Finding Rest in the City

Unearthing the Dirt from Our Home and Lives

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 right now). It’s seriously such a neat process to watch. And by neat I surely mean interesting, not clean — that’s another story.

To dig a basement under a 128-year-old home, we’ve had to undergo extensive planning with engineering, architecture, surveys, soil studies, permitting, etc. This is the proper 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:

Wall Collapses at Denver Home
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 world 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 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.

Jen Wilder

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 for worse. This kind of dirt seems the easiest to remove for me, mainly because I geek out on all things organization and getting rid of extra stuff we don’t love or need. Include in this category, the freebies kids accumulate that seem to spread all around the house, including to the bottom of my foot in an unlit room (and all the parents say ‘amen!’). This also includes 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 months for the entire process. 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 house above it.

Removing the Dirt from Home and Life

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.

John Ritenbaugh


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


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2 Responses

  1. Hi Jen, I am truly a fan of your blog because I feel God speaks to me through you will ask how?! This is very serendipitous like for lack of a better term but me and My mom just hanged up about half hour ago and were talking about letting God be in control let him shape us bc like you said we are his master piece, let’s be happy with who we are because he made us. This is a big bucket of dirt for me I am always over criticizing myself about not being more “American” …thanks for writing this blog I will stay tuned 😉

    1. Thanks Carolina! It’s been my prayer that God would allow what I’m learning and writing about to be helpful to others too. It’s funny some of the things we criticize ourselves about, like not feeling more “American,” is what our nearest and dearest love about us. 😘

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Hi, I'm Jen!

Nice to meet you!

I’m a homeschooling mom of four and recovering perfectionist on a journey to live a more restful life.


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