It all started with the bathroom ceiling. We couldn’t figure out how to fix it.
In this part of the world the basement is more than a foundation. It is a well-used part of the house. We had a bedroom, partially finished bathroom/laundry room, storage/utility room, craft room, and family room with a big stone fireplace down there. Since it’s not the part of the house that students and guests usually see, it has received the least attention as far as repairs and maintenance go. But we fixed the leak last summer and had an unexpected provision of income this year so we decided it was time to tackle the basement.
I just wanted a proper bathroom with a ceiling, and maybe a shower. It would be nice if the ugly dark water-stained wallboard in the bedroom and hallway could be replaced with Sheetrock while we were at it.
We have a super carpenter (he happens to be our son and already did a splendid job on the kitchen and roof). He asked us to empty three rooms and a storage area of all the stuff hidden away in there. My daughter and daughter-in-law and close friend helped sort, toss and recycle.
I found things I didn’t remember we had. It was like seeing my life pass before my eyes. It’s tough to say goodbye to objects from times of my life that are no more.
-Boxes of music books and teaching aids.
-Crafts the kids made or gifts students gave me.
-Sports equipment that makes me shrug and walk away.
-Craft and sewing projects that would be merely quasi-useful or unappreciated if I ever did manage to finish them.
-Perfectly good collections of stuff that could be quite useful if I had the inclination to actually fix or re-purpose them.
-Camping equipment that will probably not come out of the bins because my husband still hates camping – and it definitely fails the five year guideline (“If you haven’t used it in two years, it goes, Mom.” We bargained it up to five years because I hope to get back on my cross-country skis someday.)
-Things that reveal how much I live in fear of having to scrounge to survive in the future.
-Books I think someone besides me should read. (I just haven’t met them yet.)
-Movies you couldn’t pay me to watch again.
-Cleaning supplies that were not as magical as promised. Apparently they required application and effort.
-Baby items, in case one of the kids changes his or her mind.
-Research for the novel I never finished.
Mourning was involved.
We bagged and boxed and the guys took it all down to the thrift shop or the dump. Then the gutting began. With the walls, and toilet, sink and old washer and dryer gone and with the musty flooring peeled back and scraped off and everything we kept piled ceiling high in the family room it looked very different. The carpenter kept telling us about more uncovered discoveries that needed to be fixed, moved or replaced.
The basement is a mess. It’s been gutted. Down to the concrete. Torn apart. Jack-hammered in parts. Stinky, because pipes had to be moved. Dusty, because who cleans pipes and vents? Mouse poopy, because apparently we entertained a family at some point in history.
“This is not up to code,” the carpenter said. A lot.
“This was maybe okay thirty years ago, but not now. Look, you’ve got a frost bubble in that line to the outside faucet. We’ll need to take the mudroom wall out too.” He tore it down and took it away.
“You’re going to have to change some of your plans,” he sighed. He must have seen the look on my face. “Give me some time and I’ll come up with something. For one thing, I’ll give you more windows and better lighting and much more efficient use of space.”
So here we are in the basement, torn up, tossed out, piled up, stripped down and with limited electric power. I realized this mess in our basement, which also spills into the rest of the house in the form of black finger prints, concrete dust, and muddy footprints, (and as our neighbour complained yesterday, shows up in the yard in the form of neglected grass-trimming) is kind of symbolic of what has been happening in my life in the past year or two. I wanted a repair that would make improvements in function and appearance.
“Restore me, Lord,” I prayed.
God decided to gut me. He changed my plans. He pointed out areas that look fine on the surface but will not work in the long run.
He is not doing a restoration of the facade. He is working on the foundation. He is giving me more light. He is urging me to let go of old thoughts and desires and habits and replacing them with his version of something new (that I haven’t seen yet.) He is not merely repairing or restoring. He is renovating. Re-newing. Re-forming. When I think I know where He is going with this He points out how changing one area affects everything else in my life. More walls have to come down. New supports and headers have to go up. The job keeps growing.
I wanted a new clean comfortable “throne room”; He wants to build a palace fit for a King.
Sometimes I appear to be a mess. I am throwing out old assumptions. I am letting go of familiar ways of doing things. I have disappeared into the place of stored memories and come out smelling like poo pipes as I try to learn new ways of dealing with stuff that needs to be flushed. I don’t know how to do this. The mess spills over into other areas and sometimes I’m hot and tired and grubby and emotional and I take it out on innocent bystanders who are perfectly content with their tidy routines. Sorry about that.
I keep running into people who seem to be going through this same process of re-thinking and re-forming. It’s like seeing microcosms of a larger reformation popping up everywhere. What are you doing, Lord?
These folks are getting push-back though. Changes in thinking and operating affect balance in our relationships because it’s difficult to change without provoking defensiveness in others. The mess clean-up makes irritates other people, like a six-foot strip of untrimmed lawn annoys a neighbour, when they are just trying to maintain standards in the neighbourhood and are not in the mood for upheaval.
It’s painful and isolating, this gutting process. But I know the Master Builder. I’ve seen his work.
I trust Him.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)