Friday, April 29, 2011

A random thought came, as God thoughts do

The other day I got myself in such a dither, I had to take a time out.

It was my last chance to make a revision in my manuscript before its final edit. For days I had been agonizing over a change that involved some people I had written about. I scrutinized my motives, examined my heart, and submitted myself to Holy Spirit conviction. Still, I couldn’t come to a decision, mainly because I didn’t want to hurt the primary person involved.

My stomach was in such a knot I plunked myself down in a chaise lounge, set my face toward the sun, and said, “Lord, I give up. You know the situation. I can’t come to a decision, so I’m going to sit here and clear my mind, and expect to know what to do when I get up.”

A random thought came, as God thoughts do. I started thinking about the title of my friend, Lori Roeleveld’s book, Far From the Tree. I had read the first few chapters but didn’t know who the villain was. I toyed with whether he (?) was close to another character, as in “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” or whether he was far removed as in, “the apple fell far from the tree, this time.”

In the midst of my musing, the phone rang. Lo and behold, it was the person in my book I was most concerned about. After chatting a few minutes, I plunged in and asked what they (I know it’s supposed to he or she, but choose to ignore correctness for obscurity) thought about my concern. Their immediate response surprised me.

“I think that’s good. In fact, it’s better.”

Just like that. No issue. No reason for days of angst, anxiety, and anxious thoughts. Then, as though that weren’t reason enough to know God heard my prayer, in the midst of the conversation, my friend said, “Yeah, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Well, I still don’t know who the villain is in Lori’s book, but I do know this: The Lord delights in answering prayer, and sometimes, He just can’t resist topping it with His signature flourish, no matter how random it seems.

Oh why, do I spend days fretting and fuming?

“Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.”—Psalm 116:7

Friday, April 22, 2011

The renovation winds down, the marriage survives, and God redeems a bad decision

Did you ever worry that you made a terrible decision and wondered if God would ever make it right? I did. My last three years read like a synopsis on the fall of woman:

1. Situated nicely—money in the bank, health solid, friends, and fame (well, not so much that). Wanders south to buy a house. (Husband trusts her judgment, lets her go alone.)

2. Beguiled by a blue plastic liner, buys a swimming pool with 100-year-old house attached.

3. Suffers consequences of bad decision: discovers rotten floor boards, broken water pipes, smelly wallpaper, mold and decay. Overwhelmed by magnitude of task, relationship with spouse and only friend within 700 miles strains, health suffers from sleepless nights, renovation consumes finances, jobs elude grasp, Lord does too.

This last renovation nearly did us in. I was big on vision but short on wisdom. (The yellow duct tape holding the front door frames together should have been a clue). Not only had I underestimated the financial costs, but also the emotional and psychological ones as well.

The dreadful realization we were over our heads stared us in the eye at three in the morning; it ate with us on paper plates of take-out; it sucked our joy, our strength and our vision. We didn’t know anyone, had no friends to come over and help carry sheets of plywood, or advise us, or cheer us on. I was known in the neighborhood simply as the lady with the dumpster.

I felt as though the Lord had left me to my mess, and I couldn’t see our way out.

I thought of how His disciples, friends, and family must have despaired to see Him hanging on that cross, to see Him die. The end, the hope, the king is dead. What now? Go home and wonder.
Mournful silence for three days.

Until that morning…God trumps death! He up and leaves the rocky tomb. And He makes a way for us to follow. That’s the great ending to the story: fallen, yes, but then redeemed, restored. Alleluia!

Meanwhile, as we undergo our sanctification, our stripping, and ripping, He sustains us. He reminds us that He is a God of restoration, of hope, and of redeeming bad decisions.

That’s what we had to keep in mind during the days of the Monster Restoration.

One day Bob brought home a bouquet of zinnias. We shook the sheetrock dust off the plastic covering the couch, overturned a box, lit some candles, found a classical music station on the Bose, and decided to reclaim our vision.

“That arch looks great.”

“So do the new ceilings. The wood flooring will be in next week.”

“It’s fifty degrees here; they’re having a blizzard in Vermont.”

“I peeked under the pool cover today. The water’s still blue.”                     
entry before
entry after

fireplace wall before
fireplace after

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Renovated woman takes down a wall .

That wall had annoyed me since the day we moved in, particularly because it blocked the light from the one large window on the other end of the long, narrow basement room. Every time I went downstairs, I envisioned the wall gone. The problem was, that rated among the bottom fifty projects on my husband’s to-do list. 

Finding myself home alone one weekend, I decided to face my giant. What was the worse that could happen, anyway? Armed with a hammer, I marched into the basement.

