House Story, Chapter 10

Paris BathroomBlogBathroom in Progress

Someone recently scrawled a message on the side of our old house. The letters, about a foot tall, were drawn with a permanent black marker: KKK. I had to apply three coats of primer (white primer) to finally conceal it. I think that’s called an irony.

The six-foot plum tree we recently planted (House Story, chapter 8)—the one with deep purple leaves—was also targeted. Many of the branches were broken off. If someone had wanted to use them as filler for a floral arrangement in a church sanctuary, I wouldn’t so much have minded. I ended up taking a pruners and cutting the tree to half its size. It looks pathetic, but has a fighting chance. Like a little boy with a bad haircut, the sheared tree is embarrassed to be seen in public.

I was somewhere between annoyed and angered. I think the word is pissed! I just didn’t know at whom. So I did what any mature adult in the first year of the seventh decade of life would do—I sat on the floor in the bathroom and pouted. Then I got up.

This is a photo of our bathroom, minus a tub, shower, toilet, and sink. The original floor-to-ceiling window was simply too large. I decided it was time to rip it apart and refit it, which is something one can do with a 100-year-old window. I cut down the frame and sashes to smaller dimensions, then glued and re-attached everything with 3” screws. New glass will get fresh glazing. New cotton cords will connect the windows to 6-pound weights. When put together, it will work better than the old.

Even though the day didn’t start out good, it ended up that way. A few lessons keep me pondering: (1) People of any age who scrawl KKK on houses don’t have the last word. The same goes for racial and ethnic slurs. Amazing how ugly some of us look when arguing against allowing Central American children and teens to cross our southern borders. “Not in our town! They don’t belong here! Imagine the diseases they bring!”

(2) Trees, like people, are amazingly resilient. The deepest and wisest people I know are those who’ve experienced more than their share of broken branches: shortened careers, unfair treatment, financial setbacks, disheartened diagnoses, discrimination at the deepest levels. I love the quote from Ernest Hemingway, “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.”

(3) The intensity of the light through the window opening reminds me of John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.” John doesn’t say that the darkness no longer exists, or that the darkness isn’t every bit as intense as it was before, just that the darkness cannot prevent the light from revealing what light reveals.

Some days, restoring an old house in hopes of adding stability to a block comes down to having a can of paint primer and keeping the pruners sharp.

[For previous installments of A House Story go to and pull down the CATEGORIES menu and select A House Story]






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  1. Marge August 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    I find it strange that people will destroy something beautiful, if they are suspicious of the person making the change for beauty. How many times have we been admonished when we try to change a church or something in a church?? Our goal was to make it more beautiful, more inviting, more perhaps Christ-like. “Holy Spirit rain down…..”

  2. Ken dagner August 2, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    Love you Dan. What a great read! I find myself somewhat discouraged lately at the way that the World seems to be going, how the ugliness in the world is so focused on by the media, how innocent little children are spat at and cursed, how so many innocent human beings are slaughtered by armies. While I feel helpless now, in my gut, I feel like I’m just getting ready for battle, again!

  3. Jim Coty August 2, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

    Very well said, Dan. I especially appreciate the ‘buck up’ attitude given Edgewood’s current turmoil. Alas, white primer won’t cover the fissures. And I hate to use pruners, but they may be necessary.

  4. rholton August 2, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

    Your thoughts in this chapter remind me of an interview I recently read of Wally Amos of Famous Amos Cookie fame. His life quote is, “Be positive anyway!” There is no other option.

  5. Susan MacLean August 2, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

    You continue to be a sweet inspiration. Your final sermon at East…Be who you are. Do what you can. Love what you have. You continue to live your words. I miss your weekly sermons. So, thanks for sharing here. Soldier on, be safe, and may you be blessed abundantly along the way.

  6. Dr. Don August 3, 2014 at 1:05 am #

    Dan, I am so sorry that you had to endure these hateful acts, so full of fear, too, in the perpetrators. But I am so proud of you for setting an example of being light in the darkness.

  7. Dani V August 4, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    Have faith, the tree will come back. Our beloved dwarf Maple got lopped off completely, no branches, no leaves, just an ugly trunk, more like a stem. It has put out new tentative branches and leaves as if feeling for a safe place to spread out. Your efforts will come to fruit in the long run, it is the short vision that stabs the heart and blinds the eye. Keep looking to the Light.

  8. Allan Martling August 7, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    I wonder what would happen if you wrote hope or love or peace or building where your primed coverup is. Or in other places that needed priming. Establish a dialogue with those who notice something they may not like is happening at this address. They would have to prime over your goodness. Before long the whole house could be primed. But then they may burn the whole place down. It is a risky business this faith thing.

    Grace and Peace, Allan