“Behold, I make all things new.”

If you’ve purchased any of my pieces, you may have noticed a small stamp on the back with these words:

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When I started building in 2009, I was having what I’m sure some were saying was a midlife crisis…at age 30. I had quit a secure office job without having my next steps figured out. Going through a really dark period before this almost destroyed me, and I knew I needed to be doing something daily that was more fulfilling – something where I felt like I could be authentic and express my voice.

When you’re in high school, getting voted “Most Artistic” may not mean much at the time, but while trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, it came to mind as the little whisper quietly affirmed, “I’ve given you a gift. Use it.”  I knew I wanted to do something with art, but I wasn’t sure what to do. But I did know I was focused on finding out if what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote would actually help. “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. Living is so dear…”

So I went to the woods of Vermont for the summer. And built. And found my niche.  And found out what it meant to live deliberately. To go from intentionally shortening your life to learning to value each day as a gift, it was life changing more than words can ever say. And going to the woods still is healing beyond words. I thank God for the gift of being able to create and build. I don’t take it for granted, nor do I take any sale for granted. I don’t make much, but you can’t put a price tag on doing what you love, especially if that’s what you feel called to do.

The history of Nature Calls isn’t what’s important here. The ‘why’ behind it is.

Art rescued me while I was being bullied in middle school. Kids can be ruthless at that age. I knew if I wanted to go my art lessons at the Wortendyke Studio, I’d have to ride the dreaded Midland Park bus one day a week. The bullies were predictable. I knew that they’d yell from the back of the bus all the way to where I had slunk down in my seat, trying to hide as they made fun of my facial features in front of a bus full of my peers. I knew I’d get spit on as the bus pulled away by the same kids, now launching different kinds of physical insults through the open windows.  I would sit on the bus and pray to God that they’d ignore me. Most days, they didn’t. But art meant so much to me that I didn’t stop going to the studio. Working on a piece after a bus ride like that would calm me. And my relationship with God got stronger during that period of my life – while other kids didn’t stand up for me, I knew I wasn’t alone on those bus rides.

Art rescued me once again years later after I had completely lost sight of my self-worth and value.  It was more than years of bullying that had shredded that. I had somewhere along the way forgotten that God loved me, just as I was, not the person I thought I should be. For years, I had hid behind a happy smile and a job that I thought I should be doing while secretly battling an eating disorder that was killing me. Even after over a month of inpatient treatment, it still took years to make the change I knew was necessary. So when I finally mustered enough courage and stopped worrying so much about what others would think of me, I quit the things I knew were safe and cautiously stepped out in faith…finding that the floor was still there under my feet.

Given the ‘why,’ it is important for me to share why I do what I do with every piece that I make. In the Bible, God says in the book of Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new.” 

Every piece I make is out of reclaimed materials – something that someone else discarded, saw as junk, thought worthless. I dust it off, sand it, refine it – never altering its natural state – and the end product is something I find beautiful and unique.  It isn’t lost on me that this is what my Creator does with me daily.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  I can’t help but think of this while I build, especially when I see a finished piece. I think of the dilapidated barrel that someone discarded because it no longer sealed liquid, now in front of me as a sought-after chair. I think of the pallet put out for bulk trash that is now an owl wall rack in the room of a precious two-year old, holding her treasured books. “Behold, I make all things new.”

I’m not who I was before I believed in God. I’m also not who I was before I truly learned, after being in such a dark place, what His grace really means. The cross has changed my world view. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done.  But it doesn’t mean that moving forward, I’m not going to be without sin or suffering or not battle the demons of my past. The difference is that I have hope. My name is written on His heart.

So this is why I build. It reminds me of my value, not in this world, but in God’s eyes. It makes me genuinely happy, even if I accidentally cut my hand or drop a pallet on my bare feet (after the initial pain wears off). And I am thrilled when I see other people happy with what they’ve purchased. This is my small, simple ministry.

And when you see those small words on the back of your piece, my hope is that you have…hope.

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About Mel

My name is Mel, and I split my time living, working and playing in southeastern Pennsylvania and southern Vermont. I'm a reclaimed wood artist who loves to continually find ways to repurpose wood and give it new life. "Nature Calls: Reclaimed Wood Designs" is my business dedicated to doing that! Thanks for stopping by!
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4 Responses to “Behold, I make all things new.”

  1. Karen Barber says:

    Melanie, thank you for sharing so openly from your beautiful heart. It’s no surprise that the beauty that comes from you was formed by pain. However, I must tell you that I find you to be one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. INSIDE, yes, (the best part is that you were so beautiful but you were very down to earth) but I am talking about the OUTSIDE. I always think to myself that you could have been a movie star. I have always found you to be breathtakingly beautiful from the first time I saw you. I am not trying to flatter you here, I just want you to know that. That is all. And I am so excited about what you created for us, which will now mean even MORE to me after reading your pilgrimage. What you wrote also makes me realize why Keith and I are so thrilled with the kitchen of our new house. We almost didn’t buy it because of the dismal kitchen – the most important room of any house. 🙂 The cabinets were dark and greasy and ugly for lack of better words to describe it. However – they had good bones and were originally custom built for this kitchen. So we priced out new ones and quickly decided to put in the elbow grease to save the old ones, knowing we would save real walnut instead of spending uber dollars to have particle board covered with contact paper. 😉 It took us over a month of spare time to complete them but now – with new countertops and backsplash I love this kitchen more than I ever thought possible. It’s because we made old things new!!! What a great spiritual application. Next year we will be working on the outside of our new house, and I know I want one of those hanging tables at LEAST, but probably more. It will probably mean a trip for us….since if we buy bigger stuff it will behoove us to come and get it. 🙂 You were always beautiful to me, such a sweet, lovely person, but now, after reading your story, you are even MORE beautiful. God is so good.

    • Mel says:

      Thanks so much, Karen…it’s been amazing to see how God takes circumstances and situations that we think are ugly/are ashamed about, and he uses them for his glory. And I love your story about your kitchen! I’m so glad you kept the real walnut. That’s awesome!!!! God IS good…thanks for the encouragement today.

  2. Libby says:

    You inspire me, Melanie! I am glad that you have gotten past the hurt and have learned to shine through your wonderful, whimsical creations and through your love of God. I will carry your wise words with me and try me best to follow suit. xoxo Libby

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