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For some reason, I’ve been thinking about recycling today. I have a dear friend who recycles everything! She has bins for paper, one for plastic, one for cans, and probably uses her table scraps to make compost for her flowers and garden area. Recycling is a good way to keep our planet healthy. It seems not everything can be thrown in a landfill if we expect to keep living here on this planet. Years ago no one had to worry about plastic bottles, Styrofoam cups and plates, batteries leaking yucky acid, or computers leaking stored knowledge and search engines full of savory and unsavory content. God only knows what comprises the layers of our lives.
I sometimes think that is what my garage has become – a very unorganized storage area for recyclable material that has no specifically labeled bin. When our attic was cleaned out last year, everything was stashed in the garage along with all of the things Kenneth has saved throughout the years. Our children will have their work cut out for them unless divine guidance strikes first – with a lightning bolt! Just think about what may be stored up at your house. It seems there are years and years and yards and yards of multiple strings of Christmas lights, which only have half of each string burning.
Also, you probably have several types of decorations in with the lights. I know I have a train, which did not want to stand up anymore, so it just lays there waiting for its next chance to blink. You probably have a bicycle or two leaning against the wall, and if you’ve had anyone suffer from health issues, you may have a walker, a cane, or even a stationary potty chair hanging on the wall. Of course you probably have the requisite assortment of tools hanging here and there, yet when you need it, you will still have to search for the hoe, or shovel, or ax, saying to yourself, “I know I had one of those once upon a time.”
There is a mentality out there, which professes, “If I have not used it in 3 years…I certainly do not need to keep it lying around here gathering dust and being in the way.” Someone with that mentality could have my garage cleared out and cleaned up in no time. Simply put, ALL of that wonderful stuff resting comfortably in my garage would no longer exist. It would be hauled to that great recycling dump somewhere, or it may find its final resting place in someone’s yard sale, or perhaps it might be grabbed up by some resourceful and imaginative person who sees it as a hidden treasure needing to be rescued before it meets an untimely demise and is chucked in the dump. For, thankfully, some people believe that one person’s trash may be someone else’s treasure. There is one thing for sure – all of this stuff has helped comprise the layers of my life.
Kenneth has pieces of a Lionel train set which once belonged to his father. The train was taken out at Christmas, run for a trip or two, and then stored away where two little inquisitive boys couldn’t bother it. Sad, I think. However, that train was part of a layer of Kenneth’s life…the layer known as childhood.
Several years ago, Kenneth and I built the grocery store in Tracy City which is now known as “The Pig.” Back in our day it was simply called, “Highland Foodstore.” We built it from the first block up, plumbed it, wired it, and waited on the first customer. We owned that store for nine years until we sold it to the current owners. During that layer of life, we had a little train that ran all around the inside of the store. I sold advertising to our vendors, and put their name or company on a train car. Our train got really long, but it was a wonderful way to pay for the expense of the train itself. The children loved to come in and watch the train. Freddy Hale built a bright red metal bridge, which was often the resting place of the engine while the train awaited its next journey. The train is one of my fondest memories of that layer of my life.
The train was part of the “stuff” stored out in my garage. Recently, Kenneth decided we needed to pull out the old train and set it up in our yard. He has an ultimate reason for doing this. You know that line in the movie which says, “Build it and they will come?” Well, Kenneth just knows that train is something which will put a burr under the seats of all the grandchildren so they will say to their parents, “I want to go to see Mimi and Bapa!” Well, for once, I can’t fault his logic, so everyone around here is singing, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad!” With a wonderful helper to do all the running, digging, fetching, and hard work, (and thankfully…that person is NOT me), Kenneth is building a train set in our front yard. I think it’ll run about 250 feet, will have a pond, a tunnel, the big red bridge, and no telling what else before he finishes.
It appears we are recycling our life right now. We have reached deep in the layers of our lives and turned them over, for we have happily gone back to our childhood layer. Honestly, we are nothing more than grown-up children! It is really interesting what we will do for our children…and grandchildren. Seriously though, this train is more for Kenneth…he didn’t get to play with the train as a child, but he’ll enjoy every minute of playing with this train with his grandchildren.
