Any House A Home – A Lesson in What Matters

We moved about a week ago and we love our new place. It’s simple, beautiful, manageable and we have all the honeymoon-feels about it. Until the water heater broke two days after we moved in (but I digress). Before we started the process of looking for a place to buy, we came up with a motto that we’ve had to remind ourselves of during these past days of living in an unpacked, somewhat hazardous environment: We can make any house a home.

It's whatever, couch.

It’s whatever.

I’m going to paint the current status of our home for you — we don’t have any seating in our living room. Nada. The brown fluffy monstrosity from our other place simply refused to enter despite the men’s brave efforts so it took a long walk off a short cliff (or stairwell, as it were). RIP brown couch. Recently, John was able to make the second bedroom (affectionately nicknamed the dungeon) an actual livable space where we could navigate around without tripping over a chest of drawers, pillows, or a craft cart the size of a small child (whose IS that by the way? geez!). Yet our closets are still a disaster, brimming with things that are in all the wrong places.

The dungeon.

The dungeon. Pre-John’s ninja unpacking skills.

Sigh. Let me explain to you where my strengths lie when it comes to the unpacking process, ok? — THE FUN STUFF. By fun stuff I mean the pictures and knick knacks and fluffy feel-good things that go on the walls and shelves. This is also known as – THE LAST THINGS WE WILL UNPACK. I’m not sure if this is a strength of mine or really just something I’d rather be doing. Like dessert. Dessert is a HUGE strength of mine. I could dessert all day every day. Same way I feel about decorating the walls.

An interesting caveat to unpacking all the fun things this time around is I know I won’t be decorating with all of the picture frames I had used in our previous home. The reason is because in general, John’s mind is just more organized than mine (understatement of the year) and he’s requesting more open and clean space on the walls. Looking at the walls now, I have to admit — it does feel more sterile boring open with less stuff on them. Yet my decorating style is like walking by a wall resembling an advertisement for Hobby Lobby that is displaying every cute picture frame and wall accessory it’s ever sold… ever. On one wall.

Let me clarify – John has always graciously and lovingly encouraged me in my home-making skills. He tells me how much he loves coming home and how relaxing it is etc. So don’t get it all wrong when I tell you our decorating styles are not always simpatico. It’s totally hereditary. My mom decorates beautifully and bountifully and I picked up her gusto for knick-knackery. My mother-in-law decorates beautifully and minimally which is also sweet, and inviting.

John and I grew up in different worlds and now that we actually own a place for the first time, we’ll inevitably need to compromise on stuff. Despite our best efforts, compromise quickly translates into frequent grumbles, snorts, huffs, deep sighs, and apologies because we’re imperfect people with a measurable amount of patience and grace and we both so desperately want to have this place all put together.

My favorite person. :)

🙂

Yet at the end of the day, it’s not about pictures on the wall or where we put the couch, or what kind of rug we buy. It’s about who I’m making a home with. I want to do life with him. For all of the ways he challenges me and aggravates me, and all the ways I annoy him and snarl at him, this house won’t mean a thing if we don’t agree to keep loving and liking each other.

I’m guessing the wall decor process is going to happen sometime early in the New Year so my first New Years Resolution is to let the little things go. I’m not abandoning my opinion all together, make no mistake! But I’m willing to make it work because it’s dumb to get our panties in a wad about picture frames when we could be snuggling on our imaginary couch instead. 🙂

We like being homeowners, but we love being married. No amount of picture frames or knick knacks (or lack thereof) are going to shift those priorities. When we make a home we wanna make it right – built on love, decorated in compromise, and enjoyed by all who enter it. 

Any house a home, y’all. That’s how we roll.

 

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Homemaking & Unpacking – a small victory over Pinterest and my misplaced priorities

Since entering into the time vacuum that is Pinterest, I’ve noticed that I have re-pinned about 14 different “styles” of furniture, decor, paint colors, and themes. If you look at my account you’ll find that I am a “shabby- modern- antique- subtle- cottage- contemporary- western- bold- beachside” kinda girl. I mean honestly, if I tried to re-create all of those styles, John wouldn’t know if he was walking into a log cabin or a NYC studio apartment. The sharp lines of modern furniture would pierce into the unsuspecting antiquated coffee table which would be sitting on top of a bamboo rug. Yikes.

