It is December 21, the shortest day of the year, when our new contractor arrives in the early morning to introduce the flooring installer. “Nice to meet you,” he says with a thick Eastern European accent. He’s slight of stature, but commands the room and speaks with authority about his craft. For starters, he refuses to lay the new wood planks parallel to the sub-floor planking. He insists they must run perpendicular to one another for a quality installation. Either direction works stylistically and since it is obvious he does his job with excellence, I agree with everything he suggests.
Over the course of the next three days the flooring contractor and his assistant arrive punctually every morning by 8am and work steadily throughout the day. He’s annoyed when his assistant is fifteen minutes late one morning and I have to laugh. It’s such a contrast to our old crew with its late start times and unpredictable work hours.
With each wood plank laid, the house feels less like a hovel and more like a home. He starts in the family room, covering the bare wood subflooring that is speckled with paint. He vacuums every particle of dirt and dust and works painstakingly on the smallest details.
Once he finishes the kitchen and family room floor, we can start moving in appliances and furniture while he works on the rest. December 23 dawns frosty and cold. A knock at the door announces the arrival of our friend who will help my husband move appliances with a rented truck. It feels surreal when they arrive an hour later and unload the dishwasher and refrigerator, the final two pieces we’ve been waiting to install.
The second load includes the huge three-piece couch that has been stored since August. The rest of the family room furniture that’s been in our garage since being delivered a week ago can finally be brought inside as well. We spend the day unwrapping packing materials and arranging everything where we’ve envisioned it since the plans were drawn over a year earlier.
Our large entertainment center has been stored in pieces in the boys’ rooms since it arrived in June. Now, we move it out and assemble it along the wall in the family room. For the first time in six months, they have available floor space in their rooms to play. As we move each piece of furniture to its intended place, the house feels less cluttered and more like a true home.
The winter sun has long since set when the final plank is laid on December 23. We’re overflowing with gratitude as the flooring contractor packs up and wishes us well at the end of the day. The hope of moving in by Christmas is now a reality.
On Christmas Eve, we continue the process of transforming our “hovel” back into a living room. We’re getting the last of the furniture in place when our younger son says: “What about some Christmas decorations?” Up until now, his Advent Bagel and Christmas music streaming from the computer have been our only “decorations” for the season.
Together, we climb up into our new attic space and fish out a few key items: stockings to hang on the mantel, two tiny pre-lit Christmas trees that usually stand on our front porch, a few small ornaments and a red Santa hat. We climb down and put one small fake tree next to our fireplace and hang a few ornaments on it. With the mantel finally cleared off of all the food and the bookcase removed from in front of the fireplace, we can actually hang our stockings. We put the other small tree in the new family room to give it some Christmas cheer. The final touch is putting our holiday tablecloth on the dining room table. It will be the first time in many months we’ve been able to eat off a table in our own home.
That evening, we go to a Christmas Eve service at church and have dinner around our table with family afterwards. My husband and I reminisce about that Christmas Eve sixteen years ago when we first peeked in the windows of the house and felt our hearts pound with excitement. It seems fitting that our first night in the new room coincides with that same memorable date.
Many details remain unfinished, but we go to bed Christmas Eve with our hearts full of gratitude. God has carried us through the worst of it and has given us strength for every step of the journey. It hasn’t been easy, but He has guided us and sustained us through it all.
On Christmas Day we wake up and laugh at the small gift pile that dwarfs our mini Christmas tree in the living room. That afternoon a few family members stop by for their first glimpse of the nearly finished remodel. We’re all having such good time that we decide to stay a little longer to enjoy appetizers before heading to a different home for dinner. As we gather in the new kitchen, the adults chat enthusiastically while the kids laugh with their cousins. I stand in the center of the room taking it all in.
For years I’ve longed to host gatherings in our home, to welcome people in and to show them hospitality. Now, our first “party” has happened with total spontaneity. Once more, I find myself welling up with emotion and gratitude as I think of the ways God has made this dream a reality after many long months.
The old contractor’s tools fill part of our garage, we still need a new driveway and there are many more details requiring our attention, but tonight is a night for celebrating. Our hovel has once again become a home. The true center of our celebrating is Jesus, who has carried us through every step of the way.