Monday, September 23, 2013

If God does not build the house, in vain do the builders toil.

I got a chance to go to Adoration for a little bit last night - it has been way too long since I've been.  I tried that "listening" idea that Rebecca was talking about.  You guys, I am not a good listener.  (You're shocked.)  But even a brief time of recollection helped me to re-focus on how good a job I'm (not) doing with what even I know my priorities are. 

I'm volunteering with the parish's HS youth group (that's how I came to be at Adoration, in fact), and I had to drag myself there yesterday.  I knew that I was giving up my last few precious hours of daylight, and with just another ninety minutes I could have finished digging my second post-hole and poured the quick-set concrete for both fence posts.  I wouldn't have gotten the posts painted and the gates and gate hardware attached by the end of Saturday as I had planned, but I would have made some pretty firm (concrete, actually!  Heh) progress by the end of the weekend.  Instead, I have a hole and a half.  And I also haven't attached the new shutters for the carriage house yet.  (That was a totally easy job that suddenly became impossible when the shutter clips didn't fit.  And bending metal is not exactly the most difficult skill I've had to learn for my goofy projects.  Nevertheless, still stymied.  I'll get there.)  Oh, and I haven't cut the front hedge yet, either.  That, for the record, is the complete list I was supposed to have finished two weekends ago, so that by now I could have moved on to ripping off the porch siding, adding house wrap, and replacing with new siding and painting it.  And painting the trim on the carriage house, and replacing the rotten parts.  And putting in the back yard fencing around the gate.  And making progress on front yard fencing.  All of which items haven't moved to the front of the to-do list yet because I am still not done with my beginning-of-September projects.  It's really not cool. 

But I realized...the factors that make the difference between my projects being rapid and easy and pleasant and successful on the one hand, and endlessly time-consuming and expensive and painful and miserable and possibly still not successful on the other, are in that "black box" area that clearly is susceptible to grace.  In other words, someone with serious skill in the areas in which I am incompetently meddling could predict about 80% of the difficulties I am always surprised to encounter (and probably forestall a great many of them by getting the correct product, setting aside more time, using better preparation methods, etc.).  But I can't predict any of them, and, indeed, many of them are totally unpredictable (the location of roots in the area I wanted to dig post holes, for example.  Although the probable existence of roots was predictable indeed). 

This is the area where I (in my utterly unscientific way) think that grace has the most room to work.  God is extraordinarily unlikely to make stones lighter for me, or holes deeper without me digging them, or cause the store to have different siding than it did when I looked yesterday.  But if I am approaching things in the right spirit, if I am doing what I ought to be doing at every moment and not avoiding my proper obligations for stubbornness and self-seeking, then I think it's well within His usual ambit to move the knots in the center of the lumber out of the way of the saw blade, and sneak the roots over a few inches so I'm able to dig the post hole without having to insert the loppers and my entire torso into it every few minutes.  And though I don't like to think about this, the difference between "dig a post hole" and "dig a post hole with lots of roots in the way," or between "attach shutters with the correct clips" and "attach shutters with clips that need adjusting," or "nail down floorboards" and "nail down floorboards with knots" can be up to 1000% of the time.  In other words - I could easily spend 90% of my project time not accomplishing the thing, but removing all the small, annoying obstacles to accomplishing the thing.  And in fact, this is how it usually works for me.  It's very rare that I set about the accomplishing part and the path is smoothed in front of my feet - though it has happened. 

What I'm concluding is that I need to allocate my time where it unquestionably belongs, and work hard at my chores, and not worry so much about my to-do list, which I ought to know by now is self-replenishing anyway.  If God wants me to volunteer with the youth group (and I'm pretty sure He does), He can make that gate installation that I'm dreading easy.  And when I get home tonight, I could literally trip over the tool that will suddenly adjust all the shutter clips.  (I'm imagining a small tool here - please do not answer that prayer if it involves something larger than I am, or with sharp edges.) 

So while I wanted to wow the internet today with a post about my absolutely fabulous gate that I made all by myself and now looks awesome at the end of my driveway, I will have to content myself with this:

For the record, I did build it and it is awesome.  But it is not installed.  I will get there. 

Also, I can't believe anyone thought I was kidding about craigslist.  But I am even more stunned that there are people who do not yet know the wonders of craigslist.  I will have to include in my 31 days not only the mysterious, magical, and fantastic treasures that await us there, but the like-new Ikea and Pottery Barn items to be had for 25% of retail, which I imagine are more likely to draw normal people than the excessively carved things I drool over.  I aim to proselytize. 

And now I even have a button:

There are better buttons, but I think this captures the spirit of my project.  This is going to be fun. 


  1. That gate looks amazing. If you want to follow up your month of Craigslist with a month of things built or repaired by the misfit, I'm sure you'd have all of us drooling over them too.

  2. I am excited for your 31 days post! We have found some awesome stuff on craigs.list but I would love more tips.

  3. i've been reading and not commenting on your blog- it's been an amazing few months for you. you are on fire with the house and with your insights. love reading. you are so right about sticking to the chores even if they don't get done. a key to life that took me way to long to learn...thanks for the reminder!