For a few moments we stared at each other—the wall and me. Finally, screwing down my courage, I swung. Chunks of sheetrock crumbled and fell. I was committed. Piece by piece I stripped it down to the studs, leaving the ones that had wires running through them for my husband. The rest I dismantled, being fairly certain they weren’t holding up the first floor.

Sunlight flooded into the newly opened space. I realized the main obstacle that had stood between me and a renovation project more complex than paint and wallpaper was fear—fear of the what if’s. What if I messed up? What if I broke something? What if I started and couldn’t finish?  What if my husband got mad?

Now these are certainly things to consider—it especially helps to know the temperament of your spouse— but they are not insurmountable. So what if I screw up? It is my house. Broken things can be fixed. Once free from the paralysis of the what-if’s, I was able to tackle other projects, like tiling the bathroom.

(Granted. Most people don’t mix tile mortar with the kitchen mixer. But when you’ve finally gathered up your courage and given yourself the it’s-my-house-I-can-do-what-I-want pep talk, there’s no turning back—even if you’ve overlooked a few things, like the right tools. But I digress…)
Being paralyzed by the what-if’s happens in all kinds of situations. I worry, fret and stew about making the wrong decision, about where to go and what to do, about God’s will for me.

But God says to ask for wisdom and He will give it. He says to seek His face and walk by faith. He says to make plans and He will direct my steps. And if I make a mistake?  Can He not work all things to good?  Are His mercies not new every morning? Can He not hook His rod and His staff around me and set me upright?  Is His arm too short to save?

I had to laugh this morning while reading 1 Kings. Elijah taunts the Baal worshipers for their god’s lack of intervention—“…Either he is missing, or has gone aside on a journey, or he’s asleep…”

But Elijah’s God, and my God, is ever-present. He is my Helper, and by his grace, I will not be afraid to tackle that which is before me.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Renovated woman

 You’ve seen them—those Do It Yourself project books and TV shows featuring a perfectly groomed woman mortaring a tile backsplash or painting a wall without a speck of splatter. Let me warn you about the truth behind the camera shot—renovation is messy business.
I have to admit though, I have an affinity for fixer-uppers. It’s not that I am intentional about this, but if there are ten houses for sale in a particular area, my internal GPS will go straight to the one in need of repair. 

Perhaps it is because lived-in houses exude a well-worn comfort like soft cotton sheets or old jeans. Perhaps it is because they often occupy pleasant properties—ones with rambling shrubs, lofty trees, and overgrown flower beds. Or perhaps it is simply because I am compelled by a need to restore, to make order, and to make beautiful—God’s little handywoman imitating her Father. 

Fortunately, I am married to a patient and clever man who shares, or at least, bears, my vision. He went along with me when I bought a pink house--pink inside and out, but I almost lost him on this last renovation. This one cost us more than we anticipated, but it did teach me a lot of lessons, which I am happy to pass along. So for the next few blog posts, I'm going to share how to keep your husband, your sanity and your joy in the Lord while being renovated in the process of renovating, because God too, is in the renovation business.

He is making us beautiful. He is making us one with Jesus, the Perfect One so that our hearts reflect Christ’s love, our minds His thoughts, and our characters His character. But this is not always a tidy process, nor is it cheap. It cost the Father the life of His Son. It will cost us the right to our own self-interests. And we don’t give that up easily. The question is—are we willing to surrender ourselves to the Master Carpenter? 

He doesn’t cut corners or patch up old holes. He strips us to the core and builds us anew. Sometimes we get impatient and discouraged as we undergo this life-long process. 

 But slowly and surely, we begin to see the picture of His face on the walls of our house, and as we move from glory to glory we look to that final day when He “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory . . .” (Philippians 3: 21).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Marching on top of mulberry trees

I consider myself a rather sober sort. Sensible, circumspect, not given to “seeing things.” But one afternoon last summer while lounging by the pool, I heard a rustling in the tops of the trees that line my property. Thinking a sudden wind was tunneling down the riverbank, I looked up and “saw” a troop of large, tall, angelic-size people walking along the treetops.

One turned toward me to speak to her partner. A thrill of fear lodged in my chest as I wondered what they would do if they saw me, but I quickly realized that whatever they were about didn’t concern me. After about a minute, they passed by continuing on their way south.

I have no idea what that was about or why I saw it. But yesterday, in my morning devotions, I came across a passage in 2 Samuel 5:24: “And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then bestir yourself for the Lord has gone out before you to smite the Philistines.”

Bestir myself. Not panic. Not run to and fro wondering what to do. But, quicken. Be on the alert to what the Lord is doing.

He goes before us, but we need to follow. 
Lord, may I not be dull to your spirit, to what you are doing. Open my eyes to see things unseen, my ears to hear your voice, my heart to feel your heartbeat, and my will to follow.