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The Architect & Me – Part 27: The Moment You Know You’re Not a Designer

You remember that line “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV?” Well, “I am not a designer, but I play one when I’m sitting at my kitchen counter picking out plumbing fixtures” became very clear this past week. It was door and window week. Prices were about to soar to Pluto so our builder wanted us to get our decisions made before they took off, good builder that he is.

Prior to our meeting I spent two days going through every window and door on the blueprints. I started with the windows. I was asked to tell my builder which ones I wanted to open and which ones I wanted to be stationary. This was already an odd request to me as in the house I live in now 99% of the windows open. But okay. I walked through each room on those pages in front of me marking as I went. Then, on to doors. Where did I want single doors? Double doors? What style of door? Which ones would be painted? Which ones would be stained? The blueprint was marked up with my decisions. I had taken each, one at a time, and felt this exceptional sense of joy. I remember back to my Rita Konig class, watching her mark up those blueprints like a maestro leading the Easter Cantata. I felt something similar. It was holy to my heart. Until it became not so much.

Philly and I got up early to make the drive back to Georgia for this most important meeting. I walked into the showroom with my handy dandy notebook, my binder and my blueprints. There was no strutting, but there was this deep sense of being prepared. Through this experience, one of the things that has mattered has been knowing that I have honored Philly and his trust in me, and that I am honoring our builder by not making him wait on me. That has mattered to me. Deeply. This moment felt like I had.

Our builder greeted us, along with the owner of the store. and we headed back to a large table. She offered us a drink. Had I known where this was headed, I’d have started drinking large Cokes on the drive there, but I thought my bottled water would suffice.

“So,” the lady began as she laid the plans out and anchored them on the table, “I want to show you first what your windows will look like.”

She then walked over to a window in the showroom. It was what she called a “casement window.” Meaning it isn’t a double-hung window. You know, a normal window where you can raise or lower the bottom or top window. No, a casement opening is hinged on the side and cranks to open. Now, if I’m being honest, I love casement windows. They offer a new home that “old home” feel. So, the thought of having them wasn’t necessarily bad. It was just fundamentally new. My mind was being required to pivot. It doesn’t like pivoting. Especially in front of people. Quickly.

My mind was racing by this point. A movie in fast-forward is playing across it, scanning every window on that blueprint, realizing that I have been thinking the windows would all open and close like every other window I’ve had in my life, even though the windows on our blueprints look nothing like double-hung windows because the panes only come a third of the way down the window.

Do you remember how I told you the thoughts that run through my mind as we drive up to the house? The thoughts of, “Is this really real? Is someone going to come tell us all of this is a joke?” Well, there is another thought I often have. It’s the “that wasn’t quite how I thought it would look in my wannabe designer mind,” thought. I am not like Packer. Packer spent so many years in design, that when you ask her a question it’s like her mind goes through a rolodex of fifty years of design and stops at the one that would work best. My mind does not have such a rolodex. I can file through furniture, fabrics, accessories and artwork. But I have no file for windows, door styles, countertops, plumbing fixtures or cabinetry. I have to have pictures. I have to see it first. So, when I’ve seen something and decide that’s how I want it, to then find it is different can well, send me to my “not so pretty” place. This was about to be that place.

“You are exposed!” The first thought came. “You are such a phony! They see it all over you. You can’t hide phony. You are not a designer, you are a teacher, and you are about to get schooled yourself.”

I shook my head at them. I cannot let these lies win. They are not my portion. Not here. Not on this journey.

I cocked my head like Sophie used to when she could still hear and made myself speak. “Um, so I thought we’d have windows like…like…these,” I said, pointing to the windows with the bar and opener in the middle. I didn’t even know what they were called at that moment.

“The double-hung,” my builder responded.

“Yes, these. This is what I have now and had in my last house. And I thought they would be like… like these.” I bit my lip daring it to quiver. My nose was burning. The tears were met with my resistance.

“Well, your house is drawn with the casement windows,” the store owner offered.

The room was spinning. “My house is drawn with…” kept racing through my mind. “How did you not realize this?” “Why did you not ask questions?” The architectural review process for our house was, shall we say, extreme. So, whatever was approved was what would be. The only person changing course at this point was going to have to be me.

