Wednesday, November 11, 2009


My husband and I live in a house that was built in the '80s. Although it is generally in fine shape, there are some decorating challenges still hanging around here and there that someday I will get to. One of the projects I have been working on slowly but surely is getting the popcorn texture off the ceilings. I have been doing this one room at a time with long breaks in between rooms. I think that is all I could take. This has got to be one of the messiest jobs in home improvement that I have ever done. It is slow and uncomfortable work. The first thing you have to do is get everything out of the room. Anything left in the room will be hopelessly covered and infiltrated with grimy white dust. If you want to save the floor covering, you have to put a protective cover on it. Then the drudgery begins. Every inch of the ceiling must be sprayed with water to loosen the texture, and then scraped. Lots of times, since you are scraping over your head, the dust and texture falls on you – in your mouth, nose, and eyes. It helps to have protective glasses and a mask. Fortunately, the moisture cuts down on the dust in the air, but it is still bad. Once you've gotten all the stuff scraped off, the cleanup is a challenge. Hopefully you were able to contain the dust in one room, but if not, you will be cleaning it up all over the house for days. The room itself takes several sweepings and a few vacuumings. When you return your attention to the ceiling, you notice that underneath all that texture, the drywall was not properly finished. Although most of the seams have been taped and spackled, there are still plenty of nails that have not been covered. There is also a residue of the texture that needs to be sanded off. And there are those unavoidable gashes from the scraping and various other imperfections. If you want a smooth ceiling, little patches of drywall paste need to be applied and sanded. I discovered that if you sand the drywall patches before they get too dry and hard, it is much easier to get them smooth. This process itself takes a few days. Since you have to take regular breaks from holding your arms up over your head, you can only do so much sanding in any given session. There's also the patch, dry, sand cycle that requires waiting for the drywall paste to dry. Often, any single patched spot takes more than one coat of paste. It is pretty tedious and requires plenty of patience. Well, when you finally have all those patches done and all the texture sanded off and your ceiling is smooth, you put on a coat of primer. Primer can be quite revealing. Suddenly, there are more spots that need attention. So you get out that drywall paste and patch a few more spots. You're getting closer. After priming over the new patches, the painting begins. Two coats are best for a smooth, consistent finish. For a while, you wonder if it was worth it. But then you forget about how awful it was to do this job, you are glad it's done, and you plan which room will be next!

Do you suppose God feels the same way about removing the popcorn from our souls? We have all those old textures in our lives where cobwebs and dust build up over the years, looking very dingy and worn. Perhaps we have gotten in the habit of being anxious or worried. Maybe we have some old relationship issues we have never dealt with. Time seems to dull the ache to the point where we forget that we have an ache. We don't notice how bad we feel until we actually do feel better and then we are surprised that we put up with it. These things are not the major issues that are obvious for everyone to see, but are perhaps noticed by those folks who hang around a lot. They are the things that nag at the back of our minds that we try to ignore.

But God sees the value in beginning the cleanup project. Furniture is moved out of our spiritual space so that it won't be covered with grime. To do this, perhaps we go on retreat or begin a new prayer routine to declutter our spirit so that the work can begin. The scraping can be painful. That layer of popcorn has had its protective properties. The previously unexposed places have the light of day staring at them. We might call this part of the job repentance or confession or reconciliation. Having all those old habits and persistent sins rubbed out and scraped away leaves us uncertain of how to behave. But we trust God and submit even though this in between place is vulnerable and uncertain. God has to sweep up and vacuum several times because the grime that comes from all that scraping has spread all over the place. We didn't realize what a mess we were causing and we may need to make a few amends as well. Then the patching up and sanding are like a deep soul scrubbing - this can be painful. But finally, the blemishes of our souls are removed and healed and we begin the rebuilding process. The whole thing takes plenty of time and patience. The result is a smooth, clean surface that is prepared for primer and paint – a corner of our soul that is ready to nurture the Christ light. We may not think it is a remarkable thing of beauty, but God certainly does… and then God is thinking about which room will be next!

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