“Nothing is perfect.”
Those words cut me. They always have. I don’t care if they’re true because everything in me wants them to be untrue. Everything in me longs for perfection though perfect is as cold and distant as the morning star.
Yet here is the lesson I keep learning over and over again: when perfection falls to earth it veils its light in imperfection.
This house is my perfect dream come true, but Lord-have-mercy it is a mess.
Half the windows can’t be opened, whole chunks of molding are missing near the roofline, there is an ominous bulge in the plaster wall along the stairs, and please do watch your step on the porch. You never know when your foot might crash right through.
I wrote these words in Roots and Sky, though I did not know how true they would become:
“… I picture this house, this hilltop, cracked open. Torn right open. And everyone invited to come in. In this picture, it seems that something precious has been emptied out and is being passed around. It is a frightening, exhilarating vision.”
The thing about a broken, imperfect house is that we cannot live in it alone.
When I met Dr. B (“doctor of old houses”), he told me he had prayed God would bring him another old house to work on.
When I called J about our windows and gave him my name, we both held our phones in a state of shock. Apparently, he had purchased Roots and Sky for his wife only the day before.
Jonathan and I always hoped that this place would be a blessing for many beyond our own immediate family. We glimpsed how that could be true our very first Easter when one hundred neighbors joined us to hunt eggs on the lawn. We sent those invitations to a neighborhood of strangers because we were lonely.
I called these local craftsmen because our house is broken.
Perfectly, beautifully broken.
Praise be to God for broken houses, broken hearts, broken bodies, and all the other precious broken things.
Praise be to God for hands that heal and hands that make things beautiful and whole.
Praise be to God for roses.
Praise be to God for thorns.
I’ve heard it said that one’s priorities are best observed through the lens of a checkbook register (or credit card statement or budget spreadsheet). Where your money goes, there goes your heart.
I don’t actually speak the language of priorities or goals or budgets (and the spreadsheets they tend to associate with), but I know just a bit about dreams. I know you’ll see my dreams most clearly on my bookshelves.
There are dreams discarded (Marxism and Literature or Silver Poets of the Sixteenth Century) and dreams realized (Taking Charge of Your Fertility). There are dreams ongoing (Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English) and dreams I’m content only to dream (The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland).
Lining up one’s deepest desires for anyone to see (and open and browse and borrow), is a practice with the potential for great embarrassment. I can remember the moment with a graduate school friend cast a quizzical eye over my small collection of children’s books. True, I had no children at the time, but I am currently purchasing books with grandchildren in mind so is it any wonder I was buying children’s books before I had children of my own?
I didn’t have large number of book-browsing friends during our two years in Florida, but, if I had, they would have wondered about the following titles. You see, I was living a typical suburban life in a typical suburban split-level, but I had cast my book-buying dollars out upon the waters and I prayed they’d bring me bread.
I prayed they’d bring me home.
(Find all my book recommendations here as well as more information about my use of affiliate links.)
Our Florida house was about fifteen years old and in good condition, but I bought this book for my husband on his birthday: Renovating Old Houses: Bringing New Life to Vintage Homes (For Pros By Pros) by George Nash. We had no idea when we would be leaving Florida or where we’d go once we did, but this book said everything about our hopes and dreams.
If you live in an old house or want to learn more about old houses, this is your fascinating, informative, go-to guide. Browse it and dream (also, if you are not sure if an old house is for you, reading this book can be quite clarifying. Because, oh my word, so much can go wrong and the fix is rarely simple).
While Jonathan read about repairing plaster and “elegant alternatives to tearing into walls,” I was reading this: The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! by Carleen Madigan.
Now, I can tell you right now, I will never produce all the food I need even on my (nearly) five acres. I am just not that industrious. Also, I like to read far too much. However, this books is fun, inspiring, and (almost) makes me believe that I could. If I really wanted to. Currently, I’m reading the chapters on rabbits and ducks, so … stay tuned. (Also – to clarify – I have no plans to eat my own rabbits or ducks. The rabbits would be to fertilize the garden, and the ducks would be … well, to look cute on a pond, I suppose.)
Lastly, this is the book I read and loved before I even knew it was a book about my dream. Sometimes, we read to discover our dreams.
Merry Hall (Beverley Nichols Trilogy Book 1) by Beverley Nichols is a farcical, funny, exaggerated romp of a memoir from 1951. In it, Nichols describes the restoration of an English Georgian house and garden. This is a book with a wicked sense of humor and a golden heart. I read it regularly.
So I had to buy a house in the country. Buy, not rent. It is ridiculous to rent things if you are a gardener; it fidgets you. Even a very long lease is upsetting. I once owned a house with a 999 years lease, and it gave me an unbearable sense of being a sort of week-end guest; it hardly seemed worth while planting the hyacinths.