18. In the Midst of Noise, Trouble, and Hard Work: Finding the Calm in your Heart

Sept. 2017–Bathroom project, Take Two

We’re working on the bathroom.

A small five-word sentence. It doesn’t even have an exclamation point at the end. Although it should, so I’ll put one here instead!

In 2011, when we became official owners of this little cottage, the bathroom was the first room we intended to refinish. It’s small, we thought; yes, start small. But then we ran into a few problems, and the contractor husband decided it would be better to redo the kitchen first. So now, six years later we are finally starting on the bathroom. 

Can I just say that the cottage bathroom would definitely take first place in the Ugly Bathroom Contest. The walls have had the wallpaper peeled off (one of the first tasks I completed) and are generally three different colors of old plaster—sometimes melding into one odd shade of greenish-yellowish-pink. Vintage Italianate plaster it is not. The ceiling was painted back in the seventies with textured paint and is peeling; the sink vanity is covered with some sort of fake material that started to peel, so I ripped the plastic off and one door is brown while the rest of it is still shiny off-white vinyl. There is a seventies moulded shower stall that is moldy and simply won’t come clean, no matter how much it is scrubbed with Barkeeper’s Friend. The wood floor is partially sanded (I also own up to this–remember we were going to start with the bathroom?) and partially still covered with years of caked varnish and paint drips. It is truly the ugliest bathroom on record.

In all these years, however, we have collected most everything we need. The first pieces we bought for the house were the bathroom vanity and mirror. They’ve been against the wall in the garage bedroom covered in plastic All. This. Time. The truth is often not pretty, but there is a glass-half-full outlook. We already have: the sink, the sink faucet, the shower faucets and hardware, the vanity, the mirror, the lights, the toilet, a lovely cabinet with glass doors that was left over from the kitchen project, the tile for the shower floor, the faux marble tile for the vanity top, the boards for the ceiling, an electric wall heater, and (drum roll please…) the pull-down attic ladder–which was the initial problem that stopped this bathroom project those many years ago.

That long list above, makes the list of still-to-purchase items rather short: subway tile for the shower walls, a  shower pan, and some incidental plumbing materials. Oh, and paint. And maybe a window. We haven’t really decided about the window yet. That’s the least of our worries; we haven’t gotten to that wall yet…

But can I just be honest and say, this prolonged bathroom project has made for a lot of anxiety and needless tension? The last unnecessary comment I made was earlier this year: the contractor husband thought maybe we could invite some folks over for dinner.

We have a lovely kitchen for cooking.

We have a lovely dining room for eating.

We have a lovely porch for grilling.

We have a lovely living room for conversing.

Did I focus on any of those? No.

I said, “No one is getting invited here for dinner until the bathroom is finished.”

I mean, let’s face it: you can’t invite people for dinner and then shove them out the door right after dessert because you don’t want them to use your bathroom….

Yes, the truth is not pretty. It’s right up there with those ugly bathroom walls.

And no, I never have had peace about living in the midst of a really ugly bathroom. Oh, every morning when I take a shower, I’m grateful for the hot running water. I lived without running water for several years, so I know about praise for hot showers…. And I know that much of the world does not have clean running water and I am a spoiled, first world rich woman. Forgive me Lord.

It’s just that I really appreciate beauty, and there is such a lack of beauty in this bathroom… The only charm is in my mind’s eye because I know what we have planned. Yet we are still in the midst of noise, trouble, and hard work, and the beauty is still not there. For months I had this saying on my kitchen chalk board:

This quote seems to me to be a direct explanation of the verse in the Bible that reads: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The world expects that peace is the absence of anxiety, noise, strife; but Jesus tells His disciples plainly that even though peace is one of His gifts, it is not the way the world expects. His peace may be found in the midst of strife–through prayer. His peace may be found in the midst of anxiety—through prayer. His peace may be found in the midst of trouble—through prayer. No, it isn’t easy. But Jesus never told us it would be easy. He said, yes, in this world we would have trouble, but He is our peace, and He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

One of the most difficult trials of the Christian journey is the worry about noise, trouble, or hard work that seems to surround us like a dark cloud (or an ugly bathroom). Stripped down, it is simply a lack of trust in God’s promises. He has promised to be our peace; He has promised to be with us always; He has promised to never leave or forsake us; He has promised us eternal life with Him. Think on those promises when worry, trouble, or anxiety creeps in, and pray that calmness will prevail in your heart.

The story of Jesus sleeping during the storm while the disciples were in the boat fearing for their lives has been brought up to me three times in the past two weeks. (When the Lord grabs our awareness in this way, we’d best pay attention.) There is the obvious connection of Jesus giving the disciples peace when they have only worldly fear of the storm, but there is something else, deeper and more sublime: He chides them for their lack of faith, but really, why are they afraid? They do not yet know that they are with the Lord of all creation, the creator of the wind and the waves who only has to say hush, and all of nature obeys. In fact, when He does just that, they are awestruck. They even say, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41) We do not have that excuse. We know who He is, and what He is, and where He is: He is Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Universe, God with us. He is our peace, and we have no reason to ever fear noise, trouble, or hard work.

Think on His promises and pray for that calm to prevail in your heart.

For further study, read Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; and Luke 8:22-25

Questions for further thought:

  1. What is the storm in your life right now that needs to be calmed? Put another way, where in your life is there anxiety or noise that should be replaced by the peace of Jesus?
  2. Our fears over noise, trouble, or hard work can also be from fears of our own lack of preparedness, or lack of control over details, or the unknown, or…. (add yours here). Sometimes I find myself giving my fears to Jesus every five minutes! In the words of a friend: Why do I lay my fears at the feet of Jesus, and then pick them right back up again? Do you? What makes us prefer worry to the promises of Jesus?
  3. Picture Jesus sleeping in the back of your boat. At what point do you wake Him up? What do you say to Him? What does He say to you?
  4. I remember the first time I read this story of Jesus asleep in the boat, my thought was “How can He fall asleep when the waves are crashing over Him and the boat is about to capsize?” Now when I read it I understand that faith and trust and lack of anxiety all go together like a beautiful three-stranded cord, and I long for that peace to fill me. I haven’t made it yet, but I’m further along on the journey. Where are you?

    And here is a post-script: The bathroom is still not finished in 2021, although it certainly looks a lot better. We only have the shower left to do, and here are some photos of the three walls we’ve finished.

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