Sunday, January 27, 2013

“I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward.”
~Thomas Edison~     
 The Inventory

How many of us reach that point in time where we begin to take inventory? Or perhaps the question is better asked, how many times in life do we reach that point where we begin to take inventory? What is our inventory? Is it striking off the items on the checklist of life? Is it numbering our successes? Is it counting our failures? Are we inclined to take inventory at the appropriate passing on a timeline, or when life becomes too much to bear without evaluating why we are where we are? Perhaps our timing and our definition of inventory labels our character and gives a small glimpse into our hearts. 
It is the start of another year, a slow start, and yet fast at the same time. The wheels of progress, pertaining to business, have screeched to a halt. I am sure it is temporary, so I busy myself and wait. Wait on work, wait on new projects and adventures. Wait. On. God. 
The weeks pass and the light dims. With each new day, I am hopeful and sure that things will turn around, and with each new day I am proven wrong over and over. So it begins, the inventory. 
I suppose that most of us would begin to assess our victories and failures and spend more time looking at our journeys when we are still. I haven’t been still in several years, always pushing forward to the next thing. I would imagine it is as good a time as any for an assessment. My heart aches over my many failures and lost battles. How many of us have the courage to look back and stare at our defeats, to peel them apart and analyze them? It is essential to growing. It is essential to gaining wisdom. I don’t believe our battles define us. Or that our failures define us. They are given to us as opportunities to overcome and increase in character. The choices we make in who we become as we leave those battles and failures are what define us, and those are exactly that....choices.
My entire journey has been a battle, every year, every turn on my path. With every good has come bad. Every success has been with much failure. God has worked on my heart and mind for many years. This season, like a few others, has me asking those questions, you know the ones....Why am I here? Is there any purpose for me? Will it always be like this? Where is the good in people? My heart has been so heavy, so weary. It’s the part of me I try to keep hidden. I don’t like exposure and I really don’t like being vulnerable. I am supposed to be strong, stable, steady, unwavering, and sure....sure of everything. Right? Ugh. I’m a mess. I’m not even certain what others’ perceptions of me might be, but most certainly, I am none of those things. The only thing unwavering is my love for God. Right now, I am just trying to figure out what has brought me to this very place. Is this the place I’m supposed to be? Have I wondered so far off the path intended that I am hopelessly lost? 

God. Please. Help. Me.

I had dreams fulfilled in a mighty way this year. God was so faithful to me in a time that I was wildly unfaithful to Him. I hadn’t shared with anyone that I had awoken from a dream, excited. It was one of those dreams that you don’t want to leave. A few days following that dream, I received a phone call that started one of the most amazing projects I’ve ever been a part of. I had just dreamed this.....does that really happen?? I was amazed, it was something I had hoped and prayed to be a part of for many years. Some people dream of winning marathons or becoming a celebrity. I ached for the opportunity to be a part of this project for so long. I was so shocked and humbled to have been invited into the inner workings that I cried, like a girl, for several days. If I’m being totally honest, tears still stream down my cheeks, even now, as I thank God for fulfilling a dream and giving me a desire of my heart. I was beyond excited. For the first time in my life, I fit. I could look around and see people who shared the same passion, who wanted the same things. Of course we had our unspoken differences, but to experience a moment in time where everything is good and everything is right, where you just fit in and have something to offer that is needed, not taken advantage of or used, and every other person is sharing their talents, gifts, knowledge, and is incredible. 
I suppose that could go on the checklist. For an instant I fit. I felt needed. I had purpose. Then, it was done. So, now what? These people have dispersed themselves back to normal living. Reality is a hard pill to swallow. Who made up that saying, and why the analogy of a pill? is truth, and I didn’t want the pill.
The irony of it all was that on the outside, I looked successful. My life appeared to be exciting, fun, and well mapped. The actual reality was that I was going back home to a structure far worse that what had just been deemed as “unlivable” and then replaced with beauty. Home for us was still just an idea that we were trying desperately to wrap our heads around. You see, in our most recent battle, at that time, we had just lost our home. That loss came during an entire season of loss for my family. When it rains it pours....and for us, it usually means hail. 
For many years I’ve had this idea that seems to flow along the lines of a fairytale. I never had any clear mentoring or teaching to prepare me for the ugliness of life. My mind would reassure my heart by preaching that ‘whatever is fair, whatever is right, is what will win’. My expectations in life, love, and business had been wrapped around this beautifully stated fallacy. Oh, the pain I could have avoided if I had understood earlier in life that good doesn’t always win in the battle with evil. Damn you Walt Disney. Sometimes.... a lot of the time.... evil wins. 
Currently we have waged war against the evil that illegally stole our home and our security from us. Are my expectations realistic? I am working on coming to terms with the fact that things may not end according to what is just, but I am trusting God for the outcome. 
Our year catapulted forwarded with tremendous speed before I had much time to dwell on missing my new friendships. Business tripled in the blink of an eye and we were running to keep up. Let me just say that when good business triples, so does crazy business. *Sigh* 
I now know why so few females are contractors. I’ve heard so many different opinions, and they’ve all got it wrong. My background is in business. I have run a few different establishments, and while my experience isn’t that of someone who has many accomplishments at the top of the corporate ladder, I have gotten my feet wet in enough areas to determine that business itself, and the greed and corruption that comes with it, isn’t enough to scare away a woman with determination. However, the relentless pursuit of ridiculous demands on time, perfection, skill, and communication in a world filled with minimum wage, a lack of education, deceit, false promises and expectations, and bids won based only on the lowest dollar, are what drives women out of this industry.  In this business, no matter the circumstances, the contractor is always the villain, and women have too much heart to be the bad guy of the story. 
I have an unfailing passion for design and building. It is in every home I pass on the road, every foyer I enter, every kitchen I eat in. I am constantly looking, examining, and determining what I love and what could be improved. It is a drive, an artistry that lives in my very soul. I long to touch every home that begs for a facelift with its worn-down bands and corner-boards, its pediments that are in great need of scraping and painting, and the history and stories that are peeking out from under the layers of obvious DIY repairs. The moment I am introduced to a structure I visualize the changes in a completed state. I see it only for its potential.
Unfortunately, here I stand, after yet another year in this business....broken. I have dealt with too many dishonest homeowners and subcontractors, too many people out for number one, employees you believe in and invest in only to have them cheat and swindle their way in and then out of your business, taking your spirit of hope with them. I have reached out to those trying to rebuild their lives after being controlled by substance abuse, only to watch them fall again. The darkness of so many dangerous lifestyles is prevalent in this business. I was sure I had already been exposed to so much in life, but this, my job, has only brought me face-to-face with more. Oddly enough, the one intangible act that churns my soul far into despair is deceit. Where is the good? Where are the honest people? I have lost faith in people and business.

