I remember seeing a home improvement show for the first time. It impacted me in a deeper way than the DIY “whoa, they turned those terrible peach cabinets into a masterpiece” kind of way.  People were taking what they had and making it better by spending some time on it. I saw it as a character building experience.

Take the sawdust out, the lady walking around in the half lumberjack, half beauty queen attire factor out and let’s go deeper. The long-term result is character building. At a young age, I knew I wanted a fixer upper someday. Shining up some dust and turning something that was once “hopeless” into something beautiful. Truth is, it was never hopeless to begin with—and that’s the point.

During the summer of 2016, there we were in the big, beautiful (very dusty, leaky and 10+ years abandoned) church to home—our fixer-upper my husband and I had prayed for while searching for our first home. From the first day in there (which felt more like a church sleepover), we were consistently seeing a bat a night. While my husband was gone, I remember lying flat on the ground as a bat was doing figure eights above me—and realizing THIS was our current normal. Add a three month old puppy to the mix and we had a party.

The thermostat in the sanctuary reached mid-90s most evenings. Something like temperature that we took for granted, we became grateful for. It’s pretty eye opening when you’re talking to your husband and, “It’s only 84 degrees in here,” comes out as an optimistic statement. We became thankful for the small things.

Here are the top five things I’ve learned in our church to home:

1. Accept the imperfections

Holes in the ceiling, 100 year old floors and sawdust with construction galore—but my oh my. When we practice accepting imperfections, we practice accepting life. We are all born imperfect fixer uppers. Acceptance is where growth comes—not putting some duct tape on it and calling it good. Accept and improve, because it’s so worth it.

Imperfection is a word we turn our eyes away from, failing to see the potential. We see this word in negative light, but it builds character more than our human version of “perfection” ever could.

2. The “if only” mentality isn’t productive. 

“If only (blank), my life would be all set.” Here’s a newsflash: no—and that’s good news. Would you want to depend on that ONE thing for happiness? That one thing would not set your life. Making the best of what is in front of you does way more than being handed that one thing.

Have you ever completed a project or something you didn’t think you could make better? That moment you stand back and look at it is a moment of achievement and contentment, right? You just took what you had and made it better.

Now think of the feeling associated with striving for perfection: defeating, because it’s unattainable. Even if we had it, we would fall in a cycle of becoming addicted to wanting the next thing and never being truly satisfied without the next fix. We admire our grandparents for making what they had more beautiful and finding joy in the “simple” things that happen to be the big things.

3. Comparison is a thief of everything. 

When you do your own thing, it’s different than Deb’s thing. I don’t know who Deb is, but you get the picture. Comparing is like reading the manual for a LG TV to try to work your Vizio TV.

Comparison is a thief, man. I want to shout this one from the roof. Nah, a tower. With a dang megaphone. It doesn’t matter what the Joneses are doing. You see the outside of their journey. The beautiful view of their latest model Subaru rolling by the sunrise, but you aren’t able to see inside of the car. Love them, don’t judge them—because you don’t know. Those Joneses . . . they sure would set you straight if you told them you thought they had it perfect.

Compare your journey to the journey you are working for. Comparison: a dang waste of our time, folks.

4. Be thankful for small things (that are actually big things). 

“It’s 58 in here,” and, “Oh nice!” in return was a part of our normal conversation. This winter, our normal involved running to the kitchen every morning to make coffee in 40-something degree weather—followed by gathering wood to start our wood burning stove. To be completely honest, I have some good memories of that. Starting a Boy Scout approved fire for the first time, I stood up and literally danced out of excitement. Maybe I even broke out into the robot.

Our master bedroom has central air, but our sanctuary-style living room is heated by a wood burning stove that we have to feed every hour. It was a part-time job to keep it above 60 this winter.

It’s easy to take things for granted. It’s an effortless process. In fact, I would say taking things for granted is a pansy action. Excuse the blunt statement, but it’s just that. It takes no strength. We forget to be thankful for the small things that are actually quite big.

5. We are all fixer-uppers. 

We all have the ability to look at something dusty and see its potential to shine. We can relate to fixer-upper projects as we are all fixer-uppers in some way. I’ve learned a lot from this beautiful, big building with 100 years of imperfections—but it goes much deeper than the bricks. Even deeper than the beauty of those Art Deco stained glass windows on a spring day.

I wholeheartedly believe our fascination with DIY projects is connected to our ability to see the potential in what could be with some love and time. Whether it’s the people around us or this big ol’ church to home—throw in love, see the potential under the dust and it’s unstoppable.

Originally published on the author’s page

Jennifer Mills

Jennifer is an entrepreneur from Nebraska. Her goal as a writer is to write "feel good" material mixed with comedy. Jennifer's biggest project at the moment is fixing up a church to home with her husband. Living in this abandoned church to home has given her endless insight and passion to write.