I’ve been back from Guatemala for 2 weeks and I always feel a bit disoriented upon returning home- which I realize sounds a bit ironic, but it’s true. Santa Barbara welcomes me with open arms and ocean breezes, but sill some part of the coming home process, even with all its comforts and conveniences, feels hard. But maybe that is not such a bad thing. Maybe there is something to learn in those seasons or days when it feels like nothing really fits or seems to makes sense.
In an effort to accustom myself back to life here and not spend too much time sipping coffee and dreaming and journaling about life in Guatemala I decided I need a fun and easy home project to complete before school started (side note: I am learning that fun and easy do not belong in the same sentence as “home project”)
My vision was to re-plant all of our potted plants, trim the hedges and basically make our side patio and front yard a bit livelier. Now, I am no gardener- I dream of being one of those people who grows my own tomatoes and bell peppers and carrots, but in the mean time my specialties include, well…herbs and succulents. Both which are quite resilient and forgiving of neglectful owners who forget to water them on a regular basis.
Within two afternoons and one trip to Ace Hardware our patio had a new herb garden, some blooming flowers and a few succulents to add to the ambiance. The project was complete and much to my surprise it wasn’t all that difficult.
Then came the painting project. My roommate and I decided that our old futon with chipping black paint would look better if the frame was re-painted with fresh coat of white. So I went back to Ace Hardware (again)…this time with the intention of staying clear of the garden section and instead focused on buying a can of paint.
I should clarify that I actually really like hardware stores. But the problem is I walk in and immediately get distracted. I see things I think I should have in our house- things adults have in their homes, like WD-40 and carpet stain remover and really cool flashlights-those kinds of things that somehow signify adulthood in my mind. I walked by the wood and shelving unit and saw the door handles and power-drills and I got all kinds of ideas about how to change and re-do and add stuff to our little house. Mind you all of these ideas are just that, ideas, because in reality I don’t think I am that well skilled at do-it-yourself home projects.
I finally made it to the Paint Department where I expected to pick up a can of white paint, some brushes and be on my merry way. Imagine how shocked and overwhelmed I was when I found out that in fact there are 32 shades of white! I stood there dumbfounded as I flipped through the samples of white. There was <span style=”font-style:italic;”>bone white, dusty white and quiet white. Not to be confused with new canvas, pita bread or heavenly sand. My favorite: gentle bluff! Really, I mean what color is a gentle bluff? For the sake of making a decision, I finally settled on distant white.
And then the helpful man with the long, gray ponytail behind the counter asked me:
“What sheen do you want?
Huh? I just stood there and stared at him. What the heck is sheen? Obvious to him now, I had never purchased paint before. He patiently explained the differences between high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin, egg-shell, etc. I reluctantly settled on satin (not really having a preference). I purchased my sandpaper and brushes and 40 minutes later made my way back home.
Now, this project is not yet done. I am learning that sanding and painting and re-painting take a long time- not exactly fun or easy. But I have been thinking a lot about all those shades of white paint. It’s interesting to me that I just assumed white paint is white paint. I don’t really ever notice different shades or pay attention for that matter. And I wonder how often how I approach my day or my life in the same way? I wonder how often I make assumptions, and look at people and buildings and bus stops and cars and only see what’s right in front of me, instead of seeing what’s underneath the surface or the story behind someone or something.
It’s funny, I was in Guatemala for less than 2 weeks, but something about being away helps me see more clearly and live more holistically. It helps me see the shades of life that may go unnoticed sometimes. Those subtle differences and nuances that you can only appreciate when you stop and slow down and really, really look.
I sometimes wonder what it is like to see things and people through God’s eyes. In all his creativity he must see every detail on a tiny ladybug and appreciate the wrinkles on a weathered face from years of working in the sun. And I bet that He sees more than 32 shades of white, too.