... notice where your heart is wrestling, and remember that God can change who we are and how we navigate life with something as simple as ugly wallpaper.
Okay. Fine. Whatever. Geez. I'll confess if you absolutely insist that I must... the wallpaper isn’t ugly. It's not bland. It's not drab. It's not out of style.
In fact, it’s quite lovely. Delicate. Detailed. A mixture of blue hues. A pop of texture to complement the rough brick fireplace.
It’s simply not the wallpaper I wanted.
A Project Gone Wrong
Just a year ago, my husband Josh and I purchased an old farmhouse in eastern Tennessee. It was built in 1894 and came with all the quirks that flirt with the thin line between antique charm and financial doom. Per my orders, Josh painted the living room walls a deep blue and, as an accent wall, hung Victorian-esque blue wallpaper to match. I’m an old soul, so an old house with a centuries-old style of wallpaper was my quintessential cozy.
It was perfect.
Until we had an AC unit installed (since the house didn’t come with one) and it leaked, damaging the right corner of our living room. It buckled several planks of wood, swelled two sides of the walls, and caused mold to grow behind my beautiful wallpaper.
With a five-month-old baby boy, it was a no-brainer to remove the wallpaper and get the mold out of the house ASAP. Once Josh ripped away the big damaged piece, he offered to go to Lowes to buy a new strip as a quick replacement.
But Lowe’s didn’t have a replacement.
I’d have to order wallpaper that wouldn’t come in until the new year.
And I couldn’t stand looking at a ripped-up, plaster-beaten wall for days and days on end.
I had to get new wallpaper—a completely different kind.
It wasn’t Victorian-esque.
It wasn’t my quintessential cozy.
It. Wasn’t. What. I. Wanted.
Back and forth, I strolled (or subtly stomped) from the dining room to the living room, hoping if I walked back into the space and saw the wallpaper in a different light or noticed a new hint of texture it offered, I might like it more. It might become my favorite wallpaper child.
But that didn’t happen.
However, as God always does, He took my petty and replaced it with mercy and grace, teaching me to pause, take in the not-so-lovely parts of my life, and cultivate them into something redemptive, meaningful, and in time, beautiful.
I’m sure you’ve heard it said that “Life is what you make it.” Of course, we can’t control crises or force dreams to come true, but our perspective, the way we choose to see the reality that unfolds, can make or break the foundation of our souls… and delicately enough, our definition of the Almighty.
As Christians, we so easily speed through Scripture about our fruits of the Spirit that we neglect to notice one key component: just as with earthly fruits, our spiritual fruits must be cultivated. It’s not a “Poof! You’re now patient!” sort of thing. You don’t wake up the day after choosing Christ as a master at peace. Who we choose to be in situations (that typically don’t go our way) is what determines the spiritual fruits that will reap blessings or wilt and die.
Complaining about beautiful wallpaper is petty. P-E-T-T-Y. Especially given the brutal realities that so many people face around the world. Yet I decided, after countless minutes of angst and frustration, that I could simply choose self-control and joy.
I could choose to not be angry that my husband tore the piece of wallpaper that could, in theory, have been salvaged and cleaned with de-molding solution. I could choose to be grateful that my husband is kind and patient enough to go out the exact same day and buy brand new wallpaper just for me (and stay up until three in the morning to finish the entire project… just because he knows how anxious an unkempt house makes me feel).
I could choose the joyful memory that we bought this wallpaper and installed it in a hurry because we so desperately wanted to get our Christmas tree up to watch our baby boy’s eyes twinkle as we strung lights and hung ornaments. This wallpaper was welcomed into our home so we could make holiday memories as a new family of three.
The fruits of the Spirit, the ones that calm the heart and soothe the soul, are cultivated when we let them take the reins amid problems, crises, and circumstances that don’t go our way.
Look for those events, notice where your heart is wrestling, and remember that God can change who we are and how we navigate life with something as simple as ugly wallpaper.
I’m not what the plant ladies would call a “green thumb.” Truth be told, just two weeks ago, I killed an air plant. It’s called an air plant because it doesn’t have roots. It doesn't even require dirt. You only have to soak it in a shallow pool of water once a week. That's all the little guy requires. That's how bad Peyton Garland is at keeping plants alive. (But, if I may offer myself a bit of an excuse, staying at home with a baby while working a full-time job and trying to make sure the dogs don’t eat the neighbor’s chickens takes up most of my time… and watering a plant is rarely a passing thought.)
But that’s just it—it’s easy to keep plants alive when we establish a consistent, healthy routine. When we follow the directions of how often to water them, when they should be placed in sunlight, when they should be taken inside, etc. And our fruits of the Spirit are no different.
Life will give us plenty of drudgery, countless episodes that allow us to choose to cultivate the gifts the Holy Spirit has blessed us with, and if we are living a healthy routine of staying in the Word, communing with God, and being held accountable by likeminded believers, there’s a high probability our fruits of the Spirit will not only continue to produce righteousness but encourage others to dig deep, plant their roots in God’s love, and make spiritually sound choices too.
Now, I don’t advise that you go looking for tragedy for the sake of practice. It’s not like Job was a glutton for punishment or Jonah just loved the idea of camping amid the digested contents of a whale. Hard times will come, whether a relationship unexpectedly sours, a family pet runs away, or someone simply messes up your coffee order on a morning you desperately need caffeinated kindness. But when those moments, even those seasons, show up at your door, choose love. Activate joy. Create peace. Offer forbearance. Extend kindness. Cultivate goodness. Remain faithful. Be gentle (with yourself and others). Hone your self-control, knowing your testimony is gold tried by a holy, worthy fire.
As I whisper to my son, I will whisper to you: “Go with God. You can’t go wrong.”
(And please, please, please, buy a few extra rolls of wallpaper for rainy, petty days. There are other ways I would’ve rather practiced self-control and joy than staring at modern-styled wallpaper that grates my old-soul nerves.)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Photo Credit: ©Nataliya Vaitkevich
Peyton Garland is an author and Tennessee far mama sharing her heart on OCD, church trauma, and failed mom moments. Follow her on Instagram @peytonmgarland and check out her latest book, Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, to discover Jesus' hope in life's simplest moments.