Better Homes and Gardens

This week the October issue of Better Homes and Gardens will begin landing in homes of subscribers and eventually on the shelves of local supermarkets. Why this tidbit? Because my home and my family will be featured in it and because there’s rarely room in an article of it’s kind to share the full journey. So for those of you who care… : )

Nathan and I have owned two homes in our almost 20 years of marriage. One in Franklin, TN and the one featured in BH&G. The rest were all tiny apartments and rental homes, one of our humblest abodes was even the “pool house” of a very kind family who lives in Spring, TX. But whether it was a 600 square foot shoebox of a place or a family home with room to grow, I have always been compelled to bring order and beauty to our home from the inside out. To somehow outwardly express what we are inwardly believing and living for. Our home in Franklin, long story short was called “the haunted house of the neighborhood” when we purchased it…if that tells you anything. The journey of that home is a whole other blog basically. It was way more of a fixer upper than our home now but both have been ongoing projects to make them feel like “home”. {Especially since Nathan works from home and we also homeschool here part of the week.} The result, though not perfect, has always been a sweet refuge for our family to share. I love when it’s full of friends and family…my brother, his wife and their three girls often gather with us. The adults usually end up eating at the island because the farm table is full with the laughter of our six children combined…and there’s nothing louder than cousin laughter! I also love it when I get to host the young women that I mentor from church. I’m sure if they see the BH&G issue they will giggle because they know that there’s rarely ever fresh flowers anywhere and things perfectly in place. They could, however, testify that we take up EVERY square inch of that island on our “potluck” gatherings! They might share how that little den is a place where we have laughed, hoped, cried and opened our hearts up to each other. It’s a place where we take our shoes off, grab a cup of coffee {sometimes even spill it on that flea market rug} and pile up on those comfy couches. Something about being in a home together just opens up the floodgates…

When I had my interview with Kit Selzer, the kind lady from BH&G, I kept trying to somehow convey my heart in it all. Why? Because there’s a tension I’ll always hold in it. On one side, there’s the plain and simple reality that our treasures are in heaven. Everything on earth is quickly fading and you can’t take any of it with you. Our world is beaten down with needs, both spiritually and physically. I see it, I feel it and it makes my heart bend towards the Lord today to know exactly how I can fill those needs as His child. On the other side, there’s an undeniable pull in me to express whose I am through the beauty of music and aesthetics. Textures, colors, light and sound mixed with marriage, kids, grace, love, forgiveness…life.

When we first started thinking about renovating the main three rooms that we live in as a family, we hired Milk and Honey Home to come and help us dream. Julie Holloway and Anisa Darnell graced our home with their own beauty, both of who they are and what God has so gifted them to do. They created the design for us and then I shopped on a shoestring budget to finish it out. Nathan and I often laugh to ourselves about the crazy bargains I find and honestly how “rigged” our house is. In fact, our kids know not to pull on our curtains in the den because they are, as I said, rigged. To get the look of one long curtain rod, (which you would have to get custom made and yes I’m giving you a rigger’s tip here) we bought basic, wooden rods from Lowe’s and glued them together with “Hard as Nails”. We supported it with wooden brackets underneath, making sure there was a bracket in place directly underneath the section that was glued together. It might be pieced together but you’d never know it. I can’t help it, it’s the thrill of the chase for me! It’s not the way everyone likes to do it but it’s what I happen to love about the process. Our contractor, Daniel Harper, {carpenter/worship leader extraordinaire) must have walked away and laughed to himself at times after discussing plans for all the finishing details. He is brilliant at coming up with ways to save on the budget but even Daniel drew the line at some of my crazy suggestions!

Yet even when it’s beauty on a budget I still sense the tension. I remember talking with Julie and Anisa about it, wondering if they ever struggle with the fact that their passion is design and that they spend so much time and energy creating beautiful spaces for people. And what about people who aren’t on a riggers budget? How does it all measure up? It all seems so trivial in light of the Kingdom, or even extravagant in many ways, even if you are frugal. We all three agreed that you have to hold both sides of the tension. It’s a both/and.  We can actually let the tension shape us as we pursue our passions. We can move free in our gifting, yet with hearts completely bowed to Jesus and softened to the world around us. In my adventures of renovating, I have found myself serving and hosting a completely different group of people in my home that I never would have gotten to otherwise. What a joy! The BH&G piece was shot a few years ago (that’s how long it takes to go to print sometimes!) and I just recently hosted a team from Country Living Magazine. It wasn’t a feature on our home this time but rather a workspace for them to create and style these beautiful little “moments” that I can’t wait to see in print! {November issue} What a gift to share my home, all to the glory of Jesus. My prayer was that every dot would be connected back to Him…the conversation, the sense of rest, the music I played, the food I served, the laughter, and even our dogs roaming around bringing smiles to everyone’s faces. All of it somehow reflecting the creativity of my Creator.

