Monday, October 5, 2009
A Note from Terri Kraus
Writing a novel set in the world of the restoration of old buildings has always been a dream of mine. The idea of renovation is in my family’s blood. I’m an interior design professional. My brothers are rehabbers. My husband, Jim, and I have survived the renovation of three houses.
I know the upheaval well, the despair of having no control, the agonizing over style decisions, the budget constraints, the disagreements between contractor and owner, and the emotional roller coaster of unexpected problems and unanticipated gifts along the way. Together my clients and I have accepted big disappointments, celebrated tiny successes, and experienced the inexpressible elation at seeing what was once in ruins—old, broken, useless—become, with all its quirks, a beautiful, completely renewed, and usable place for people to share life again. Looking back on all those projects, I can echo the sentiment in the opening line of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Many of you are probably, like me, HGTV fans who watch the many shows about fixing up old houses. You find yourself glued to the glimpses of contractors and owners engaged in the process. You live vicariously through the rehabbing, renovating, and restoring.
I can relate. I’ve always been captivated by old buildings. Poring over books about art, architectural styles, and decoration from all over the world has always been one of my favorite pastimes. As I’ve traveled internationally and visited many of the places I’ve studied independently and in the course of my education in design, I’ve become even more passionate about restoration. (I’m the woman you might see sitting on a bench along the wall of the Sistine Chapel, silently weeping as I take in Michelangelo’s magnificent masterpiece in the simplicity of that sacred space.) I can talk forever about the importance of preserving buildings that are testaments to the creative impulse, the hours of painstaking effort, the motivation and dedication of artists, designers, craftsmen, and artisans from previous eras. All were, no doubt, imperfect people—but people used as instruments in God’s hands to create perfectly rendered works of art that endure and can stir our hearts so many, many years later.
For me, there’s something quite magical about walking into an old place, with all its history, where so much life has been lived, where so many events and significant moments have taken place—the happy ones, the sad ones, and all the everyday moments and hours in between. Imagining who might have inhabited a house, how the family came together, the love they shared, their conversations, the tears and laughter, is irresistible to me. I find inspiration as I imagine how they celebrated and grieved, how they overcame adversity, how they survived tragedy, then moved on to enjoy life
within the old walls once again.
One of the joys of my life was visiting the little northern Italian village, nestled among olive groves high up in the Apennine Mountains, where my maternal grandparents were born, grew up, and married before emigrating to America in 1920. A short lane connects their two families’ farmhouses. In between them stands a small, now empty house of ancient, mellowed stone where my grandparents lived as newlyweds. How full my heart felt as I walked over that threshold! I pictured them as a young couple in the first blush of matrimony, with all their hopes and dreams … before their brave journey (separately) across a wide ocean to a strange land where all was unknown. Within those aged walls, did they speak of their fears as they prepared to leave their homeland, certain they’d never see their parents and siblings again? What kind of courage did that require? What words did they use to comfort and reassure one another? I wondered. I could see, in my mind’s eye, my grandmother stirring a pot of pasta as my grandfather stoked the fire. I could even hear the crackling of the firewood, smell the slight wood smoke.…
A few artifacts remained of their time there, and I was delighted to be able to take them back to America with me. Now I treasure and display them in my own home because they connect me with that place and time and remind me of my rich heritage—all stemming from that small structure, still standing, solidly built so long ago.
I love the metaphor of restoration, which is why I came up with the idea for the Project Restoration series—stories that would follow both the physical restoration of a building and the emotional/spiritual restoration of a character. Perhaps in the Project Restoration series, you’ll find a character who mirrors your own life and points you toward the kind of restoration you long for.
After all, God is in the business of restoring lives—reclaiming, repairing, renewing what was broken and bringing beauty from ashes. I know, because I’ve seen it firsthand. For many years, I’ve worked in women’s ministries. I’ve seen many women—as well as the men and children they love—deal with scars from their past that shape their todays and tomorrows. They all long for restoration—to live hopefully, joyfully, and productively once again—but that also requires forgiveness. Forgiveness of others (whether they deserve it or not) and, perhaps most importantly, forgiveness of oneself in order to be healthy and available to God. Clinging to past hurts or “unfairness,” hostility, anger, grudges, resentment, bitterness, or allowing abuse to alter your self-worth renders your life virtually useless. Unforgiveness shapes your perception of yourself, your outlook on life, the kind of relationships you have, and keeps you in “stuck” mode. It leaves you without hope, in a dark, emotionally paralyzing, spiritually debilitating, physically draining state and causes so much unnecessary pain … even addiction.
Yet God Himself stands and waits, extending the gift of restoration. The light of His love shines on all those dark places deep within us, exposing what needs His healing touch, renewing hope, providing freedom from bondage. This is the type of restoration I’ve become passionate about too. For when our souls are gloriously freed through God’s renovation, we become whole, useful, and able to extend the forgiveness we have experienced to others. Our hope is renewed. Then individuals, families, churches, and entire communities can be transformed!
What event in your past do you need to let go of? It is my hope and prayer that you, too, will experience the renewal that awaits you through saying yes to God’s invitation of heart restoration … and the life-transforming joy that will follow.