Home as a Holy Space

Recently, with winter approaching, I pitched the idea to Ben to open up the long, unused fireplace in our school room. At some point, many years ago, there was a working fireplace in that room, but it was sealed and stacked with shelves where we’ve kept the kids’ toys and puzzles for the past five years. Always the pragmatic one, Ben responded with a look and few words addressing the obstacles, largest of which is that we do not own this home. After countering back with my thoughts on these practical concerns, I asked, with emphasis, “But how would having a fireplace make you feel?” (To which, he laughed, I being the more feeling one of us).

But the thought of the heat a fire could bring, the crackling of wood, the smokey aroma, the overall vibe – he could feel that, as we talked. And the thoughts of the warmth and joy and comfort it would result in, beyond the aesthetic beauty and practical concerns, led us to begin working on it.

Homemaking – that is to say, the making of a house into a home for our family – has mostly been my responsibility over the years. And it’s one I have embraced. From my earliest days as a wife, I loved making our first apartment feel like home to us, back in the days when red was my accent color of choice. In all of the many spaces we have lived over the years, I have not grown tired of the joy and challenge of making our homes warm and pleasing spaces, where our family could dwell together and grow and invite others into our life.

Decorating spaces is not new to humans; as far back as biblical times, we read detailed descriptions of the elaborate tabernacle and temple decorations, and of the artists who were commissioned to work on it (Exodus 31; 1 Kings 6-7; 2 Chronicles 3-4). And we know that heaven will one day be a place of unimaginable beauty (Rev. 21), most of all because Christ will dwell with us there. Beauty and creativity are intricate features of God himself; creating is his work and cultivating is the work he gave to Adam and Eve and all of subsequent humanity.

In other words, when we create spaces of beauty and cultivate our homes as places where the people of God can dwell here on earth, we are imaging our Creator and honoring him.

This is vastly different from the purpose of creating a home that is “on trend,” not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with trendy spaces. The difference is in the purpose; if we are using our creativity only for the end result of how it will look and appeal to our followers on Instagram, we are missing out. But if we are using our creativity to construct beautiful spaces that will better enable us to live in joy and peace with one another, God is honored. If our beautiful spaces facilitate the kind of hospitality which truly welcomes the whole person, where they can feel at rest, at peace, at home, amidst the storms of this world, God is honored. If our beautiful spaces can be a refuge for ourselves and our families, a small kind of tabernacle where God is dwelling among us here on earth, he is honored.

The making of this kind of home takes time, and creativity, and consideration for all of the many purposes for which it may be used. Though a white rug may appeal to me, it will not foster peace when my children come inside with mud-caked feet from their latest adventure. Likewise, though turquoise may not be my wall color of choice, if it makes my daughter feel as though she has a space to call her own in this world, a place where she can retreat and rest and foster her own little sense of creativity, it would well be worth it.

Creating this kind of home can happen anywhere, in any kind of space. We do not need the newest, most spacious home; or the trendiest pieces of furniture or accents. In fact, I have found that creativity blossoms when resources are scarce; I have learned skills I would otherwise have not needed, like woodworking and using power tools. Creating this kind of home is also not only about the aesthetic; it is also about the attitudes and aromas we cultivate. We can create home wherever in the world God has us.

“Remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and gave you the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation. Creativity is His gift to you and the ‘raw materials’ to be put together in various ways are His gift to you as well.”

Edith Schaeffer

To this end, I am convinced that homemaking is a holy pursuit; as I create a whole space where my family can live together in peace and harmony, where we can grow in faithfulness to God and live in obedience and joy, where we can pursue peace and restore fellowship, where we can relish beauty and develop creativity, where we can welcome others with warmth and kindness, and from which we can go out with courage and bravery to love the world in which we live… this home is indeed a holy place.

Let Them See

A couple of weeks ago, Ben and I got into it – right as I was dishing dinner onto plates. It was that time of day where everyone is a bit tired, emotions run high, my tank is empty, and there’s still quite a bit of work to be done. I can’t even remember now what the argument was about, but it was clearly something we both felt strongly about, and it wasn’t resolving quickly. So we told our children to get started on dinner, we’d be back in a few minutes, and we went back to our room to work it out.

A few minutes turned into 45, and multiple times, a child came back to ask for something. We said, “Mom and Dad are having an argument, we need to work through it, and we’ll join you soon.” We heard them repeat the story to the others, “Mom and Dad are having an argument. They’ll be done soon.” In the end, we completely missed dinner, and our conversation ended memorably with all four children back in our room with us, on our laps, as we discussed American politics and explained the current candidates to our curious children.

Ben and I have plenty of conflicts and arguments; this is one aspect of the work of marriage, to die to self daily, listen well to the other, and seek humility. And we are growing in it. But something I have thought about over the past few years is how we want to model healthy conflict – and in this case, marital conflict – to our children.

We all have different childhood experiences of watching our own parents handle conflict; maybe your parents never fought, and so you were unprepared for dealing well with conflict. Maybe your parents fought loudly, angrily, and it was frightening for you as a child. Maybe your parents fought in front of you, but resolved issues behind closed doors, so you were not able to witness the resolution. Maybe your parents separated because of too much conflict.

For Ben and I, we want to model not only healthy conflict – as in, handling our arguments in a way that still respects the other – but also healthy conflict resolution. We want our kids to see us apologizing to and forgiving each other, embracing each other, laughing together, our relationship completely restored. We want them to know that even though we may get angry at times, we still love each other, and we always will.

Just as we work hard in our home at restoring sibling relationships when there’s been discord, and restoring child-parent relationships when there’s been disrespect, so too we work hard at modeling restored marriage relationship. Because this is a picture of the gospel – working out right before our eyes, again and again. Just as in Christ, we are forgiven our many sins and brought into restored relationship with him, so too our human relationships – the conflict and the restoration – is a picture of his redemptive work.

So I’m pondering lately, how do we do this better? We want our children to see both the hard of conflict and the beautiful of restoration, because it’s a picture of life in Christ. And that – life in Christ – is the life we want them to see.