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I didn’t really want to make the little cardboard houses.
I just wanted the glorious end result.
I’m housebound, recovering from cancer treatments, and I need goals. Praying is great. Writing is good. Reading is wonderful, but I need to accomplish something with my hands … something where I can see the end result … something tangible.
So, I remembered the little cardboard houses.
Years ago, when I was a Brownie troop leader, one of the moms made cardboard “gingerbread” houses for the girls to decorate. They were sturdy. They were big. The kids loved it, and so did I.
I’m not crafty, but as my children grew, we shared the idea with their soccer teams, cheerleading teams and neighbors. Someone else would make the cardboard houses, and we’d gather at my home to decorate them. They brought such joy to everyone.
As the kids moved on with their lives, we stopped making them.
But now, with a need for a tangible goal and with lots of grandchildren as my audience, I decided to resurrect the tradition.
That meant I had to build the basic structures, and, oh, what a mess I am at that!
Anyway, armed with good reason, I mentally committed to making one house a month. That seemed doable. That felt realistic. And we’d have plenty ready to decorate during the holidays.
I dawdled in January, dreading the actual work of it. Crunch time … was I going to do this or not?
Finally, I dragged out the scissors, cardboard and tape. I eyeballed the cardboard, cut it, and tried to tape it together.
There were gaping holes. It was a little lopsided. The tape didn’t stick very well.
But I persisted. I found better tape. I covered the gaps. I pushed the walls into place.
Finally, I held the finished craft at arm’s length. Turning it slowly, I observed every angle. As I studied it, a smile formed on my lips.
I imagined one of my grandchildren selecting this particular house. I pictured her slathering icing over it and carefully choosing colorful candies to decorate it. I heard her laugh. I saw her smile.
I saw my grandson delivering a stunning creation to the residents at my mother-in-law’s assisted living facility. I saw him walking through the doors, placing his masterpiece in the gathering room. I saw a slow smile spread across the face of a white-haired gentleman. I saw a woman pushing a walker stop and thank him for the beautiful gingerbread house.
Deep within, a sense of satisfaction arose.
As imperfect as the little cardboard house was, I found myself admiring it. I saw such beauty in it.
Suddenly I wondered: Is this how God sees us?
Sin destroyed his perfect creation. There’s pride and self-centeredness. There’s laziness and thoughtlessness. We’re crooked, lopsided and unstable.
Maybe God holds us in the palm of his hand. He molds us and shapes us, providing direction here, pushing the walls in place there.
Maybe he sees beyond the mess. Maybe he envisions the ultimate beauty and unending joy we were designed to deliver.
And maybe, just maybe, he smiles.
(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.) †