The last few weeks have been spent tearing out my old wooden deck and replacing it with a flagstone patio. This has been much more of an ordeal than I had imagined. What a process this has been to tear out all of that wood, jackhammer a 4 ton rock that was smack dab in the middle of the deck (don’t ask me why anyone would put a rock in such a place), lay electrical wires and drainage pipes, lay a foundation of dirt and small pebbles before the concrete foundation, and finally the placement of the flagstones. While I had no idea what all was involved in this process, I’m certainly glad my contractor, Kris did.
Kris is a master at his trade and does so much so well that I marvel at his knowledge, skill and craft. We, like the royal “we,” as I have stood and watched while Kris and helper, Austin do all the work, are now in the final stages of completion. While this is not going to look like a large home improvement, I certainly appreciate all the hard work and many hours that have gone into the reconstruction of this patio.
I have always had a great fascination with brick masons. There is something so mesmerizing about their actions. Watching their plumb lines go up, how they mix the mortar to just right consistency. The way they use that trowel to scoop up the mortar, splatter it on the existing layer, place the brick, smoosh it in and then scrap off the mess that was squished out, it’s seems so satisfying. It looks so fun, though I know it’s hard work that takes great skill and practice. I admit I’m a little jealous.
This last week I have watched Kris perform an even more fascinating craft. Laying varying sizes of flagstone to create something that looks like a kind of crazy quilt made from stone.
Kris had me go with him to a stone yard to pick out the type and color of my flagstone. Did I go with beige or gray tones? Did I want the stone to be smooth or wavy? I was a bit overwhelmed, but in the end picked four huge flats of beigish/brown smooth stones, each stone with varying veins of color running through them.
Watching Kris meticulously cull through each stack of stones was so interesting. He would stack and restack the stones in various piles, leaning them against one another almost like a chain of fallen dominoes. I later found that this assured him of being able to see all the variations of the stone’s colors. I realized he had stacked the stones according to size and shape. The largest of the stone slabs that had straighter edges he placed around the yard, leaning them against trees, fences and any place he could easily look for just the perfect stone to place in a corner or along a straight edge.
Once Kris began the actual process of slopping the mortar onto the newly poured slab his work magnetically drew me to his side. I watched as he carefully handpicked his stones, some small, some large, some in between. All the shades of the stones began to meld and compliment each other as the patio began to take shape. I watched as he would carefully place stone beside stone, their irregular pieces fitting together much like a jigsaw puzzle. He would fill the spaces between each stone with mortar making sure there was equal distance between the stones. Oh if only Kris could have been like Tom Sawyer whitewashing that fence. Tom trading his friends small treasures for the privilege of doing his work, I would have been thrilled to get my hands on that mortar and trowel and work those stone pieces together.
Fortunately, Kris knew the skill and experience it takes to lay flagstone and he continues to plod along, making sure each stone is strategically placed. Insuring that I will have a beautiful flagstone patio very soon.
All of this reminds me of Corrie ten Boom’s tapestry poem “Life is but a Weaving.”
Corrie writes how life can look much like the underside of a tapestry at times, loose threads dangling, filled with raw knots and rough edges. It is not until the piece is complete however, and the tapestry has been turned to the finished side that the observer is able to see the masterpiece as its finest, or...that we can see what God has planned for our lives.
I felt the same way watching Kris with the stones. I realized that it takes all types of stones (or trials), different colors, shapes and sizes to enable the finished product to look exactly as the master had planned. The large rough pieces might well be significant of the times in our life when those boulders of sadness or fear seem unmanageable. Isn’t it those tough times that enable us to grow, to broaden our views or opinions, to turn to our Master, who enables our faith to increase? Isn't it those amazing large pieces of stone that enhance the beauty of the final patio product?
When I watch Kris carefully fill in a blank spot with a smaller piece of stone, making sure the mortar around each piece is even, I am reminded of how much more diligently God seeks the right moments to help balance our lives with certain obstacles, so that we might be exactly who he created us to be.
There are times Kris had to stand firmly, sometimes even stomp with all his might, on a certain stone to make sure it was securely embedded in the mortar. How many times in life have we felt life’s pressure was simply too great to withstand? Yet, after time has passes, we see God’s fingerprints covering experiences in our lives and it is these moments are precious and rare.
I have tried more times than not to jerk that trowel out of God’s hands. Thinking, I could do a better job, demanding the perfect scenario to be accomplished in my time...not His? Oh, I’m thankful our God doesn’t take after Tom Sawyer.
I think as I’m growing older, I’m seeing that my patio, my life, still seems so uneven at times, so awkward, so full of knots and loose threads. There are those rare moments though, when I do get a glimpse of the finished side of my quilt, when I can see a vision of my completed flagstone patio, when the rough, jagged pieces of my life do begin to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle with purpose and definition.
It is in those glimpses I am able to see that God is indeed working within my life, making it one of purpose and joy. It is then that I can sit back and breathe deeply and be thankful that He is not yet finished with his work and even more grateful that He is the greatest Master of all.
For what it’s worth,
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”