So! To save myself, and any visitors to our home, from what would undoubtedly be a ginormous eyesore accumulating into a pounding headache, I’ve decided to keep our home decor theme pretty simple: “People we know and love.” And, since the people we know are so unique and lovable in their own way, this means my mismatched furniture fits right in with my theme.

Take THAT Pinterest! You and your impossible to recreate “themes” and “styles.” I will NOT be defeated by your perfectionist “nobody’s- home – actually – looks – like – that” standards! I win. 🙂

Moving on.

The goal to have friends and family surround us in our home became especially important when John and I moved half way across the country after our first year of marriage. We wanted to remember, to celebrate, and to give thanks for who and what God has surrounded us with both now and yesterday. You’ll find photo after photo of these loved ones in black frames, brown frames, silver, or colored (this is beginning to sound like the no longer politically correct Sunday school song, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight..”).

Every corner of our living/dining rooms and kitchen contain captured memories involving people we love. Usually I keep them out of the bathroom and bedroom because I feel like that’s awkward. No, really. I have this complex where I think people can actually travel into pictures of themselves and observe whatever is happening around that photo. And before you point it out, I know. It’s not like we live at Hogwarts where that actually does happen. Duh. But Hogwarts is real… right?

Anyways, John and I just moved again this past week and while I am no where near the really fun part of unpacking (stinkin kitchen takes at least 36 hours to unpack), every time I pass a blank wall I think of what memory may hang there and what friends will be stalking smiling at me as I walk by and go about my ordinary life.

Thinking about all the awesome people we are privileged to know got me thinking, “Shouldn’t people take precedence over stuff, even during the unpacking process?” You would think this would be glaringly obvious but, sadly it hasn’t been that way. Usually I become so obssessed with unpacking that I forget there are people around me that I care about and who care about me. You can ask John, he’s witnessed it too many times (and endured the brunt of it).

I’ve become uncomfortable (read:convicted) with how tightly the need to unpack grips my heart every time we move. So, in an effort to maintain the right perspective (God > people > stuff) my unpacking has suffered a bit this time around. These past few days I have decided to live life, to leave the house with dozens of boxes untouched and hang out with friends, to spend time with Jesus, to stop unpacking late at night and snuggle with John on the couch instead. It’s almost like this frantic grip on my heart to get everything unpacked by yesterday is slowly loosening. I come home and laugh at the chaos, but I’m laughing!

Don’t get me wrong, I still get the bug to unpack and I don’t always ignore it when it bites, but it doesn’t seem to be biting as fiercely or frequently. I am gradually putting things in there place, including my priorities. My main motivation to unpack is shifting from wanting my home to look welcoming (not a bad goal!) to wanting my home to be welcoming. And I’m beginning to realize that it has a lot more to do with where my heart is than where I put that vase, or picture frame, or rug etc.

So, I’m a work in progress (as is our new home) and while I must wait for eternity to become fully “unpacked” in Christ, my home will eventually be unpacked (before then, Lord-willing!) and ready to greet visitors with open couches and memories waiting to be unwrapped.

Just don’t mind those boxes in the corner, k?

Thoughts on Moving – Where does my treasure lead my heart?

A fun fact about me: I moved into the house I grew up in when I was 4 months old and didn’t move out til I got married at age 20. My family had our fair share of re-modeling, room switching, and yard sales to liven things up but we never actually moved. I love this about my childhood. I know for many families that would be a great luxury, so I count it a blessing.

Another fun fact (which I think is true of many newlyweds): Since John and I got married we have moved every year.

Needless to say, I got a crash course in moving after getting married and it’s been a bittersweet experience. I’ve learned alot, grumbled alot, dropped a lot of boxes, wrapped enough vases and plates in enough bubblewrap to encompass the state of Rhode Island, and laughed a whole bunch during the process (usually at John). It’s also proved to be a very humbling experience.

There’s something oddly revealing about moving, especially when you’re blessed with people to help you. As John and I have observed countless friends and family members haul our stuff up stairs, down stairs, onto and off truck beds, around tight corners, and through narrow doorways, we have to stop and think: is all this stuff necessary?

