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Rhonda Herrington Bulmer
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February 4th, 2013
Renovating the past with gratitude
by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer

A couple of weeks ago I woke one morning after dreaming about houses. I dreamed that in addition to the house we own currently, my husband and I bought an additional house. It was the first house we ever owned and lived in for nine years in another community.

In the dream, our intention was to renovate both those houses in order to sell them again. We would fix them up, put them on the market, and once they were sold, we would buy our dream home—wherever or whatever it was.

When I awoke, I wondered why I bought back our old place. It makes sense that we would renovate the house we owned currently in order to sell it, but why would you buy back something you don’t own anymore, just so that you could fix it up and sell it again?

I jotted down the experience in my journal and got on with life, but as the days went by, I began to realize what it meant. You see, one of my focuses lately has been about developing new vision—a new sense of purpose and direction. I was praying to God and meditating about where and how I should be putting my energies on many levels, not the least of which as a writer. Not just for 2013 or 2014, but for life in general. Where am I going? What am I doing here?

I believe that God may have been communicating that in order to move on and buy the next house (experience the new vision) I had to see the previous two (the old visions) in a more attractive light (renovate).

During our time in our first house, we were part of a ministry organization with lofty visions and goals that were left unfulfilled. It was an exciting, dramatic story that was cut short, like an adventure novel with the last few pages torn off—the reader can only guess how it might have turned out. After we moved on, regrets and disappointments lingered, so much so that over the years we sometimes wished we had never been part of it at all. You can imagine how this hampered our ability to dream big dreams again.

And so, as a practical exercise with spiritual consequences, I grabbed my journal and, spreadsheet-style, wrote down a list of positives that grew out of our experiences at each address. It took some effort, but I scribbled as many things as I could think of—my way of renovating those houses. The birth of our kids, quality of life, people we knew, lessons learned along the way. I shed a few tears as I realized how hard we have been on ourselves and how so many hurts and disappointments caused us to lose perspective.

When I finished these lists (that turned out to be quite long), it then set me free to imagine my dream home. What do I want it to look like, and most important, who do I want to be in it? It is a manifesto, of sorts, though just for an audience of one.

I share this rather personal story because I think it is a common tale, part of the human experience. We all have regrets that muck up the tapestry of our lives, but left unchecked, they will grow out of proportion in our minds and distort our image of the past. Such distortions will surely stunt our potential.

So now, I choose to look at it differently. There were good experiences among the bad. There were wise decisions and choices, not just mistakes. There were miracles. We were faithful to act on the best we knew at the time.

To further solidify the metaphor, today I set up our first family gratitude jar. The idea came from a photo that made its way into my Facebook newsfeed back in December. I cut up colour-coded pieces of paper for each member of the family, so that every time something struck them for which they were grateful, they could write it down and throw it in the jar. On New Year’s Eve, we’ll pull them out and read through the hopefully-large pile. It will be a reminder of God’s goodness and a moment to savour just how fortunate and blessed we are.

5 Responses to “Renovating the past with gratitude”

  1. Yolande says:

    Again, I am silenced by the need to think about what you’ve written, remembering to allow myself the freedom of recalling the blessings and forgiving the previously unforgivable moments in my past, cast-aside visions. I’m glad that God has a plan for us.

    A clear jar for colourful papers of written thanks; what a great way to remember the highlights and answered prayers of a year!

    Looking forward to hearing how He’s leading you.

    love, Yolande

  2. Kent says:

    I spent some time on my “renovation” last night. I’m still working on it because there were so many good things to remember in what God has done for us. Like any renovation, it’s a bigger job than what we think it will be when we start, but the results are worth it.

  3. Mary says:

    I’ve read your post over at least five times and I’m still at a loss on how to convey how deeply I was touched by what you shared. As you say, I’m sure it is a common tale, yet you are taking the steps to work through it. Bravo! And thank you for the inspiration.

  4. Suzanne LeBlanc says:

    Thanks for this Rhonda. A lot to think about. Many blessings while you renovate.

  5. Deborah says:

    A fine and illuminating exercise, this looking back with the lens of the learner. I’m glad you were able to make some peace with the old house. I wish my dreams made as much sense as yours!

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