to fully control his anger and had removed all the nails. His father was pleased, but pointed out to him that the fence would never be the same again, much as it is with people whom we have hurt with sharp and cutting words.

I can only surmise this story was written before Patch and Paint, but it caused me to ponder, how do we repair those holes in people?

Isaiah 61:1 and 4 read, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,... They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations."

I pulled out my cell phone and looked down at the time-4:58 p.m. It was time to clean up and head home. "Have a good one," I called out to the two carpenters chatting in the front room.

After I scrubbed off the excess Patch and Paint caked on my hands and wiped them dry, I saw Pastor Marlow heading out the back door. "Thanks for doing that," he commented.

"No problem. It's pretty easy and mindless work, but needs to get done," I responded. He nodded in agreement. I then proceeded to ask, "It's pretty easy fixing holes in wood, but how do you do it in people?" I could tell by the look on his face he wasn't expecting that one. He turned around with this blank stare as if to say, "Where did that one come from?"

When I brought up the passage in Isaiah, he explained, "Some people's lives are just destroyed. They're full of nail holes. They have to believe. God can restore, but they have to believe."

We all know, they can not believe unless they have first been told. However, I believe it is just as important, if not more so, that we be willing to get ourselves caked in the white creamy balm of God's love and forgiveness so as to reach out and touch those wounded and in need of repair. Jesus repairs and restores, but He works through our hands.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Something Old and Something New

Tonight I had the opportunity to share with my friend and neighbor, Ellen, an experience the Lord had brought me through and wrote on July 6, 2008. I thought it worth posting. It comes from Revelation 21:5.

"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said,'Write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.'”

I had heard this verse on the Sound of Life radio station while driving home early from a fourth of July celebration with friends. I began to wonder what kinds of new things God wanted to do. The thought in and of itself is somewhat mind boggling to me. I have discovered that these new makings of everything come quite unexpectedly though and yet so very timely, as they were today.

Bittersweet memories of a romantic afternoon spent hiking with a significant other came flooding back today while I was hiking with some new friends from church. Unbeknownst to any of them, he and I were hiking through the very same wildlife sanctuary just a year prior. Bittersweet because it was precious at the time the memories were formed, but our relationship had later unraveled and dissolved.

However, upon reaching the old wooden bench he and I rested on, I remembered the above verse. Today for the first time ever, I was together with new friends from church in this same spot. Just before our hike that day, we enjoyed lunch at Wendy’s and then a jazz concert on the lawn before our hike below and coming upon the same wooden bench he and I had shared the year before.

Shortly after that, I suddenly noticed my beloved toe ring was gone! I must have lost it somewhere on the steep hill after the bench. I looked around a bit, but didn’t see it anywhere. I let out a sigh of disappointment. I knew the chances of reclaiming it from the steep path layered with twigs and leaves were next to none. I also knew though that I could just as easily get a new one.

Upon reaching the gate, one of my new friends, Nancy encouraged me, “That means something new is coming!” I answered her with, “I’ll take that!” My disappointment passed as I felt a burst of excitement shoot through me. Today, I had made new memories with new friends and although something once treasured had been lost, there was the promise and hope that something even more wonderful and new was on the verge of arriving.

Lord, I do not know what the future will bring, but I thank you for the hope you provide, your promises, and that you are already making all things new. I especially thank you for new friends and memories. In Jesus name, amen.