Six years ago, when we upgraded from our tiny two-bedroom starter home to our current “real home”, we received an abundance of hand-me-down furniture and other articles from parents and grandparents – some useful, some not so much. This collection of “antiques” included two dressers which made their way into our spare room where they have been collecting dust and junk ever since. The plan was always to restore these 30+-year-old dressers One Day when we would use the spare room for something functional, like a nursery.
I have been contemplating taking on this project for a long time, but finally started the makeover on Women’s Day long weekend.
Why now, you (and my husband) might ask.
Firstly, we are busy fixing up our home by painting it and doing other odd repairs which have bothered us for years but are finally being addressed since we are staring at them more often now that we are spending more time at home during the lockdown. It is amazing how these little nuisances can become irritations and multiply in number once you are tuned in to them. Since we were already busy making a mess to tidy up, I decided I might as well take on these two dressers that have been staring at me during my at-home workouts in the spare room during the pandemic.
Secondly, I feel like it is time to take on this spare room/junk room/future nursery and make something of it. I feel like it is a way for me to move on beyond the-waiting-for-a-miracle limbo and do something with space instead. I have been experiencing the Lord’s work in my heart throughout the last few months to relinquish control and let him perform his work according to his will in our lives. So, in a way, addressing this back corner of the house is a symbol for moving forward out of this indeterminate state and into the future.
I do enjoy a good fixer-upper project but am by no means a DIY expert. It took a lot of Pinterest and Google research to finally get a plan together of how I would restore these old ladies. As I worked through the different stages of this daunting task, I realized how the process of restoring these old pieces of furniture can be a picture of how God works in our lives.
Step 1: Strip away the old
If you want to change the appearance of a piece of wooden furniture, you must first remove whatever paint or varnish has been applied to it before. This is essential to make the process worthwhile, since new product might not “stick” to the old stuff, and the colour or finish will not be what you had in mind. This is achieved by applying a chemical stripper, letting it rest on the wood, and then scraping it off after it has reacted with the varnish.
Similarly, in our journey of faith, we need to be stripped of the perception of how we thought our lives would turn out before our Heavenly Father can reveal his plan for our journey. Our will has to be removed so God’s plan for our lives can be uncovered.
Our God’s thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9) because he is all knowing. Therefore, we must rid ourselves of our worldly perceptions to test and approve what God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” is. (Romans 12:2)
Step 2: Sand down to smooth
When the paint has been stripped and scraped off, the resulting surface is not a pretty picture and needs to be sanded down to allow for even application of the new products that you will apply. For this reason, it is important to do a proper job of sanding down and smoothing the wood. This is hard, physically exhausting work. After a full afternoon of back-breaking labour I called it a day and decided to work with what I had the next day. After dinner, Carl suggested I think about purchasing an electric sander. At first, I thought it was an unnecessary expense, but after consulting aunty Google I realised this might be exactly what I need. I manage to find a sander on sale at Builder’s Warehouse the next morning, and thoroughly enjoyed my first power tool experience. Going back and sanding the furniture properly was definitely worth it in the end, even though it was still hard, time-consuming work and ended up costing a bit of money.
Since this step took a while, I had ample time to contemplate how sanding can represent the suffering we go through in our lives. Our suffering shapes us and allows the Holy Spirit to smooth our character to become more and more like Jesus. This is a gradual process and often we need to go through this process over and over to meet his requirements for the assignment he has for our lives.
Apostle Paul explained this process so well:
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”Romans 5:3-4
Step 3: Clean off the dust
When you have spent so much time on the preparation work, you just want to start painting, but it is paramount to first clean the surface thoroughly so the dust does not mix with the new paint and spoil all your hard work. Cleaning the surface with a wet cloth and vacuuming all the dust from your working area helps to achieve the end result you have in mind.
In the middle of suffering, we often allow our minds to be filled with solutions and scenarios which we want to present to our Father for what we are going through. We allow worry and “what ifs” to cloud, not our only our minds, but also our perspective, robbing is of hope and peace. We want to know what the future holds, and we want that future now.
That is not what Jesus taught during his time on earth. He often instructed his followers to stop worrying and trust in God. Why is it so hard to let go and let God do what he is far better equipped to do than we can ever dream of doing? In Matthew 6 Jesus dedicates a good portion of his Sermon on the Mount on the wastefulness of worry culminating in verse 34:
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”Read Matthew 6:25-34
Step 4: Paint (finally)
After all that work the painting can finally begin. I decided to whitewash the wood to give it a more “cottage” feel and get rid of the red-orange look. This process involves painting diluted white chalk paint on the surface and then quickly wiping with a lint-free cloth before it dries to spread it thinly all over the wood. You must work fast, neatly and work on a small surface at a time. This process is unforgiving, as flaws are easily visible. For this reason, the preparation work is so important because you do not disguise the wood underneath but only make it a bit paler. You cannot hide behind solid colour paint.
Our God adds beauty to our lives layer by layer, in his own time and how he sees fit. He does not cover our “flaws” or give us a “perfect” life but allows our imperfections to remain in place for his glory as he uses us as instruments in his hand. Using small strokes, he applies his touch to what is there already to create a picture of beautiful imperfection. His plan for us considers all our kinks and dents to add to the beauty of the picture he has in mind.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”James 1:2-4
Step 5: Seal or varnish
To protect your restored piece of art, you need to apply a seal or varnish. I opted for a seal and colour combination to add the final vintage touch. Sometimes you need to add a few coats to ensure the longevity of the dresser by protecting it from scratches and damage due to wear and tear.
As we fight the battle against the evil powers of this world on our journey homeward, we need the protection of faith in God and his almighty power to prevent our sufferings from wearing us down. Our faith needs to be strengthened repeatedly through studying God’s word and through experiences of faith.
“Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”Ephesians 6:13 and 16
While I was in the middle of this project, I realized why I had postponed it for so long: I completely underestimated the effort and time this project would involve.
This is also a lesson for our journey of faith. God’s timing is not our timing, yet his timing is perfect. When he wants to do something worthwhile in our lives it often takes longer, and the process is much more painful than we would have anticipated. It is not unusual to be taken on a detour or a much curvier path than we would have chosen. The difference between our perspective and that of our Father is that we look at the temporary while he has an eternal vision. He sees our lives as a continuous assignment to grow into his Kingdom.
Just as any wooden furniture needs to be repaired and restored every few years to remain functional and serve its purpose, we also have to continuously face our suffering and battles to evolve and remain useful in the hands of our Maker. The big difference between our journey and a piece of furniture is that there will come a time when the work on the furniture is just not justified and it will have to be thrown out or recycled, whereas we are continuously maturing into the citizens of God’s eternal Kingdom and becoming more useful instruments in his hands with time.
And so we “press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenwards” (Phil 3:14) so that God can work in us to “fulfil his good purpose” (Phil 2:13) in us.
The renewed dressers are only a part of the regeneration of the spare room. I ‘m not sure yet what the purpose of this room will be in the future, but we are planning to paint it soon (along with the rest of the house). My grandfather painted a piece of art for us as a gift on our wedding day, and I look forward to finally framing and hanging this artwork which reminds me of my grandparents’ unshakeable faith. I will also spend some time cleaning out the closets and the junk to clear the unnecessary clutter.
Maybe this room will still be a future nursery. In the meantime, it might become a sanctuary where I can be quiet and spend time with Jesus to find out what he wants for our future.
Whatever Jesus wants to do with this room and with my future, I know it will be a Beautiful Thing.