The Tale of Two Porches

The Impressive White Wrap-Around Porch:

I was thrilled when I was dreamed into life. Every component of the home knows there are two of us that carry the most weight and significance: the kitchen table – where our people gather to share, grow, and learn to love; and the front porch – where our people interact and love on the world around them.

Being an exceptionally beautiful, deep, wrap-around porch, I had some serious expectations from my family. Since they had four children, I envisioned them using me for playing games on summer evenings, for catching fireflies, for playing guitar and singing songs, and rocking their babies to sleep on my rocking chairs. But they never did any of those things.

The Mrs. decorated me for every season and for every holiday. I was a stunner. She spared no expense. I didn’t mind – but it’s not what I was made for. It was like being all dressed up with nowhere to go. With each passing year, I hoped the family would slow down enough to enjoy me. I hoped they would see how vital it is to be out in the front of the home, to wave to cars passing by, to chat with the neighbors, and to just sit for a spell and enjoy each other. But they never did.

My Mr. and Mrs. were busy people. Their cars flew up and down the driveway many, many times a day. I never understood what they were so busy chasing, but they were chasing something for sure. I thought the kids looked tired, but Mr. and Mrs. kept a fast pace nevertheless. I never knew where the kids were much of the time – but I often saw the Mr. and Mrs. working hard in their yard. They mowed that huge lawn every few days – hours and hours and hours of mowing. They were always vacuuming the pool, tending the landscaping, washing cars, waxing the boat, etc. The kids had four-wheelers, bikes, golf carts, motorcycles – basically anything they asked for. But to me, it just seemed like the more things they bought, the more they had to take care of and the less time they had to relax and enjoy me. I thought they’d eventually exhaust themselves and sit on my rockers for a moment with a cold lemonade or beer. But they never did.

My owners lived in my big white house for nine years and I don’t ever remember them enjoying my beautiful view and just relaxing with me. Not ever. Not once.

One day, an old college friend stopped by to see my Mr. and Mrs. Immediately upon exiting his car, he condescendingly said, “Wow, now that’s an impressive home!” The Mrs., completely oblivious to his patronizing tone, said, “It is pretty, isn’t it?”

Suddenly I knew. She didn’t get it. She never did. The Mrs. never wanted a big wrap-around porch like me for the vital role I’m supposed to play in the home. She wanted me because I’d be impressive. That, I suppose, I did fairly well, too.

 

* * * * * *

 

The Old Rickety Porch:

I am over a hundred years old and I am tired. I am sagging on one end and many of the brick pavers of my floor are missing. The siding around my front door is peeled back and flaps in the wind. But I do not care about any of that and I will not complain – because I am a porch and I am doing the thing I was created for! I am the bridge between the inside of the home and the world outside. My owners LOVE to spend time out on their porch rockers and watch the world – the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic world of the west side of Grand Rapids. It’s like they’ve never had a porch before – they can’t get enough of me! Even though they’re incredibly busy with careers and kids and aging parents and sickness and death, they come out here almost every evening, weather permitting.

Being a porch, I am privy to many interesting conversations. My Mr. and Mrs. have chatted out here with people from all over the world, discussing everything from immigration to gun violence to Jesus to the best wine. They must have lived in different countries, too, because they also talk about how stubborn they must be that in order to truly understand that people are more important than things God had to yank them half-way around the globe. They talk about how they used to live compared to how they live now and how they’ll never go back, even though they could easily afford it. I’ve overheard their remorseful accounts of all the years they wasted mowing lawns, vacuuming pools, washing cars and cleaning boats. I don’t know what they’re talking about – because they don’t do any of those things now.

Their kids – the marrieds and the singles – love to hang out with me, too. Sometimes, they’ll all reminisce about the “old days” when they had a great big wrap-around porch they never used. They’re able to laugh about it now. I’ve heard the Mr. and Mrs. thank God that their kids didn’t give up on them. I’ve heard them say how grateful they are to have learned before it was too late that spending time with their kids was more important than giving them stuff.

