Reconstruction Project: Mess Upon Mess
first time we had water
damage in the basement was two years after we moved into the West
Chicago house; the snowfall on January 13-14, 1979 totaled 18.8 inches
and was so heavy that many roofs collapsed from the weight. Ours just
leaked as the frost line backed up under the eaves, hit interior warm
air, thawed in the attic, then dripped through the walls, staining and
puddling on the newly finished basement. That was the year when
everyone shoveled snow from their roofs. Our four kids, having finished
clearing our roof beams from imminent danger, just jumped off into snow
mounds rather than descending via the ladders.
damage was when the sump pumps went out leaving a water line marking
the rough sawn cedar siding with a stain like a financial price chart
zigzagging the rise and fall of a volatile stock market—except this
chart stained the floorboards on three walls.
this chronicle of flooding, the washing machine “under-flowed,” water
rushing out of its mechanical underbelly; on another occasion the
utility sink became clogged and overflowed. Everything has to be moved
when water seeps across a surface or mildew and mold will cohabit under
furniture legs and creep beneath linoleum and tile. The temptation, to
which I have succumbed more times than I can count, is to test dry
surfaces and conclude that everything
has dried, when in truth, it is only the top of things that is no
of the children left a frozen faucet in the on-position. This unfroze
one sunny Sunday morning, filling the sink, then seeped through the
dining room ceiling, greeting us with a most unwelcome waterfall effect
when we returned home from attending church in the city. The seep marks
on the south side basement, two floors down, now matched the seep marks
on the north side from our original “too-much-snow-on-the-roof”
A pipe froze in the furnace room when the
electrician left the foundation window ajar to “draw the air through
the house” so the erratic furnace would work better. (What was he
thinking?) The financial graph water stain on the footboard now spread
to the west side of the basement. Fans dried the carpeting—at least on
top where the fingertip test could assess moisture. Who knows what was
breeding beneath the carpet’s surface density?
one crack in the foundation, realized we could not let the drains ever
(EVER) get clogged with leaves and twigs from our wooded property. A
waterproofing subcontractor was contacted and two more cracks—one in
the furnace room and one in the toy closet—were sealed.
Finally, we endured the coup
a high wind storm tore through our little city several Septembers ago.
The electricity was out for three days, rains continued, the sump pumps
were decommissioned without power and water rushed through the window
wells and up through the drains. Now we had major water
damage. It was time to call the insurance company, wait for the
adjustor to examine the damage and file a claim.
has taken David and myself 2 1/2 years since to get up the energy (and
the time) to haul stuff out of the basement, dump mildewed books and
bookcases, stain the damaged cedar siding, pry up and replace the
water-eroded footboards, scrape the walls where the texture paint was
bubbled and yellowed and moldering, hire a painter to do the painting
we couldn’t do, dab oatmeal-colored paint on the places in the ceiling
tiles where water spots left stain circles, shop for and purchase
carpets, seal cuts in the plasterboard where workmen had sawed
triangles to get to water pipes and galvanized fireplace flues and haul
away all that stuff that accumulates for the day when we will need it
(but probably never will use).
With a ruthless organizing
vengeance unusual to my personality, I scrubbed and spray-painted the
metal shelves in the furnace room, organized all the storage tubs,
moved my mother’s filing cabinet to a corner and set up the clip boards
that recorded the last time the furnace filter was replaced and the
water softener had been partially drained! I even replaced the overhead
pull lamp (connecting two wires) that has been out for two years and
for which I had bought a duplicate last summer. Voila!—light!
new carpet was laid by Lowe’s team (for which I received a series of
notifying phone calls making appointments, checking on the workmanship,
and inquiring about my satisfaction level.) We hauled everything back
into place, arranging the newly reupholstered furniture in its assigned
positions. David contacted AT&T and had a DirecTV hook up
(we haven’t had television for most of our married life). But it was
lovely—lovely—sitting in the clean, no longer damp basement, our feet
on cushy carpet with grandsons, sons, granddaughters and sons-and
daughters-in-laws watching the Chicago Black Hawks win the second game
against the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup series—all of us
munching on leftover Sunday dinner flan. (Oh, what are we missing
here?—yes, it’s the faint mildew odor waving for my attention.)
is work. It occupies us. In other words, we are preoccupied with
getting it finished, doing it right and completing the project. I am
embarrassed to count the appointments I missed during these two months,
the phone calls I forgot to make and the days and dates I mixed. (What?
I haven’t sent out a Soulish
for four weeks?) And inevitably, it is mess upon mess. There are
moments when we think we can’t get out of the disorder, when everything
we are doing will collapse around our ears, and the reconstruction will
go on and on, and on and on.
