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Guest Post: Handling Dust

[Today’s guest post is courtesy of Jennifer Hildebrand. Want to submit your own work? Click here for submission guidelines.]

In our house, we follow one simple rule for updating essential items: Ignore until it’s really, really broken, then figure out a way to fix it.

I love the beautifying work of decorating, repurposing, and gussying up things in our home, just not the necessities. So, when my son’s dresser drawer handles broke for the fiftieth time, I figured we needed the mandatory cheap update. Off to Lowe’s we went to convince a six-year-old how cool it would be to pick the $1.27 handles to adorn his only big piece of furniture. He was picky and had his heart set on some sort of Wild Kratts-inspired jungle-motif wild animal handles. Alas, we did what we could and bought what actually existed.

His old oak dresser has seen many homes. It’s a hand-me-down piece that originated in my maternal grandparents’ house in Mt. Holly, Arkansas, many decades ago when they were first married. It was later gifted to my parents and lived in their master bedroom before making its home in my own room during my teen years. Lots of hands had depended on the strength of those now-dilapidated handles. I couldn’t help but reminisce a little as I removed each broken, crusty piece. I remember stashing boxes of top-secret notes and letters from school in those top drawers, alongside VHS tapes of my favorite MTV shows. I remember the ribbons of my black and gold homecoming corsages cascading through the brass enclosures and dripping to the floor.

Little flecks of memories came chipping off with the removal of each rusted screw.

And what of the years before mine? Candles and family photos, hand-crocheted bedspreads weeping with legacy, love notes and maternity clothes and papers from my grandfather’s stint as a bombardier in World War II, graduation caps and awards papers and my own baby clothes, perhaps. History, accessed by sturdy brass.

Reverent removal was certainly required. Behind each weathered brass plate lay the imprint of its life on the wood’s face. A good eighty years of dust hid beneath those ornaments. Eighty years of life hidden for decades behind an old brass decoration. Tiny personal building blocks of our history and existence had been traveling this life with us, and we didn’t even know they were there. It hurt a little to brush it away.

I placed a new, sturdier handle in each vacant space, and just like that, the old footprint was gone. Four generations had touched this treasured piece of wood, tugged at those handles, hidden their treasures, and lived good lives. Today the dresser stands tall, with new ornamentation, holding precious plastic trinkets and superhero underwear. Life, as they say, goes on.

I suppose God speaks to our hearts in these small things. With each storm of dust that fell from behind those old brass plates, a verse pounded in my head:  “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). The lives before me, my life: a mist, a vapor, literally dust in the wind (or on the wood, in this case). But far from a depressing thought, the Word served to emphasize our beautiful and God-ordained tiny part in the big, big story that he is still writing. And this tiny part, this life, this collection of dust is leaving an imprint behind.

Those cheap drawer handles suddenly became monumental. They stand ready to capture the dusty life of generations to come and provide passage for treasures of anticipation and promise: the promise for the beautiful reanimating and rejuvenating of us all—we glorious piles of dust.

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