When we bought our house, one of the first things that attracted me to it was the light. It streamed through our four giant south-facing windows like buttery-warm happiness. Unfortunately all four of those windows were damaged. The wood sills were rotten. The double-paned glass had separated, creating a milky-white fog. And some refused to open.

An estimate to replace them topped $10,000. Way too much for our fix-me-up budget. Then I spotted an ad on Craigslist. Two giant windows – nearly the same size as ours – plus a houseful of double-hungs for just $1,000. With creativity, my husband, Dana, and I thought we could make it work.

So we borrowed a trailer, and Dana drove a couple of hours to haul them home. But first we had a couple of other pressing projects – like building a front porch to keep the rain and snow away from our door. As a result the windows spent two years in our shed.

Finally, last week, we were ready. Dana ripped the rotten wood off the back of our house, tore out the dining room Sheetrock and re-framed the window. Then our 21-year-old son helped haul the first huge window out of the shed and heave it into place.

The change was instantaneous. Beautiful, natural wooden sashes and grilles replaced the sun-baked, white-painted wood surrounding our old windows. The side panels easily slid up and down, letting in a cool breeze. And the room felt cozier. But something else was different too.

The pine floor beneath the window looked dull. So did my hand when I held it up in the light. Gone was the buttery brightness that warmed my skin. Instead, my skin looked sallow. “The light’s different,” I said to Dana.

A call to a window supplier and a little digging around on the Internet, explained why. The iron-oxide in the Low-E windows we’d bought to conserve energy, tinted the light a subtle shade of green. Although well-intentioned, our efforts to improve our house, came with unintentional results.

“Don’t worry,” the window supplier assured me. “Once you replace all of the windows, you won’t notice the difference.”

Maybe. But I wasn’t reassured. Even if I grew accustomed to the dull green tint, I’d always know the difference. Why? Because I’d already experienced the true light. Given our budget and the current price of construction materials, we’ll have to live with our new windows. For now. But here’s what else I’m thinking.

In an age when we are so eager to tear out the old and replace it with the new, how easy it is – how almost imperceptible – to miss this dimming of the light. Particularly if we have no true light to compare it to. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said in John 8:12 (NLT). “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Although well-intentioned, our best efforts to improve our lives, often come with unintentional results too. It is only in comparison to Jesus that we can truly see the difference.

Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Best Birthday and four other books celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.