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Secondhand Strong

Pioneer women would have to package up only the most important, essential, needed and useful items as they began their long trek to a new life in a new space where they might have nothing. They were strong. They were shrewd, intellectual, intuitive women. They knew how to make; and, they knew how to make do. They knew how to look at a problem and find a creative solution that would help their family survive.

I think there are a lot of us who can identify even if we are not trekking out for hundreds of miles across the open plains. We know what it means to put aside our wants and sift everything down to the bare essentials. To living knowing that even our needs are sometimes wants. Some of us understand what it means to take pride in our can-do, secondhand-strong, chosen disregard for the beautiful. We’ve taken our identity from the white knuckling it and turning away from the fluffy extra-ness.

But you know what’s so striking about many of the pioneer stories? Even in their pairing down to those bare essentials in order to do something insanely courageous, many of them have treasured family stories that have been passed through generations. Stories about how great great great grandma carefully packed this delicate item or that precious fragile tea cup - or whatever the item might be - and brought one impossibly unpragmatic item of beauty to the wild West with her. And we don’t see this as frivolous or stupid. In fact, it reaches past our own pragmatism and gently tugs at that place in our own hearts that longs for beauty. A place that deeply desires to be nurtured, cared for, to be told that it is OK to have wants that go beyond being outfitted for our daily duties.

Those women wanted to cling to the reminder of why they were going. They were not just going to bravely carve out a new land for the greater good of a country. That’s where we have placed these people in our own history books. But they were striking out for hope, for Better, for more for THEMSELVES! And as we dig deep and lean into the process of healing and growing and maturing in our faith… It is good to have something lovely to remind us why. Their treasured item was not just a reminder of what they had left and would never have again. It was a reminder of the hope they held within them… Of their very nature and true identity that could likely get lost in a season of rough and practical and lonely and ugly and dry and barren. They would need to be able to pull out a delicate token of winsome beauty in the midst of that desolate picture. It was a matter of holding a much-needed reminder of their humanity and value.

The pioneers weren’t just strong warriors who savagely made do. They were people in search of better for their families, for themselves, for the legacy they were leaving. And when we get too close to the process and overcome with the neediness that can feel threatening when we are people of practicality, it is good to remember. To have moments of beauty, to have moments of breathing in the unjudging witnessing love of friends who know and care and see us.

Pia Mellody says, “Wants, bring joy; joy brings hope; hope brings abundance.” The treasured delicate item that was carefully wrapped and stored away in those covered wagons were wants. Not needs. And yet in a way were very much needs. If every part of our life boils down to the starkness of a need, then we miss Joy. And if we miss Joy we will miss Hope. And without hope we can never access the abundance of God’s grace and goodness and outpouring of blessing in the unexpected and beautiful ways.

What is your teacup? What thing of beauty breathes new hope into you as you do the practical, courageous, the desolate? Treasure it. Make sure it is accessible for you to carefully, gently unwrap and hold and breathe in its beauty. These sacred spaces of joy are our safe places and our lifeblood…they are where we find hope waiting.

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