The Practice of Love...
Have any of you been watching the few episdoes of "Selling Spelling Manor" on HGTV? I didn't know about it until I stumbled on it the other day and sat there, completely transfixed over "The Manor" as they referred to it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, google it or get on HGTV's website,. In short, it's the home of Aaron Spelling and his family that was built in the 90's as the largest home in California, probably just shy in square footage, of the Biltmore in North Carolina. It was huge, like 56,000 square feet huge and they built it from the ground up in the early 90's I think.
In that home they entertained royalty and big name celebrities, but they also raised their two children there. Sort of. They only lived there for a few years before they moved out on their own too. Anyway, as I watched the show and appreciated all of the architecture and design elements of that house, I kept listening to them use the words "house", "home", and "manor" interchangeably. Which struck me. I'm not sure that I would define any of those things in the same way, nor would I necessarily use them to describe that residence. This isn't a discourse on the Spellings and their huge home, but it was a fitting reminder for me of the difference our world places on where we live, versus what the Lord calls us to establish and build.
Finding joy and contentment in our condo has been an active discipline in faith for Travis and I over these last few years, as we've grown by 4 little feet and watched our square footage shrink almost over night. As we've wrestled through the emotions of being grateful for a roof over our heads, yet yearning for more space, all the while feeling very trapped in a real estate nightmare, we've found ourselves on all ends of the spectrum...sometimes thankful, frustrated, sad, encouraged, inspired, overwhelmed, and yes, even content. Through this journey, we have learned to fight for a contentment that comes not from our circumstances, the real estate market, or our mood that day, but only from the Lord. It's His truth that helps us remember our priorities and gives us the ability to trust Him with our needs. There are plenty of things we could, and at times have, despair(ed) in. But I can tell you that after living on this roller coaster for several years now, He has worked a real contentment in me that has begun to differentiate between where we live and what we're building. He's also impressed on me the need to not burden my husband constantly with the things I wish we had or the house I wish we owned. He has the same desires I do and the same frustrations, but it's not helpful for him to come home to a discontented wife who is always looking for more.
To me, a house is made of brick or stone, plaster and drywall. It's defined by its' size, its' style, and its' purpose. It meets the needs of shelter, protection from the elements and a physical address. Many people make their livings building houses or in my former profession, designing them. Weathly people aquire them, unsettled people move around in them, and plenty of normal people dream about them. Our culture tells us bigger is always better, newer is well deserved, and the greater the investement, the greater the return.
And yet, as we've wrestled with the Lord about where we live, He's faithfully shown me again and again that He doesn't call us to build houses as the world does. He's got a much greater purpose and plan and it involves establishing a home and building a family. I've spent so much wasted time being discouraged and dissatisfied over our house and yet, I've never been more thankful, more content and more in love with the home that we've managed to build, despite the condo it resides in. Does that make sense? I do love coming home and I know my little family does too. And for the record, I am truly grateful for the condo we bought. I like it, there is nothing wrong with it, and it's got everything we need in it. I want to be careful not to leave the impression that we think we are "suffering" over here or that we "deserve" so much more. The last time I checked, we live like royalty in comparison to most of the world.
Today I wanted to share something personal with you, that I've been mulling over lately. I think the world has plenty of houses available, but few homes. I don't claim to know it all or have this practice mastered by any means at all. But, with all of my 8 years of marital experience I have willingly embraced the role God has given me, as a wife and a mother, and become convinced of my responsibility to make our house a home. I've spent a considerable amount of time and money trying to make this place a refuge for our family, a place that makes us all feel like we belong here. It's my greatest desire that Christ is present and welcome and honored in our home and that all who enter, most importantly my family, feel loved and safe. It hasn't just happened by accident and what the Lord has impressed on me may not be what He impresses on you. However, I do think it's helpful as women to share some of the ways we've chosen to feather our nests and why. I loved hearing some of the inspiration behind Candy Spelling's home and today I thought you might like to hear some of mine.
I'm sticking my neck out on this one, but humbly, I'm inviting you in to take a peek at our inner world...
