NOUN: extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain
VERB: give (furniture, leather, or clothing) simulated marks of age and wear
My love affair with distressed furniture began quite by accident. It happened when I lived in York, PA. Married not even a year. When Daddy came to visit, he bought us a table and chairs as an apartment warming gift. The problem, though, was a sticker stain on the table top (it was the display model). Stain wouldn’t hide the unsightly rectangular dark patch, so paint was the answer. Thick, creamy ivory.
After lovingly coating the furniture, paint stroke by paint stroke, I sanded down the rough finish. I gave extra attention to the corners and edges and that’s when the most lovely thing happened. Raw wood was exposed. A distressed finish appeared. And the darker hues underneath contrasted beautifully with the lighter topcoat.
Afterward, I added country checks to the chair backs and table sides. And by the time I sealed the product, I was smitten. I positively adored our first dining room set. So much so, I painted a hutch to match.
From that moment on, painting furniture became a passion of mine. I regularly sought out new pieces from junk shops and thrift stores. But whenever a treasure was unearthed, I involved paint. Rarely did I leave a piece untouched. And never did I leave a perfect finish. Distressed was the effect I desired.
Eventually, our dwelling was filled with seemingly worn pieces of furniture.
Another acquisition early on in our marriage was kitty cats. We adopted three before we hit one year of marriage. And they seemed to complete our household. Or more aptly, complete and destroy. Namely, our bedroom set. An expensive one at that. It’s the set we still use today and amazingly, it’s retained it’s original finish. A flawed one…
Within months of buying this set, our kitties clawed the slick surface and gnawed the corners. That’s how they’d wake us to announce their empty bellies. I’d rouse from slumber to find Molly perched atop our chest just chewing edges. A few years ago, I tried to blend in unsightly marks but to no avail. They still stand out. And so in February, this furniture finally made it to my to-do list. It will be painted. And yes, it will be distressed.
This morning, I cannot help but contrast the two types of furniture that grace my house. I have my worn, painted pieces. Distressed. And I have our more “adult” furniture, as Jason once described it. These pieces are stained wood.
And you know what? The pieces that retain their original finish look pretty bad. Because over time, the surfaces have become marred. And unlike with the distressed painted pieces, the flaws are incredibly noticeable. When I dust, though a rare occurrence, the marks stand out vividly. Against an otherwise perfect finish, scratches don’t look so good. In fact, the pieces just look old. Something I’d rather hide away instead of displaying in my home.
Which brings me to what God showed me this weekend…
I felt distress. Angst over my little boy who sat playing tablet. Washed by guilt that I’ve not signed him up for some activity to keep him busy. And it being Labor Day, I decided to put him to work. I thought I’d introduce him to something I have passion for. Furniture painting.
In hope of keeping Levi interested, I let him choose the piece. I explained how we had to sand the chair really good so we could get to the raw wood. Otherwise, the paint wouldn’t stick. And as we sanded, my mind went to spiritual matters. I told my son we’re kind of like the process of painting a chair. That we need to allow God to strip down our finish so He could get to what’s underneath.
Levi said, “Oh, the shiny is like the sin?”
I said yes. But there’s more to it. So much more, I’m not sure a nine year old can grasp all the chair symbolized to me on Saturday.
An old feeling arose in my heart over the weekend. It was shame. And it burned hot. Like Adam and Eve hid in the garden, I wanted to do the same. It has to do with my recent writing… how I’m still not over something from my past. And how I should be okay by now.
But then, my son chose a chair for us to refinish. That’s when everything became clear. A precious gift from God as I gained clarity. Because I realize I am just like the chair.
See, God hand picked me. He reclaimed me. No different than me and Levi venturing down into the depths of my basement to make a selection, God did the same. It was September of 2012 and I sat in a sea of women. He reached down and chose me. Her. I’m going to refinish her…
That’s when the process began in earnest. I acknowledged the truth of my past for the very first time. I brought two abortions to light by telling a family member. Seventeen years after the fact. Like the use of coarse sandpaper sloughing away the slick layers of veneer, God did the same with me.
He removed layers and layers of the topical religion I based all my faith in. It was all surface, anyway. But the truth of His words finally sanded away my slickness. No way around it, really, as my perfect finish had become marred. Scratches and flaws highly noticeable against a backdrop of my striving perfection.
But finally, He got down to what was underneath. My heart. And it was exposed. Like the raw wood of a reclaimed chair.
The restoration process has been a lengthy one. Because stripping away deeply ingrained, harmful thought patterns can take time. And God works on each person specifically and individually. It can take years for Him to strip down a soul sufficiently. Enough so that when He adds in His layers, brush stroke by brush stroke, they’ll stick.
