I was the messy kid in a family who prized orderliness—forever leaving the kitchen cabinets open after taking out a glass or emptying my pockets onto the countertop, then wandering away. I wasn’t visual in the same way the other members of my family were; I didn’t see the disarray. I liked my mother’s pretty, ordered home, but I took it for granted.
I was 23 years old when I married and knew little about keeping house or making a home. In our early years, my husband and I prized functionality and storage over aesthetics—we renovated and co-constructed several houses, always focusing more on essentials like plumbing and working electricity than on décor or coziness.
It’s now 20 years since our wedding, and my husband and I have lived in nine homes spanning the country and globe—from a tiny California bungalow to a towering, stone house in Greece. Last summer our family moved into a sweet New England gambrel that was originally built in the late 1600’s. Since we are from the Northeast, this house for us means coming ‘home’.
I marvel at how much God has changed me through 20 years of marriage, four children, and nine moves. In all honesty ‘making home’ has often been a source of tumult both within myself and between my husband and me, but it has also been the seedbed for great growth. God has birthed hope, grown beauty, and built peace in the space of our homes and in doing so, has taught me the value of tending to where we live.
OUR DESIRES FOR OUR HOMES CAN REVEAL OUR DEEPEST DREAMS
When it comes to a house, my husband wants land for his soul to breathe so he can immerse himself in the outdoors and raise animals. I want an indoor writing corner so I can craft with words in a setting that invites them—as well as sufficient living space to shepherd our kids and to entertain frequently. When making decisions about our homes, our differing desires have sometimes led to arguments. But I’ve learned that conflicts about house matters are usually not about what they first appear. They are more often about underlying hopes hidden behind the presenting issues. God walks us patiently through waters that are often turbulent, teaching us to do the hard work of hearing and valuing each other’s hearts and interacting with love.
Home invites us into a love-learning process: learning to know and honor ourselves and one another well as we craft a space in which dreams can flourish. As we press into the relational needs and challenges presented by our loved ones with whom we’re ‘making home’, everything benefits: our own souls, the relationships, and the home itself.
BRINGING BEAUTY INTO OUR HOMES THROUGH ATTENTION TO AESTHETICS IS HOLY WORK, AND IT FOLLOWS THE EXAMPLE OF GOD.
God created our world beautiful on purpose, and the Bible illustrates in myriad ways how He values physical beauty. Just look at the very specific, high-quality materials He selected for use in building the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 25, or the elaborate directions He gave for sewing the priestly garments in Exodus 28. He wanted them done right. He intended for them to be beautiful.
When God crafted the earth, He made it glorious, and He sustains that beauty continually with every fiery sunset and budding flower petal. Through the natural world He shows us He cares about beauty and intends it to be incorporated into daily life; He knows our hearts need it. When He made us stewards of this earth, He gave us power and permission to follow Him in His model of loving and incorporating beauty. We honor Him as we learn to cultivate beauty within our own spheres at home, whether through putting cut flowers on the table or placing a colorful rug or piece of art. Prioritizing physical beauty both glorifies God and, when done in the right spirit, opens our hearts wider to best embrace His beauty in its less visible forms as well.
IT IS NOT WRONG TO SPEND MONEY ON OUR HOMES.
This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. I’m frugal and for years felt guilty when I spent money on items to make my home more beautiful or orderly; it seemed wasteful. I was stuck in a spirit of miserliness when it came to myself and the home-related things that spoke beauty to my heart. Couldn’t the $80 I was thinking of spending on that dresser be better spent on feeding starving children?
While it’s true we’re called to manage our money wisely and be as radically generous as Jesus, it’s not true that spending as little money as possible on our homes honors God most. He is not necessarily happier with a $20 plastic shelving unit than with an $80 antique dresser. We honor Him as we carefully and prayerfully pour into our homes to make them places of beauty. Sometimes bringing beauty into our homes will involve spending money.
Christie Purifoy writes in her book “Placemaker”: “What if beauty is one of the greatest gifts I give my neighbors and guests? What if my choices give others the permission they need to forgo the plastic jug, to light the special candle, to sit quietly in the afternoon with milky tea in a bone china cup? I believe beauty reflects the truth about who God is and what this world is all about.”
Amen. As we humbly cultivate our homes in obedience to God, we can use the resources He gives us to bring beauty to the space and everyone in it—a beauty that speaks of His character. God brought me out of a spirit of homeward-miserliness and into a spirit of freedom to pursue beauty. Walking in this freedom has been life-giving and home-changing.
THROUGH SPACES WE CREATE IN OUR HOMES, WE CULTIVATE THE VALUES WE ARE TRYING TO PRIORITIZE IN OUR FAMILY.
We must be deliberate as we plan our spaces. If we want to foster family unity, how can we ensure there’s a place where we all can gather together comfortably? If we want to offer hospitality, have we planned for enough chairs for guests to sit in, or beds for visitors to sleep in if they stay overnight? If we want our children to grow in creativity, do they have a space to gather when they’re learning to whittle, knit or draw, and suitable storage to organize their supplies? Of course we will not be able to do all of these perfectly in our houses, because we live in a world of real limits—limits of budget, space, and competing needs. God knows this and doesn’t expect perfection, but we can be intentional about doing our best with what we have. In order to fulfill the purposes God has for our families, we need to organize our homes strategically around our understanding of His callings on our lives.
In a very real sense, our homes are the platforms upon which the work of our lives is accomplished, day by day and activity by activity. When our homes look and function in ways that are workable and appealing, we are freed and equipped to enact the tasks to which God calls us. I love the candor and logic of Myquillyn Smith on this in “Cozy Minimalist Home.” “Let’s get your home looking the way you’ve always hoped so that you can use it the way you’ve always dreamed,” she writes. It is good and right to have hopes and dreams for how our God-given spaces should look and function. As we come before God honestly in a spirit of partnership, He helps us craft our homes in ways that are pleasing and will best support our service and ministry.
GRATITUDE TO GOD MUST BE AT THE CENTER OF OUR HOMES.
The most beautiful, magazine-cover-worthy mansion in the world is sterile and cold without God at its center. On the other hand, remember Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood home that she wrote about in “On the banks of Plum Creek”? It may have been a simple, one-room sod house, but with a heart focused on the Lord, a cheerful checkered tablecloth, and an ever-present spirit of gratitude, Laura’s mother, Ma, made it a place of worship.
A hard heart or complaining spirit will always drive us from God, whereas a soft heart and posture of thanksgiving will always bring us to Him. Wherever our physical home may be, a spirit of gratitude leads us to our true home—the bosom of God. When we dwell with the Lord, “under His wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4). May we keep ourselves there always, anchored in the homes He’s chosen for us, as we pursue Him and walk with Him.
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