These are the moments when I
begin to forecast for myself an old age like that of “Big Edie” and
“Little Edie,” the mother and daughter whose later lives were
chronicled in the HBO television special, Grey Gardens.
The women flee New York Society and live destitute in their crumbling
East Hampton 14-room estate, along with an army of cats and vagabond
raccoons. Aunt and first cousin to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, the
women were rescued when she intervened to restore the mansion that was
scheduled to be razed.
I frankly have a terror of my
material environment crashing out of control and smothering me, with no
wealthy relative to come to the rescue.
Truthfully, many of
our personal reconstruction projects are exactly like this. We face an
addiction, or divorce recovery, or marriage restoration, or childhood
abuse and we think, “This is never going to end. I am going from bad to
worse. It is mess upon mess. I’m going to loose my mind (or my balance
or my rationality). I’m acting so strange people are avoiding me. I
can’t get to the end of the work. I handle one neglected memory, one
character flaw and something else raises a leering head. The walls of
my personality structure are crumbling—too much water damage. There are
wild animals creeping around in the halls at night.”
Reconstruction projects I can’t complete fast enough evoke this raw,
irrational fear in me.
have been reading the prophet Jeremiah lately. This book in the Old
Testament is a terrible lament over the willful straying of the
Israelites from God’s paths. It is a record of prophecies concerning
doom, destruction, devastation, starvation, conquering armies,
slaughter and exile—all because Israel refused to undergo the
reconstruction project upon which God insisted. There is a truth about
reconstruction that needs to be heeded: If we don’t take care of what
needs our care, the end result of purposeful neglect will be much worse
than anything we have imagined. (Think Grey Gardens
with two nearly insane women making their way through garbage, falling
plaster, holes in the staircases, and a tribe of feral animals.)
truth is: I love our clean basement, the carpeted floors, the newly
refurbished furniture, the smell of fresh paint, an organized furnace
room and bookcases. I love it that my whole family can gather and have
room to sit and the little ones can play with toys from the toy
cupboard or move miniature people in the doll house. I love it that the
mold is off the walls, and the water stains are gone. Sure it was a
headache of work and the new light fixtures still have to be hung and I
need to tackle the laundry room next—but what joy! What pure delight to
be on this side of reconstruction!
When it comes to personal
reconstruction projects, we need to trust that the work God is doing in
us, messy as it may be, unpleasant and interminable as it may seem, is
a good work. A necessary remodeling. A healthy undertaking that will
reap pleasant pleasures for us in the days ahead. A gift of love, not
of destruction. The Lord speaks through his prophet during the days of
exile, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and
not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will
call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You
will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will
be found by you and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah
I invite you to face the project that you have been dreading doing.
Face it now.
3-Day Guided Retreat of Silence, Friday through Sunday, August 13-15, 2010
If In his book, The Naked Now,
Richard Rohr writes about the cure for a compulsively busy mind. “The
key to stopping this game is, quite simply, peace, silence, or
stillness. This was always seen as God’s primary language, ‘with
everything else being a very poor translation,’ as Thomas Keating
wisely observes. I would even say that on the practical level, silence and God will be experienced simultaneously—and even as the same thing. And afterward, you will want to remain even more silent.”
Hungry Souls is offering a 3-Day Guided Retreat of Silence
for those of you who may be emerging from a period of personal
reconstruction or just entering into one. Six rooms have been reserved
at St. Mary’s Monastery in Rock Island, Illinois. The price for couples
is $295 (or for two solos rooming together). The price for solos with a
private room is $225. Please make a check out for the full amount to Hungry Souls
and mail it to Box 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60187 upon registration. All
rooms have twin beds and private baths. This is a rare opportunity for
spouses or for friends.
Reservations are only available until July 29, 2010.
retreat leaders will be Gay and Tom Patton who made a midlife change
from corporate life and took their degrees in psychology from Wheaton
Graduate School with an emphasis on spiritual formation. The Pattons
specialize in helping churches integrate spiritual formation principles
into church life and they conduct an active practice.
can’t think of a better way to re-group after summer activities and to
prepare for fall schedules, then this time on the beautiful grounds of
St. Mary’s. We observe 3 daily offices (services of Scripture and
prayer) with the community of women who live here and who have
dedicated their lives to the work of prayer and praise. The Pattons
will lead you in group interaction, guard the architecture of silence
and make themselves available for private sessions of spiritual
If you wish to register, or have further questions, please e-mail us at email@example.com or phone us at 630-293-4500. You may also phone or e-mail the Pattons: 309-269-7290 or firstname.lastname@example.org or tom email@example.com. Follow this link to view the grounds of St. Mary’s or to pass a flyer along to a friend.