As soon as the snow disappeared, my Mr. and Mrs. were back out on my rocking chairs. Some evenings, the laughter from the high-spirited rugby game in the park across the street beckons them outside (even though they clearly cannot figure out rugby rules to save their lives). They love to talk to ALL the passersby – to pet the dogs, talk to the babies in strollers, or just offer a friendly “Hello – Have a great day!” They’ve befriended the college kids up the street, the older, slower gentleman who collects empty pop cans so he can buy Legos, the politician on the corner, and the homeless guy on his bike. They love to sit out here and talk to other neighbors sitting out on their porches; and because our homes are so close, it’s like we’re one big block-long porch anyway.

I’m thankful my Mr. and Mrs. get it. They understand the two most important parts of any home are the table for gathering the family to teach it how to grow in love; and the front porch, where the family extends that love to the world.

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Why Chip and Joanna are BIG, FAT, LIARS (But we should all be watching their show anyway…)

 

I speak from experience. We just moved into our first (and last) fixer-upper. We chose the house because of the neighborhood – interesting social, religious, and economic diversity in a walkable neighborhood close to downtown Grand Rapids. We never once thought it’d be “fun” to do a fixer-upper. In fact, because we don’t have cable, we had never even heard of Chip and Joanna or seen their show before we were already knee deep in sheet rock.

But, curiosity got the best of me – and when our spring break hotel had cable, I binge-watched like 28 episodes of “Fixer Upper.” And now, like the rest of the world, I have a huge fan crush on the duo. This fact pisses me off, because I really want to hate them for making fixing-upping look “fun”.

However, as a REAL LIFE fixer-upper, AS WELL AS an expert on all things “Chip and Joanna”, I feel compelled to share our experience and contrast it to their show to expose them for the liars they are (or, to be fair, could it be they just have some incredibly crafty film editors??? It’s just not possible they are so perfect, is it???):

 

  • THEM:  Chip and Joanna generally run into one “minor snag” per renovation where they have to call the owner and ask for additional funds.
    • US:  With REAL LIFE fixing-upping, the shocking discovery that you have blown your budget to crap happens daily. (In fact, if you’re seriously contemplating a fixer-upper, you might want to ask yourself if you’re okay with selling your plasma, hair, AND sperm – because the good Lord knows it’s gonna cost you EVERYTHING else…)

 

  • THEM:  The Gaines’ kids are always polite, excited for their parents’ latest project, and eager to lend a hand.
    • US:  In REAL LIFE fixing-upping, your kids grow deaf to your endless requests for “help”.   Our kids needed to take muscle relaxers to alleviate facial tension from all their eye-rolling.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna (I’m just going to call them that from now on, because they do life together so nauseatingly unified, they might as well be one…) don’t have to wait three weeks for the dry-wall guy to show up, four weeks for the plumber, and an eternity for the carpenter who promised every day for a month he’d be there tomorrow….
    • US:  In the REAL WORLD, you might as well get your Pokemon Go up and going – because you will be killing ALL KINDS of time waiting for MR. NEVER-GONNA-HAPPEN to show up.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna never accidentally rips out a support beam, or blindly drives a nail into a water pipe, or gets impatient putting polyurethane on the wood floors causing it all to bubble and have to be redone.
    • US:  Just sayin’…..

 

  • THEM:  I’ve never seen Chipanna break a pane of stained glass window in a fixer-upper where the stained glass window was THE ONLY redeeming quality of the piece of crap house they were renovating…..
    • US:  Again, just sayin’…..

 

  • THEM:  Joanna never swears at Chip.
    • US:  In REAL LIFE fixing-upping, well…… no comment.

 

  • THEM:  Chip has all kinds of sweet pet names for Joanna – like Jo, Jojo, Mama and Buttercup.
    • US:  During our renovation, my husband had some choice names for me, too – but nothing like those…

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna never accidentally purchase a crack house.
    • US:  Yes, in fact, we did.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna never seem to have to deal with probation officers who show up at the door looking for the previous tenants.
    • US:  Yes, in fact, they’ve been at our door more than once.

