After a rough start the week after Thanksgiving, the contractor and his crew finally resurface on Thursday to put in a solid day of work. They stay until 5pm to get the oven installed but leave with the family room half-painted. A piece of tape midway down one wall marks where they’ll continue the next day. Painting and construction tools are scattered around the room in complete disarray.
My husband follows the contractor out to his car to talk privately away from the crew: “Work goes much faster when you’re here to oversee things. Can we keep the momentum moving forward to get the job done before Christmas?” The contractor assures him: “I’ll be here tomorrow after I pick up your flooring. We’ll start installing it next week.” If it actually happens, this would be a huge step towards being able to move back into the kitchen and family room and unpacking the dusty boxes stacked throughout our house.
The tension we’ve carried all week feels suddenly lighter. We allow ourselves a glimmer of hope: the end may actually be in sight. We don’t talk about any of this- probably because if we put words to it will feel too real. It’s best to keep expectations low and be pleasantly surprised.
Today’s progress makes me hopeful, but I have a sinking feeling that their “long hours” will mean a late start the following day. We’ve seen this cycle so many times over the months that it’s worn a groove in our memories. Just as things start gaining momentum and actually progressing at an encouraging pace, they come to a screeching halt.
The next day I leave before the contractor and his crew arrive. I’ll be gone all day so my husband monitors the job from work. Exasperated, he calls in the afternoon and tells me “I went home at lunch, texted once and left three messages. No one is working at our house and the contractor isn’t calling back.” When I return home, I send the contractor a “Where are you?” e-mail since he’s not responding via cell phone. The e-mail receives no response.
The weekend passes with no word from the contractor, despite our efforts to contact him. By Sunday evening, it’s been three days since my husband had the conversation with him about finishing before Christmas. We’re starting to panic and begin calling all of his sub-contractors to see if anyone has heard from him. Nothing.
Monday morning I wake up wondering if work will resume when a frightening reality crosses my mind: he might not be coming back. After the initial shock, inexplicable calm washes over me. The jittery panic I’ve felt for the past few days slowly fades as I digest this new possibility. The peace I feel for that moment could only be from God; there is no other reasonable explanation for it.
Throughout Monday we try to reach the contractor to no avail. The house remains cold and silent. The scattered tools and half-painted wall seem to mock us, snuffing out the small sparks of hope we had for celebrating Christmas in our finished house.
Tuesday morning dawns and no one shows up to work, again. I come home mid-morning to find my husband sitting on the couch in our hovel knotted up with tension. “What happened, why aren’t you at work?” I ask. He retorts: “How can I work when no one is here? We can’t keep living like this… in this mess…with a contractor who doesn’t show up…we need to figure out what to do.” We are completely overwhelmed by the huge burden of stress we’re carrying. We decide to do the only thing that makes sense: we clasp hands, bow our heads and pray. Only God has the answers we desperately right now.
In prayer we confront our fear that the contractor may not resurface. We seek God’s wisdom and He reveals a plan for us. Immediately afterwards, I call a friend from Bible Study whose husband is a contractor (someone I didn’t meet until after the remodel began). My husband calls the Contractor Licensing Board and the contractor’s bond companies to find out how to make claims on the unfinished work. As we research and talk with people who can help us, we’re forced to say the dreaded words aloud: “We think our contractor has abandoned the job.”
On the phone, my friend listens to our predicament. As the wife of a contractor, she assures me that what we’re experiencing is not normal and offers to call her husband, whom I’ve never met. A few minutes later, I’m on the phone recounting our dilemma to him and asking for guidance. I list off the unfinished projects: “We have a huge pile of rubble on our driveway that needs to be removed before we can demolish it to pour a new one.” He responds: “I can probably come by next week to take a look.” I continue: “We have no flooring in our kitchen and family room and are living in one room of our house.” He offers: “How about if I drop by at noon tomorrow?” Grateful, I gush: “That would be great. I haven’t been able to do laundry in my own house for four months. We had the new washer and drier delivered last week but they’re sitting in the middle of the laundry room uninstalled. Maybe you could take a look at them too.” That’s the final straw: “I’ll be there at 3pm today, what’s your address?”
At three o’clock sharp, there is a knock at the door. In my mind’s eye, I imagine the man on our porch wearing a blue and red suit with a cape and a Superman “S” emblazoned on his chest. He walks in, introduces himself and begins to survey the situation.
The answer to our prayers of desperation is quickly being revealed.