My youngest is getting married in less than two months. Although we are deep in the midst of wedding plans and to-do lists, she still manages to spend a good chunk of time every day dreaming about her first home with her soon-to-be hubby. How will they decorate? How will they use their budget? How will they entertain guests? She is incredibly enthusiastic about it, too. You would think the endless list of things to think about would be exhausting, but instead, the wealth of possibilities gives her loads of energy.
I think there is something important to learn from her young, idealistic nature.
There is never a bad time to ponder the difference between a “house” and a “home,” or to reconsider how you can make yours one to come home to every day.
Noted historian David Patterson encouraged people to think of the home as having the highest calling:
… cultural restoration entails the restoration of what is most high, most dear, most enduring. And the ground for all such things is the home. The home is the place where our names are first uttered with love and therefore where we first discover that we mean something. It is the site where both human beings and human values first make their appearance in the world. It is the center from which we define and understand the nature of everything we encounter in the world. The home, then, is not one thing among many in a world of things; nor is it merely the product of a culture. Rather, the world of things derives its sense, and a culture its significance, from their relationship to the home.
A house is a place where there are walls, floors, and rooms. It is a physical structure of function and utility. It is cement and pipes and wood and wiring, all void of human understanding, emotion, and creativity.
A home, on the other hand, is a place of belonging, acceptance, and comfort. It is a place where family members and friends can make mistakes, be challenged to be their best, and experience the warmth that comes with grace, forgiveness, and redemption. It is where our life stories are molded, where verses and chapters are added as the years pass. It is a space for the development of the soul, the shaping of the spirit, and the expansion of the mind. A home is a place for reflection and quiet and solitude—a respite from the pressures of the world. And I believe that a home should also be a place of gathering, of communion, and memory making.
There is much to be said about the importance of establishing rules and boundaries, routines and responsibilities for those in your home. But when that becomes our focus, the places we live become cold and rigid. So right now, I would like to focus on how to make it inviting.
How to Save Your Family: Put Your Heart in it
It’s all about your attitude. Sometimes parents let their teenager’s attitude control the mood of their home. What a mistake! Teenagers have developing emotions, raging hormones, and fluctuating biological moods, so it’s important that Mom and Dad be the steady, calm force of reason. The parents set the tone for the home. You can be the mean principal or the sweet, inspirational teacher. You can be the one your kids fear, or the one they come to for advice.
This principle applies to your marriage, too. You can’t control your husband’s or your wife’s attitude. You can only control your own. Are you going to be controlling, nagging and complaining, or are you going to choose to be gracious, encouraging, positive and forgiving?
Don’t make your house a “NO!” Zone. I’ve done literally thousands of radio interviews around the country on the issue of protecting our homes and families from an ever-invading crude culture. Invariably, at least one well-meaning caller will say something like, “I agree that the culture is evil—so I’ve ripped out the TVs, don’t allow the Internet in my house, and don’t let my kids have cell phones.” Sadly, these parents have mistaken technology and hardware as the problem. The problem isn’t the technology—it’s the way we use it, and the way we allow others to misuse it in our homes. Instead of banning everything, we should harness the good, and filter out the bad.
Make your home… fun! When my kids were little, my husband and I made a decision to create an atmosphere where they and their friends would want to play.
Our door was always open to the neighborhood children, and it must have slammed shut a million times a day. We often had dirty fingerprints and footprints adorning the walls and floors. But there was also a lot of laughter, running, and creativity blooming within our walls. How I cherish those memories!
We made a point of keeping our home well stocked with plenty of gadgets, art supplies, and costumes. We’ve kept bikes, sport supplies, pogo sticks, movies… you name it. Summertime saw our yard marked with snaking hoses and sprinklers and the blur of water balloons flying in mid-air. Summer nights often found our kids and their friends gathered around campfires in the backyard.
As our children grew into teens, we were always very careful to change the environment with their ever-developing and changing interests. The basements and garages of our various homes have been transformed from game rooms, to “garage band” practice rooms, to silk-screening and art studios. We have purchased used foosball tables from online sites, art equipment from e-bay, and countless video games, guitars and other “fun stuff” from pawnshops.
Now that my children are grown, my husband and I have relocated. But the kids and their friends still find us! Our new home has served as a venue for holiday celebrations, girls’ getaways, dinner parties and even a recent engagement for two of our daughter's college friends.
Feed them, and they will come. Honestly, I can’t stress this point enough: everyone loves food. It is an important part of social gatherings, and if your home isn’t known for having it, you will have a lonely life, indeed. Years ago, my husband and I dedicated a substantial part of our budget for the feeding of the masses. There is just something special to be said about the fellowship that happens around the table - and teens are always hungry, so if you provide what they like to eat, you will have amazing opportunities to pour into their lives while they munch away.
Let God in. A home that is a place of rest and restoration, of true community and growth is, quite literally, a glimpse of heaven. All goodness originates from God, whether we recognize it or not. Heaven is a perfect place for the sole reason that God’s presence—his goodness—is not diluted by sin. Our homes on earth will never be perfect, but we can choose to allow God to work in them. And rather than being disappointed when we fail or go through hard times, we can rejoice knowing that He is always present as our counselor, friend and father.