I am not sure what locks all those keys on his key chain opened, and you know, I really don’t think he knew either. You could hear my dad coming by the sound of the keys on his key chain. He had more keys than a school janitor or prison warden. As a young teen, on Sunday mornings, I could hear him come back in the house from fetching the newspaper at the end of our long driveway. By the time I got down the stairs, he had pulled my favorite sections for me: Dear Abby, the Comics, and Straight Talk. Even as employees, we could hear him shuffling down the hall as he managed to find the appropriate key to unlock our office suite.
More memorable than the sound of his keys, was the multi colored ornament attached. It was a big loop of green, red, black, and blue string all knotted together, or as a seven year old may say, “braided.” A regular attendee of Vacation Bible School, I was always excited about the crafts we would make during the week. Typically VBS fell during June which meant our projects were often intended to be Father’s Day gifts. This particular year , we were making key chain “hangy doodle” things. The teacher guided us on how to make a flat braid bracelet where all our chosen string colors would neatly show. After we finished making the bracelet part, she would attach a key ring. The perfect gift for dad.
I could not wait to get started. This was going to be awesome. Within minutes, however, I knew my “hangy doodle” did not look like the teacher’s display. Unable to loosen my knots, I made the decision to just keep going. Perhaps mine would just have a little flair to it. I continued on till my string ran out, and by the time I was done I had created a lovely loop of knots. (Unlike my brothers who were actually learning to tie real knots in Boy Scouts, this was completely unintentional.) I knew it was ugly. Too shy to do anything about it, I quickly concealed my creation and moved on to areas where I excelled in, like singing the “Father Abraham” song in the sanctuary and snack time. I was always above average in the area of graham crackers and Kool-Aid.
At the end of the week, I sheepishly presented my dad with his “prize.” I hoped he would not realize what it was actually intended to look like. Surely he had not seen the teacher’s model. His eyes lit up. He told me, “Dorothy, honey pot, this is exactly what I have been NEEDING and WANTING!” I grinned. My disbelief and insecurity over my creation quickly ceased as he dug his keys from his deep pockets and attached the knotted mess to it. He continued on, “and it’s perfect too, because of the bright colors, I will not so easily misplace my keys.” I was thrilled! Maybe my creation WAS the Picasso of VBS artwork.
My “artistic” hangy doodle stayed on his key ring until his death. For over two decades, my father carried that ugly key chain like it was a fine leather good from Louis Vuitton. He didn’t just use it for a short time to please me, then have it find a home with Old Yeller—he treasured it. And not because it was a treasure itself, but he counted the value of it in it’s maker. He treasured it because he treasured me. He valued his beloved wife, his two sons, and his chubby little girl.
This week brings intentional focus to blessings and thankfulness as we celebrate Thanksgiving. I cannot tell you that my heart does not long for different circumstances and yearn for things that are not, but I feel armed with the power and strength of our Lord. My sister in love gave me a bracelet shortly after dad’s death that has a charm depicting a shield. She and the bracelet remind me of God’s daily protection. To be, “Shielded in the Armor and Grace of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-18.) With that armor, I am free to live and walk in grace, mercy, and love. My treasure is not in what is only available on this Earth. Gosh wouldn’t that be lame if the best things got were the deals available to us on Black Friday? I am free to put my value in things eternal. My thankfulness is rooted in His rescue of my soul. With this as my root, my real value can be placed in something greater.
I removed the “hangy doodle” from his keys a few days following his death and added it to my bracelet jewelry collection. Much like the shield charm, it points me to something more. My father valued me so much that it did not matter what kind of a knotted mess I presented to him. He saw beauty. He saw a treasure. Sweet friends, that is how our Heavenly Father sees us. He invites us to the Table with our knotted up “hangy doodles” of lives and sees beauty. WE ARE HIS TREASURE. Oh, let us believe it!! Let us come to Him with TRUE thanksgiving!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.”(Psalm 100:4)
So what if there is no diamond on my left hand?! Sweet friend, so what if Santa does not bring you those diamond studs you are just dying for?! (I promise you were not good enough to earn them) The value God gives us is SOOO much more than any piece of jewelry we can own! How awesome is that!?!