Being the CEO of a 501 c-3 non-profit corporation, I signed up for a program through Wells Fargo that donates distressed properties to corporations like mine. As soon as I arrived in Orlando in November of last year, I received such a property in a little town called Bithlo about 40 minutes east of our new home.
The property had housed drug addicts who’d apparently fled when the bank foreclosed. They’d kept their pets inside such that the stench caused us to involuntarily retch the moment we walked in the door. Brown spots, which we later identified as fly feces, covered the walls. Filth coated every surface. The appliances had been stolen and walls ripped open to take copper wire, which yields $10 or so on the black market. Such is drug addiction for its desperation.
I asked my daughter Kimmy and niece Beckie if they wanted to renovate the home with me. After an initial gut-level, girly-girl “Gross! No!” they began to see a job and, I think, character-building opportunity. Which is what it turned out to be. Day after day we “Battle-axes” as I liked to call us, stormed into Bithlo to scrub, prime, paint, fix, repair, and otherwise try to bring this little house back from the dead. My patient husband Michael helped out, too, because we needed his expertise and brawn.
Finally the home took shape. The walls gleamed white, the floor had all-new carpet and tile, and the stench had pretty much gone back to the pit from which it came.
Yesterday I sold the house. The profit margin sunk below my hopes, and actually sunk my hopes a little, because this non-profit ministry has endless costs and outflow. I’m a really bad fundraiser and receive few sizable donations, so this renovation was my hope for funding many worthy projects. But as the buyers filed into the title company office, I got a secondary payoff. Sitting at the table, the single mom and her scrubbed-clean kids looked as bright as Christmas morning. This was clearly a monumental day for the family. I broke the formality with a question to the little girl, “Hey, are you excited about moving in?”
“Yes! The master bedroom is huge!”
“What else do you like?”
“The fire place! We’re going to roast marshmallows and make hot chocolate!”
It suddenly occurred to me: When I look at the house, I see the fly excrement, pet damage, dingy corners, and broken light fixtures. But she sees the clean, bright house made new by The Battle Axes.
Could it be that God storms into our lives every day, the Great Renovator, such that one day all the universe will see is newness, freshness, and purity, the decrepit past effaced by transforming love?