The Stern Work of Remodeling

📅 January 15, 2023

After thirty years in my home, I am having my kitchen remodeled, and have concluded that “remodeling” is a metaphor for life in general.

Remodeling your own home, assembling your own team, and financing the work yourself, is much, much different from home improvement shows. In the first place, an army of workers does not make a foray through your home and leave you with a finished product in forty-eight hours, ready to be revealed to a national television audience.

The workers (volunteer or paid) arrive one by one, two by two, over a period of weeks…or months. They may stay all day or only an hour. They will undoubtedly uncover problems you did not know you had, and then work will have to stop, while other workers proficient in solving that problem must be found, hired, and scheduled.

In my case, I am blessed with a daughter and son-in-law, who are experts at home improvement projects. My daughter has excellent taste in decorating and organizing affordable suppliers and reputable craftsmen. My son-in-law is an proficient carpenter, also adept at tiling, and some general electrical and plumbing tasks (though he knows when to call in experts). My younger son helped with the “demo” of the kitchen, spending a Saturday helping to take down the cabinets, haul them out, and clean up the debris.

Remodeling a kitchen makes a horrific mess. Everything must be removed from the cabinets and drawers, placed in boxes, or thrown away, moved aside or out onto the porch or garage. Some necessary items must be left “out” on your table or the counter, so you can continue to eat and drink (coffee being of utmost importance) while the work is ongoing.

Once all items are out of their usual places, the cabinets come off the wall, the drawers are emptied, and all that must be stowed as well, until someone comes to pick up the old cabinets to repurpose them, or they are simply thrown out.

One jaw-dropping surprise for me was when I took my pots and pans and griddle and cookie sheets and muffin tins out of their usual places and looked at them “in the cold light of day,” I found they were black on the bottom or caked over with decades of “greasing.”

The appliances need new homes or need to be retired completely. The refrigerator was moved out of the way and placed where it can be accessed, or bumped into, or both. My refrigerator was placed squarely next to the table, so close I could hit my elbow on it as I ate my meager meals, now available solely as “cold” repast, though I did have a toaster available to heat an Eggo or a Pop-Tart. I also “ate out” or appealed to my kind-hearted neighbors for the use of their microwaves.

Here’s what I’ve learned, or have been reminded of:

Remodeling is inevitable.  

Your life (like your kitchen) sometimes has to be remodeled, whether you want that or not, whether your think it’s “needed” or not, whether you’re ready or not.

Children grow up and begin to make their own decisions about what they will do and how and where they will live. People enter your life or leave it, through their own choices, or because they are “lost” through death or other circumstances. Your finances change, your health changes, your situation changes.

As much as we might want things “to stay the same,” and “time to stand still,” it simply isn’t possible.

And when it’s time to remodel, whether it’s your idea or not, things may be torn up for a long while. Rebuilding may need to take place, and the finished structure may not be like it used to be or to your liking, and it may take a long time for everything to settle.

Please be reminded:

Behind any and all change is the sovereign hand of God.

Jeremiah 18: 4. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so, he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.  

There is no rest for your poor heart until you learn to see the hand of God in everything.  But so long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind. Arthur W. Pink

Oswald Chambers calls yielding to these sorts of trials and changes as being “crumpled into the purpose of God.”

Are you painfully disturbed just now, distracted by the waves and billows of God’s providential permission? Are you looking unto Jesus now, in the immediate matter that is pressing and receiving from Him peace? If you try to worry it out, you obliterate Him. We get disturbed because we have not been considering Him. Lay it all out before Him, and in the face of difficulty, bereavement, and sorrow, hear Him say, “Let not your heart be troubled.”

Remodeling is illuminating.

How easily we settle into our ways of thinking and how staunchly we adhere to our ways of “doing things.” Once we have a system set up and in place (good or bad), it is sometimes hard to look at that system objectively.

For example: once I started taking items out of my cabinets, I wondered why in the world I was hanging onto: 1) spices which were, in some cases, four years out of date; 2) more than a dozen plastic lids which fit no container; 3) (as mentioned above) pots, pans, cookie sheets, black and burned in places; 4) other people’s dishes I had washed and never returned.

The process of extricating and examining was far from easy.

Ultimately, fewer dishes, and newer dishes, made my life simpler, and beyond that, who wants to put smudged and tarnished dishes into sparkling white cabinets?

I am not advocating morbid introspection of our mental and emotional “shelves and drawers and closets” where we store our innermost wounds and regrets. We probably do far too much nursing and coddling of past woes and injured feelings.

However, sometimes it’s time to haul everything out of the place we have safely stored it and untangle ourselves from its stranglehold.

Again, Oswald Chambers:

It is not the thing we spend the most time on that molds us most; the greatest element is the thing that exerts the most power. The moment you are willing that God should alter your disposition, His re-creating forces will begin to work. The moment you realize God’s purpose, which is to get you rightly related to Himself and then to your fellow men, He will tax the last limit of the universe to help you take the right road.

Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

Church-going people have often heard this verse exposited to mean: “If you yield yourself to alcohol, pornography, greed, etc., you become the servant of that thing.”

But the same is true of other sins: bitterness, malice, unforgiveness.

If we spend every waking moment rehearsing how we’ve been hurt or misused or misunderstood, we become “servants” of that mistreatment or its perpetrator, expending all our energy on those thoughts, giving those memories permission to inhabit our lives.

And they make very bad company.  

Remodeling is interactional.

Remodeling, whether the ideal world of television fixer-uppers, or the real world of “I’ve-been-at-this-for-six-months-now,” is a team effort.

As I’ve mentioned, my family has helped with the project. I’ve also welcomed the cabinet installers, countertop people, plumbers, electricians, and the men who will install the floor. (We would’ve had more people, if my son-in-law didn’t know how to do so many things well.)

But here’s the point about a team.

  1. I could not have done any of this by myself.
  2. Each member of the team had the knowledge and experience required.
  3. My project had a better chance of success if I welcomed the team, acknowledged their expertise, and followed the advice they offered.

There are any number of Scriptures I could recommend that illustrate this truth about people needing each other and meeting each other’s needs. I prefer Romans 12 as a general guide. I’ve often thought if we all lived by this chapter, “what a bright world it would be.”

Romans 12

4. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5. So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another; 10. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another; 13. Distributing to the necessity of the saints; 15. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

I have recently been blessed to observe families, friends, and church members bind together to help and provide during times of bereavement. As sad as each of the circumstances was and as great as the loss will always be, it was heartwarming to watch as needs were met, sacrifices were made, invitations were offered, friendships were treasured.

“Love thy neighbor’ can take many forms, but any way you look at it, Jesus said, “This is the second great commandment.” (The first, of course, being to love God.)

May all your remodeling be blessed with help from God and help from your neighbors, whoever they may be.  


  1. Wanda Violet

    I’m enjoying thinking about that butler’s pantry. That was a brilliant addition.

  2. Lisa Eppard

    Wonderful analogies. All masterfully articulated and illustrated.


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association