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.

On New Years and Some of the Same

It can feel as though not much has changed since the calendar turned, am I right? COVID is still raging in many areas around the world, the US is still highly polarized politically. We know many people who are suffering, and are still in varying levels of government-mandated protocols. Here in South Africa, our church is not meeting (again), we are staying home (mostly), and it’s tempting to look at 2021 with the same weariness in which we finished out 2020.

However, I can’t help but feel a sense of hope as we begin afresh. I’m reminded of one of my favorite Scripture passages, in Lamentations:

“the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (3:22-23)

We have this framed on our living room bookshelf, and I am grateful for the daily reminder that God’s faithfulness has carried us through all these days before, and his love and mercy will carry us all the days forward. I am prompted to think through the ways God has shown his steadfast love to us, his unending mercies. Here’s some of what’s on my list from 2020:

  • the consistency of our already homeschooling life
  • sweet times of fellowship with our church family in November and December
  • a family getaway (rescheduled twice!) that finally happened in early December
  • regular craft and story times for the girls with my parents via Facetime
  • our new family routine of Sabbath every week
  • further developing our principles on wise technology use
  • the intentionality of making Saturdays fun (and a bit different than every other day 😉 )
  • our growing garden which has fed us well this season
  • forest walks and the extra urge to be outside

And so many more! What good gifts from the hand of God, even in a difficult year. I would love to hear what’s on your list for 2020, as you take time to see God’s steadfast love and faithfulness in your life this past year.

And what can we anticipate for 2021? Is our hope in vaccines, a new president, declining numbers, continued good health? No, we hope in God. We can expect that God’s love will continue no matter what, his mercies will extend beyond what we face, his faithfulness will be our safe place. Here’s to 2021, friends! He is good!

God’s Kindness Through His Providence (Ruth 2)

Squaring her shoulders to the road at dawn, Ruth set out with determination. Here she was, in a new country, with new people, a new culture. She must provide for her mother-in-law, Naomi, or Mara, meaning bitter, as she’d asked to be called.

Ruth glanced to the left, and to the right. She knew she was vulnerable. Not only was she a woman, but she was a foreign woman. She knew how Israelites generally felt about Moabites. They were, after all, not on good terms, for centuries. Did she pray to Naomi’s God, the God of Israel, to ask for his favor this day? For protection?

The sun was fully over the horizon now. She observed a field in the distance. How would she know who might let her glean, or who would chase her out? She would have to take a chance. Heart-pounding, she approached the field, and noticed a man on the far side. Would he take advantage of her? There were no others around yet this day. Would he look kindly on her?

Boaz made his way through his fields as he did every morning; scanning in the distance, he observed his healthy field and whispered gratitude to Yahweh for his provision yet again. Then his gaze settled on something, someone, who didn’t look like one of his hired workers, or one of the other women who regularly gleaned in his field. He walked over to his field manager, and inquired about this new woman in his fields.

Ah yes, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, he understood. He knew the women had made their way back from Moab, as the whole town was abuzz with their return and the new Moabitess. He had heard of their ill-fortune, of the deaths of Naomi’s husband and sons. He had heard of all that this young woman had done for her mother-in-law, how she left her native land and her father and mother. How lucky for her that she made her way to my fields, he thought as he approached her.

Naomi waited anxiously for Ruth to return. Should she have ventured out alone, a foreign woman, new to town? Maybe she should have urged Ruth to wait, rather than give her permission to go looking for a field to glean. Wait for what? Naomi thought. More hardship?

In the distance, Naomi spotted her, hunched over with a great weight, but with a spring in her step. Ruth approached, and dropped her huge bundle of gleaned wheat in front of Naomi’s feet. She handed her a parcel of food left from lunch, and wiped her brow. Naomi couldn’t believe her eyes – the provision of food, the clear favor Ruth had found in the eyes of someone. “May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!” Naomi exclaimed.

What a difference, from the woman who had asked to be called Mara, whom the Lord had “brought back empty” (Ruth 1:21). The Lord had not forgotten them, he had not left them. Quite the opposite, actually. How he had providentially cared for them! That Ruth would find the field of Boaz, a kinsman redeemer no less (more on that later)! That he would look kindly on her, that he would care for her, that he would provide for her and Naomi. That Ruth, having left everything in Moab to follow Naomi and her God to Bethlehem, had found refuge under the wings of the Lord (2:12).

The Lord’s lovingkindness had not forsaken them. Rather, it was providentially at work through the events of the lives of Ruth and Naomi, up to this point in our story. We have the benefit of knowing the life-changing impact of God’s providence that day, when Ruth and Boaz met, that God would eventually bring the salvation of the world through the family line of these ordinary people.

Providence is “God’s seeing to everything.”


Have you considered that God’s kindness is providentially at work in your life? That the events of your life, the good and the bad, are ordained by the God who loves you with an unending hesed? Can you see it?

John Piper paraphrases the idea of God’s providence in this way: “it is God’s seeing to everything.” All the purposes that he has he will accomplish, from a kingdom perspective: “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish my purpose’” (Is. 46:9-10), and also in our individual lives: “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

When we see God’s providential hand at work, for our good and his glory, how do we respond? In praise, with gratitude, to the God who does not forsake us, but rather demonstrates his lovingkindness to us again and again.

Grace Enough

Last night, I found a darkened room and threw myself on the couch, and for a moment, thought about all the legitimate things that were difficult at the moment. It was pity party time. Time to wallow in my difficulties and discontent. Time to welcome the tears and relish the misery. That will make me feel better about life, won’t it?