May I pause here, however, to remind you of the attributes of my “not so pretty place?” It involves palpitations. The desire to flee. The inability to speak. The face of “somebody better stop the train.” The top lip perspiring. Think Runaway Bride.

“Babe.” That’s my man. “I really like the casement windows.”

Our builder was catching on quickly, too. “The one house you love so much has double-hung windows and because they are on a point like you are, they get a lot of wind and their windows are whistling. We’ve had to tighten them up so much that they will hardly open now.”

My watch was vibrating. I didn’t have to look down. I took a deep breath in through my nose. And spoke to my own self. Sometimes you have to talk to your own self. “Self, you need to get yourself together. You can do this. Just ask the questions you need to ask. You are a grown-up. Now get a grip on yourself. You even like these windows better. This is actually a gift.” I practiced my deep breathing. In. Out. In. Out. The burning quieted and the tears began to retreat.

“Okay, so let’s look at the plans,” I offered.

I didn’t know it was about to get worse.

My builder stretched the plans out across the table and we started with the largest section of windows. They were the most important. They were the ones that you would look out of as soon as the front doors were open. Our house designer and I had worked diligently on them. They were to be three large windows with two sets of panes above each. But when I looked down at the plans that wasn’t what I saw. I saw six smaller windows with trim between each one and panes above them.

Nothing I have worked on in this home to date has been more important than that view. Nothing. Now, here I was seeing a set of plans before me that had totally obliterated what we had worked so diligently on. (I am being so dramatic right now, but that is what my mind and heart were thinking in that moment.) My head started twitching.

“Where did our windows go?”

My builder may not recover from this meeting. “These have been on the plans for months.”

Now I may not recover. “Months?” I grabbed my phone. I scrolled frantically through the iterations of plans that had come through. There it was. A month early. After the Architectural Review Committee came back with their changes the windows had been changed, because they would not allow the larger windows. I had known the windows had been an issue for them. I had read it. But, our designer had made a tweak to the upper part of the larger windows that I had liked. I did not realize they had been changed again. However, not seeing and studying that new set of plans was on no one at the table except me. Philly was about to help make me even more aware of that.

“So, you don’t remember seeing this?”

I couldn’t speak. I just shook my head.

Philly looked at our builder. “Is there a reason we couldn’t do those windows?”

I knew the reason. Somewhere a group of people sat around a little table and looked for ways to steal my windows.

“The ARC is getting much stricter these days on what kind of windows you can have.” He looked at me. He was getting better, too, at figuring out how to pull me off of the cliff. “But, I have some relationships there and I’ll just have a talk with them and see if we can get any movement to reconsider.”

He nodded at the chair as if he was hoping this might make me sit down now.

I sat down slowly. Gathering myself. Trying to be an adult. Battling the bombardment again. “A real designer doesn’t miss these things. A real designer studies new plans when they arrive. Every detail. Every line. Every window.”

“Okay,” I said. “Tell me what we need to decide.”

We would walk through each window and door. Which ones would be operational? Which direction would they swing? What color hardware did I want? As they asked questions, I made decisions. With each answer I was telling the accusing spirit that I was equipped for this moment I had been called to. When the task was completed, they printed off our plans with all the red markings of the decisions I had made. For years I have said, “I want to build a house and pick out every door and every window. Every hinge and every piece of hardware. Today, all these little red marks would forever be a reminder that in this life, in this broad, bruising and beautiful life, God had gifted me a moment to pick out doors and windows and to once more walk through my fear and come out alive. I am pretty sure my body left there three pounds lighter from the assault of adrenaline, but my heart left lighter too.

I would learn my builder could not change the windows. Philly said he had prayed and asked God to give us the windows we needed, and to protect us from anything we couldn’t see down the road. I told him I had prayed for the windows I wanted.

But, in regards to the battles inside that day, I’ve learned in life there are certain battles you must win. That day held those kinds of battles. I had to win the battle of my mind to live the vision of my heart. Satan always tries to snuff out vision in the mind first. If he can get us there, he can win. He did not win that day. No, that day I left with cased windows and heart freedom. And I did it all before I’d have to auction a child to pay for it. It was a good day.

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Hi, I’m Denise!

I love Jesus, my family and friends, my sweet dog Sophie, SEC football and Coca-Cola.