 

  • THEM:  Joanna always looks so darn cute. Whether it’s at the work site, antique shopping, or during the big reveal, she’s invariably stunning.
    • US:  Me? I showed up at the work site every day with bed head, bags under my eyes, my shirt on inside-out (to save on washing my paint clothes so often) and wearing an old pair of too-small running shorts which gave me a not-too-attractive constant wedgie.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna always seem to throw together a hearty and healthy meal at the end of their long, hard work days.
    • US:  In REAL-LIFE fixing-upping, your evening meals look like this: McDonalds, Subway, Subway, Subway, and then every fifth day you “cook” and make everyone a tuna-fish sandwich that tastes like paint because of all the paint-brushes you have “saved for later” in your refrigerator.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna always gets the house done on time. Who are these freakin’ demi-gods that they always meet their deadlines? How on God’s green earth do they do it???
    • US:  Even though we gave ourselves SEVEN FREAKING MONTHS for our renovation, we weren’t even CLOSE to being finished when we moved in. Our house looked like a crack house and the worst-ever-KOA-campground had a baby. For our “big reveal”, our house looked like this:
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      Living Room – still awaiting paint
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      Solarium – aka our temporary kitchen. And yes, that’s a random toilet waiting to be installed
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      Family room – no freakin’ idea what we’re gonna do with this mess
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      Back stair-way – complete with protruding nails that impale you if you get too close!

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      Upstairs hall – and yes, that’s right, there’s no door to the bathroom because we can’t find it.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna will once and a while make a joke about mice – but you never see any – or remnants of any other vermin for that matter.
    • US:  Our house had a horrific mice infestation. There was mice crap in every single cupboard and drawer. Oh – and the previous tenants left multiple piles of petrified dog crap dispersed throughout the entire house as little “welcome” gifts. Just lovely.

 

  • THEM:  Chipanna always find shiplap in their reno-houses.
    • US:  What is it with WACO and shiplap???? A hundred years ago, people in Grand Rapids had very different ideas of what was “beautiful”. As we removed a hundred years of “decorating” layer by painstaking layer, we found: 8 (yes, EIGHT) layers of crispy wallpaper, ugly faux brick paneling, 6 layers of disgusting, asbestos-laden linoleum and 1 layer of tile that looked like an 8-yr-old installed it. Then – wait for it….. wait for it….. Lo and Behold! We finally discovered some shiplap! However, it was on the walls to the FREAKIN’ BASEMENT – the cold, dark, cinderblock Michigan basement that no one besides myself and spiders will ever see. How poetic.IMG_2200

 

 

HOWEVER – and this is why I will love Chipanna forever and ever a-men – it’s the reason we should all be watching more of their show: “Fixer-Upper” is far LESS about fixing up houses, and far MORE a beautiful tribute to marriage.

-Chip and Joanna tackle the notorious marriage-breaking endeavor of home renovation week after week and exemplify how we can love, honor, and respect our marriage partners even in challenging circumstances.  I can’t get enough of them.  They inspire me to be a better wife, person, and Christian.

– I love how they genuinely enjoy each other and laugh at each other.

– I love how Joanna laughs when Chip bloats his stomach (why do all men think this is funny?) Joanna seems to really, genuinely find Chip charming no matter how ridiculous his antics. And soon, I started to find Chip charming, too. But then I realized this: my husband does these silly little things, too. I had just had grown so cold and calloused – I was choosing to roll my eyes at him instead of seeing it’s just my prince trying to impress his princess.   He needs to see me impressed.

– Joanna looks at Chip likes he’s just the most handsome, strong, wise and powerful man she’s ever met. Wives – listen up – I think if we all looked at our husbands the way Joanna ogles Chip, we could probably save a lot of our marriages – because I really believe this is something all men are starving for.

– I love how they listen to each other before speaking.

– I love watching Chip watch Joanna. He looks like he wants to just lick her all-over.

– I love how they share hard news with one another – acknowledging the news stinks, but then, collaborating to find a way to “deal with it”. Ahhhhh – that’s beautiful marriage communication right there.

unknownI think this is genuine Chip and Joanna – that they’re not just “putting on a show.” They are the real deal – and we’d all do well to try to emulate them in our marriages. I pray for Paul and I to have a love for each other that’s a fraction as strong as Chipanna. And THAT, my friends, is the REAL reason I will keep watching Fixer-Upper. We might even have to get cable…

 

But we will NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER to INFINITY, tackle another Fixer-Upper ourselves.