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the healing power of paint…

Over the last few weeks our house has been turned upside down. We decided – or more accurately – I decided that the trim in our home needed touching up. The baseboards and window trim needed a bit of sprucing, and I was bored with the safe color we had chosen for the walls in our gathering room/kitchen. For years I have wanted to change the peaceful blue on the walls in our bedroom and bath to a slightly more aqua shade of the same value. Nothing drastic.

It’s true that I am a regular viewer of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. My husband and I watch Chip and Joanna Gaines transform their clients’ homes in the course of an hour while we eat lunch. It’s really easy to get caught up in the fervor of the home improvement projects of shows like this hit program, and I was well aware that witnessing the dramatic make-overs of other homes on an almost daily basis may have had something to do with my feelings, but there was more to it than that. It’s been 11 years since we finished building our house. Eleven years is enough time for the shine to fade on new things, and it’s long enough for tastes to change, so I felt justified in my desire to ask my husband’s opinion about wanting to go ahead and do what I’d been thinking about for quite a while.

Two things happened simultaneous to the changing of paint. The first occurred to me the evening before we finished the project. The second I realized somewhat going in, but its real meaning became more and more clear as the painting progressed.

As a woman I probably care more about things like home decorating and freshly painted trim. I know for a fact that David didn’t see the need to do the project in any way at all resembling the way that I did. Normally, my pattern would be to keep my desire for this cosmetic change to myself. I would tell myself that I couldn’t do something because I was the only one who wanted to do it. I would defer to my husband’s wishes, without ever expressing mine. And I would subconsciously add it to the mental list deep in the recesses of my brain where I kept a tally of all the things I had been denied without ever letting anyone know that I desired them. And this time, I acted differently. I shared my feelings. I opened myself up to the possibility of having my wishes dashed, and I asked for what I wanted. I wasn’t aware of how big a deal this was until I found myself telling my husband of the change in me the night before the painters finished their work.

The second consequence of this repainting is a little more complicated to explain. When we built our house, we hired a builder. We had done this three times. We thought we knew what we were doing. But we chose the wrong guy. The man who started building our house was not who we thought he was. Several months into the build, there was little progress. Building would occur in fits and starts until it just halted. We found out that the builder was using the money from our loan to finish other clients’ homes. He would then do just enough work on ours to make another draw from the bank. Ten months into the build we weren’t framed in. He was out of money. And he had no clients after us to pay for our materials or labor. The bank had already paid him the draws for framing, claiming they didn’t know there was a second story to our house, in spite of the fact that we were required to submit the complete plans of the house to obtain our loan. In other words, we had been royally taken advantage of. After the initial shock, we pulled ourselves together and took over the building of our house. I became the contractor, and for the next six months, I was at the building site supervising, hiring electricians and plumbers, roofers and carpenters, and cleaning up the massive mess of building a home. One of the things we hadn’t counted on doing ourselves was the painting. Painting virgin walls is a whole other animal than repainting a room. There is priming and caulking. Paint is literally sucked into new drywall and plaster, and it takes way more paint than a novice would know. So we painted and painted and painted. We painted trim and trim and more trim. And we did the best we could, but it always looked like an unprofessional job, because it was. Now, it looks the way it always should have. The wall color isn’t bleeding onto the baseboards or doorframes. The color is uniform and even. And the men who we hired to do the job, did the job. They painted our house, but they did more than spruce up the trim and give our walls a new color. They erased some really bad memories and gave our house the professional job that it and we always deserved. They finished our home, and I am enormously grateful and relieved.

On all the home improvement shows they do what is called the Big Reveal. In real life, there isn’t really a big reveal. I had a lot of vacuuming and dusting to accomplish after all the workmen left. We’ll show off the color changes to our friends at a dinner party sometime in the next few weeks or so, but the big reveal in this project is within my heart, and even if no one else realizes the dramatic change that has occurred, it is no less real or gratifying. It’s amazing how the application of a little paint can bring about psychic and spiritual healing. As a spiritual director, I’m always asking people where is God in all this. In this case, I have no trouble answering my own question.

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