As I said, our lives are comprised of many, many layers. There were our personal childhoods, our marriage (and I don’t care who you are…there are always UPS and DOWNS in everyone’s marriage), our children, the many jobs at which we’ve worked to raise our family…the major job being RAISING our children and not just jerking them up. Among those layers of life we have had a run with common concerns such as: children involvement with school and community related activities, teenagers and raging hormones causing mouths you might want to pop, and attitudes you want to put a sack over! Yes, like I said, these are the normal things all parents face. Personally, I have always believed that my years of raising our children were the best times of my life. I can honestly say I enjoyed nothing any more than that layer of my life. And now, I get the joy of watching my children raise their own kids. This too, is such a good layer of my life.
However, some of our layers were full of worry and fear. Kenneth worked in mine #21 for Tennessee Consolidated Coal Company. That was a fearful time in his life because it was not the safest of places to work. Owning and operating a store is no bed of roses either…there is a lot of stress in owning your own business. That’s one time when the phrase, “Build It and They Will Come,” was not necessarily the truth. You never knew if you were going to have enough customers to pay the bills at the end of the day, and our electric bill was around $4,000 every month. So, that layer of life was definitely stressful.
Sometimes interwoven among all these layers of our lives are more serious concerns. They may be things as simple as a fretful baby with an earache, or asthma, or cutting teeth. It could be something as serious as cancer, a stroke, or the care for the elderly, and in some people’s cases, caring for an adult-child addicted to drugs, or too lazy to work. All of the battles we face during our lives comprise its many layers… the situations we face, and how we handle those situations help determine how we ultimately face the end of this life. I know that for many years life was going so well…I may have had problems with a job, or a person, or my husband even, but my children were healthy and happy, so life was going good. But, when we really faced a battle that was so beyond my control (CANCER), I finally realized that there was only ONE who could help me, calm me, fight my battle for me, and when I had none, restore my hope and faith. That was when I really met Jesus and gave Him my all.
When life is good with its “little” obstacles and challenges, we often put Jesus on the back burner. We think He’s there, and if we need Him, He’ll be there for us…at least that’s how we satisfy our minds when we choose to do something we shouldn’t. Sometimes when something devastating happens we may choose to get mad at the Lord because someone died…or got cancer…or is facing some life-altering event. Why should we get mad at God if we don’t even invite Him into our hearts every day? But, what about all those fine folks who DO know God and yet have to face the same battles as those who don’t believe. Is that fair? Is that right? After all, it looks like IF you put on the ARMOR OF GOD you’d be safe from even the tiniest little inkling of harm, doesn’t it?
All I can tell you is that I was a half-hearted believer BEFORE my husband’s battle against cancer (and we know that means I really had a problem, didn’t I?), but I became a true believer during that same battle. Also, I know “good” people who have been believers for a whole lot longer than I are facing some very serious hurdles in their lives right now…all of them with God’s help will win their battles, however, it may not be how we would envision the victory. Perhaps, just maybe, that battle some “good” person is fighting may have a far-reaching consequence…one totally unknown to us.
It may bring a change to someone, like me, who needs a slap in the face to realize just how fleeting life really is. That just sounds so sappy, doesn’t it? But really it’s not a sappy comment, for I do believe that there are things in life that are much worse than being released from this life IF you are assured there is a much better place awaiting. I DO BELIEVE. I believe in JESUS. I believe in God the FATHER. I believe in HEAVEN and ETERNITY. I believe GOD sent HIS SON for me, and for this layer in my life, I am eternally thankful.
If you don’t have a home church, or if you are looking for a place to visit, I humbly invite you to join us at Tracy City First United Methodist Church. I believe you will like the way you feel! We offer morning worship services at 8:30 and 11:00. Our Sunday School is at 10:00, and Wednesday night is for children of all ages!