I am involved in a lot of remodeling projects in my work. These are usually large-scale projects that take many months and sometimes years to complete. As I’m working on the designs for these projects and then watching them unfold, remodeling analogies will sometimes occur to me—analogies relating to what the Lord does for us, how he remodels us.
I think the Lord treats each of his children like a very special remodeling project. Although there are similar processes and elements, each “project” is unique, and each will turn out a little differently.
Remodeling usually is motivated because something isn’t right. I’m not referring to a need for redecorating, like painting a room, or even a face-lift like changing countertops and light fixtures. I’m referring to when things deeper than the surface need attention, times when the right paint color will not solve the problem. It may be that major mechanicals like plumbing or electrical systems need to be replaced, or it might be a floor plan problem, where walls have to be put in different places or removed altogether.
My particular design specialty is kitchens. I just love a broken, non-functional, ugly kitchen. Especially if it’s tucked into the darkest corner of the house (which it usually is!). I actually get excited when I realize how dramatic the change could be, how wonderful, beautiful, and highly functioning the kitchen could be after a properly designed and expertly executed remodel.
I know the Lord considers us this way. In front of him we can stand broken, ugly, and non- functioning, but what he sees excites him, because he knows what he created us to be, and he’s been waiting to be able to do his beautiful thing. As Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are God’s handiwork” (niv).
The first step of the remodeling process is to agree that it’s necessary to do something. The second is to start uncovering one layer at a time, which means removing things that are obvious problems, like a damaged plaster wall, or finding and removing deeper problems, like corroded pipes, crossed wires, or rotten floor joists. A skilled craftsman will take care during demolition, as often there are things that have value, are important to the home, and need to be saved.
I have experienced the Lord’s careful work on me as he exposes, then identifies areas that need to be removed for the sake of making me more like him. He is patient with me, and even though it is painful sometimes, I can be confident that he is the Master at this type of work, has a plan, and will be faithful to complete it. He is the author of beauty and knows exactly what needs to stay and what needs to go. I can trust him in this.
The acceptance of this is usually a process. On my latest major remodeling project, one I call the “Slow Flip,” one of the things that appealed to me most about the house when I first saw it was that the original plaster walls and ceilings were in excellent condition, almost crack-free. This is very unusual for a house almost 100 years old. One of my main objectives going into the remodel was to keep as much of as the original plaster as possible. Another one of my objectives was to design a beautiful, functional kitchen.
This is where my two objectives collided. To be able to install the kitchen I designed, the almost pristine plaster ceiling would have to be torn down. The ductwork for the range hood needed to travel across the ceiling, and I needed to access the ceiling to install adequate lighting and modernized heating and cooling ductwork. I first asked the contractor if we could just remove a little portion and save the majority of the plaster. He tried. Every day was a call. Every day, he needed to take down more plaster. It was painful for me. I was losing my beloved plaster! Finally, I came around to the truth of it; the whole ceiling needed to come down if the job was going to be done correctly. I’d been holding on to something that had to go in order to make something beautiful and functioning.
A similar story took place at the project I call the Madison. The 1902 home had a beautiful staircase in a gracious stair hall in the center of the home. One of the biggest problems of the home was an antiquated floor plan which relegated the kitchen to a dark corner away from all the other rooms. I tried to think of a way to open up the house to integrate the kitchen into the other living spaces, but I kept running into a huge obstacle: the stairway. It was simply in the wrong place. I tried everything to leave it where it was. Moving a staircase is a huge undertaking, not to mention a costly one.
But relocating it was the only way to make the house right. It’s hard to surrender something that appears to be so important. Yet this is often what is required. And again, the Lord spoke to me. He said, “There are things that you feel are very integral to yourself, that may even appear to have great importance. I have a better plan and it involves removal of some ‘sacred’ things, at least in your eyes. Do you trust me?”
My response has to be “Of course I trust you, you are worthy of all my trust!” The master craftsman who knows me best, loves me most. My most secure place is in his hands. He wants me beautiful and functional. It can require painful removal of some pretty important stuff, at least in my eyes. But the result is so completely worth it.
He is good, and he loves me. He has good plans for me, a future for me, and a hope for me. He tells me, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, esv).
I derive great joy from turning these old, forsaken homes into beautiful dwelling places for families. If that is true, imagine the joy the Lord has when one of his prized possessions—you!—is open to a remodeling of the heart. Of course, it may be painful; certainly there will be things that seem dear and important but must be removed.
But they are removed for the sake of replacing them with something so wonderful and marvelous. You and me, more like Christ. To be more like him—we allow him to remove the things in us that must go. And by God’s grace, we can do this. God achieves his desired results. A beautiful, remarkably functional piece of his workmanship. And that is you.
Jean Stoffer is an award-winning Grand Rapids–based independent interior designer specializing in kitchen and bath designs. Each of her designs is custom suited for her clients’ lives and how they hope to use their home. Jean is also the founder of Stoffer Home, a retail store featuring beautiful and functional items for the home, and Stoffer Home Cabinetry, the source for Jean’s own line of quality, British-inspired flush-inset cabinets. In December 2021, Magnolia Network began airing The Established Home, a TV series featuring Jean and her design work.