As we all know, it’s unlikely.

It didn’t do much for Jonah, as he sat under that scanty tree, that the Lord had given as shade the day before, wallowing. Pity is never God’s preferred path for us.

Elizabeth Elliot once wrote, “to love God is to love his will. That which He gives we receive… God shields us from most of the things we fear, but when he chooses not to shield us, he unfailingly allots grace in measure needed. It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it. Our joy or misery will depend on that choice” (Secure in the Everlasting Arms, 19).

After all, she would know.

Do we get to handpick that which God gives? Sunshine is my favorite, Lord. Can you make the storm clouds go away? As if we were selecting our favorite foods? Yes, please, I’ll take the chocolate cake. No, no thank you on the snap peas. I’ve never liked those.

Rather, we acknowledge that every thing, good or difficult, that the Lord brings into our lives serves a purpose. Both the sunshine and the storm clouds. Both the chocolate cake and the snap peas.

When he chooses not to shield us, when he brings storm clouds and offers snap peas, he allots grace in measure needed. Have you experienced this? I can look back over the darkest moments of my life, and see his grace, unfailing. I think of the most difficult seasons, and recall his grace, boundless. He always offers grace; we just need to pry open our tightly clenched fists to receive it.

To receive the storm clouds and snap peas, and the grace along with it.

To trust that he has got this.

To trust that he knows what’s best for us, because he is our good Father.

To speak our fears to him, sometimes aloud, because there is so much peace in giving them over to him.

To give them over to him again, the next night, as we lie in bed, trembling in our thoughts.

To accept the hard things along with the good things, the happy days alongside the sad ones, the life along with the death.

And, we get up off the couch, tears falling as they may, and press on in the day. Not because the darkness or sadness has left us, but because his grace has been given to us.

And that’s always enough.

originally published on October 18, 2018

Enjoy Every Minute

Enjoy every minute.

Three little words. Words that elicit a rushing force of guilt like no others for this mama. In that early morning hour, hour after hour, when my arm is falling asleep because I’ve been laying on that side nursing my babe yet again and my eyes are drooping and the clock indicates only a few more precious hours of opportune sleep exist before the upcoming day.

In that normal morning hour when I rise to sounds of three little people who need me more than anyone has ever needed me before, and I feel like I have very little of worth to give.

In that breakfast time when my toddler refuses one more bite of her favorite oatmeal as a test of will and I must be consistent so she knows she can learn that love is not about just giving her what she wants, and so we sit and wait, for one of us to give in.

In that mid-morning hour when I think my baby needs a nap but she cries because she thinks not and I wonder how my motherly intuition can fail me so many times. I think maybe I never had that motherly intuition after all.

During that late morning walk when we have just had the most fun at the park and my toddler helps to push the stroller and runs gleefully in front of me, so free and independent and stumbles only like a human who has walked just a year does. I watch her independence falter, her glee fall to pieces, and her tears stream as she runs to me with her little button nose scraped and we are both broken.  

In that glorious naptime hour that is so anticipated and needed when both babies are meant to be sleeping but neither one is and I feel panic rising and my breath is short and I need space, time, quiet, peace and it doesn’t happen.

In that famous witching hour when I want to greet my husband into our peaceful home with smiles and kisses and something besides yoga pants but the kids are grumpy and I am grumpy and we all just need him as soon as he walks through the door. And we get a pizza for dinner.

It’s the hardest in that hour when I put my babies to bed for the night with stories and songs and lots of cuddling and tucking in. I failed this day, again, like I do every day. I failed to enjoy every minute. I will look back on this day in two years, ten years, thirty years and regret that I failed deeply at this and I cannot do anything now to fix it. This thought eats me alive and makes it hard for me to sleep those few hours and clouds my days with these three sweet gifts from God.

So I stopped trying.

And instead, I began to focus on truth, found in God’s Word. Nowhere, fortunately, does God command us to “enjoy every moment.” Rather, he commands us to be faithful. In 1 Samuel 24, as the prophet Samuel gives his farewell address to Israel, he recounts all that God had done for Israel since their slavery in Egypt, and instructs them to serve the Lord: “only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you” [24]. What has the Lord done for you? Called you to himself? Forgiven your sin? Given Christ to you as your righteousness? Consider these things.

What does faithfulness look like, for you, in your season?

This current season may be one where the Lord is working hard on your sanctification – praise him for that! For “he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” [Heb. 12:10-11].

For me, faithfulness looks like this: embracing this season with little ones, full of hard and long days, thanking God for these children and the great responsibility of loving them; hourly checking my attitude, that it is not resentful or self-serving, but asking God to help me in my constant small sacrifices, to do so cheerfully; to with my words and actions point my children back to God, modeling for them what it means to “love God and enjoy him forever”; daily leaning into Christ’s sacrifice for me, accepting that God’s forgiveness covers all my sin, resting in his perfect love; seeking to honor God in all the dish-washing, diaper-changing, peace-making. It does not look like: enjoying all those hard moments, and dwelling in a place of guilt when I don’t. God would have us find our full enjoyment in him, not in our circumstances.  But through our enjoyment of him, we can, with gratitude, live faithfully, whatever our circumstances.

For very good reason, this verse has been a favorite lately:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” [Lam. 3:22-23]

Even when we fail to be faithful, he never does.

Praise God!

originally published on April 15, 2017