Myquillyn Smith shares a similar struggle in her book “The Nesting Place” as she tells about her Compassion International child writing her family a letter, sharing how beautiful his house is with them. He says,

“it is made of concrete blocks, the roof is made of tin sheets, and the floor is made of cement. We have water that we get from pipes…we have electricity and it is good to have it because it helps me to do my homework at night.”

He continues, this time with questions, “Is your house big? Is your house beautiful? How many windows does your house have?”  Myquillyn shares that she never wanted to lie to a child more in her life…in fact, she knows she can’t answer him because it would sound far too extravagant. She further explains that even though her home was a modest rental, it is still extravagant to most of the world…and most of us in America could say the same thing. So where do you draw the line? How much is too much…for anything? Chairs to sit in, tables to eat at, lamps to see with…if it’s really about a limit and a “threshhold” as Mquillyn calls it, then that’s allot of judging, measuring and sizing one another up to make sure everyone is staying within the boundaries of “godliness”. She concludes,

“each circumstance is different. It’s not about a threshold, but about the heart….the real question isn’t whether it’s right or wrong for me to live in a “big” house. The real question is, what am I doing with what I’ve been given?”

So true and if it’s truly about the heart, it will translate in any size home in any economy. I vividly remember visiting a young woman’s home in Kenya, Africa when I was 17 years old. I stayed for 2 weeks in the area with my parents, going village to village, hut to hut, sharing the gospel. I’ll never forget when we walked into her cozy home made of mud. It looked as if she had just swept it corner to corner, everything was neat and orderly and in it’s proper place. I was stunned by her beautiful smile and her raspy laugh as she talked with the interpreters. “She wants to make you a treat” one of the interpreters said, looking my way. Van, the missionary guide we were with said, “reach your hand underneath the stove.” I looked at him and bugged my eyes out as if to say, “yea right!” I looked over and saw that underneath the stove was a deep hole dug into the dirt, creating a little, dark cavern. Van assured me to trust him. I slipped my hand down inside the hole, slowly, squinting my eyes and letting out a little squeal of fear. Suddenly, dozens of furry little creatures began to squirm around my wrists and I let out a big scream! They all roared with laughter. Van had already explained to my parents what I was about to encounter! After confirmation from Van that it was not rats, I reached back in and pulled on some furry skin until the creature came into view. Out came the cutest little guinea pig, just like one you’d find at Petsmart. As any teenage girl would say, I exclaimed, “Awwww, he’s so cute!” But as you may have guessed, this was, in fact, the treat that she wanted to cook for me! Van further explained that this was very generous hospitality because many of the people in the village could not afford such a delicacy. We escaped her treat of BBQ’d rodent because we had to catch up with the rest of our group but it has never left me how she presented her home to us that day. The light from her open door, the calm, the sense of rest…the guinea pigs that brought smiles and laughter…but above all else, her willingness to share her extravagance with us. This was a woman who knew what to do with what she had been given.

Jennie Schut in her book “Waking Up Grey” says, “When we gaze upon the beauty of God, our art tends to tell a story”. Just as it is in songwriting, it is for my home. I’m overcome by the beauty of God and am compelled to express it with color, texture, light and song…to fill up the senses with who He is. In Hebrews 11:13-16 we see some of the faith-filled sojourners who have gone before us. Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph and Moses to name a few. It says,

“all these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

And that’s a prayer for my life…not just my home and my art, but my life. That I would display, in all that I do, who He is and that not only is there a better country coming, it is here in my heart now. That’s what it looks like to hold both sides of the tension…to get to be a part of the grander story of Jesus restoring all things to Himself. Through the work of our hands, our homes, our art, our passions and our willingness to place it in His hands to use it for the display of His splendor. Sure there will be promises unfulfilled this side of heaven, things we might never take hold of. But we can wave at them from afar with faith filled eyes…knowing we’ve seized the moments and stewarded well what we have been given. So let us create. Let us sing, capture, design, draft and plan, sow and build, teach and lead…yet we’ll do it all as strangers and foreigners, carrying in hearts a better home…a better garden, if you will : ) a better country….