Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One Woman, One Weekend, One Wonderful Home Improvement Project

Well, two posts ago I shared some pictures from the ongoing project of turning our 1905-built house into the charmer which, by virtue of its age, it has every right to be. (Don't we all?) We left off with me systematically tearing out sections of filthy old carpet and revealing a very old, very ugly, non-hardwood wood floor. This project was designated as mine, first because it's a dirty job and Paul has asthma, secondly because I hate to pile Paul with projects on his days off, (He has a very demanding job.) and thirdly because it's right up my alley; I wanted to do it.

And so, Memorial weekend happened, and happened to be the first three consecutive days off I've had in recent memory. Also, Paul would be working most of the weekend. The planets had lined up.

Saturday evening. First two rows.
Not quite clear from this picture is how
crooked the floor is along the length of
those floor boards.

In case you can't tell, I'll admit it right up front: I am feeling ridiculously accomplished and excited about this! Of all the projects we've undertaken since purchasing this house four years ago (Yes, four years. Yes, we are upside-down. Yes, we are making the best of it!) I think this has been the most dramatic. It certainly was the most difficult, at least for me, since I did it all myself...

The crooked floor combined with that little partial wall
slowed me way down! It turns out that the left wall as it continues on the other side is slightly out of square!
In short, if I had thought it through I could have forseen the impending alignment problem.

So, after some frustration, I called it a night at about 1 AM.
(The paper is my attempt to prevent dust and pet hair
from sticking to the adhesive edges of the flooring material.)
Lil' Chompy seems pleased.
Sunday afternoon between lunch and evening worship offered me a couple more quiet hours, which yielded an adequate, though not perfect, solution to my
not-quite-square-wall problem
The crooked yellow wall.

So here's where I finished on Sunday.

The mess of emptying bookshelves in order to move them is a real motivator to get the job over and done with as quickly as possible.

And then came Monday, Memorial Day, the first day I've had no reason whatsoever to leave the house since I-can't-remember-when.  Paul and I slept in until 9 or so and had a lovely morning of conversation over french toast until the time came for him to head off for work. I would have until just about 9:30 pm to complete my job! I really, really wanted it to be all finished, like a gift waiting for him, when Paul came home, exhausted, from work.  So here's how it went:

All the stuff from inside the wardrobe

Down to the last section! Just two big shelves full of books stood between me and completion.
Cutting around the floor vent was easier than I expected!

And here it is!

(We had to cover our adorable new loveseat with packing tape to keep the cats from clawing it. Not so adorable now!)
And this is what Paul saw when he came through that front door that night! We are still so excited we can hardly get over it. Tony still comments every time he walks in. For about a dollar per square foot,+ tax, (about half of what we would have spent if we paid for professional installation) we got what feels like a whole new house!

Finally, if you're curious about this flooring that's so easy to install that one woman can do it by herself without the aid of any power tools, you can check it out here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Filled with the Fullness of God

I was thinking yesterday about the love of God, and how I really have to believe in His love before I can ever trust Him and repent of my hatred and rebellion against Him. I was thinking how true it is that fear has never led me to repent, only reflecting on God's kindness toward me has. And I thought how the world sits already under condemnation, yet it is through the love of God embodied in Christ that God has chosen to call mankind to repentance.

And this morning I found these words of Brennan Manning in my inbox:
“The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise.  He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven.  It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness.  Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather than repentance and then forgiveness is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace”
Which brought me back to yesterday evening's church service in which we questioned what it means to be "filled with the fullness of God", and learned from this prayer of the apostle Paul that the key to the fullness of Christian life is the ever deepening knowledge and heart-understanding of the love of Christ:
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."  Ephesians 3: 15-19 (emphasis mine)
Did you catch that? We need God's own strength to comprehend God's love! And the strength from God to love comes from being rooted and grounded in love. And so I pray as Paul did for the strength to comprehend this incomprehensible love.

