Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Layers of Transformation

We've been living in our house for a little over four years now.  So just about four years ago, a bunch of kind folks did us a solid and helped us move 20 minutes toward the church.  I promised them I'd invite them all over for pizza and to see our house once we finished working on it.  Ha!  Joke's on them...the work never ends.  That said, we are nearing a point where we aren't thoroughly embarrassed to have people in our house.  So maybe we'll be able to make good on that soon, though I've been thinking that for the better part of a year and a half now.

Over the years we've worked hard transforming the house.  We've painted walls.  We've painted ceilings.  We've replaced light fixtures and doorknobs and switches and outlets.  We've worked on flooring.  In one of my prouder moments, we stole half of our son's closet by opening a second door into our bedroom and putting up a wall in the middle.  He's a little bitter about that, but the truth is his closet is basically a black hole anyway, so he doesn't miss the extra space.

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We try not to get too close.
My favorite room (at the moment) is our sunroom, which we have decorated with a beach theme.  Like most rooms, we painted every square inch of it and redid the floor.  We painted the ceiling sky blue!  We even came up with a clever way to kinda sorta air condition it when we added a window to our den.  A strategically placed box fan and a prayer leaves the sunroom comfortable on all but the hottest of days.

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This is basically what we were going for.
The house feels like ours now.  The previous owners might recognize it, of course, but they'd also see the changes we've made.  I'm not 100% certain they'd like them, mind you.  And that's what got me thinking.

One of the most interesting things about doing extensive work inside a house is discovering what I might call layers of transformation.  It's like paint (or, in the case of a 1966 split level, wall paper, AKA the bane of my existence).  You're looking at the outermost layer, which someone painstakingly picked out and put up.  You don't like it, and you want to change it.  But underneath it is another layer, which was also painstakingly picked out and put up...and was similarly despised by the person before you.  Throughout most of our house I've found evidence of at least three previous transformations.

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People in the 60's made interesting choices.
Point is our house has something of a life story.  It was built, and then it became, and then it became again.  Now it is becoming once more.  What has guided its transformation?  You wouldn't be wrong if you said its owners.  Clearly we have made the choices here, and just as surely as I question the judgment of some of the previous owners, some future owner will no doubt scratch her head and wonder just what on earth possessed us to paint a ceiling blue.

But it's not just the owners or current taste and fashion (not that I would be able to speak to taste and fashion anyway).  It is requirement.  The house has become what people needed it to be.  I'll give you an example.  When we moved in, the stairs up and down had a rail on both sides.  This was because the previous owner was elderly, and years before had been caring for her even more elderly mother.  They needed the extra rails to get up and down the stairs.  But those same rails in the hands of sprightly children (and, to be honest, their father) became a launching pad of sorts, used to send us flying from the top of the stairs to the waiting floor below.  It's just as exhilarating as it sounds.

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And also just as annoying to mama...
The house we are living in has become what it needed to be for each person who has lived in it.  It has adapted.  I'd imagine if houses could feel pain and emotions, it would have hurt from time to time.  We cut a new window into it.  And a door.  We changed it.  Sometimes just on the surface, and sometimes deep inside.  We were not the first.  Our kitchen was refaced in the 90's.  We won't be the last.  Our house will one day need to be something else for someone else, changed by those in its orbit.

We aren't so different.  We in a constant state of change, becoming, growing, adapting.  We are transformed by those in our orbit.  That's why mama always said you needed to choose your friends carefully.  It's not just that the people around you can get you into trouble.  It's that if you're around trouble long enough, you start to cause it on your own.

This is a good news/bad news situation, this constant transformation.  The bad news is that you don't get to "arrive."  There's never a moment where you can say, "Great!  I've done it!"  If you do somehow manage to attain perfection, maybe pride of achieving it is the first step away from it.  I don't know...perfection is above my pay grade.  I just know that being the best me is a constant struggle.  But that's also the good news!  If the struggle continues, then there is also forgiveness and grace.  If you mess up, you aren't stuck forever.  You can transform once more and become.

If you could peel back the layers like that God-forsaken wallpaper, you could see who we have been--better, and worse.  But you could also then clearly see and appreciate the gift unfailing Grace and the triumph of the Spirit.