How renovating an old, rundown place ended up restoring her life after divorce
The divorce, at midlife, left me disillusioned, hurt and afraid. After 24 years of marriage, my dog Spanky and I started life anew in a century-old log cabin I purchased “as is,” which just so happened to be the same condition the cabin found me in—very ill, with a brain tumor that had returned. Never had I felt more alone.
Time had forgotten the rundown place. Virtually every surface needed renovation. As I began the intense rehab on my home of yesteryear, God started his work on me, too. Turns out, in His good time, we were both restored. Here’s what I learned:
1. Listen to your heart. When I hired a contractor to refinish my hardwood floors, he quipped: “Do yourself a favor, Lady, and strike a match to this old shanty.” But I adored those heart pine boards and knew they could be revived to glorious effect. The same went for taking a crowbar to the drywall, revealing the original chestnut logs harvested from the property. Ditto for me. Folks would quote statistics about what happens to a woman after divorce. Their grim predictions were unsettling. With God’s help, I learned to ignore them and invest in His plan for my life instead.
2. Celebrate the era you’re in. When I asked the cabin what it wanted, I learned it needed timeworn treasures popular at the end of the 19th century. It didn’t want to be something it wasn’t. This taught me to celebrate my own era as well, and to take care of my health— the emotional, physical and spiritual, too. I was in my early forties, in the middle place of life. It was a time for looking back and looking forward.
3. Less can be a whole lot more. At first, I was so excited to own an antique house. I bought everything that charmed me at flea markets and estate sales. Soon, I had so much stuff, there was no place to rest the eye. The cabin was suffering from a lack of white space just like my life. God taught me to pare down my possessions and commitments to include only those things I loved the most. We both flourished.
4. Always look for the story. Whenever I purchased a step-back cupboard or pie safe, I asked the seller to tell me its history. Knowing that an old farmer crafted a table from wood he had on hand added to the experience and made me less concerned with perfection. The same went for people. I began to accept their weaknesses more and to include those different than me in my circle of friends. Everyone, I found, has a great story tucked inside their heart. If I engaged them in conversation and eased in the right questions, I usually found it. My world grew and I felt less alone.
5. Don’t discount unexpected places or people for solutions. Some of my best finds for the cabin have come from the curb on trash day or a dumpster. I also became more open to hiring our culture’s “throwaway” people. A trustworthy, disabled guy was the strongest mover of furniture I ever had. He also had great ideas and became a dear friend. And when I needed another helper, I took a friend’s stellar recommendation on a recovering alcoholic. He encouraged me at every turn—reported to work early and left late, refusing to take any extra money.
6. You’re never alone if you have God on your side. I moved in in September, and come Halloween night, the cabin still was not terribly secure. I climbed into bed with a headache, my arms around Spanky. My room was on the front of the house, and I could hear the kids come and go, only to find the lights out. Keep us safe, Lord, I prayed over and over, fearful that I’d fall victim to property damage or a break-in. The next morning, when it was time to go to work, I couldn’t find my car keys. Searching the cabin to no avail, I checked my car. Nothing. When I returned to the cabin, I found my car and house keys in the door lock. God had kept me safe and sound, despite my foolishness.