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the slow unfolding work of home and heart

haven_magazine_kitchen_home_renovation

We moved into our cozy 1920s home two years ago this month, although it hardly feels two years of work have passed. When we purchased the property, the house was neglected and unsavory, stained from leaky faucets and uncleaned dirt. Indoors, it was infested with fleas; outdoors, it was infested with poison ivy (both of which we discovered after moving in). (You can see images here.) I still remember one of our friends walking through with us, wide-eyed, whispering  “don’t do it.” But the place was within our modest budget and located within walking distance of friends. We’ve renovated every home we’ve lived in, and the romantic in both of us wanted to uncover the beauty buried beneath it all. I suppose we love a good redemption story, and isn’t that what home renovation ultimately is?

I’m so honored when readers and friends leave comments or questions about things they love in our home, even though I sometimes lose the time to respond. As with most anything, it’s hard to see the progress while you’re living in it. Two years into this process, I would be lying to say this has been an easy journey, especially considering we have much more to go. We choose to live without debt, which simply means, everything occurs intentionally and slowly. Every dollar counts and has a purposeful place in our budget. But even that part can become exhausting, too. Some days, like in my mothering or marriage or homeschooling, I can only see the undone bits, the missing doorknobs or unfinished trim, the paint-splattered floors, the hole in the backsplash, or our missing bathroom mirror (all currently true of our home). If I’m not careful, these thoughts will suck me in like a gyre.

I’d prefer this renovation process Mary Poppins style, with the blink of an eye or the snap of a finger or something like that. Yet, if I’m honest with myself, there’s something so sweet about the slow unfolding of a plan (even the unplanned bits). Like working through umpteen reading or math lessons with my children, or the repeated conversations about kindness and gentleness toward others, or how we make our beds in the morning or wash a dish after a meal–all of the small redundancies accumulate. Hidden gifts live within anything that unfurls itself slowly, even when it beats against my impatience. A deeper gratitude. A greater compassion. A strengthened patience. Slowness leaves room for the interior work of my person.

Sometimes the images in our medias don’t tell the whole picture. They can’t. I’m writing these things out to remember but also to give context to our home and space. We all have limitations of sorts, and somehow must learn to live and work within them. We have three different (unplanned) countertops in our kitchen. We went the first year and half in our home without a dishwasher. We went six weeks without electricity in half our home. We went the first year without bedroom doors (and although we now have doors are still lacking doorknobs). We lived the first year with large slatted outdoor windows in our bedroom (it felt like camping). Our bathroom is still missing a mirror and fixtures. Is this necessary for everyone? No. Would I prefer it? No. Am I learning contentment where I am? Definitely.

When I recognize myself spinning with regret, disappointment, or want–because sometimes I do–here is a very practical thing I’ve learned to do: I take a loop through the home finding something in each space for which to say “thank you.” The words aren’t long or articulate. Thank you for these windows and natural light. Thank you for hardwood flooring. Thank you for bookshelves. Thank you for a space that holds our table. Thank you for soft beds. Thank you. It changes me. In a very small way, this practice of gratitude is renovating my heart, and I am learning patience and steadfastness with every unfolding.

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Haven Magazine recently published their second issue and within it an article I wrote on forgiveness–a more obscure lesson unfolding through our slow home renovation process.  The article is published with a favorite image my sister took of the kids and is wedged between handfuls of beautiful words and visuals from other mothers, makers, writers, cooks, and photographers I admire. If you’re interested, you can find a copy here.

ALSO : Our New Home | Working Hands: The Other Side of Our HomeschoolKitchen Phase 01 |  Kitchen Phase 02 

 

 

 

14 replies
  1. Kari
    Kari says:

    Great post! Question for you: what wood and/or stain did you use on your countertops? Love how they look and butcher block is the most affordable material for my mini-reno!

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Thank you, Kari. On the counters by the sink, we didn’t use a stain, we simply sealed them with clear polyurethane to protect from water damage. On the counters with the spice rack, we didn’t stain either, but we sealed them with a food-grade tung oil. I like the natural patina and soft finish it brought out in the wood, even though we have to reapply it every few months. It also works for the cutting boards. 😉

      Reply
  2. Lilian
    Lilian says:

    That old hymn still rings true now…count your blessings, name them ONE by ONE…count your many blessings see what God hath done…a thoughtful post Bethany…bravo.

    Reply
  3. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    I know this story well! We renovated our 1950 rancher completely before moving when it got too small for 4 kiddos. We are onto the process again in our new house. We just finished the basement after Christmas and the guest bathroom last week! It’s a process that I can become impatient with. I wish I could snap my fingers and find it done . . . or have all the money to do so. I must remind myself of the great blessing this home is at times, how perfect it is for our family and how God amazingly brought it into our lives! And be content in the inbetween!

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      We last renovated a mid-century ranch, too! It’s so encouraging to find others on this same journey, practicing patience and thankfulness. x

      Reply
  4. Erika
    Erika says:

    This was needed! I don’t necessarily find myself with things like door knobs or with different counters, but I do find myself with ones I don’t like. We, too, try to live debt free and renovations to a home that works but isn’t to my taste doesn’t make the top priority many times. It can be easy to fall into the comparison trap when I see such beautiful spaces on IG. Thank you fo sharing this!

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      There are honestly times I have to ask my husband to remind me of our financial goals, why we can’t simply DO a project and have to wait. It’s hard to do these things without debt, and yet so liberating and joyful when the time arrives to make it happen. Thank you for sharing, Erika.

      Reply
  5. Liz
    Liz says:

    We moved into our 90’s ranch knowing we had a lot to renovate, as well. I think i struggle with doing little-by-little because I’m afraid when I get it all done, I’ll have to start all over because there will be outdated bits again due to the length of time it took to renovate in the first place! I think what that points to is my inability to be content and grateful for the place I’m in right now. I need to spend a great deal of time praying about that. I loved this post, Bethany!

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      I know. The joy of moving slowly for me, is not having to make decisions where I’m not ready yet. With our kitchen, if we had finished it out as planned, there are things we would have allotted for and not needed, and then things/space I really want and use that might have not been accounted for. Does that make sense? Moving slowly through the projects helps us better choose long-lasting design and materials. Big hugs and high fives to you guys in the process, Liz. x

      Reply

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