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DIY...Who's Your Master Builder?
So you think you can do-it-yourself...
I was very ambitious this past Christmas. My son the Marine was coming home for a visit and he was bringing his girlfriend up from Dallas to meet the family. Having lost my job in October, I had plenty of time on my hands and lots of projects on my mind. When our son Andy left home, the dog got mad. He made his displeasure known on multiple occasions in Andy's room. So much displeasure was made known that the only solution was ripping up the carpet. Underneath revealed a treasure of original hardwood flooring from the 1930's in nearly perfect condition. (I'll never understand why people cover that up.) Hours of backbreaking work later I had successfully pulled out all the carpet, patched the walls and was starting on the process of sanding and refinishing. Ten pounds later (I worked REALLY hard) and $200 poorer, I finished on schedule to the delight of my family who had suffered under dust and fumes during one of the coldest Decembers I can remember.
Ambition still strong, I decided on a smaller project...a gingerbread house, from scratch. Do not make light of this undertaking. It was just as hard as doing that floor, just on a smaller scale! But I endeavored to make it a family project and searched long and hard for the perfect recipe and style that was just big enough to look like something and not break the bank. Gingerbread houses are not cheap to make I can assure you. After the kids arrived I busied myself making gingerbread and royal icing with visions of sugar plums on the porch dancing in my head.
So whose house was this anyway? Hadn't I started this out to be a family project? The whole idea of my family surrounding the dining room table building this sweet work of art was exactly what I wanted, right? This project was going to be the bonding activity of a lifetime. No. Secretly, I wanted to make it my house, reflecting my awesome ability and grandiose vision of perfection. I wanted the family to ooh and ahh over what mom had done. I wanted to be a regular Martha Stewart. This was after all, my idea. And since no one had jumped in to help me make gingerbread I was going to do this thing. Even though part of me still wanted this to be a family project, as long as I could be the builder and general contractor, what I really wanted was to build was force-fed family time that would make me feel like wonder-mom too.
Once the walls were up, construction halted until the foundation was stable. Gingerbread house building is not a hurry-up build. Don't let it set up properly before adding each layer and it will collapse in on itself. The kids were out when the house was finally ready for trimming so I started on the roof. I consider myself to be a highly creative individual. I had redecorated the bedroom without much help and it got rave reviews. I delighted in showing it off any time I could. How much harder could this be? I am now convinced that God was going to use this gingerbread house as an opportunity to show me something I didn't want to be shown; because the minute I finished putting some icing across the roof, I hit the equivalent of catastrophic writer's block.
In the meantime, I had asked my husband Joe if he would like to help with the trimming. I explained that I thought it would be fun adding I appreciated his creative side. I think he was hesitant. Normally, he stays out of my projects and expects a strict hands-off policy on his. It's not that he can't or won't work collaboratively, he just prefers to focus on his own projects and affords others the same "courtesy". If you ask him for help, he'll oblige, but be ready to let go of the project and listen to his ideas. If you don't want Joe's help, don't ask for it. I appreciate his help the way some people can't but it takes a lot of sacrifice on my part to do so.
So I figure he hesitated because he was already anticipating that a collaborative project such as this was not going to bode well for us as a team! Historically, we have difficulty working together, both of us being very committed to our vision of the end result. More than one project has ended in a knock-down drag-out because I wanted to get involved in something he was doing or didn't like the unsolicited advice he was giving to mine. But he jumped in willingly and for the next three hours trimmed that house out with decadence, flair, and personal indulgence. He even carved a gummy bear in to a little Santa bear and put it on top of the chimney. With every piece of candy he applied to that house, despite whether I liked where it went or not, I was learning to take baby steps of faith and build it with him instead of in spite of him. Because I had hit a road block when he joined the project, I was not going to be able to finish it unless I let him help. And while the result was not what I originally wanted and it wasn't going to win any awards on Food Network, it was a labor of love that is still standing almost three months later.
It's a challenge building a home together. Being unemployed and underemployed, we struggle to makes ends meet. And yet God has continued to provide for us and we've not gone without. Last night at dinner I told my husband that in my first marriage, I had close to a six figure combined income yet barely had a pot to you-know-what in. Every dime went to my ex's drinking and I was constantly at the bank begging for overdraft mercy. One of the greatest gifts my husband has given me is the ability to trust him with our finances knowing he won't abuse them. This has been a great unburdening for my heart. I want to trust him with my children. But like building that gingerbread house, I have some pretty strong ideas about how children should be raised. Those ideas came from having to be in charge of that plus keep our heads above water for most of my adult life. Those kids were mine first - just like that gingerbread house project - mine. Hands off! I've been a parent longer than you!
But through that gingerbread house and letting Joe use his gifts and talents, God is showing me that I when I trust God to lead Joe as he builds our home according to the Master's blueprint, when I step aside and don't try to muck it up, what I think looks like a catastrophe in fact turns out to be a thing of wonder. That strong foundation is going to start with a firm grasp in the knowledge that it's God who is orchestrating the construction of our home - not Mary. And without His help, it might look presentable from the outside but on the inside it will lack beauty, structural integrity, and the stability to withstand the junk life throws at us. I'm learning that the more I let go and let Joe do his job according to God's plan for it, and do my part to complement his efforts, the better things work out and the stronger the house stands. I am learning that when I want to rebel against home improvement, in the end, God wins out because it's abundantly more than I could have ever imagined. Because when it's God's house, it's never a DIY project.