Briefcases, stories, and strength…..

DSC_3060This morning I  was perusing Craigslist and came across an estate sale where they were selling all of the contents of a home. That always fascinates me because I start to wonder what the situation is….often it is someone who has died and the family is selling everything they did not want to save. Whenever I walk into a sale like that, I always struggle with digging through someone’s special possessions and I feel a bit like it dishonors the memory of the person who owned them. Then I start to wonder how long they owned something, where they might have purchased it, and what it meant to them. Why do I have all this going through my head when other people are simply picking up stuff and making deals? Because I love stories and I believe that there is power in knowing someone else’s story.

I headed out to the estate sale that had caught my attention, thinking it sounded like a fun adventure for 7:30 AM on a Friday. The family appeared to be hosting the sale and the men about my age were joking with me about buying this or that and were ready to sell me all their “bargains.”  We laughed and joked for a while and then I  headed inside where there were tables full of odds and ends. I picked up a box with birds on it and a small, elderly woman quietly said, “There are pieces of a handle inside the box that can be added to it.” I stopped and probably gave her the creeper stare because a million questions started going through my head….”Is this your house? Are these your things? Why aren’t you freaking out? Do you have to leave your home? Are you sad? Where are you going?” In the meantime, she was unassumingly walking around to the people at the tables, saying very little. I told her I liked the box and went outside to add it to my other few things I had purchased.

I was intrigued with the woman who was telling me about the box and asked the men who were taking the money. They said that she was their 91 year old grandmother who was widowed and was moving into an assisted living community. I told them she appeared to be more at peace with selling her belongings than I thought she would have been. One of them replied, “She is a woman of great strength.”  I continued to dialogue with them about her and how difficult this must be- for her to watch  what she cherished as sentimental and a part of her life be picked through by people who know nothing of the history. They continued to praise her for her strength.

I left with the black briefcase and the brown art box and passed on the bird box because it cost all of $2. Have I mentioned how cheap I am? For the next hour, I was driving around running errands and found myself turning around and going back to the estate sale. I walked up and the grandson said, “You came back for that box, didn’t you?” I told him I had and he said it was sold. Totally bummed I went into the house and asked the mother-in-law to show me something that was sentimental to the sweet woman who lived in the house. She had several items that the family had passed on that had still meant something to the elderly woman. I looked at a pretty Christmas angel that she had made 60 years ago, but it felt too personal to buy even though it was for sale. Then the grandson brought out a gray briefcase with the initials “CW” which are the same initials of my grandfather. He said it had belonged to his grandmother’s mother- Catherine Whipple.

I bought the gray suitcase to add to the black briefcase and brown art box I had purchased the first time around and explained to them that I wanted to write a story about my experience. They were intrigued that I could walk in an estate sale and come out with a blog, but played along with me.

As I left with my new possessions, I started to think….it must take inexplainable courage  to watch almost everything you own be sold off for a dollar here and a dollar there. It would have been one thing had she not understood what was going on around her, but she was very aware of her surroundings and cognizant that her stuff was being carried out the door by strangers.

This week I have struggled a lot with having courage. I have had a lot of mixed emotions as I have been faced with my father having a stroke/heart attack. We don’t have much of a relationship so it has all been very confusing. I have asked God over and over to give me courage and strength and I have had great peace this week MOST of the time. I would feel God giving me the moment by moment direction I needed and then I would slowly fall into self-preservation and find myself drifting. Then I would move back toward God. The ups and downs went on like this all week.

It was not until today-when I saw a 91 year old woman, who had lost her husband, her ability to drive, and now her home and all that was in it-that I realized what beautiful strength really is. I see brave people all around me but I often think that by 91 it must wear off and we become fearful of everything, especially our futures. Today I saw the opposite. I saw quiet strength and peaceful acceptance.

I wanted to ask her and her family if they were Christians but I felt that I had already invaded all their personal space and pretty much stalked their family history so I did not ask. I regret it because it could have been a huge testimony to God’s goodness. Only He knows.

Do you ever wonder how you are going to face the unknown? Do the what-ifs drive you nuts?  Take heart, my friend.

Paul writes in the book of Colossians:

“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,  and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”

I pray you find strength this week. Strength to face the unknown. Courage to let go of whatever is holding you back. And endurance to run toward the abundant life God has for you.



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