Like a woman I read of in the New Testament who suffered with a bleeding disorder for twelve years. Over a decade for her restoration. And renewal.
Mine’s three years in the making. Just six months after I acknowledged my past, I went public with it. ( https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/03/15/the-valley-of-slaughter/ ) But that was only the beginning. Ever since, God’s been drawing me deeper and deeper. Layer by layer. Bits of poison sanded away as He adds to me His goodness.
Ten months after going public, God came down and touched me. He forgave me for the past I carried. No question. No doubt. It was January 31, 2014 when He coated me with His mercy, mercy. In fact, His compassion had been there all along. Always there for the taking. God just had to get me out of the way first ( https://pamandersonblog.com/2014/05/20/the-visitation/ ).
And yet, it seems I’ve been stalled ever since. Well over a year on pause and unable to move forward. Like a project undone, I petered out at mercy. However, my weekend project gives me renewed hope. That a second coat of paint is coming. It’s just a matter of time.
See, the color Levi and I chose was too bright. Shockingly orange. Or salmon. Thus, we decided to cover it. Levi was reluctant, but I explained how pretty the hints of lobster would be peeking out under a darker hue.
So that’s what we did. Or I did. Because like me, Levi petered out at the orange. At mercy. He hadn’t the stamina to keep going on Saturday. But I did. I kept going till nightfall.
For me, that second coat of paint is when the project really gets going. There’s added interest. And depth. And afterward, the fun begins. Because you take out a finer grit of sandpaper and smooth. And remove. And what’s left is truly unique. An original. A one of a kind for the work can’t be duplicated.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10
I confess, I wanted to hide away after my last post. I felt ashamed I hadn’t made more progress. However, this weekend I was reminded of how far I’ve actually come. Because it’s only been three years. That’s when the process initially began. Because before then, my abortions were non-existent. I pretended they weren’t real. But one day, I couldn’t go further. At least not with God.
And here I am today… silent no more. And here I am today… covered in God’s mercy.
It’s that grace thing that trips me up, though. For some reason, I can’t grasp the concept. Mercy’s easier for me to accept. God withholding what I deserve. Punishment. But grace? That’s God giving me what I don’t deserve.
Both attributes stem from God’s love. Both make up His goodness. Just different shades. Or hues. One is just harder for me to grasp.
Here’s what I do know. When I get into a painting project, I make a mess. I become the mess. I track paint from here to there. It gets in my hair and on my face. Clothing and body parts. Before I know it, I’m covered in shades or salmon. Stained with midnight blue.
But you know, that’s the best part of the process. The spiritual one, that is. Because the same thing goes. Three years in, I find I’m drenched in God’s mercy. And next? It’ll be grace. His grace.
God’s calling me to open my eyes once more. To find rest in His grace. Because it’s right there in front of me. In fact, it’s all over me. Along with drops of mercy, my hands and arms are splashed with grace…
If I can just allow Him to finish the process.
If I could just realize I’m already there…
Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow- to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:38-39
I am a Christian. A follower of Christ. And He says to me, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you…”
That’s the whole point of the painting project I am. He’s making me into something specific. And it’s taken three years to get this far. I’ve been reclaimed and restored. But distressing is part of the refinishing project. The sanding is the cup I must drink. And what I have drunk.
My sorrow is the thing God will use for His purposes. In reality, that which I’m tempted to hide away is not really mine to cover. Because it belongs to Him. And in His hands, it’ll be blessed. This is what makes me beautiful. And so miraculously, I find my beauty is not in spite of my flaws, but because of them.
My imperfections make me lovely. And useful. To Him.
A repurposed piece.
Like a distressed chair…
Yep, Levi started a chair with me on Saturday. But he couldn’t stick it out. He said it was too much work. And he speaks truth. Restoring an old marked up piece of furniture takes true effort. And a great deal of time.
The good thing, though, is Levi got a lesson. He understood that people can be just like the chair. That the slick needs to come off before paint will stick. And though he didn’t complete the project, he at least started it. And I have to smile as I see drops of salmon on his knee. A smattering of mercy displayed for me to see…
A reminder to me that God’s words are true.
Certainly, goodness and mercy will stay close to me all the days of my life… Psalm 23:6
You know, I always loved the look of distressed furniture. And now, perhaps I know why. Because there’s beauty in the process. For me, next Tuesday marks three years.
And just as God awakened me to His mercy, He’s awakening me to His grace. That’s what He’s been doing this whole time. Reclaiming, restoring, and refinishing. Me. Speaking to me in ways I can understand…
Like with a chair.
An old, distressed chair.
Using the things I love.