The Great Recycler

Joan Wester Anderson writes this about the main character, Agnes, in a fiction entitled Dear James:

Soon she will understand … that God is the great Recycler, that none of our experiences are ever wasted, and that he will make the wholeness of a new life out of broken pieces of the old—as long as we are willing to offer those pieces to him.

This resonated with me for two reasons:

1) Life with Hubby — as I once knew and loved it — is broken. He has died, and all the hopes and dreams we shared together lie in irreparable shatters on the floor. Or so I thought.

2) I love taking old junk and turning it into cool new stuff. Like this new table top. Made from 1×6’s that my friend Debbie and I glued to an almost-eight-foot door we found at ReStore, and set atop the old dining table.

table after1

In case you’re wondering, here’s what the old table looked like. The old table that would not seat eight people, which will be the number in Daughter Summer and SIL Josh’s family once they return from Uganda.

table before

I’ve been in New Jersey, holding down the fort with the American-born grands while Josh & Summer were going about the business of adopting three Ugandan brothers. And during the two-and-a-half months, the good people of their church, 217 Church, crashed their yard and house, led by the indomitable team of Steve and Debbie Cosenza, who oversaw several converting-old-junk-into-cool-new-stuff projects.

This footstool, for example. An old end table on wheels. Wheels removed, painted coastal gray (we had it on good authority that Summer wanted to transition to a sea coast cottage theme) and outfitted with starfish. Grandson Titus and I stretched and stapled upholstery fabric across padding to make a groovy footstool. Complete with storage.

footstool before
footstool after

And speaking of storage — this storage closet upstairs. Good for not much except a place to pile blankets and quilts.

sinkcloset before

Converted into a sink closet so any stray children locked out of the bathroom in the getting-ready-for-school process could still brush their teeth.

sinkcloset after

Recycled cabinet, sink, countertop and mirror

As for the upstairs bathrooms that had plumbing issues, these *before* and *after* photos speak for themselves:

bathroom before
bathroom after

With limited kitchen storage space in their Cape Cod house, Summer had always wanted a pantry. Steve and Debbie Cosenza took a spare wall in the dining room, and with recycled doors sporting fresh paint and new hardware, this pantry emerged:

pantry after1

I caught Summer standing with the pantry doors open—later in the day. after returning from Uganda. after being utterly surprised by the changes at their house—“I’m just going to stare at my pantry for a while,” she said with a happy sigh.

pantry after2

God does this thing that’s even more useful and beautiful than what Josh & Summer’s church family did for them in anticipation of adding three more children to the family — he takes our sorrows and losses, and transforms them into something fabulous and gorgeous.

It’s been seven months since Hubby died. And the sorrow that I feel is a poignant blend of sweet memories and sadness, of gratitude for all the time we had together when we weren’t expecting that much time, and gladness that we crammed into those last few years so many adventures and so much looking for what is good in the ordinariness of day-to-day living. (Run-on sentence … sorry.)

Only seven months. And already, the Great Recycler is at work in my losses; already rebirthing a new vision.

All the things that were done in Josh and Summer’s home and yard were a surprise to them. Which made it that much more fun. The anticipation of seeing their faces when they returned from Africa and took in all that had transpired. Unexpected surprise.

I think Father God has fun with his role as Recycler. I think he loves surprising us. And I think he’s delighted when we’re delighted with the unexpected gorgeousness he’s fashioned out of our broken places as we offer them to him.

Unexpected gorgeousness that confirms this truth: None of our life experiences—including the hard, and maybe especially the hard—are wasted. There is purpose in all.

Do you have an example of God being the Great Recycler in your life?


Does it really take a village?


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  1. Fran swain

    I love your new website!! Missed reading about your adventures while this was under construction. Looks like this wasn’t the only thing under construction. Great job 217 Church and Marlys and kids. Admire all the creativity and all the love. What a blessing for S&J when they arrived home with the new ones.

    • Marlys

      Thanks, Fran! Yes, S&J were pleasantly surprised when they got home. I’m amazed that the three grandkids here didn’t accidentally say anything to them in the many Facetime conversations between Jersey and Uganda.

  2. Mab

    Marlys I miss you so much !! Love your writings and am so blessed by the way you look at life
    Through GODS WILL for our lives!!
    Much love hugs

    • Marlys

      So good to hear from you, MaryAnn. Thank you for your encouraging words. Hugs back at you!

  3. MAB

    Hi Marlys

    Settling into life in Colorado Springs !! Love the GRAMMY GIG but admit
    It has had challenges after living in one town 60+ years and home for 35 !!!
    Missing friends and some days my RUT thank you for your
    Encouraging writings!!! So proud of your journey my friend

    • Marlys

      Great to hear from you, Mary Ann. So you finally made it to Colorado Springs – good for you!

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