The Heart of Renovation
by Wendy Pope
BEFORE YOU READ ANY further, this isn’t an article featuring a Pinterest parade of ideas for DIY home decorating, nor will it be full of recipes that would make the Pioneer Woman’s mouth water. No, it’s not that kind of article. Although these few hundred words are about our home, it tackles the heart of our home, how our home feels, rather than how our home looks. I mean let’s face it, our homes can look like Joanna Gaines showed up and performed her shiplap, shabby chic magic and Jason Cameron successfully redesigned our desperate landscape, but that doesn’t mean the climate of our home is inviting to others. Let me invite you into a little verbal exchange my husband and I had on this very subject a few years ago.
“You don’t make our house a place I want to come home to.”
Can we agree that these aren’t the sweet nothings a wife longs to have her hubby whisper in her ear, let alone retort back to her during an “intense moment of fellowship”? Nevertheless, this is how it all unfolded folks. This is how my husband, Scott, calmly, but candidly, responded to me after I said, “You don’t act like you ever want to come home.”
Something had to change in our house. You might say we were in need of some relational rehab. I knew it, which was the reason for the conversation in the first place. I was poised, ready, and prepared for the discussion. However, I hadn’t anticipated my husband having the last word, the show-stopper, the zinger of all zingers. But there they were, hanging in air like thick fog on a dewy morning — thirteen words that changed the course of my life forever.
It’s difficult to share these words for fear of ridicule that might be heaped on my amazing husband. So, before we move on, my husband loves me now and he loved me then. His words of truth demonstrated his commitment to our love, as well as his desire for things to improve. I shudder to think where we might be had we never had that painful dialogue.
It’s only fair to invite you into our home to see for yourself what it was like … I mean from my perspective, that is. Our décor was neutral tones, very warm and inviting. The cathedral ceilings in our family room let in natural light, which gave our home a fresh, open, and airy vibe. Our downstairs was mainly open concept, which, for those of you who don’t follow HGTV, means there aren’t walls to separate the rooms. This provided visibility and open sight lines so you could see everyone whether you were cooking or just hanging out.
At the time we were an income-and-half family: my husband worked full-time and I worked part-time. This meant our furnishings were more thrift store than high-end, but that didn’t matter. I thought as a homemaker I had done a very nice job of making our house a home. But what I didn’t realize, until I processed those thirteen words, was Scott wasn’t talking about the furnishings and décor. He was talking about me. That was hard to swallow.
The words draped my heart like a dark, heavy cloak for several days. I didn’t have the mental fortitude or emotional energy to continue the discussion any further with him. So while silence filled the air in our home, I took the words, my broken heart, and pent up attitude to my Daddy … my heavenly Daddy. May I be honest? I desperately wanted to sense the Spirit’s compassion and hear the kind, gentle, and Southern comforting words, “Bless your heart.” Followed by “You need to go buy something new for yourself. You deserve it. He hurt your feelings and I’ll take care of him.”
After many mornings of quiet-time tears with Jesus, Bible study, and prayer, I sensed the Spirit’s response, and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Through my devotional time with the Lord I saw words about temper, kindness, and putting others first. Trust me, this wasn’t a coincidence.
Without using the actual words, “Scott is right,” the Lord showed me how I had fallen short of living in the image of who He created me to be. This shortfall had created a hostile home, rather than a happy one — a place of “I’ll get you back” instead of “What can I get for you?” Silent treatment and slamming doors had replaced conversation and gentle responses. Walking on eggshells became a skillful art we both had mastered. Both of us had become willing participants in a tit-for-tat way of life, peppered with some family movie nights, church on Sundays, vacations, and doing our best to raise our kids without messing them up.
When describing my home before, I left out a few things. I didn’t tell you about the huge dent in the hallway that the bottom of my shoe made when I kicked it in anger because my son wouldn’t do what I asked him to do. Oh, and the deep hole in the pink drywall of my daughter’s room made out of anger while slamming the doorknob into the wall. Friends, I had a problem and my husband, and my Lord, loved me enough to tell me.
So, what’s a messed-up girl to do with all this information? She sets out to correct the only thing she has the power to change — herself — and leaves everything and everyone else in God’s capable hands. Yes, Scott and I needed a relationship rehab, but only God could renovate my heart and prepare it for a refurbishing of our marriage.
Every rehab project has to start with a good foundation. Our foundation is secure as we learn to trust God through obedience. I think we’d all admit we love God, but do we obey what He asks us to do? We demonstrate our love for God when we obey Him. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15).
This renovation revealed that even though I was a regular studier of His Word, saying yes to God wasn’t a regular part of our relationship. It was easy to obey simple things like read the Bible, pray, volunteer at church, and help people in need. However, during this phase God asked me to do things for Scott — nice things like make his coffee (a beverage I don’t even drink). And I didn’t want to do nice things for him because, though his words were true, they hurt me. So being nice to him wasn’t a part of my renovation plan. You’ll find that God’s plan is never like our plan but is always better. It’s through obedience that trust with God is cultivated. When trust is developed and matured, we confidently live in the belief that God is good, His plan is good, and obeying Him is for our good.
Old & New
Trusting and obeying God eventually becomes as natural as breathing. This is good, because the next phase is more challenging. Without a firm foundation of trust the renovation process will stop or fail.
Renovation requires removing the old and barely working parts of the project and replacing them with a new and fully functioning version. I haven’t met anyone who finds it easy to say no to themselves, but this is what God requires. His Word clearly says that we’re to put others above ourselves: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3). In saying no to self, we allow God to expose, through the light of His Word, who we really are. Our obedience works in tandem with this revelation to replace the old with the new.
I began to clearly see the woman who made holes in the wall, slammed doors, and created silence wasn’t who God wanted me to be. This knowledge gave me a burning desire to become everything He created me to be.
Come On In
Today our home is a place of freedom, genuine love, laughter, and neutral colors, with a nice mixture of thrift store and new furniture. It’s a place where people want to come. My children actually bring friends to our home who need love, grace, and a respite from trouble because they know all three reside here. And Scott? Well, he wants you to know that we fall asleep holding hands almost every night. God’s Word tells us, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17). It’s this freedom that makes our home a place where someone not only wants to come, but wants to stay.
Wendy Pope is a speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries and contributes to the P31 online devotional, Encouragement for Today, which reaches over one million readers each day. She is the author of Trusting God for a Better Tomorrow, Wait and See, and Yes, No, and Maybe. Wendy lives with her family in North Carolina.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (July 2019). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.