“I could never do what you’re doing.”
I’ve heard that line many times over the past six years.
My reply is always the same. “Neither can I.”
Many of you face unexpected circumstances, tragedies, or trials you wouldn’t choose for yourself in the great box store of life choices. You’ve also likely heard the comment from others. “I could never do what you’re doing.”
One of the more public tests I’ve endured began in 2011 when my husband “surprised” me with the purchase of his “dream.” We’re in our seventh year living inside this century-old dream he’s restoring with his own hands. For most of this time, I’ve lived without benefit of walls, floors or ceilings (you know, the frame is there but not the nifty coverings like wall board or flooring.)
My possessions, those items we gather through the years that reflect who we are, have been packed and stored away in one of two attics, since 1/01/11. We have a lovely functioning kitchen now, but that’s still the only usable room of the five on the first floor. The others are full of tools and materials or are mid-construction.
The second floor is livable now, but contains many of the large items that belong on the first floor, so my decorating resembles Mrs. Kim’s antique shop in The Gilmore Girls. One day, we hope to have heat on that floor. Got the picture?
My husband is an amazing craftsman. No one works harder than he does. No one. But, he didn’t expect to be diagnosed with a chronic illness two years into his dream. Or to be laid off from a job. He persists, though. He handles a day job (construction), and then works on our house – s-l-o-w-l-y – in the margins of life.
I cried for most of our first year in that house (okay, honestly probably for half of the second, too). I endured a depression I thought would destroy me. All my adult life, I’d been a home-maker. Home was central for this stay-at-home, home-schooling mom. Suddenly, I lived in an unadorned, stripped down box. I thought I was mature in the Lord but how quickly I unraveled with a change of address!
To enhance the experience, when Rob was without work, I was offered a stress-filled, full-time job. Life, for me, was upended, and to say I struggled is to say Democrats are miffed to find Donald Trump our new president.
This is impossible, I prayed. Over and over. This is too much. What wrong choice did I make and where? How do I follow my husband through this? He’s asking too much, Lord. You’re asking too much. I cannot endure this. My prayers for a year, while sometimes more eloquent, were essentially that.
When others said, “I could never do what you’re doing” I wanted to scream I can’t do this either. What makes you think I can? I can’t survive this. I won’t make it. This will destroy me.
Yet, here I am. And here I live. Still longing for a place with walls and floors, but God has used this experience to show me that He’s there in the midst of the impossible making it possible for me to survive and to thrive.
Stripped of the things that made, for me, a home – Jesus said, “I am your home. Make your home with me.” And so, I’m stronger now, in Him, because faith isn’t faith until you use it.
Freed from daily tasks like cleaning (which Rob handles because it requires a shop vac), entertaining, rearranging, or decorating, I write. I’ve written and published three books from this deconstructed house. Living without walls made space for God.
Needing support through my depression and through the construction, I learned to let others take care of me sometimes. That resulted in precious hours eating dinner with my parents. Kind financial gifts for writing conferences from dear friends. Meals cooked by church friends during editing frenzies. My adult children hosting holidays, helping with sheet rock, or enduring Christmas in a single room with a tiny tree, and still choosing to be with us. That Christmas I realized how strong our relationship is with our kids, and it was a true gift.
I’ve reached a “breaking point” numerous times, but always found Jesus waiting there to hold me up and restore my strength – even when that was annoying! I’ve grown mentally stronger. I’ve learned the danger of self-pity as well as some amazing coping strategies.
Rob and I are closer than ever now, but not before wading through some deep marital waters, seeking counsel, fighting it out, and sticking it out. We appreciate each other more. Bushwacked our way through the sawdust to a greater grace.
Part of the slow pace of our construction process is that he’s always available to help others, and that’s a strong suit in a man. As I age, I also appreciate a partner who takes a loving view of old and broken down things!
God inspired me to pray for those with worse situations, broadening my range of compassion. To exercise gratitude and grace even when things aren’t where I want them to be. To place more value in the home ahead of me than the one I will inhabit for this brief life. And not to take myself so seriously.
I wouldn’t choose it, but God’s used this old house to mold me, to further His work in me and through me.
Are you in an impossible situation? Many of you face situations far worse than mine, but this I know, God is there for you, too. None of us can do what we’re doing, but with Christ, all things are possible, even our impossible predicaments.
This isn’t a clever post. I just want you to know you’re not alone. We can love and live for Jesus and still endure impossible things. That’s all.
I’ve been living in a restoration project. Turns out, it was me all along.
Enduring hardship? Trying to persevere through tough times? This is the first book I wrote when the house was at it’s worst, and I was at my lowest. Still, God was at work. Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus)
— Lori Roeleveld (@lorisroeleveld) March 2, 2017