Monday, March 24, 2014

All Things New

Jenn's Grandma is cheerful and sweet. The few times I've seen her, she has greeted me with a gentle touch and a quiet, pre-existent giggle ... like she just knew we were about to enjoy ourselves.

Evidently, she is practical too, and not inclined to attach herself to material things with too many emotional ties. They tell me she has had many a happy garage sale over the years.

But now her oldest granddaughter is engaged to marry my youngest brother, and friends and family are helping the happy couple accumulate household goods and other gifts. With the wedding a dwindling number of days away, one might wish there were a few of those garage-sale items available for Grandma to pass along as heirlooms. Old, new, borrowed, blue?  

I'm not sure Grandma is overly concerned though.
She seemed quite pleased the other night, her petite hands concealing a playful grin, as the young couple opened her gift. It was a brand new, two-tiered waffle maker. Jenn smiled when she saw the box, laughed at her Grandma's expression and then read the card. "I know you didn't register for it, and you can take it back, but we just thought it seemed like a really fun gift." 

Fun indeed!
(and wise ... because 4 out of 5 dentists say that waffle arguments are a leading cause of marital strife.)

"You won't even have to wait for each other's waffle," Grandma beamed with hopeful encouragement.

A few moments later, James & Jennifer revealed one of the most special gifts of the evening. The set of silverware Grandma had registered for and received when she married Grandpa. The complete set - polished and housed in its original wooden storage case.

But Grandma didn't bring it to the shower - what with all those fancy-fun waffle possibilities on her mind.
So, how did this gift come to be?

Rewind a dozen years. Jenn is ten years old and riding her bike around Grandma's driveway during yet another garage sale. On the table offering all the kitchen junk, sits an opened wooden box holding a partial set of tarnished silverware. As people come and go, and Jenn swirls donuts along the pavement, the scratched box of discarded silver waits. Heated by the mid-morning sun, the dull cutlery shines less brightly than it once could have.

Among the shoppers is a family friend from church. Having an appreciation for all things old and meaningful, he strolls around quietly enjoying the fare. At the curb, Jenn slams down the kickstand, hops off her bike, and races to the porch to get a drink.  Just as the man was leaning in toward an antique tea set, 
the tall, slender girl with long blond pigtails grazes by him. "Hi, Mr. Greg!" The girl with boundless energy was there and gone in an instant.

In an instant. "She'll be grown in an instant." Greg thinks to himself as he raises a tea cup into the light and then places it back down on its saucer. He realizes how quickly the first decade of her life has passed, and wisdom tells him the years toward adulthood will flash by faster than that backward glimpse of a breathless, thirsty girl.

Suddenly, the old box of utensils catches Greg's eye. He counts the forks, inspects the engraved pattern on one of the spoons, and runs the back of his hand across the faded velvet lining of the box. He closes the lid, clasps the latch, and carries it to the card table turned check-out. No one gives his purchase another thought.

Over the next several years, Greg does some research, continues to attend estate sales, frequents the antique hot-spots, and keeps his eye out for pieces to the set. He knows he has time, and he enjoys the challenge. Hunting and gathering, seeking and finding. Quiet purchase after seemingly random, quiet purchase. Patiently, he adds what is missing until the set is complete. 

Last Fall, when Greg learned of Jennifer's engagement to be married, he knew it was time. He polished each piece to its finest beauty, then he carefully cleaned and restored the wooden case to its truest potential.

The other night, sitting next to Grandma on the sofa, we opened the box with wonder and amazement. The collection was impressive, and the silver was lovely in itself - each piece shining with renewed purpose. But more beautiful than anything on earth, was the undeniable diligence, patience, and quiet thoughtfulness that characterized such a gift. 

What a treasure!

In a culture filled with spontaneous announcements, self-promotion, and not a lot of follow-through,  I am thoroughly blessed by Greg's discretion and determination. His loving efforts went unnoticed for so long ... but the beauty of his commitment is evident now for all to see.

I'm so glad I know this story. Its beauty and truth point my heart toward God. 

Our Father has a plan. It's a slow, thoughtful process, and there is a fullness of time.
He sees potential and purpose ... especially in the things the world might cast aside.
He redeems and restores ... graciously gathering all things tarnished and lacking, while miraculously offering refreshment and wholeness.

Not only did He purchase our scarred, useless lives, but He continues to purchase and provide what is needed for our complete redemption. Quiet purchase after seemingly random, quiet purchase. Patiently, He adds what is missing until His work is complete. Grace every day. Beauty in waiting. Every day.

And when we regret decisions we've made ...
When we wish we could find the things we've lost ... 
When we wonder how life might have been different if we had given "it" one more chance ...
We can trust Him and rest in the truth of God's good character. 

He makes all things new.  
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

"Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above." James 1:17