The advertisement read something like this:
“Real wood file cabinet/nightstand. Solid wood construction, drawers work fine. But body needs some TLC. Restoration required. $20, you pick up. La Jolla, CA”
Some of you might read this little blurb on Facebook Marketplace, and pass it over quickly. However, for Sean (my amazing husband of 20 years) and me, this is the opportunity that we look for. This practice of combing through ads for free or cheap items we are in dire need of, started many years ago out of necessity. With five children, and living on a full-time ministry salary, we needed all the freebies we could get! But over the years, it has transformed from necessity to a passion – and for very good reasons.
Our most recent find, the tattered file cabinet, truly lived up to its two-lined description. We ventured out around lunchtime on a Tuesday afternoon, driving through the upscale, well-to-do oceanside community of La Jolla, in Southern California. This is a place where you might not expect to find “seconds”. Driving past all the mini-mansions, a multi-million-bazillion dollar church campus that made us drool, exquisitely landscaped parks, shaded olive groves, and cascading yards on cliffs, all overlooking the pacific ocean, it was hard to imagine that anything could come from this neighborhood save expensive, high end, and perfectly lovely treasures.
And the nightstand? It certainly lived up to its description. It was dirty, covered with dust and cobwebs, scratched, graffitied on, and seriously neglected. It smelled funny, and wobbled slightly, like it had been left out in the elements and forgotten how to sit flat. But Sean and I knew, with just one glance, that this unlovely cast-off had so much potential just waiting to be uncovered. We gladly paid the $20, scooped up our piece, and took it home for some long-overdue attention.
Over the years, we have learned some wonderful, and simple techniques in our quest of converting throw-aways. Sometimes we just start out with a wipe-down, or some warm water and soap. Over time, I’ve experimented with and accumulated a stash of wood cleaners, oils, some soft rags, these really cool little pens that help scratches blend in and disappear… nothing too remarkable or expensive. Sometimes our pieces need to be stripped down of ugly or damaged paint coats or finishes. Depending on how extensive the damage, the methods of restoration can be labor intensive.
You have to be willing to invest the time, and apply some elbow grease. And then there is the adventure of what you might find inside the drawers: maybe a decaying stinky mouse, more layers of dirt or scum, garbage, or long hidden junk waiting to be exposed finally to the light of day and get cleaned out for good. Occasionally, you come across an unexpected hole that needs puddied or patched, and of course more time to cure and dry, then sanded smooth. You must remain committed to the process; staying motivated even when the project takes twice the time you first expected.
Slowly but surely, your original prediction is confirmed. The “bones” of the piece are strong, and sturdy, and worth your expenditure of time. With each layer that comes off, the potential for beauty and functionality is profound. As always in the process of restoration, your hope is well placed. Then it’s time for re-finishing, waxing, oiling, and buffing out your treasure. The process is almost complete. The joy of seeing this once, unlikely nightstand emerge almost new, and breathtakingly beautiful is worth every ounce of energy, personal expense, and effort you have invested.
Occasionally, a mark left from the past remains in the finish– this term is called “distressed.” But I love to run my hand over the familiar scratches and stains, filled in, smoothed over, and buffed out – even those blemishes become beautiful and add to the charm of your treasure, reflecting resilience. Then comes the awaited moment when the vision comes to pass. The revived piece is lovingly set in place for what it’s original builder intended it for: a nightstand, a file cabinet, a kitchen table, a bench, a revitalized piece intended to hold, store, and display valuable contents. The possibilities for restoration are endless.
Some of you may have already detected my subtle enthusiasm about the restoration of discarded furniture. It’s true. I love it. It’s a hobby, and I find great pleasure doing this.
However, far more powerful than any love for yard-sale scores, I am RELENTLESSLY PASSIONATE about the restoration of broken people. That is why I am so blessed to be a Jesus follower and part of a ministry that is built and driven on concepts such as restoration and revitalization. CityReach Network has intentionally been modeled after the example we find of Jesus all through the Gospels. Like Him, we place a high value on broken ones, who might be overlooked or cast-off due to surface level damage that is impossible to hide; addiction, homelessness, hopelessness, despair… the sin that so easily entangles.
CityReach Network has started Hope Homes all over the country, with more and more locations opening all the time. These ordinary looking houses are actually sacred “restoration” intensives – so much more than shelters or programs. They are safe havens for men and women who need someone to look past the scratches, the damaged finish, and the junk that has accumulated within.
Much prayer is needed for our Hope Home Directors – the faithful men and women who fearlessly go into the overlooked places to pick up and rescue the damaged pieces, where they bring them home to be cleaned up, stripped down, and lovingly restored and revived back to the original intent of the Master Builder.
When we pray to have Jesus’ vision of what each man and woman who sets foot in our Hope Homes should look like completely restored, He will faithfully reveal the process, one step at a time. And like furniture, it takes energy, time, effort, and resources. But Jesus already paid the greatest price for this redemption. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says “…but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars, containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
CityReach Network’s founding scripture comes to mind as I ponder restoration – Isaiah 58:12.
“Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”