We’ve all heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” I use that a lot when I prepare, each spring for a yard sale. I pull out all the things in our closets and garage that we don’t want or need.
I’m a clean freak and I hate it when the closets, cabinets and garage start to get cluttered with stuff that we don’t even use. I’m always amazed at how accomplished I feel after a yard sale and how one year later, we have accumulated more “trash”.
All the men in our family loath yard sales and always try to convince us to just donate everything. We get up in the wee hours of the morning while it is still dark and set out tables and price things for little of nothing. But, although it is a lot of work, I like visiting with the neighbors who show up to see what kind of “trash” we have to sell and counting the little handful of money we have accumulated at the end of the day. I like sitting in my lawn chair and drinking coffee and eating donuts while the sun comes up waiting for the customers to come.
What I love the most is the clean organized house and garage I have for a little while longer once we haul off whatever we didn’t sell, sweep out the garage and put away the tables. So, I keep rustling up those items and having yard sells every spring. It’s what I do.
After David passed away, it was very difficult for me to part with anything that was his. Finally, last fall, I started to go through his things in the garage. That’s when I ran across something that looked very familiar under a bunch of boxes. That find began this amazing lesson and I must share it with you.
In 1997, right after we returned from our honeymoon, David and I opened a jewelry store. He had been working in the jewelry industry for some time and six weeks before our wedding, the company he worked for wanted to transfer him. We loved where we lived and were committed to our church and family that were right there. We didn’t want to move. So, he decided to take a severance package and we pulled together every penny we could muster up and started our own jewelry store.
David was an amazing jeweler and did meticulous work. His clients loved him. However, he wasn’t as worried about the cleanliness of the shop as I was.
He was a true jeweler who sat at his bench and created works of art. As fast as the dust from all his filing and polishing flew through the air covering the pristine cases next to his bench, I was right behind him cleaning them.
One day, David told me to make sure I always threw the dirty paper towels I used to clean the cases into this big drum beside his bench. He also told me to put the full vacuum bags in the drum, as well.
Of course, I had to know why we were storing the “trash”. He told me that I would be surprised at how much gold dust there was flying through the air and landing on everything. He said that once his drum was full, he would send it to a gold refinery, and they would burn all that trash out and all that would be left was gold. Then they would weight it and send us a check.
I couldn’t imagine that there would be much gold, but I did as I was asked and put everything in the drum. As David said, we did get checks for $300-$400 from the trash in those drums. I was amazed! It was always great for extra money for vacation each summer. So, I kept saving the trash.
So, I’m sure you’re wondering what was hidden under my boxes this past spring. Of course, it was one of those big drums full of trash from David’s jewelry shop. It had been years since we had closed our jewelry store in Tennessee and moved to Illinois. However, he had set up a little shop to continue doing jewelry work for friends and family in our garage. As I dug it out from behind the boxes, I remembered that we could send it off to be refined.
Money is tight when you become a widow so any amount of money that could come from it would be welcomed. We cleaned off all the equipment in the garage and his tools and made sure to throw all the rags and paper towels in that drum. I called the refinery and they sent someone to pick up the drum and said they would get back to me if there was any value in the trash inside. Once it was gone, I really didn’t give it another thought.
Shortly after sending the drum of trash to the refinery, a friend of mine who is a published author invited me and the kids to join her family on a cruise. Her writer’s agency hosts it each year and invites publishing companies from all over to teach and scout new writers. She thought it may be helpful to me in my writing endeavors. I jumped at the thought, especially since we had never been on a cruise before.
However, I knew we didn’t have the money for such a trip so if God intended for us to be on this ship, He would have to provide a way. I turned the whole thing over to Him and left it there.
I never really thought that the drum of trash I had mailed to the gold refinery would play a part in making that a reality. The most we had ever gotten from one of those drums was $400. That wouldn’t even get one of us on the ship.
It had been over six weeks since I had mailed the drum to New York City and I had really forgotten about it. As my son and I were pulling in the driveway one day, I stopped to get the mail out of our mailbox at the end of our drive.
As always, I couldn’t wait to get into the house to look through the mail to see if there is anything interesting. And, there it was. An envelope from the gold refinery in NYC. I opened it right there because I was thinking that a little extra cash would be great to have right at that moment.
As I pulled the check from the envelope I nearly screamed! I looked over at my son sitting beside me and showed him the check. It was for the exact amount of money we needed to send all three of us on the cruise! That amount was over four times more than we had ever gotten from one of those drums of trash.
I started to cry and couldn’t believe my eyes. God had provided for us to go on this trip. And, really David had helped make this happen by realizing that there was treasure in trash, even if we couldn’t see it with the naked eye. That drum of trash had been sitting in our garage for years and we didn’t even realize it was there, let alone that it had so much value.
Isn’t that just like our life? We are all faced with situations that we wish we could have avoided—the trash. Circumstances come that are painful and stretch us far beyond comfort. We want to just throw that trash away and not think of it, again. But I have come to learn that there is “gold” in that “trash”.
How can “gold” ever come from a cancer diagnosis or losing a spouse when you have a lifetime of dreams to still live together? How can “gold” come from being betrayed by people you trusted and loved? How can “gold” come from realizing that your spouse is gone, and he had no life insurance and you have two teenagers still at home? Grief, depression, betrayal, rejection, need . . .. Those are all “trash” as far as we know it. But, I have come to find “gold” in all of it—pure gold!
