The Buffet

by Deb Moken

For some, it’s impossible to refuse a stray animal. Others weep over wilting wisteria. The kids and I have banned my husband from watching furniture store sale commercials. (His weakness for the overstuffed and upholstered keeps squeezing us from one house to another.) However, what prods at the soft spot in my head is antique furniture. The more worn and neglected the better. I constantly fight the urge to bring home another abused, discarded, unwanted piece of furniture. I revel in restoring the rejected to a rightful place of honor and dignity.

This urge sparked - what is referred to in the annals of my mind —as the great buffet adventure.

It all started when I realized our dining room had a spot just begging to be filled by a buffet. So I declared my intention and made my request known to God. Just to make it interesting, I set a limit on the initial investment: $25.00.

I drag God along and into everything I do and everywhere I go. Remember those times when you let your toddler wander and explore? When there was no one watching; freeing you from that overwhelming compulsion to prove your adequacy as a parent so you could simply enjoy their fact-finding-information-gathering adventure? Well, my God is just like that, and even though I’m chronologically well past toddlerhood there’s so much I don’t know and have yet to explore. He graciously lets me.

I had scoured the city for months looking for the perfect project but came up empty. I was even considering upping my limit. Then, one Saturday as I headed into town it started to rain. Driving past a garage sale displaying nothing but tarp covered mounds, I heard the Spirit of God say, “Under that blue tarp is a buffet for $25.00.” And in true toddler fashion, I ignored Him, and drove half way to town before turning around to slog through the rain and poke my head under the blue tarp. Guess what I found. A few planks of wood, the main one of which had a 21/2 inch notch sawed out of it, 3 cruddy knobs, half the hinges, paint can rings, bubbled veneer, a baggie with some bent screws and a masking tape price tag that told me it was mine for $25.00. Could life get any more perfect? This was definitely a God thing!

To haul the beast home I had to elicit the help of my pick-up-owning brother, Ken. (Did I fail to mention that few, if any, refinishing-hobbyist are married to restoration-appreciators? This fact automatically disqualifies my spouse’s participation in the adventure) My brother helped me wrestle the 100 pound piece of furniture into the garage of transfiguration — which would have been more smoothly accomplished had my husband, Mike, not been at the door watching the transaction with a snarled lip and unmasked disdain. Sheesh! Miracles are hard enough to pull off without unbelieving naysayers breathing down your neck. I know just how Jesus felt when he showed back up in Nazareth!

A few weeks later, as fate would have it, my two girls ended up with chicken pox. Now I’m not saying that God orchestrated a chicken pox outbreak so I could pursue the adventure of the dining-room buffet. That would be sick and twisted. I do, however, believe He knew before I was even born that I would have a couple weeks of quarantine in the summer of 1995 and planted seeds of desire for a buffet, that grew into a restoration project strung all over our garage. All the while He let me think it was all my idea. (Big, secure-in-who-they-are Gods are like that, you know.)

One day, while I was working on my God-thing, I opened the can of paint stripper and the searing liquid splashed into both of my unprotected eyes. My lids instinctively locked shut and right there in the middle of my God-thing I was blind, lost and alone. I yelled for Jen, and asked her to find Chris, who was playing somewhere in the neighborhood. By the time he found me, I had plenty of time to contemplate a sightless future. I didn’t know what was going to be worse, never seeing again or the gee-how-stupid-could-you-be-no-goggles sermons that would pepper the rest of my days on planet earth.

Terror is a paralyzing thing. When my son found me crouched between doors on workbenches, drawers standing on end paint cans, stripper cans, tools and fear, I could not see, and I could not move.

“Okay, Mom, I’m here. Give me your hand. Come on, I’ll help you. It’s going to be okay. Take a step, we’re going to get out of here. You can walk, let me move this drawer. Come on Mom, you’ve got to trust me. You’ve got to get out of here. I’m not going to hurt you. Come on let me help you.”

Looking back to that day, I am embarrassed that I didn’t react differently to the situation, that I didn’t have my goggles on, that my children saw me weak and defeated. Blinded by my stupidity and paralyzed by terror, the irony that it was played out in the middle of a God-thing. That was 21 years ago. My eyes are fine, my children unscarred, the buffet sits in the living room of our new home, securely surrounded by the sea of overstuffed and upholstered — but something feels familiar.

My Daddy/God has planted seeds of desire in my heart. Somehow, those seeds were watered and grew. He directed their growth and caused them to produce fruit. All the while letting me think it was my idea. (Big, secure-in-who-they-are Daddies are like that, you know.)

There I was the middle of another God-thing when I realized that I could no longer see and was powerless to move. Life had taken on the qualities of a minefield and any step I tried to take threatened to detonate the unseen.

Cries for help only seemed to get me gee-how-stupid-could- you-be-to-not-wear-goggles? sermons.

Then, in spite of the darkness I heard the familiar voice of my Creator.

“Hey, Deb, what happened?”

“I’m lost. I can’t find my way out and I’m too afraid to move.”

“How’d that happen?”

“I don’t know. I was right in the middle of a God-thing when stuff started blowing up in my face and I was too stupid to see it coming.”

“Says who?”

“Says everybody.”

“Come on Deb, take my hand. Let Me lead you out of here.”