"Restoration Man" by Nicole Johnson (CatholicMom.com) Photo by Charlie Balch (2004) via Freeimages.com, License.


It’s called “Restoration Man,” and it’s my new favorite show.   Set in Britain, the show follows couples that bravely take on renovation projects that most wouldn’t even consider. So far, I’ve seen an old water tower, a 100-year-old windmill and a long-forgotten schoolhouse transformed into incredible homes. The vision the renovators have is nothing less than awe-inspiring. They look at these old derelict buildings and something inside of them is stirred. It becomes all-consuming and they find themselves sacrificing everything to bring life back to what seems a crumbling mess.

What adds to the show’s fascination is the work of the host (not to mention his delightful accent) to research each building, delve into its history and present the full story behind each brick and beam. In his initial meeting with those heading the restoration, he reviews the plans and makes suggestions as to how they might be improved and also offers advice on how to ensure the historical significance of the building is respected. I’ve found it so refreshing that each couple that takes on one of these projects comments on the responsibility they feel in preserving the dignity of the building and honoring the original purpose and use of the space. They aren’t looking to raze the buildings, but rather bring new life and new use to what once was, all the while taking into account the many stories encompassed in its history.

January is a big month for taking stock on one’s life. Our bad habits sit around us like the rotting wood struggling to hold up the forgotten building. As the end of December rolls around, we look toward January with excitement for all the possibilities it seems to hold. We are inspired by the thought of a new beginning and are quick to mark the first of the month as the beginning of what is sure to be a better life.

We’ve all heard the saying, “we make plans and God laughs.” I often think of that as I’m meticulously planning out my day, my week, my year. I am humbled in the reminder that I am not the master architect here and there may be alterations, additions and/or subtractions to my plans that will help me lead the life I am meant to live and bring out the beauty of who I was always meant to be. I am forced to put down my pencil, sit back and allow for some reflection. What does God want me to build this year? What does He want to shed light on for me? What joys does He want me to pay forward and what struggles does He want me to use to help others? Once again, I am gently reminded that I was never meant to be in control and the only real dependable plan is to hand it all over and strive to remain open to God leading me down whatever path He has chosen.

[tweet "What does God want me to build this year?"]

One of the many challenges people face in these restoration projects is the demand on them to use as much of the original materials found in the building as possible.  Materials are stripped, reconditioned and replaced with painstaking effort and detail. I’m always left amazed at the amount of usable material found in these building that look like they are just begging to be torn down. Interestingly enough, the same might be said for all of us.  I’ve found that so many of my lessons learned in these short forty years can be used for good if I allow God to show me how. Just last week I sat with a cherished friend and relived much of my own journey with anxiety as I listened to her current struggles with this debilitating condition. I know that the simple fact that I understand exactly where she is at is more comforting than anything else I could offer her. I feel the same way when I speak to other couples that have experienced miscarriage. The gift in the struggle is the understanding I can offer to others experiencing similar crosses. And that is God’s way of restoring me. I love that.

The year has just begun and we all have our own personal plans and goals mixed in with fears and worry. There are moments when I truly wish I could see the plan for me drafted neatly on a piece of paper. I wish I could review them, make the changes I saw fit and give them my stamp of approval. Of course we are all well aware life just doesn’t work that way. I have yet to see a restoration project that didn’t encounter one or many major challenges once the work began and problems were revealed along the way. I also have yet to see an episode where the restorers succumbed to the challenges and gave up on their dream. As we delve deeper into 2017, I pray for the strength to remain always open to the true architect's plans, (whether they match mine or not) and am truly comforted by the knowledge that God never tires of His role in restoring each one of us piece by precious piece. In true British fashion, I dare say that’s just “brilliant”!

Copyright 2017 Nicole Johnson