In 2 Corinthians, Paul was talking about there being treasure in fragile clay jars. The “treasure” that he is talking about is the knowledge of Jesus and His work on Calvary—the Gospel. He said, “For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (4:6 NLT)
So many people say to me, “You look great. You seem to be doing so well”. I’m not certain, sometimes, if there is a question mark behind that comment–that maybe they think I should be mourning a little more.
Truly, I grieve, and I battle my own emotions just like everyone else who has lost their spouse. When grief hits me, I just choose not to “camp out” there, too long. That is not healthy, and it is not what God would have us to do.
I have found that choosing to find “gold” (or as Paul calls it, “treasure”) in all the trash that was hurled at me is far better than wallowing in it. What good would that do anyone? Would David want me to be wallowing in that trash? Of course not.
Most everything I have written since David passed away has been from lessons I’ve learned while digging my way out of the trash heap of last year. I didn’t do anything to deserve that trash truck backing up in my driveway and emptying its contents and neither did my children. The pain of it all still tries to wiggle its way into our lives unexpectedly and we must continue to reject letting it fill up our hearts again. It just isn’t worth it.
Paul goes on to say, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” (2 Corinthians 4:7a NLT) That’s us—fragile clay jars.
In my garage sat a cardboard drum of trash, buried under boxes and covered with dust. But inside that perishable drum of what appeared to be nothing special was pure, valuable gold. We couldn’t see it and didn’t even realize it was there. It had to go through the fire to be refined to be seen for what it truly was.
Amazing lessons and experiences can come through the fires of life, if we will realize that the fire is there to refine us, not consume us.
In my garage sat a cardboard drum of trash, buried under boxes and covered with dust. But inside that perishable drum of what appeared to be nothing special was pure, valuable gold. We couldn’t see it and didn’t even realize it was there. It had to go through the fire to be refined to be seen for what it truly was. Amazing lessons and experiences can come through the fires of life, if we will realize that the fire is there to refine us.
Paul continues, “This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” (2 Corinthians 4:7b NLT) So, when people say that I appear to be doing well and I am “so much stronger” than they are, let me assure you that I am not. I have just decided to do my best to focus on the treasure inside of me and understand that my strength is in the power of God working through me, not from myself.
Let’s read on:
“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (4:8-10 NKJV)
In the crushing and in the fire, we are not destroyed. Through this, Jesus is made manifest in us-THE GOLD.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So, we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT)
That passage excites me! We all have the choice to wallow in our situations or realize that God is refining us.
I was reading a post from a blogger who said, “Grief is perhaps the greatest teacher known to man, but it comes at a very steep price.” She went on to say, “Widowhood has never defined who I am, but it has significantly shaped who I have become.”
When David was diagnosed with cancer he would always say, “I am not a Cancer patient, I am a child of God who is fighting cancer . . . I won’t let cancer define who I am.” He lived that in front of everyone. In fact, he always had a smile on his face, even through great pain. He always pushed himself to keep going and few people even realized the extent of the battle that he was facing because he didn’t wear it like a badge and he certainly didn’t let it define who he was.
Such gold came out of that battle he walked through, and he was so much closer to the Lord during that last year. I’ve learned from him and although you can’t see the pain that I deal with inside because I don’t let these current trials define me, doesn’t mean it is not there. I’m not better than you and I’m certainly not stronger than you. I’ll repeat Paul, again, “. . . our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7b NLT) So the same strength that I rely on, you can rely on.
What is your choice today? Will you look at the pile of trash in front of you and continue to smell it and cry over it and question God as to why He let that truck back up into YOUR driveway and dump? Or, will you trust the one who can refine that trash, burn out the bad and find the gold?
There is gold in your situation, but you won’t see it if you are focused on the trash. I encourage you, today, to change your focus. Let God mold you and make you into what He desire of you and know that He loves you and wants only good for you. I promise, when you begin to let him refine you, you will begin to see the gold.
That drum of trash in my garage sent my family on an amazing cruise. And, I haven’t even begun to tell you the connections we made on that cruise, the people we met and the things we learned about writing and publishing and so many open doors toward future goals and dreams. All, from a drum of trash! There is a plan in the pain and you only have to see past the trash to find the treasure. Do it, today!
Extra Lesson Learned Today:
As I have been writing this blog, I’ve been visiting my sister and her family in Tennessee. I lived in Tennessee for 22 years and met so many friends during this time, many I don’t ever see now that I have moved. Today I was invited for coffee by one of those friends. I got to the coffee shop early and took my computer because I was working on editing this blog post. I thought I may have a little time before my friend arrived. However, when I walked in, I saw a gentleman who I hadn’t seen in seven years who I haven’t stopped thinking about and wondering how he was doing. He is one of those people who are not on social media and I didn’t have any contact information for him. He was a retired gentleman, a bachelor, who lived downtown and ate out almost every meal. During a very difficult season of my life, I had started a small restaurant in the downtown, historic area of town. This man became like family to us and ate at our restaurant regularly. I wasn’t sure he had even heard of David’s passing, and he hadn’t. The other friend that I was meeting for coffee was also an acquaintance through my restaurant. Let me just say that owning and operating a restaurant was never part of my life plan. I didn’t even like it. I felt like it was a “trash” time in my life and something I just did out of the necessity of the moment. In fact, I was wallowing in that “trash” time and feeling sorry for myself. As I sat with my friends it hit me that had I never walked through that season that I hated (that I looked at as “trash”) I would have never met these two friends who are as valuable as gold. God always has a way of confirming His word to me and I feel so blessed. You may not see how you will ever find gold in your situation, but just wait and trust, you will! Blessings, Heather
 “Dear Widow Police—I Won’t Revoke My Card”, One Fit Widow Blog, 11/18/18