Too Contented??? Redecorating and Introspection

The last two weeks we have been working very hard to finish our dining room.  I finished plastering the walls.  Chuck did some ceiling repairs.  We painted.  I sorted and cleaned and got rid of many things and organized many other things.  We bought a rug, a light fixture, curtains.  I endlessly thought about which furniture I wanted in here while walking through the house to figure out what would fit and how.

One day we were talking about the project with Becca and trying to remember when we began the project.  I was thinking two years ago.  She was thinking it might have more like three years ago.  So I looked up the blog post that documented the beginning of the project.  Here it is.  And if you don't want to look it up, here are the pics I posted.

Yes, the date is April 15, 2008---almost 4 years ago!

The ability to be content has usually been a good thing for me, with the life I have chosen.  But there are some areas in which discontent would be an asset.  At any rate, after four years of living with the pics in that post, we now get to enjoy this!
The photograph on the wall was taken by Cookie Wiebe.  It is a print of one of the photos in her exhibit, Through the Eyes of a Stranger.  The metal chest with drawers once belonged to Aunt Joanna, Chuck's great aunt.  But I claim her too, because I already loved her before I knew or loved Chuck.  She was my Sunday School teacher in Jr. High, and introduced me to keeping a journal.  She was an adoptive parent, and was a mentor and empathetic guide as we floundered our way through adoptive parenting.

The two-way china cabinet---put the dishes away from the doors in the kitchen, set the table from leaded glass doors in the dining room.

The old entertainment center, now book and cd storage.  The photo is another of Cookie's.

and one more Cookie photograph above the computer desk

the fireplace corner
comfortable seating on area rug

light fixture over table's new location

Before launching into the final push on the room and after many ideas from kids and others, we realized that we wanted to change the room to make it reflect the life we have now.  We are only two people living in this house now.  A table for 10 does not need to dominate the room.  

With my knitting hobby, I like something to watch while I work, so we have been watching shows on line a lot this winter.  Usually we either sit on hard wooden dining chairs, or we move the furniture around and squeeze in a couch from the living room.  It would be nice to have some comfortable seating for evenings when we are home and feel like watching something on the computer.

Now the table has been made a bit smaller and moved to one side of the room. This makes room for something comfortable in the main part of the room where the computer is.

* * * * * * *

In doing this project the last two weeks, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how it has affected me.  I've noticed three things.

Created in God's Image  I believe that the joy we experience from making something ugly into something beautiful is a direct result of being created in God's image.  The Bible begins with creation, and with God stepping back and enjoying it, and proclaiming it good.  At this point in the process, when mostly what is left is the stepping back and enjoying it, well, it is nice...

It is the same as planting a garden, or baking a beautiful loaf of bread, making up an amazing lesson plan, working on a photo album, writing a poem or working out the pattern for a sweater.  Creating is programmed into us.  It lightens our hearts.  I want to remember this when my heart needs some lightening up.

I think this desire to create something beautiful also is a part of what can drive materialism, because it in some ways fulfills that need to create.  Each time we buy new clothes we have a sense of creating a look, making something new and fresh.  And clothes are only a part of it.  Things are made to break, and innovations happen so rapidly that even when things aren't broken, we wish for newer, better.  The joy of creating is a bit addictive, and it is easy to slip into 'retail therapy' to lighten a mood, rather than cooking, gardening, knitting.  And so...

Materialism  There are things we needed for this room, or at least we thought we needed.  Since we were moving the table away from the ceiling fan/light, we needed a light over the new table location.  Since we were moving some casual seating into the room, we needed an area rug.  Our current curtains were over 20 years old and could no longer be washed without also disintegrating, so we needed some curtains.  But how do you decide what to buy, how much to spend, when to make do?   We didn't already have any of the things I've mentioned above, so we did buy those, and we found reasonably priced items.  But what about furniture?  What about a place to put the toaster close to the new table location?  What would be the comfortable things to sit on.

When fighting materialism, comparison can be deadly.  I can justify buying more because friends I respect have better stuff than I have, or I can refuse to buy anything at all because there are people who have less than me.  I can evaluate myself as being 'good' or 'bad' based on the people I choose to compare with.  It's a false method of evaluation.

When we started buying a few things for this room, suddenly it became my mindset to fill the room with new things.  It wasn't a goal that I was making so much as it became an assumption that just evolved with each purchase.  I hardly knew it was happening until I heard myself telling Chuck what kinds of things I was thinking about buying, and until I realized what I was looking for online.

It is so so easy to be swept away with buying new things.

Selfishness.  Materialism is usually accompanied by a focus on the self.  But even if I didn't buy lots of stuff, redecorating involves a lot of emphasis on me.  What do I like, what do I want, how would I like this to be---all of these are important questions to ask as we make a space more usable in our home.  The problem for me was that I noticed that kind of thinking needing to be prevalent for a large percentage of the day as I worked on the room.  It was crowding out the other thoughts I wanted to nurture, like maybe; how can we be likely to use this room to further the kingdom and will of God?  During the decorating process it was easy to forget to ask kingdom questions with my focus so frequently on self.  Which leads to...

Ability to hear God's voice.  In an earlier post I wrote about needing three things in order to make it easier to hear the voice of God in my life.  I need to be in touch with the brokenness of the world.  I need stillness in which to listen to God.  I need contact with others who are also trying to hear the voice of God.  During this two weeks of interior decorating, those things were pushed to the background.  They didn't have to be.  There would have been ways to be less intense about the room and more intentional about making space for those things I have chosen.  But I got a little bit obsessive about the room and lost some of my perspective.

the attempt to rectify this:
Materialism.  When I recognized how much I was focused on new things, I was able to step back a bit.  I began to take trips through the house to look at what we already have that could be an asset to this room.  That is how Aunt Joanna's metal drawer cabinet was found.  We also brought down a rocking chair that had been upstairs that was the exact shade of turquoise as the curtains.  Chuck looked at our two person glider that had some loose joints and found them easy to fix, so the worn out and stained upholstery may be updated instead of buying new furniture.

As for comparison, I worked hard to remind myself that our choices had to be right for us, based on our walk with God.  They could not be about the choices anyone else has made.  It was helpful to turn my mind away from who has what and how I compare, and to turn my mind toward what my values are and how those values will be reflected in the space we create.

Selfishness.  I'm not sure how well I did at changing this, but it was good for me to recognize it.  One thing that helped was to be more intentional about praying for others, and I took time to make up a new prayer journal for that purpose.  But then I wasn't so good at actually using the journal every day, so yeah, not a stunning success story here.

Ability to hear God's voice.  On Saturday, March 2, there was a training for allies in the local Circles of Hope initiative.  When I realized how insulated I'd allowed myself to become, I registered for the training.  The Circles initiative was something Cookie was instrumental in starting in our area.  I've been drawn to it, but my other commitments did not allow participation.  They still probably don't, but the training was excellent.  I learned a lot.  My focus changed.  And maybe someday soon I can be involved in a more regular and concrete way.


Mel said…
Great post, Aunt Bev. Your 2-way china cabinet used to be one of the most intriguing things to me as a kid... now I just think it's beautiful! Your remodel looks great and I'm sure you will enjoy it so much.

It's such a struggle for me too, to find the right balance between living rich and living poor--especially when we are much more surrounded by rich than poor and tend to judge ourselves by that standard.

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