Unearth the Dirt

776,000 pounds of dirt.

That’s how much has to be removed from underneath our house to convert our cellar into a full-size basement. It will equate to roughly 35-40 dump trucks full of dirt (we’re roughly eleven or so loads in). It’s seriously such a neat process to watch. And by neat I surely mean interesting, not clean — that’s another story.

In order to dig a basement under a 128 year old home, we’ve had to undergo extensive planning with engineering, architectural, surveys, soil studies, permitting, etc. This is the correct way to take on a project of such magnitude (if you’d prefer your house doesn’t cave in while you’re fast asleep one night).

The dig happens by strategically removing dirt from ten specific areas at one time, pouring new foundation walls inside the existing ones. Once those are set, the whole process is repeated twice, until all the walls have been poured. The dirt left in the center will then be removed in order to pour the floor.

The whole point in this extensive planning and methodical digging is to make sure we can safely dig a new foundation for our home without compromising the integrity of what’s already standing.

Because when you don’t remove dirt properly, things like this can happen:

A house similar to ours in our neighborhood. Story at Fox 31 Denver.

As you can see, properly removing dirt is a big deal.

What in the hell does this have to do with living restfully?

If I want more breathing room in our home and in my heart, something has to go. I can’t create more hours in a day (and giving up any hours of sleep is so not happening). We’ve maxed out the space in our home. So what has to go?

The dirt.

Before we can build a new foundation. We have to get rid of the dirt.

And ugh, do I ever have a lot of it. What dirt? Everything and anything causing my heart to not be at rest — things that lead to feeling worn, tired, rushed, weary, overwhelmed, irritable, etc. Which by the way, pretty much encompasses anything necessitating that I be at a certain place at a certain time with two young kids and a baby in tow, without the help of another adult. Especially when that requires leaving the house in pristine condition so our anxiety ridden dog doesn’t eat my slippers for the third make that fourth time because he’s upset about all the construction noise and not perfectly consistent running schedule and will destroy an-y-thing of mine in his reach — I digress.

The external dirt — or stuff I can physically see — can really weigh me down. Sound silly? Just google “clutter and stress” and you’ll find a slew of information about how our physical surroundings affect our brain; for better or worse. This kind of dirt seems the easiest to remove for me, mainly because I geek out on all things organization. Like getting rid of extra stuff we don’t love or don’t need. Or the freebies kids accumulate and get spread all around the house, including to the bottom of my foot in an unlit room (and all the parents say ‘Amen!’). This might also be pairing down our wardrobes to make dressing easier for myself and the kids. (I’m actually ridiculously excited about creating my wardrobe capsule. Thank you Pinterest.) And perhaps trying to relax some of my “standards” of cleanliness in our home while the construction dust flies or maybe even until the kids move out some day. Okay, that one will be tough.

Some dirt gets a little harder, like the dirt in my schedule. It’s hard because I already feel like ‘no’ has become the go-to answer for most opportunities that have come up since starting our business at the same time as starting our family. But ‘good’ is the enemy of ‘great,’ right? But it can be so hard to say ‘no’ to good things.

Then it gets harder. I need to start asking myself questions like, ‘what created all that clutter in the closet and the calendar in the first place? What expectations for myself have I been clinging to that aren’t actually realistic ones? Whose approval have I been seeking that I shouldn’t be giving that level of importance to? How have less than ideal boundaries played into allowing some relationships to drain me faster than I can replenish the energy? Why the hell do I equate success so much with getting shit done?’

Starting Blocks

So how do we start?

One bucket at a time. For real.

All 776,000 pounds of dirt from under our house are removed by hand, put on a conveyor belt, and moved out the back. From there, it’s scooped up and loaded into the dump truck. And it takes four to five whole months to do. We’re talking a lot of dirt here. But, there’s just no other way to safely remove it when you’re still living in the structure above it.

Five Points, Denver Basement Excavation

It’s the same with my life. I have to chip away at what’s causing unrest in my heart one thing at at time. Learning to live more slowly isn’t going to be a fast process. I mean, that’s an oxymoron to begin with. It’s taken years decades to get to this point. There’s no magical button to instantly unearth all the stuff that’s overtaken our hearts, homes, and schedules. Barring excruciating circumstances, the head and heart just can’t move that fast. But that’s okay.

The process matters.

