I love that line: “Let every heart prepare Him room.” It’s an old-fashioned way of saying, “Give Him space.” He is the One who clears out the chaos and dusts the cobwebs in the heart that has given Him room. He beautifies and enlivens the old place, brings out the shine in the furniture, and provides the places of comfort.
This realization inside me has changed my view of housekeeping into one of homemaking. I get to partner with Jesus in my home, filling it with grace and goodness, because that is what He has done for me. That sounds so nice: good food, warm places, and happy hearts. However. You can’t have fragrant gingerbread without some flour puffs and icing smears and possibly even a deluge of frustrated tears. It also involves taking out the trash and washing a lot of dishes. I guess technically you can light a gingerbread candle, but that doesn’t quite count the same.
When I was handed a different house to turn into a home, it was a dark and gloomy place, floor to ceiling. It ended up being a long paint-splattered process, with only two rooms completely finished when we moved into it. Decorating brings out my insecurities and exhausts me, but homemaking has become a delight. Just ask my children how many times I rearranged the living room furniture this fall, finding the sweet spot where everything looks peaceful and happy together. Not matchy -our furniture is carefully curated (Don’t be afraid. That’s code for used, thrifted, or on clearance.) from many different sources- but cozy.
Because of how unsettled and chaotic the last few years felt, it became imperative to me to make our home feel lovely and secure. I am not good at visualizing things in my head, and Pinterest gave me anxiety. I ended up making a list of things that are important to me: light, cheer, comfort, practicality. Stabbing at a feeling meant sleuthing out little end tables at the thrift store so we can set our mugs and books on them. It meant soothing blues and uplifting yellows. It meant putting the old ratty towels on the dog-towel stack and investing in fresh ones.
We have large south-facing windows in the main living area, one of the big selling points for us when we checked out this house. I wanted to let all the light in, yet be able to close the fishbowl at night, and decided on sheers with metal rings and linen looking panels to keep open most of the time. I bought curtains and hung them so I could feel them, then returned curtains and got others until it looked like I wanted it to look. (Sorry, Big Lots.) My windows are dressed, not like anything I saw on Pinterest, but I like them.
I take the same approach every time I decorate the mantle piece. A few weeks ago I bought some placemats that say “JOY” because I wanted to use one as a wallhanging above the fireplace. I was tempted to buy silvery fake eucalyptus, but decided on the dried dusty millers from the garden, some twigs spray painted white, and sprigs of rose hips instead. When I am done with them, I can throw them away instead of figuring out storage. Every time the season switches, I decorate and step back and rearrange and step back and throw out some stuff and step back and go look for different elements until it feels right to me. This is probably not how you’re supposed to do it, but once it feels cozy, I feel done. My heart tells me so, and in this case that’s what I go by. I refrain from comparing with what others are doing, because that is not the point. Their house is their house, and ours is ours.
Home is a sensory experience. The atmosphere really does matter. Lights are very important. My husband blessed me and installed can lights everywhere. I also hang many strings of twinkle lights for the long dark winter. We light candles and fires and feel the blessing of darkness pushed back.
Gabriel’s work is as stressful as it has ever been, so the feeling I strive for at home is peace. Imagine with me a 12 to 14-hour shift where you are aware the entire time that you cannot possibly give patients the standard of care that you were trained to do. You are only one, and you can only do so much. When you come home from work, what is it that you want to feel? I can’t do much for the masses in the hospital, but I can make a place where one of their nurses can recharge and find cheer and hope.
This is different for everyone. I read articles about how the pandemic has changed people’s perceptions of what they want in their homes because they actually spent a lot of time in them. The all-vanilla, sterile hotel room style is out, and colors and comfortable furniture style is in, as well as personal touches and hand-made accessories. (I know I should have made my curtains, but I am only one and I can only do so much. :D)
We can take part in preparing room, in building a culture of redemption and safety, one homemaking day at a time.
“And heaven and nature sing!”
(Disclaimer: I wrote most of this post last year before Christmas and didn’t publish it, for some reason, so here it is, fluffed up a little, not your average Advent post. My “Restoration” issue of Daughters of Promise came in the mail yesterday. I was happy with my little garden feature, but really inspired by all the articles on taking waste spaces and discarded goods and giving them new life. It’s a core value that resonates deeply with me. I dug out this article and decided to send it out. Blessings all, as you invest in wherever it is you are called to beautify today.)