I’m not trying to make the case that we should downsize to two clean pairs of underwear, a sofa, a handful of pots and pans, three change of clothes, and our Bibles. Although, John may become a big advocate of that idea once we begin the loading and unloading process in our impending move. It just gets me thinking: What does the Bible say about all this stuff?

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.

– Proverbs 15:16 –

John is a full-time seminary student who tutors part time and I work as a receptionist for a non-profit. Looking at our life situation I would say we don’t qualify as having “great treasure.” But that really isn’t true, we’re some of the wealthiest people in the world! Living in a city has taught us a lot about toeing the line between minimalism and materialism. We can look at one corner of the city and say, “Man. They live on so little.” then drive about 800ft to the next block and think, “Dang. They live on too much.” How do we, in the midst of these extremes, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (Ephesians 4:1)?

Moving our life from home to home always puts it into perspective for me. John and I are moving tomorrow and we have tried to be thorough with packing and purging and pitching our possessions (YES alliteration!). While I stop to observe the countless objects we haven’t touched in a year I wonder at my inability to let some of it go. If that lip gloss is fermenting on the side of the tube and those pants haven’t seen the light of day since I bought them on a whim in the department store, why do I feel compelled to keep them?

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

– Matthew 6:19-20 –

I really appreciate when Jesus makes things so easy to understand. There’s no parable parsing needed for His teaching here: stuff on earth is going to be destroyed or stolen, stuff in heaven cannot be touched. So don’t store up a bunch of rusty stuff on earth for other people to pick through when you could be accumulating the untouchable, immovable treasures in heaven. And really, when we get to heaven, Jesus will be the most marvelous treasure. Can you imagine being in the presence of God? It’s overwhelming! It certainly makes that lip gloss and those wrinkled pants extremely underwhelming.

The passage continues to it’s most quoted verse:

For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.

– Matthew 6:21 –

Here’s a test of what’s in your heart’s treasure chest:

If your home caught on fire and you had 2 minutes to grab things, what would you grab?

John’s answer is  – My wife, laptop, phone, wallet, and Bible (and now it’s probably the cat too, although she’s been more of a menace than a help during the moving process… so her rescue would probably depend on her recent behavior)

My answer is – Welp, John’s got me so I don’t have to grab him, I’ll go for my purse, my Bible, and my scrapbooks.

So it looks like we value: each other (awww), our personal information/ID/money, God’s Word (we are SO holy), and our memories… oh and Clara. That pesky little furball.

This leads me to wonder, should I purge everything down to the bare necessities of life? Is that the most “Christian” way of living and of avoiding the snare of materialism? But as I read over v.21 I notice that Jesus isn’t focusing on the amount of stuff or “treasure” but on the location of that treasure.

The real question isn’t about how much stuff you own or how many boxes you pack. It’s a question of how you live and who you live for. Do you live as someone who longs for the riches of heaven or are you  “striving after wind” on earth (Ecclesiastes 4:6) ? Do you care more that people see all the possessions you have or that your possessions can be used to care for other people?

I don’t think it’s wrong to own possessions, I think it’s wrong when they begin to own you. When my possessions begin to crowd out my passion for the Lord, my desire to serve John, when I’m more excited about a great sale at Hobby Lobby than an opportunity to serve someone in need (ouch).

There is a limited amount of space in my heart as there is in the new home we’re moving into. Do I want to crowd it with rusty junk or make it a sweet sanctuary? Do I have enough room in my heart and my home for the needs of others? For the Lord?

John and I still have a lot to learn about “what really matters” in terms of what to keep and we’ll probably end up moving things into our new place that we’ll never use. That’s just a reality. My hope is that we would not become so entrenched in our stuff that we would forget to cherish the things we really love, the things that make life worth living: serving Jesus and telling others about Him, making memories, learning about and loving on those around us.

No one can touch our souls, our joy in the Lord, or our love for each other and those around us. Those are intangible, eternal, and priceless.

My desire is that my “treasure” would lead my heart to a place of eternal security, hope in Jesus, and a passionate, purposeful life.

What is your treasure? Where does it lead your heart?