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THE PORCH SWING

Jane M. Phinney | June 22, 2020 |


It was June 1990. We left Colorado in sweatshirts, bound for a new life in the desert. On the third day, we arrived in Phoenix to be greeted by 111 degree temperatures as we unloaded the moving truck. There wasn’t a dry inch of clothing on our bodies! Our helpers were a no-show so I was not all that impressed by my introduction to Steve’s co-workers. I cynically retorted to my honey, “I think you’ve moved me to _ _ _ _.” (You fill in the blanks.) To be clear, it is not the place I plan on spending eternity. 😊 As the days progressed, the heat rose, steadily climbing to 118 & finally landing at a staggering 122! The redeeming factor was that the house we rented had a pool. And we were in it most of every day. After the first 2 weeks, I got a little smarter when my skin looked like a roasted coffee bean. I learned that there was a good reason most AZ residents stayed out of the sun & why kids wore t-shirts over their swimming suits. And I also learned about heat warnings & staying inside.

Although my honey had to work on my birthday that year, he surprised me with a beautiful wooden porch swing mounted on a steel frame to commemorate both the day I was born & the day we were married. I had never had anything like this in my life & I was sincerely shocked. For a long time, we left it in its natural state. But as the heat would have it, we decided to protect it with paint. In the moves throughout the past 30 years, the swing came with us…every time. At one point we ditched the frame & decided to hang it from the patio ceiling.

Just 2 weeks ago I decided it was time, again, to clean up the swing & give it a fresh coat of paint. One thing led to another. Between an ineffective sander & my elbow “grease” working two different scrapers, the layers started peeling off. There is more of my father in me than I knew because once I started seeing the bare wood, I couldn’t leave it until I’d done the best I could to prepare the old swing for its new look.

A unique thing happens as you work outside in nice weather, with birds chirping all around you & a retriever at your feet. You start remembering. And nostalgia takes over. I think I peeled off 3 layers this time, because as I recall, we painted that swing multiple colors, depending on our accent theme. The funny thing is, Packer never moved. The paint chips started going everywhere, including all over him. Never mind the distraction or inconvenience. He was just happy to be laying at my feet. I found the scene to be rather endearing! He is more loyal & accepting than some people I know.

As I removed the old to prepare for the new, I remembered the houses & the locations of the swing. It started out off-white & then was upgraded to country blue. Chocolate brown followed but didn’t last as long as the hunter green. And for the last 10+ years, it’s been a muted brick red…definitely my favorite! It was because of the swing that we originally started having “porch time.” As such, the swing has become somewhat of a generational icon in my mind & will probably be passed down. God only knows how many issues were resolved, & plans discussed, while rocking in rhythmic abandonment. It was the swing that people sought out on the patio. It was relaxing, conducive to contemplation, & encouraged meaningful conversation. One of my favorite pictures, ever, with my Mom, was taken on the swing. The girls liked to read on it, & we sat there to watch them swim. Later we held babies on it, gently rocking as we talked to our married kids. As the grands grew, the swing became somewhat of a “ride.” They hung on for dear life, giggling as they soared, when Opa pushed them. But hands down, my favorite memories on the swing with my honey are our first 5 years in Kansas. After 30 years of being citified, we were quite taken by the peace & quiet of evenings outside. Rocking together became our after-dinner ritual, watching the sun set & the stars come out. The wind blowing through the corn field across the road sounded exactly like ocean waves. A star-lit sky is mesmerizing all by itself. Swinging contentedly in the crook of my honey’s arm…well, there is no need for words. You just are, together in oneness before the Almighty who made it all.

I am not one to be attached to stuff for the sake of acquiring more of it. But I am sentimental because of memories associated with the people I love or the things we did together. Hence my warm feelings about the porch swing. Or our picnic table, once belonging to my parents & now nearing 50 years old. It too will be getting a new coat of paint because they just don’t make them like this one anymore. More importantly, lifelong memories were birthed around that table, from coffee times in Iowa to 4th of July barbecues & parties in Arizona & Kansas. Scattered throughout our home are many reminders of family who paved the way for us...parents, grandparents, & even great-grandparents. That is important to me. It’s a tribute to God’s faithfulness, passed down over the years through imperfect people who tried their best to make right decisions on behalf of their family. The “stuff” stimulates memories of love & sacrifice and therein lies its intrinsic value.

Whether your memories are positive or negative, God’s redemption can make them valuable assets. If you don’t have any “stuff” to pass down, start investing in your own relationship markers now. We do convey messages to family & friends by our attitudes toward possessions, by our stewardship of them, & by the memories associated with them. I’m not talking about hoarding everything you’ve ever been given. I am referencing a heart awareness of another’s response to externals that reinforces Biblical Truth & knits people together for eternity. Psalm 78 encourages us to share what we have been taught by prior generations, telling our children the praises of the Lord, & His strength & wondrous works. They in turn tell their children…to put their confidence in God, to not forget His works, & to keep His commandments. That is the only eternal value in external possessions. It isn’t about how much you have that matters. It’s about what you do with what you’ve been given, pursuing life-changing opportunities to the glory of God.

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