One of the ways I've brought some beauty to our white walled, builder grade home, is through color! Paint colors, inexpensive art, accessories, etc. all make a big impression. Places like Homegoods and TJMaxx and Target make this easy for all of us and are worth walking the aisles every now and then for that perfect thing. I've learned to be patient with my purchases, not just buying on impulse but waiting for the right thing, in my meager budget, to work. If decorating is not your thing, than find a friend who has the knack. It makes a huge difference and can make any space, no matter how ordinary or boring, look dramatically different. When I worked for an Interior Design firm, it always amazed me to enter big, beautiful homes that had absolutely no color. People could never put their finger on what they were missing or why something wasn't working and usually it was because they had no color scheme going. Just a lot of random things together with no rhyme or reason. Picking one color to take throughout your house in varying degrees is a great way to start. I'll give you a hint, but it's not easy to spot...brown and blue are two repeated themes in every room of our home :)
Most high end designers will tell you, put those picture frames away and keep your surfaces clear. And I agree, it's a much cleaner look that is easy to keep up with and really shows off your furniture and your art more effectively. But if you are going to turn your house into a home, and not a model home open for tours, than fill your spaces with the people you love. I can't tell you how many times I stop to look at these pictures in our bedroom, of Travis and I together and holding our newborns. Many times I'm just breezing through, in the middle of something, and then I catch a glimpse of those pictures and I stop for a few seconds and remember...I remember how the Lord answered our prayers, filled our arms, and gave us two little gifts. I don't ever want to forget His faithfulness and I love reminders of it, in our most intimate of places. Plus, I think it's a good thing for our kids to see those pictures of themselves up there and know that we treasure each other and them above our stuff and other people.
One thing that's been hard to achieve in limited space, is remembering that although Travis is here for the least amount of time, he still needs a place to hang his hat and spaces that are his to enjoy and relax in. He needs a refuge from the world, especially in the public role that his job requires, and I want our home to be that place. These aren't easy days to do that, little people tend to think everything belongs to them and they have rights to whatever they see, but this is one of those ways we can help honor our husbands and put them first by making sure they have a place to relax too. I let the kids string toys all over the house, all day long, but I do try to pick some of them up before he gets home and I try to make sure there is some degree of order around here. It doesn't happen everyday, but if I can help it, we don't always live in total chaos. Who wants to always come home to that??
And speaking of wanting to come home, I became convinced early on in our marriage that it was wise and worth every penny to make our bedroom a place that we both loved and that we enjoy escaping to. I understand that there are always other places that we can spend money, and some of it is urgent and necessary, but for us, making an investment in our bedroom was equivelent to making an investment in our marriage. And when I say investment, I mean a few hundred dollars over the years to dress our bed, have some light to read by, some inexpensive art to pull it all together, etc. The majority of our room came from clearance sales, craig's list, garage sales and gifts from other people. So I'm not talking about significant amounts of money, but more like intentional spending. I realize this might sound a little silly, but you wouldn't believe how much crisis counseling is happening within the Church and certainly outside of it, because of marriages that are crumbling due to infidelity and other reasons. It's a horrible problem and it's devestating families, our communities, and our nation. So while this is one little thing, creating a cozy master bedroom, sometimes all those little things add up to big things. There is no place I'd rather have Travis go, than home to me and our kids. So if I can make home and our bedroom the most inviting place in his world, the soft place to land, than I think it's worth the consideration and the effort. There is nothing gorgeous or expensive about our space, and in our case our room is the smallest one in the house! But it's just big enough and it's warm, cozy and comfortable and we protect it with both of our abilities. I keep it as clutter free as possible, I try to make our bed every day and I attempt to keep our laundry picked up or put away. We love retreating here at night and on the weekends. And I'm grateful that Trav has given me the freedom to make this room appealing to both of us.
Maybe the best decision I've made in the last few years is to put as much scripture in our home as I can. That comes straight from Deuteronomy 5, where we are commanded to teach our children God's laws, to write them on the doorframes of our houses, as we come and go, etc. It's been a wonderful addition to my days, especially as a stay at home Mom, to gaze on the Word everyday while I'm doing the most mundane of things. I keep this little calendar, which is actually 365 days of building your marriage, on top of our toaster oven. I see it right away in the morning while I'm making breakfast and throughout the day as well. I've had it for probably 5 years and it never loses its' value to me every year. It's presence has prompted me to pray, kept me from losing my patience, or given me a better perspective about someone or something. It's so easy and so simple and yet, God's word in our home and in my life is an investment that reaps eternal rewards.
