Reclaimed and Restored

by Jacqueline Sarauer

I remember the first moments of my second college experience vividly.

“Are you a graduate student?” an undergraduate asked as I stood still to have my student I.D. photo taken. My reply was simple: “No, but I hope to graduate this time,” and with a bit of amusement and embarrassment I lowered my head because I had dropped out 20 years ago. She, knowing nothing about my situation, just grinned and took the picture.

The catalyst for leaving school all those years ago was living with the symptoms of PTSD, a story better told in a therapist’s chair or over a whipped cream-covered drink in a coffee shop.

I loved college, but I wished tests were not involved in the process because I failed a lot of them—including the entire Psych 101 class. So, in January, with determination and a pack of highlighters, I will take down psychology until it raises its white flag. To ensure a passing grade, three months ago I started to study ahead. I have five books scattered around my bed, with titles like Psychology for Dummies. I will write out notecards reminding me what the frontal lobe does or about Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning Theory. I will ask my daughter—using the incentive of lunch at Panda Express—to quiz me until we both start to yawn.

I am creative at heart and in practice through our ministry at Meraki Tent. It is invigorating to me to sand wood, nail things together, sew - and let’s not forget paint! Learning, I’m finding, is just as invigorating. Finishing school is important to me in the same way that building my kitchen table with old barn wood was—because they’re both things that can be restored.

But a “She Shed” full of tools cannot take away the memories that stain the way I see the world. My fear can’t be sanded out as easily as the table where I will place my homemade stew. It can’t be quilted into the blanket I will sew for my grandchildren. However, this is the intersection where I meet God, my fear, and His creativity. Echoes of His songs are heard when I am recreating furniture that has already lived a full life in someone else's dining room, re-purposing wood found in old rustic barns, or making quilts from floral, vintage sheets.

If I was created in the image of God, this is where I find myself: living in the art of His generous paintbrush, with which He created an entire rainbow of colors that find their homes on animals, people, and all throughout His universe. He created fireflies, the sound of thunder, the light of the moon, and the heat of the sun. This is the place where I dance into new memories, cry healing tears, and find rest for my mind.

The wood He used, from a tree He grew, was used to restore and make all things new, and at the feet of Jesus, I hear a loud beat, the hammer of His body being nailed to a tree. He could have removed the nails and restored His torn skin, but He didn’t. Instead, He turned their weapons into His masterpiece called restoration.

When I throw my cap—the words “at last” emblazoned into the top in rhinestones—into the air on graduation day, I won’t just be celebrating graduation. I’ll be reminded of the place where no Psychology 101 syllabus could bring me: to the Creator, who used a pack of nails and creativity to put me on the path of healing and worship.