God, please tell me how I am supposed to keep living and giving my passion to restore homes when I cannot take the heartache of the people behind the walls?

We spent the year moving as quickly as the business was, only trying to keep up with its demands. We made so many hasty and stupid mistakes. I made so many hasty and stupid mistakes. For a spring, summer, and fall where so many things seemed to come so easy, we would soon face the winter where nothing would come easy. Winter brought with it the cold truth. All the lushness of the kinder seasons was gone leaving behind the bareness of everything. 
I was forced to face the fact that I had put a few events and people on a pedestal that year. I thought so highly of some who had helped to bring my dreams to life. I was so sure they were accomplished, perfect, and sincere. I then received an accusation, riddled with guile and defamation that rocked my little world in late fall early winter, starting off my downhill roll to meet Jack Frost appropriately. Ugh. I was heartbroken for many weeks. I couldn’t understand why someone would be motivated to just outright lie. It’s a question I’m sure we will never understand. At the root of the answer is selfishness. Perhaps someone craves attention or a desire to be heard and trusted even if the subject matter or statements don’t have an ounce of truth in them. Even understanding the “why’s” are not going to repair my heart or hurt. It’s one of those things that will require time and The Almighty for healing. I tore myself away from the situation also bearing the burden of complete humiliation. I had let my shell crack. I broke down in those conversations. I let them see my pain. I cried. 
At each new year, when I look back on the past 365 days, I determine what was the best part and what was the worst. Which two events of the entire year affected me in the most positive and the most negative way. Well, that fun bit of accusation followed up with my cracking, was by far and most definitely the lowlight of those twelve months. I should have expected an attack on something most precious to me. We know that the enemy is constantly seeking whom he may devour. I have; however, determined to remain thankful, to stay engaged, and not withdraw as I have been known to do. The highlight of the year was, of course, the project that began the new year.
I have hated beyond hate and loved beyond love the quiet moments and revealing these weeks have brought me. I have been given time to review our records and bookkeeping, time to fast and pray, time to evaluate where we are as a company and as a family. We have had more business than we’ve ever had, and we’ve been taken advantage of and lost more than we ever have, putting us in a position I have never wanted to be in.  So, what happens from here? I really don’t know. At the end of it all no matter what tomorrow brings, I can only trust God to pave my path and give me the strength to walk it. As long as I resolve to take each step for Him, I won’t give up.

I suppose, all that being said, my 2012 inventory looks something like this:

Madly in love with my little family.                            Check
I fit.                                                                              Check
Dream fulfilled.                                                           Check
Healthy beautiful husband and daughter. Check
Awesomest dog for a pet.                                           Check
Worked for some amazing clients.                             Check
Worked for some crazy-azz clients          Check
Made some money                                                      Check
Lost a lot of money                                                      Check
Started cooking (God help my family)                        Check
Got my heart broken                                                    Check
Evil-eyed the kid that’s a snot to my daughter            Check
Got cheated out of a lot of money by one of our own Check
Reached out to those in need                                       Check
Got taken advantage of                                               Check
Reached 10 out of 12 professional goals                     Check
Learned that life doesn’t get to the point of easy Check
Watch less Disney movies                                           Check
Learned how to play poker                                         Check
Cracked under pressure                                              Check
Utterly disappointed with myself over mistakes Check
Strengthened my relationship with God                      Check
Still madly in love with Jesus                                          Check

Do we feel like we have a real home again Nope
Am I satisfied with where we are in life                       Not even close
Making new dreams and goals                                     Working on it
Waiting on God to lead the way                                    Definitely

I'm not about to wrap this up without any pics. Here are a few of my favorite photos from this year's projects:

The Watson House BEFORE

The New Watson Home

Scott & Christi Branscom of Grace Construction,
 lead contractors for the EMHE Knoxville build,
pictured with the production crew

Myself and Scott Rainey of Keystone Construction pictured
immediately following my epic wipeout from the ice-covered walk board.
Lakefront renovation BEFORE
Lakefront renovation AFTER
built and finished to homeowner specifications
Kitchen BEFORE
Kitchen AFTER

Master Bedroom BEFORE
I combined two rooms into one and removed a bathroom that separated them
in order to create the new master bedroom
Master Bedroom AFTER
You guessed it....this one's mine :)


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