One thing I've been more motivated to do now that we have kids, is to celebrate each holiday in some small way. It doesn't have to be grandiose or elaborate, but making special memories with them and making our home "fun" is a good thing.
When I was pregnant with each of my kids, I spent some time thinking of a verse that I wanted to pray for them and read to them over the years. This is what I chose for Carter and how I displayed it in his nursery. I hope it will always have a place in his room as long as he's with us, so he'll know that we were intentional about raising him to know and love the Lord.
And this is what I chose for Ava, for the same reasons. It was a common passage taught to Hebrew children and often rolled up in a cradle with them from infancy. As a girl, I hope it's a reminder to her that the Lord is her protector always. I plan to teach her to memorize this as she grows up but even now, when I look at it in the middle of the day, it reminds me that we aren't just "getting through" the days with no purpose in our parenting. Seeing the Word on display in their rooms, helps me remember to teach it to them and to know it for myself. I want them to not just hear God's word at Church, but to remember how it marked the walls of our homes and their rooms.
As our kids grow older, I'm starting to make an effort to include them in things I'm already doing and when I can, to teach them how to be helpers around our home. We want them to take some ownership in our home, to have an awareness that we have expecations of them and responsibilies we will be transferring to them as they grow. It's not always easy to do this when they are little, eager and inexperienced, but as I've learned to be more patient and draw them in, they respond to that with a helping heart. I never want them to grow up thinking we just "put up" with them for 18 years, but instead I'd love for them to know that they were welcome here, that they had responsibilities and that they contributed in ways we appreciated.
I'm a big believer in having a place for everything and everything in its' place. I don't care if they get every toy out we own, but when they're done playing with it I help them remember that it's time to clean up again and put everything back so that we have some order in our world. I'm learning to not always do it for them, but to show them how to clean up and let them do it, even if it's not how I would prefer it. They love the clean-up song and it seems to motivate them, but here's hoping I'm not still singing it when they are 18 and 19!
I love little cozy nooks to curl up and read or chat or just watch TV. I like cozy pillows, soft blankets and lamps. Those things always warm up a space and it's often where I settle in to read to the kids, work on my Bible study or snuggle up with my man to watch our shows we like.
I've tried to not only create those spaces for us, but for our kiddos too. They have reading spots on their rooms, but after Ron made us this gorgeous rocking chair, now we have a little spot in the living room too. Carter especially loves to crawl up in that chair and rock.
After reading Ann's book last year and making time to intentionally thank the Lord for the gifts He gives daily, I've loved any reminders to be thankful. I keep this two in my kitchen, where I spend most of my time these days.
Chalkboard paint has become one of my favorite things too! I can tell you that this little sign has quite literally kept me from freaking out a few times :) Taking a deep breath and looking for the blessing in the situation is a great exercise in remaining calm and keeping things in perspective. I like swapping it out for verses that are meaningful to me in different seasons.
I bought this when we were newlyweds, before the sign craze took off these last few years, and I still love it. I do have a wonderful life. It's not perfect, we don't live in an amazing house with beautiful furniture and plenty of space to grow. But we do live in a home that we all love and are grateful for. Somedays are more difficult than others to appreciate this condo when we'd love to move, but the Lord is working out faith in us through this season and that makes it sweet.
I've had to shift my thinking over the years from what can I do to get in a bigger house, to how can I make this house our home? And in that change of thinking, I'm loving them better. I hope I'm displaying a contentment that comes from Christ and a perspective that puts more value on things that are eternal, instead of things that are temporal and can't be held too tightly. It's a discipline, one that doesn't come easily and that challenges me daily. But the rewards of being grateful and trusting the Lord outweight all the square footage and custom upgrades in the world.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain."
1 Timothy 6:6
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength."
Happy Wednesday, friends...