Monica Lee is the author of four memoirs/autobiographical fiction books: her latest is Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul. Also available: Truth, Dare, Double Dare, Promise or Repeat: On Finding the Meaning of "Like" in 1982, How to Look Hot & Feel Amazing in Your 40s: The 21-Day Age-Defying Diet, Exercise & Everything Makeover Plan and The Percussionist's Wife.
“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days,” opined poet James Russell Lowell. Perfect days, I think, for a little outdoor project.
I painted a couple of beat-up chairs on just such a day last year. We found the chairs in our former rental house, and the property manager told us when we moved in, “They’re yours now!” One chair had been sitting outside through many rain storms from the looks of it. The seat had a crack in it. The other was stashed in the basement, covered in cobwebs. But whenever I encounter solid wood furniture that has seen better days, I see a potential paint project.
I sanded these beauties and swished on a couple of coats of Fusion paint. First the back spindles were painted in Sterling gray and then the rest of the chairs was painted in Raw Silk. I find the subtle contrast of two similar colors preferable to more dramatic color choices, but you do you.
I draped a quilt top on one of the chairs. The unfinished quilt top was gifted to me from a former parishioner who believed it belonged in the church. It is quite old, I’m guessing from the early 20th century, and each of the white blocks features the name of a woman (and a few men) who belonged to the Methodist congregation at the time. I agree with my benefactor: the memento belongs here.
As I have mentioned many times here, I am repeatedly impressed with the way a couple coats of paint can improve a hunk of wood. The hardest part is the waiting between coats, and even that’s not so difficult when you can enjoy June’s gentle breezes.
Ye olde church sign offers a play on the Serenity Prayer, and if the world could use more of anything in these imperfect times, it’s serenity.
An acquaintance mentioned to my husband how much she loves the messages I put on our sign. Music to my ears! Between the sign and the belfry, there’s no mistaking our house was once a church, but I’m OK with that. It was once a church, so of course it looks like one. I accept what is on that front. But it’s nice to hear when someone finds inspiration in my work as evidenced by the sign.
If I struggle, I struggle with letting go of what was. Especially is what was offered familiarity and comfortableness and sometimes even joy. And now it’s gone. What was was easier. Now is harder.
I want to have faith in what will be. “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Having faith is a mantra I can get behind. Faith in what will be is hope in the future, and I want to be hopeful.
That little pink flower from the church sign that made its way into the frame of my picture—that’s faith. A tiny bit of evidence that color and beauty and life exist inside the box.
The story Pauleen Le at CBS 58 worked up about Church Sweet Home casts a flattering light on our renovation project in a way my amateur photography on this blog or the black-and-white shots in my memoir never could.
To see Le’s Sunday Morning show story, click here. It’s worth five-and-a-half minutes of your time just to hear the church bell and creak of the door into the sanctuary. If you’re a regular reader who hasn’t had the opportunity to visit this little Methodist Mecca/Phoenix from the ashes in person, this video will satisfy your curiosity. The drone shots gave us a look even we have never seen of our house!
At one point in the video, I say “And we did it!” In a story about us and our house, that’s absolutely correct, but I feel compelled to credit here the workers and skilled craftsmen who helped us: St. Johnny, You-Can-Call-Me-Al, Reroofer, the Michelangelo drywallers, Glimfeather the plumber, Low Talker the painter, the spiral stairway proprietress, the electrician, the Lighting Savant, the expert at the glass store, our friend at Home Depot who rented us a floor sander twenty times, the guys who poured the driveway, the man who operated the crane that dropped the rafters for the Garage Mahal, several relatives who helped us in various ways, and many others. We did it, but we didn’t do it by ourselves.
Check it out, and let Pauleen Le know if you like her story. Thanks to her and her team, too.
It’s felt a little like living on a movie set this week.
Pauleen Le of CBS 58 in Milwaukee stopped by this week to interview Tyler and me about converting the church into a home and about my book about the process. Kyle, the cameraman, brought along lights and cameras, and we provided the action, which mostly involved chatting on the couch but we also showed them around the chome and pointed out all our favorite parts. We had a lot of fun.
Another afternoon, Dan stopped by and took some photos of the exterior of the church with a drone.
If you’re a neighbor and you wondered why we were ringing the bell like we just bought it, that’s why. We were showing off. For all the times I’ve written about our church bell with all kinds of flowery description on this blog, viewers may get to hear it for a change.
The story is scheduled to air during the 7 o’clock telecast of the CBS 58 Sunday Morning show (5/31) and again during the 9 o’clock rebroadcast on WMLW-TV. Tune in and see our star turn!
It’s Memorial Day. You have the freedom to observe it with solemnity or celebrate it with joy (and barbecue sauce). However you spend it, please do it in accordance with the health guidelines of your locality and treat the essential workers you encounter with respect.
By the way, if you live in the vicinity, open your ears at 9 a.m. I am ringing the church bell this morning in observance of the holiday.
Mr. Go Big or Go Home borrowed a dump truck and hauled eleven loads of mulch today to tuck our trees and bushes into bed.
And then Tyler picked up a load of mushroom compost for the vegetable garden (an even dozen dump truck loads of material).
Tyler reported that Home Depot was packed late this afternoon. The check-out line in the nursery department was forty gardeners deep (he transported his purchases inside for self-checkout). Watching the activity around here, one might be forgiven for mistaking this for labor day weekend instead of Memorial Day weekend (I worked up a sweat documenting it).
A friend gave me this word art, and I knew immediately I wanted to display inside the belfry room of our chome.
The belfry room remains halfway between unrestored and finished. I actually ran out of primer when painting the walls, which is evident in the picture.
I appreciate the symbolism of this message, displayed in my unfinished space in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. All of life right now is in the space between before and after. God is here, too, if only we can stand still long enough to know it.