Wednesday, September 7, 2011


The aisles of the antique store were crowded and tight together. Often times I would run into a dead-end and have to turn around and find a new path to the next row of potential treasures. I didn’t come to the store often…it’s located on a one-way street in a city about a half an hour away from my home. I only found myself here today because I was killing some time before I went to an antique auction being held in a gallery up the street. I had nothing particular in mind as I wandered. I simply love antiques and like to browse shops any time that I can.

I finally found myself in the back of the store where it appeared the owner simply unloaded stuff through his backdoor, waiting to be sorted and placed on the sales floor. As I looked around, an item caught my attention. It was an old antique armoire/wardrobe that was being used as a janitor’s closet. It wasn’t in really good condition with veneer pealing in a few places and a sagging bottom where cans of paint and cleaning supplies were haphazardly stacked. There was a price tag on it of $300…not a bad price for an older piece, but not a steal either.

I had started to keep my eye out for an old wardrobe about a month earlier when the owner of the antique mall where I have my space told me that he often converted wardrobes into display cases. In fact, he had just sold one that I had my eye on a few days before our conversation. At the time, I didn’t realize that it had at one time been an armoire. So as I looked at this old piece, I made sure that it was structurally sound (which it was) and took a few pictures. The following day, I sent them to my sister Deb for her feedback. As we talked, it seemed that it might be worth making an offer on the wardrobe.

The next day, I placed the call to the owner of the antique store and made him a reasonable offer which he accepted and made arrangement to pick the armoire up. It stood over seven feet tall and was more than six feet wide. My younger brother Geoff used his van and helped me pick it up and move it to his place where we were going to rebuild it into the display case.

For the next three months, I would make regular trips to my brother’s place as we planned to reconstruct the wardrobe. Off came the doors and the end panels that would be replaced with glass. The crown on the top was damaged so we redesigned it and found trim pieces that would give the old piece of furniture a new look. We devised a system of interlocking pieces on the front that would cover the slide rails for the new front doors. Finally, a colored was decided upon and week after week, the new case moved closer to completion.

As I reflect back on the transformation of the old, battered armoire that I found stuffed in the back corner of an antique shop, I realize that the journey that the antique piece took isn’t dissimilar to the transformation that takes place in people…certainly that took place in me. Rebuilding the wardrobe was NOT an easy process and at times it seemed like some invisible force was trying to prevent it from happening. Plans for free mirrors that ultimately didn’t work out. Glass panels for the ends that first broke, and then were cut the wrong size. Difficulty in finding the right kind of replacement hardware and locks. Unforeseen costs that kept adding up. While there was never a thought of giving up on the project, there were times when I wondered what the ultimate outcome would be.

Even as I write these words, my own life is a transformation. Like the antique armoire, at one time my life looked really good. I was successful, in a happy marriage, respected by peers and the community and it seemed that it would always be that way. But after a few bad choices, I found my own life seemingly discarded. Time in prison has a way of making you look at yourself differently and assuming that everyone else does too. Like the old armoire, it seemed that my life was no longer useful for much.

But transformation is an incredible process and sometimes it just takes some time and love for it to occur. There are a lot of people who have invested time and encouragement in me over the past four years. And I know that there is a God who is orchestrating all that is going on in my life. Like the armoire, there is great comfort in knowing that there are no plans for giving up on “this” project. But there is also wonderment on what the ultimate outcome is going to be.