Embrace the Journey

As I work on slowing down my pace of living, I’m also allowing God a chance to transform my heart and mold my character. In his commentary on Hebrews 12:1-4, John Ritenbaugh says:

Chip by chip over a period of time, an artist uses hammer and chisel to shape a conception from a raw slab of rock until the finished figure is revealed. God is doing much the same with us except we are living, raw material with mind, emotions, and the liberty to allow or disallow the Artist to continue. If we are impatient, not allowing the Creator to complete His artistry by our constant yielding to His tools, we will never be perfect and entire…

We must begin to cultivate the habit of thinking of life, including all of its trials, as being God’s way to shape godly character in us.

Perfection in this life is to become what God wants us to become. What could be better than that? If we understand that our lives are in God’s hands as He molds and shapes us, then the meanings – the eventual outcome – of joy and sorrow are the same. God intends the same result whether He gives or takes. The events of life are merely the scaffolding for shaping us into His image, and we should meet them with patience as He continues His work.


The Sculptor needs time to work on his masterpiece. We are his masterpiece. Let the chiseling begin.


The Start of a New Foundation

I am the last person that should be writing about slow living.

Back in high school, I was an insane overachiever. The kind that cried when she got less than an A. The kind that was on three sports teams at once, practicing from the last school bell until after ten at night. The kind that still went to school with mono, so she wouldn’t fall behind. It was so over the top that during junior year, my English teacher pulled me aside to say,

Jenny, you can’t keep going at this pace with everything. Someday it’s going to catch up with you.

Of course, being the all-knowing teenager that I was, I scoffed at her words and continued to put my head down and plow forward.

Fast forward 20 years and I’ve gotten a lot of shit done. If there’s a task that needs finishing or a project to tackle, I’ve already come up with a system to maximize efficiency and conquer it (you don’t even want to know what I’ve done to our meal planning). I even married a guy that can take on more at once than I can.

In our first six years of marriage, we’ve added two babies and two foster fail pups to our family. We’ve completed two renovations on our historical home, with a third massive one looming. We’ve started and grown our real estate company from working out of our home office to six employees, three brokers, and opening our second legit office space this month. We’ve been involved at church, hosted and led various small groups and bible studies, and volunteered in our neighborhood (Mark as neighborhood president for five years). We started homeschooling our kids, stayed in shape the best we could (except for the month of Flabruary. Winter… ugh.), and even squeezed in a few vacations.

After all that, I thought I had enough years of accomplishments under my belt to prove my high school teacher wrong.

Then we had our third kid.

I had heard countless times that three kids is the hardest number to manage (even harder than four or more). But I figured I could handle all this, just like I have with everything else.

But I couldn’t.

This sweet little bundle of joy has been my tipping point. The overwhelm has brought out the ugly in me. The kind that snaps at the people you say are the most important to you. The kind that wants to hide in a closet to get away from the chaos, binge on chocolate, and maybe even have a good cry. It’s not even that this baby has been uniquely difficult (although he did have some colic, but we’ve figured that out). It’s the sheer craziness of trying to balance three kids five and under, two rambunctious dogs, grow a business, homeschool our kids, manage a renovation, give back to our community, and still have a marriage we actually want to be in.

I’ve never believed that anyone could truly “have it all” — something always has to be sacrificed — but, this is surely the expectation I’ve placed upon myself.

As I said, I’m the last person that should be writing about slow living.

Yet God keeps whispering to me to write about this.

I’ve honestly done my best to ignore Him. To kindly remind Him that there are a slew of people more qualified and competent to write about this. Or hell, just even a better writer.

Or bargaining with Him to put it off until another time when, “things aren’t so crazy?” I mean, we are literally days away from breaking ground on the biggest home renovation we’ve undertaken: digging a new foundation in order to add much needed space to our home that feels like it’s bursting at the seems.

A new foundation.

More space.

Perhaps that’s intended to be about more than just our house.

The Start of a New Foundation

Welcome to my journey of learning to live restfully during the craziest season of our lives. I have an inkling that if God can reframe my mind and remold my heart, there’s hope for all of us type-A, overachieving perfectionists out there. If you’re one of those too, I hope you’ll join me in grabbing a shovel to see what we can unearth in order to rebuild a foundation that leads to a more restful and purposeful life. It’s going to be one hell of a ride!