I'm a lot like the house I fixed up.
by Kelly O'Dell Stanley
When my husband and I bought a new (old) house, people thought we were crazy. But I had a vision. Never mind that the kitchen had ugly gray paneling on the walls, yellow-flecked Formica® countertops, blue plaid wallpaper, and poorly arranged appliances and countertops.
It didn't matter that the living room was papered in a busy, rust- and gold-colored print with birds and carriages, and had worn, gold sculptured carpet covering the hardwood floors. The shape of the rooms and the transom windows and 10-foot doors were hard to see in all that clutter, but I knew they were there.
In my mind, I could see the end result—the mix of textures, the colors of the décor, the way I'd emphasize the architectural features, and the way the rooms would flow together. I knew it would be perfect.
Partway through the process, though, I became less sure. Much less. We had a whole house to redo. Although the lines were good, every surface needed something. Peeling up the shag carpet, we discovered a spongy residue that had to be scraped off by hand. Removing wallpaper revealed cracks we didn't expect. The cabinets weren't a standard depth, meaning the sink and countertop we'd purchased didn't fit without some inspired retrofitting. The filthy cast iron bathtub had to be smashed into pieces to be carried through the bathroom door. The electricians ran into one problem after another as they rewired, hung new lights, wired new outlets. We had to remove a lowered ceiling, haul off trash, wash and scrub and paint—and my hands, elbows and shoulders ached.
I developed tendonitis, and my doctor said I shouldn't paint. But I discovered that if I shook out my hands every little bit, I could manage 20 minutes at a time before the pain became excruciating. It was one thing after another after another, and I started to believe that the process would never end.
Glances into the Future
Walking through the debris covering the floor from the demolition and seeing the cabinet frames without the doors, cut apart for rebuilding, I was deeply discouraged. It was so much harder than I expected, and it took so much time. All my family and friends were helping—my husband worked on something every night when he got home from work, my friends brought bottles of wine and wallpaper scrapers—but I felt the weight of it all.
I didn't know what to do most of the time, and without the help of my dad, I never would have made it through. He came and patiently, creatively, thoroughly rebuilt the kitchen for me, one step at a time. If something didn't fit, we re-cut it. If something broke, we made a new one. Each task brought forward another problem, and each time, as I was ready to cry, my dad stepped back, thought for a minute, and presented a solution. He's an artist, and his father had been a cabinet-maker, so he knew how to build things. Sometimes our first attempt didn't work, so we'd have to try again.
I spent the summer wanting to cry, to curl up into a ball somewhere and never come out. But almost daily, my dad would call. "I'm on my way. Meet me over there?" I'd make excuses to my clients, change into old clothes, and walk the block to the new house to wait for him. Slowly but surely, the kitchen came together, and I loved the time we spent together, side by side.
I'm not even sure when it happened, when we finally turned the corner from disaster to improvement. But we did. Near the end of the summer, I was granted moments, glances into the future, insight into the finished product.
At first, they were mere glimpses, a view stolen through a keyhole. Eventually the view became wider, until whole rooms were complete. Paint cans were banished to the basement, we relinquished the trailer used to haul trash to the dump, and the to-do list shrank to just a couple items. Now the house is beautiful, stylish, and complete. But the most dramatic change, my favorite part, is my new kitchen. When I walk through it, I'm filled with wonder. Gleaming new countertops, colorful cabinets, pretty brushed nickel hardware, crisp white wainscoting, shiny floor. Cabinets and drawers properly positioned, appliances in the right place, straight corners and clean surfaces, and every detail as it should be.
My mom walked into the kitchen one day when we were nearly done and mused out loud, "I never thought it could look this good. Did you?" Yes. My dad and I did. We had our moments of doubt, our disappointments and failures and frustrations. But all the effort was worth it. I'm so proud of what we accomplished, and so is he. It's not his kitchen, yet he retains ownership of the transformation.
Reminds me of how God works with us. He sees something inside us—an inherent beauty, a solid structure—and he goes to work. The change isn't immediate, and sometimes things look worse before they start to look better. There are times when we're just downright ugly and a big ol' mess. But he's patient and creative and oh-so-thorough. If something doesn't work, he fixes it. If it's broken, he tosses it out and replaces it with something new. If it cracks, he makes a new one to replace it. The solutions are never what you expect, and sometimes the remodeling creates other, new issues to deal with. Yet he steadfastly continues the work he began, knowing the end result will be glorious, better than anyone ever imagined. He knows exactly what he's doing.
All he wants is to spend time with us, working side by side. All he asks is that we trust his abilities and yield ourselves to his vision. So we do, eagerly awaiting the time when we will see what he had in mind for us all along.
To read more of Kelly's writing, visit her blog the whole box of donuts.
"For I know what I have planned for you,'says the LORD.' I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope." (Jeremiah 29:11 .NET Bible)