Several years ago one of my sisters and her husband loaded all the kids in the car to take them to visit “the home land.” Now, since we all still live in Florida – and grew up in Florida – it was not exactly a journey of epic proportions. Still, with a carload full of young children and in the days before built in DVD players, game boys or iPhones it was quite an undertaking!
My sister was so excited to visit some of the places we’d grown up, see how they’ve changed, how they stayed the same, and share memories and experiences with her husband and kiddos.
I’ll never forget her call from the driveway of one of the homes we had lived it. She was looking at the double wide, viewing a neighborhood that still has clotheslines, brushing her feet off from the dirt road while listening to the neighbors yelling at one another over whose kid did what to whom. In sheer horror she whispered her question: “Marvelyne?? Were we white trash?!?!”
It was quite a revelation! Over the years we’ve laughed about it a lot. I mean – a LOT! Truthfully, we are awfully blessed to have grown up in a Ministry family, a safe and supportive environment that instilled within us values like loyalty, faithfulness, service and compassion. However – rich in material things we were not!
My life has changed greatly over the years. I now live in a beautiful home – filled with beautiful things. And I love it! Family heirlooms passed down through generations, new pieces that were saved up for and purchased with great excitement, ‘leftovers’ from family members and friends that all combine to make a rich, warm style that feels “just right.” I often walk around my home in the still of the night feeling so incredibly grateful for the abundance of precious things.
But some of my favorite treasures are items that have been acquired from a hobby born of my childhood. Dumpster diving.
See, about once a month during our younger years, grandpa would load the mountain of trash bags we’d accumulated into the trunk of his old non-air conditioned car with cracked vinyl seats and a starter that had to be babied. We kids would all pile into the car – completely giddy with excitement – and head to THE DUMP.
This was treasure hunting at it’s finest. While grandpa hauled away our garbage, we kids went searching through other peoples. It was a delightful ritual to look around, and amidst worn out sofas missing cushions and stains from some unknown (thank God!) substance, ride on toys missing a wheel, cracked mirrors and discarded bits and pieces of junk, we occasionally would find some delightful piece of “something” that we would proudly show the other kids and, much to our mothers chagrin, carry home like conquering hero’s. Now, not to brag, but I have to say, I’ve always been the best at this. Not because I’m especially good at digging thru crap (eww!) – but because when I see something, I am really good at not seeing what it IS, but rather what it CAN be.
Throughout my life I’ve drug home more things found alongside the road than you can count. Things then get cleaned (duh!), sanded, repaired, retooled, painted and sometimes turn into beautiful treasures… often the end product is totally different from their original purpose. My husband and kids often moan when driving along on garbage collection day I yell “stop!” someone is throwing away a broken clock/shelf/dresser/ fill in the blank. We pull the car over, I inspect the item left on the curb by a silly stranger who no longer finds it valuable and I often place it gently in the trunk and return home… once again the conquering hero. I grin ear to ear making plans for my new creation.
Now – please don’t get me wrong. I am a true blue girl. I love new shoes (oh MY do I love new shoes!) and bling and getting my nails done and – well, u know the whole ‘diva’ drill. But I also love love love the challenge of rescuing a discarded piece, repurposing it, and having a treasure that exists simply because I saw it – and had a vision of its potential.
And you know what? I’m really glad that God is a dumpster diver too. When He sees people broken by life, worn down by pain, frayed by their own mistakes, victimized by the choices of others… He sees beyond their hurt, beyond their “bad” behaviors, rough edges and stinky baggage – and he sees right to the heart. He sees the person they were created to be. And he offers hope, and healing. Restoration. And above all, the opportunity to be treasured and loved.
I’ve been in a few dumpsters over my life. Sometimes I climbed in myself. Sometimes I’ve been tossed in by others. At times I’ve even allowed external and internal pressures to make me feel like I belonged there. And I promise you – it’s not a fun place to be. But this I have learned for sure – God has always been faithful to offer me a way out. And I want to honor and appreciate His uncompromising love by, in turn, offering that kind of acceptance and encouragement to others. I want to live a life that returns the favor I’ve been given – over and over.
I want to look at people with this same kind of compassionate caring. Not quick to judge, not rejoicing in others discomfort, not self-righteous in the face of other’s mistakes – but to see the treasure God intended all along.
It really is amazing the treasures you can find – when you’re willing to look outside the expected – and see the truly miraculous.