A Matter of Perspective

20150130_100222Twisted.

Then untangled.

A matter of perspective.

It started with last weekend’s home improvement project. We’re building a deck. Not being particularly good at that sort of thing we hired a guy who was willing to do the skilled labor but charge less if we did the grunt work.

So we’ve dug holes and screwed down flooring while he frames. The 25 square foot concrete slab fell to our part of the bargain, and it was finally warm enough to do it. Having no clue as to what we were doing, we went to the experts on YouTube. After perusing a few videos we dug in.

ALL day.

Jerry built a frame. I carried bag after bag of 60 pound concrete. (Thankfully our teenager made a brief appearance home long enough to carry about a third of those bags.) Hubby and I took turns stirring, working until our muscles had to have a break, then giving the other person a turn. Neither of us particularly like this sort of work but what makes these projects worse is that we have no confidence in our ability to do them well.

Still, there was a sort of satisfaction at sweating together and seeing something useful take shape before our eyes. I was even a little bit proud of myself.

We ran out of daylight before the project was finished, and my poor husband had some pain that meant he was done. The finishing of our concrete slab fell to me.

In the dark.

I did my best to use the edger like the guy on the video had done. Then I took an old broom and went across the top so it wouldn’t be slick when it dried. I had very little understanding of how it was supposed to be done and couldn’t see very well in the weak light of the porch light, but I did what I could.

Then I drew a heart in the concrete. It’s silly, maybe, but I wanted to put Jerry and my initials in it. We’d done it together, a labor of love. It wasn’t going to be perfect, but it was ours. I couldn’t get the lettering to look decent, so I decided a heart would suffice.

The deck guy inspected our work a few days later. “I’m not going to sugarcoat this. If you’d paid for it I’d tell you to get your money back. It’s not entirely level, and the broom lines are too deep. Still, it’ll hold your stairs, and it’s okay for two people who don’t know what they are doing.”

As I shared his statement with a friend my voice caught. The joy of doing something for ourselves was overshadowed by its imperfections. An attitude of poverty washed over me. Even when we tried to do something new and nice it was substandard.

My friend prayed. As she prayed a new perspective emerged. “Oh, Paula,” she said. “God is proud of you! He loves your concrete slab. He’s not judging it on some predetermined standard. He’s delighting in it because you made it! Just as you would celebrate your child’s artwork and hang it on your refrigerator without comparing it to learned artists, He celebrates what you have created.”

And the joy rushed back.

Gone was the twisted, tangled emotions of disappointment. I again felt the pride of using my own two hands, feeling my aching back and muscles. I embraced the camaraderie of working alongside my husband, partners in improving the little plot of land that is our own.

concrete heartMy thoughts flashed back to my grandparents’ home. Established during the depression they did as many country folk did in their day. They built small, with their own two hands. Added rooms as they could. Poured the concrete for their sidewalk. The broom marks there had their own unique homemade pattern, and I thought they were wonderful. I adored their home because it was love and family and ours.

The 25 square foot block by my garage door may not be as pretty as if we’d paid a professional, but if a professional had done it I wouldn’t remember spending the day shoulder to shoulder with my husband. There’s something about the struggle and the sweat that makes that space a little more ours.

That heart I scratched into the concrete says it all.

 

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12 thoughts on “A Matter of Perspective

  1. paulfg January 31, 2015 at 12:10 am Reply

    Paula, you deck in love and you then write with love. Thank you for a new perspective – grit, sweat, highs, low and then highs!! Now that is real love!!

    • Paula Moldenhauer January 31, 2015 at 1:26 am Reply

      :O) I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to think of my Father enjoying our labor and celebrating the improvements in our little piece of this earth.

  2. isaiah41v10 January 31, 2015 at 8:33 am Reply

    This is so relevant to my life right now… it brought tears to my eyes. I’ve heard the disparaging remarks of others before too, crushing my spirit. But when I ask God what He thinks, then the joy comes back. 🙂 What a wonderful Father we have.

  3. disappearingwoman January 31, 2015 at 3:19 pm Reply

    This made me teary-eyed! So often, my husband, or daughters and I embark on home improvement projects ourselves because we can’t afford to have someone else do them. I assure you, by industry standards, our results are never even close to perfect, but they make our house and yard full of good memories and those are the real measures of wealth in this life. 🙂

    • Paula Moldenhauer January 31, 2015 at 3:43 pm Reply

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It’s the memories, the love, the family, not the perfection. And I think there is something here about using our own efforts to improve the space we take up in this world. It feels like an Eden choice . . .

      • disappearingwoman February 10, 2015 at 3:48 am

        You’re very welcome. So sorry I’ve taken so long to reply to this. My father-in-law passed away and we’ve been so busy with things that I’ve hardly been online. Right now, especially, I’m being reminded about the love that makes a home, and know that my in-laws are now together, out of physical and mental pain, and at peace. 🙂 Take care!

  4. Paula Moldenhauer January 31, 2015 at 3:29 pm Reply

    Jo ~ It’s amazing how many times I feel inadequate or like I’ve failed only to discover my Heavenly Father isn’t looking at me or the situation like that at all. And while the voices of others can hurt, it seems my own voice is often the most difficult. I’m with you, what a wonderful Father we have!! It makes me sad to think I spent so much of my life expecting his disapproval and feeling I’d failed Him. When He broke through those lies and I discovered more of His wonderful personality a lifetime of joy began. Not that I don’t fight life’s struggles and my own inaccurate paradigm sometimes, but when I am with Him I realized how much He loves me, is proud of me, is cheering me on. Thank you for your beautiful comment.

  5. Rebekah February 1, 2015 at 3:31 am Reply

    What a beautiful memory to have made with you and your husband. And I love your friends encouragement about God rejoicing in what you created. It reminds me of one of my favorite Scripture passages that I always go back to in those moments where I am tempted to get down on myself and am questioning my worth:

    “Be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.” ~Isaiah 65:18

    • Paula Moldenhauer February 2, 2015 at 3:53 pm Reply

      Thank you sweet Rebekah! I haven’t noticed that Scripture before. I’m going to think about it a lot today!

  6. Marie Keates February 3, 2015 at 1:25 pm Reply

    In my time I e done a lot of decorating and other home improvement work. Most of it hasn’t been perfect. In fact none of it has been perfect, but it’s mine and I did it. I’ve never laid concrete but if I did, you’d be sure there’d be a heart in it 🙂

  7. Paula Moldenhauer February 10, 2015 at 5:35 am Reply

    Disappearing Woman–I’m sorry for your loss. And your poignant reminder is a blessing. Marie, my friend. You made me smile real big with that last sentence. lol

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