Great News! The Global Bag Project has a Sustainable Model in Kenya
last fiscal quarter, through Home Parties, Bag Parties in a Box (which
arrive in the mail), and through the generous invitation of Heartland
Church in Rockford, IL who invited us to be their “Cause of the Month”
for all of May, Global Bag Project raised $17,000 in donations. We humbly praise God for this generosity.
now, 8 bag-producers and one Kenyan project manager, Mary Ogolo, are
involved in our growing adventure. Whenever we sell a bag, we can
truthfully say, “This helps to feed a child in Kenya.” Whenever Carla
wires a check to our Global Bag Project
bank account, we are well aware that carrying these reusable grocery
bags in the States is not only good ecological practice, it is helping
our African co-workers pay school fees ($300 per child per year), pay
rent ($200 a month in the Kibera slums—truly a place you do not want to
live), and pay for a sewing space for the sewing cooperatives that are
forming ($50 per month). A small bag of sugar and corn meal and a small
bottle of cooking oil costs about $8. These items are used to make
ugali, the East African ‘bread” that is a staple at most every meal.
average, an experienced sewer can earn $18-30 a day sewing GBP bags.
That’s $600 a month or $7,200 per year. That is a FAIR (more than fair)
This is thrilling to us! Here are some ways you can help, ways that have been tested by other GBP supporters:
l. Hold a bag party.
We will ship a bag party in a box with host instructions. We have had
sales from $400 to $1,500. These parties take about 1an ½ hours and are
a delightful event.
2. Purchase an industrial strength sewing machine.
Some of the African-made sewing machines are breaking under constant
use, so we are changing to sturdier models, which cost $350-$400 each.
We will give you the name of the bag-maker along with her photo when
she receives the sewing machine.
3. Hold an office party.
Sell the bags at lunch, breaks or after work. If you can play our
“Every Bag Has a Story” DVD, great! But the bags often walk
off the coat racks or the tables on which they are displayed.
4. Make one of our first renewable micro-credit loans.
Some donations have been given for our first capital investment toward
establishing a sewing cooperative, but we are getting ready to set up
small loans for those women who demonstrate entrepreneurial initiatives.
5. See if your church will take the Global Bag Project on as a "Cause of the Month."
To participate in any of these events, contact Carla Boelkens, Global Bag Project Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Soulish Food e-mails are
posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web
site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to
register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might
want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
is work. It occupies us. In other words, we are
preoccupied with getting it finished, doing it right and completing the
project. And inevitably, it is mess upon mess."
From the back cover:
One of the most admired and controversial
political figures, Aayan Hirsi Ali burst into international
headlines following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamist
who threatened that she would be next. She made headlines again
when she was stripped of her citizenship and resigned from the Dutch Parliament.
Infidel shows the coming
of age of this distinguished political superstar and champion of free
speech as well as the development of her beliefs, iron will, and
extraordinary determination to fight injustice.
Read and Intercede
Book Group just read the Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali for this month’s
book. (We still have room for several more couples and some solo men
and women—e-mail Judy Duncan at email@example.com.)
A New York Times
bestseller, it is an unflinchingly honest and courageous look at one
woman’s journey out of the Muslim faith.
A Somalian refugee
who sought asylum in the Netherlands, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, eventually
became a member of the Dutch Parliament. Her name burst into
international headlines following the assignation of Theo van Gogh, a
filmmaker who collaborated with her on a short piece that raised issues
of female subjugation under Islam. Her life was also threatened.
According to the cover copy, “Infidel shows the coming of age of this
distinguished political superstar and champion of free speech as well
as the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary
determination to fight injustice. Raised in a strict Muslim family,
Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings (one,
by a ma’alim, a religious teacher, that crushed her skull and almost
took her life), adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the
Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled unstable countries ruled
largely by despots.”
Hirsi Ali was named on of Time
magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2005, one of the Glamour
Heroes of 2005, and Reader Digest’s European of the year. This is a
book you will want to discuss with other readers.
From Amazon.com »
A FILM TO SEE
The Stoning of
And as you are sensitizing yourself to the
plight of women under restrictive religious systems, watch the film The
Stoning of Soraya M., which make no bones in its narrative arc about
being almost propaganda against the primitive act of stoning. The
woman, Soraya, a wife and mother, innocent of the trumped-up charges
brought against her, is bound, lowered into a pit, which is filled with
dirt, so that only her upper body is exposed. She has no way to protect
herself from the stones. The men of the village, including her father,
her two sons, and her husband who has been the source of slander, of
incriminating gossip as well as guilty of intimidating witnesses, throw
stones until she is reduced to a bloody pulp. Since this is a practice
all too often imposed upon women in too many parts of the world, it is
important to realize what is going on.