If there's one thing I know for certain, it's that with God's love and the assurance it provides I could face all things and say and do the hardest of things. If and when I really believe with every fiber of my being that He loves me, I can muster courage to love others. I can reach out my hand and risk being bitten, and, bitten, reach out again.

Sheltered by His love I can weather storms, tragedies, and onslaughts of criticism. From the safety of His embrace, I can love and serve, even in the face of unkindness, cruelty, and rejection. I can rest in God's acceptance when the world and even my fellow Christians reject me.
When I am confident of His love I can hazard making mistakes, and readily own up to them too.
In the certainty of His love for me, I can deny myself and take up my cross of hardship with confidence,
knowing that my "self" is safe in His hands.
Yes, all I need for this life and the life to come is to comprehend His incomprehensible love.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
"For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:31-39 (emphasis mine)

It makes the plainest of sense that the fullness of God comes to a soul only through the understanding of the greatest revelation of His love - the love expressed in the sacrifice of Christ for us.

God grant me strength to believe in and comprehend your love for me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When the cat's got my tongue, or....

What I'm doing when I'm not blogging.

Well, friends, only six weeks left until I complete the job that has been depleting my creative juices.  My work on the Grand Jury has sapped my free time and most of those particular mental and emotional resources from which my writing would normally be drawn. So much of my life is consumed just now by things I'm not allowed to talk about. And all the rest I'm just too tired to think about, let alone write about.

And so, I've taken on other projects.

As I've likely mentioned before, we've been puppy-sitting our grand-chihuahua (and grand-tabby cat) for the last few months while my daughter teaches English in the Republic of Georgia. We were filled to the brim with pets before, and now our house runneth over....and so does Lil' Chompy, all over the carpet.  We've intended to replace the decades old rental house carpet ever since we bought this place four years ago. We just kept waiting for the Sack-O-Cash to drop from the sky to pay for it.
Unfortunately, it hasn't started raining cash yet, but it has been raining dog pee, and the carpet has gotten worse and worse until I couldn't get rid of the odor and couldn't stand it any longer.

A few weeks ago I pulled up the corner of the carpet where the smell seemed to be the strongest and found it to be soaked through and deeply stained. And I made the commitment right then and there. I cut out about three square feet of carpet. Since then, on days or evenings when I'm home but Paul's at work (I can't do this when Paul is home because the filth will aggravate his asthma.) I've been tearing out carpet.  As of right now I'm about half-way through. It's a big and messy job. As you can see. Under the carpet and padding is a layer of powder-fine dirt, and under that 106 year old plank floor (not hardwood). The hardest part of the job is moving the furniture. Since our house is so tiny, almost all our furniture items must do double-duty as storage. As a result almost everything I have to move is stacked or filled with books, music, games, videos, etc.

Since we cannot afford the several hundred extra dollars labor charge to have new flooring installed, we had to choose a kind of flooring simple enough for me to install myself. After speaking to several people, we settled on vinyl plank hardwood, in a cherry shade, since that was the prettiest of the sale items. Removing the carpet is hard work, but satisfying in the sense that I can't really mess it up. Installing new flooring is a different matter. I'm pretty nervous about that part, but that step is still a few weeks away. In the meantime it's rough, stained, paint-splattered wood and ever-diminishing patches of disgusting carpet.

The picture to the right gives an idea of just how filthy the wood is even after sweeping it.  The picture below shows Lil' Chompy, the catalyst for all this change. (That linoleum is gone now, too, by the way.) He is no doubt looking outside because it's much prettier out there.

This winter must have done something special to our yard. All our plants, things we've planted in the first years since we moved in are blooming wildly for the first time. What a happy and fulfilling feeling! If only I had more free time to spend out there enjoying it all!
Our mandarin tree is loaded with sweet citrus blossoms
giving us hope for our first ever home-grown fruit!

More mandarin blossoms!

Clematis flowers have woven themselves
into the grapevine.

It's the third spring since planting.
We're hoping to see our first grapes this year.

Grapevine (and some weeds)
growing along the fence