Saturday, June 22, 2013


We have been house hunting and, because of our inclination to DIY everything and our budget, we were looking at a lot of homes from the 1900s-1950s, homes that would need a lot of demolition and renovation. I knew that older homes just might have issues with asbestos, and I knew that was something I didnʼt want to mess around with. So I did what I do best - research. To be honest, I only took the time to research because I was worried about the kids. I didnʼt want them to deal with asbestos or lead poisoning as preschoolers. In this case, as usual, I wished I hadnʼt learned a single thing. 

Apparently asbestos was common until the 80s. And was used in everything from insulation to ceiling tiles to floor tiles to oven lining to oven mitts. It was used to wrap pipes and mixed into cement. It was a cheap building material and was widely applied. Apparently the tiny, invisible asbestos fibres enter your lungs and hook themselves into the lining of your lungs, never to leave again, but instead to wreak havoc on your health. 

The thing with asbestos is that as long as it stays in a solid state it is relatively harmless. For example, if you have asbestos wrapping your pipes, then as long as the insulating material is intact, youʼre most likely fine. Once it becomes damaged or ripped or the fibres are exposed to the air, you are at risk. Your best bet, in that case, is to encapsulate or seal the asbestos, to leave it as undamaged as possible, because any demolition is likely to cause more issues than it will resolve and be very, very expensive. (*side note* always use a professional abatement crew to deal with asbestos!) 

When I was in high school and leaning toward attending the bible college that was my future home, the reasons for attending were often recited to me. The most common reason was to “grow and become solid in your faith in doctrine, so you will not be shaken by the world” and it was said so confidently, as if all you really need is to seal up your faith with the right lessons and doctrine, to be “in the word” so much that you were f ireproofed from the world, the flesh and the devil. I had been fireproofed against all of that since I was born - with all the right doctrine, all the right restrictions, all the right everything that conservative christian parents were taught in that era. My parents, in fact, went further than most, working hard to keep their children safe and saved, and to live according to godʼs word. 

My entire formative years were spent building a home for my faith. My parents laid the foundation and my church and homeschool group and conventions and youth retreats and friends and books and bible college and, finally, the Husbandʼs stint at seminary, were all part of that home that was being built. Extensive work went into making sure it was fireproof and 100% safe and secure. 

It wasnʼt until I had my own children that I began to examine this house of faith with a critical eye. Suddenly there were portions that looked unsafe, or could possibly harm or damage this beautiful human that Husband and I had made. 

There were a few, just a few, things that I wanted to re-examine, and possibly demolish. So I tore off a few pieces of drywall, exposed some insulation underneath. I took up a few floor tiles, punched a few holes in the ceiling tile. I cut into some pipes to see what, exactly, there was once the outside veneers were torn away. What I released into the air poisoned me. 

That poison did not give me mesothelioma. It did not cause me to die before my age. But in a very real emotional way, I found myself dying. The very home that had been built and fireproofed and painted and sealed and decorated - the very home that had been built to the specifications of those wise men and women in my life - it was poisoning me. All it took was a few holes. I was given a home without substance. When I broke through the veneer - what I had been handed and told “this, and only this, is true” - I found the inside was hollow. In some places there was nothing, in others there was painful, poisonous materials. 

At that point, I had a choice. I could seal up the holes I had made, I could ignore what I had found and take the easy road. It was easier to ignore the problems, inconsistencies and hurts. I could have made my home beautiful again, lived in it for my entire life and then passed it down to my children.

 But. I couldnʼt. I canʼt. 

So demolition began in earnest. 

Those who had a hand in building the home - and even those who hadnʼt, but whose homes resembled mine - couldnʼt imagine why I would want to gut my beautiful home! It made no sense to those whose homes were still whole, whose “asbestos” (if they had any) was still well buried and not causing visible harm. Instead of happy interest and curiosity over my remodel, I was met with gossip, disdain and, strangest of all, pity. My shock at the pity was a measurement of how far I had come since I began the remodel, since the days when I didnʼt know there could be more behind my walls - let alone something poisonous. 

This remodel was a thing of JOY. It was hard, hard work, but it was work that was going toward making something beautiful that was whole and solid all the way through. This remodel is still ongoing. I doubt it will ever be finished. That can be exhausting, and sometimes depressing. And once in a while I wish I could just mentally and emotionally walk into a finished “home” and find a whole and coherent view of life and faith there waiting for me. 

But I would never trade comfort for a beautiful home built with poisonous materials

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