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Happy Home, Happy Heart!

I often tell my tantruming toddlers, especially my very emotional “threenager”, to “find a happy heart” and that Jesus put “joy down in our hearts” (how many of you have used that line before!?) and sometimes I can’t help but think of how hypocritical it is for me to be asking my children to find joy while I am feeling far from joyful in the moment. Finding joy in the current season of my life has become somewhat of a mission – fighting daily battles along the way. I will be the first to tell you about how easily I can be derailed with my current role as a stay at home mom/ home-maker/ laundry mat/maid/ cook… The tasks of my day are endless and thankless and most often just tiring. But in seeking joy in the midst of all the crazy and chaos, I have managed to find my rhythm and a “Happy Heart” in the confines of my own Home.
My husband will be the first to tell you that I am most in my element when I am working. I had a fun and rewarding career working in architectural firms, doing what I loved – designing. I then went on to teach high schoolers about design, which was less fun and less rewarding but still an outlet for my creativity and purpose. And then I started having babies, and wanted to stay home with them full time.  I was relieved and excited to say goodbye to my teaching career to watch my children grow, but my desire to do more, and create never went away.
In my old classroom

In my old classroom

Now before I go on… You must know that my husband and I have been married for 4 years and have managed to have 3 babies, in that time. We have also lived in 5 different states, moved a total of I think 11 times (the life of a minor league baseball career) we have started businesses, changed careers, taken big risks and suffered some losses along the way. It has not been an easy ride. But it has been full of joy.
Now back to creating/designing… the 9 “homes” that we have inhabited in the past 4 years have included, a garage apartment that I built out from the studs, a semi-furnished studio apartment (like the furniture came with), a big ole, Victorian frat house where we lived with 6 minor league baseball players (and our baby), a bedroom in a host families home, a duplex apartment, a basement, another apartment, and now a townhouse. Yeah, were moving up in the world.
Some pics of our garage apartment:
It was when I found myself in South Bend, Indiana, alone with my newborn in the giant, filthy (smelled like smoke) frat house, that I decided if I was going to be happy, I needed to put some time and energy into making this place a home, as best I could. First I got some TSP and a big bucket to scrub all the filth off of the walls and baseboards. My husband and his team mates were gone on road trips for 4 days at a time and sometimes longer. On these spans apart, Tylyn (my baby) and I would go to all the good wills scouring for furniture and pieces to bring home, refurbish and fix up our house. In a couple weeks time, we had a charming bedroom; complete with our blow up mattress, bedside tables, a dresser, curtains, mirrors and even vases of flowers. It was a retreat. A sanctuary for our little family of 3. And a place to get away from the nightly partying going on downstairs. No joke. I also had refinished a table and chairs to eat meals at as a family and reupholstered two fab chairs for the guys to sit at while they played their video games. Next thing I knew my husband got moved to a new team, so I had a yard sale and sold my cool furniture finds (for a profit) and we moved on to our next home. Although the uncertainty of where we would be living or if we would even have a place to sleep was stressful, I always thrived on the opportunity to make a little semblance of home everywhere we went. I tell you this story not because I think everyone is creative and should be able to go thrift shopping and furnish their houses or even turn a profit. But to point out that the time spent to search for and cultivate beauty, in the midst of otherwise chaotic circumstances, truly made my heart happy. In the bedroom we lived in next, cultivating home simply meant taking the host families, American flag quilt bedding off of the bed and then dressing it up in bedding that fit my style and comfort – Hello throw pillows!
A Throwback to our “homeless” days:
Homeless Chic! HAHAHA!

Homeless Chic! HAHAHA!

Fast forward a little while to now. 3 kids, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms… and a whole set of new issues. Gone are the days of homeless and wandering the country, and now we are stuck, at home, day after day after day. Some days can feel endless and mundane. Most days I feel like I drowning in chores, laundry, dishes, and a sea of barbies. Even though my home is designed and appointed with paint, patterns, furniture and pretty accessories, learning to keep house is a daily lesson. I in no way love cleaning but i do find joy in a clean house. The chores are also made easier when I uncover the beautifully designed space that I have created, beneath the clutter. There is no greater feeling then enjoying time with my family and friends in a beautiful, organized and clean space. And it does bring true pleasure to my life to share our home with others, invite people in and make them as comfortable as possible.
I also want to mention is that I am not the only one who reaps the benefits of a beautiful, designed home. my husband and children find joy in our home as well. For awhile I feared that there was something wrong with my oldest daughter when she would be happily playing at a friends house and then suddenly slink over to my side and declare that she wanted to go back to her OWN house. It took me some time to realize that she wasn’t some weird home body, but that she finds comfort in her home and the atmosphere that I have created. I recently asked her to describe her home and she said, “Beautiful! Special! and Mommy! Granted, she is 3 and she may not have much else to grasp when I ask her to describe her home. But I like to think when she uses these words it is packed with deep meaning. Not only does she think the space I have made is beautiful and special and unique (I added that one) but it reminds her of me. I can only dream that she will always have fond memories of me and the home she grew up in. Even if the house may change- the home is built with people and experiences and love.
Our current home:

I have to share one more personal story because it’s so fresh in my life. I just had my third baby 6 weeks ago and we chose to use a midwife and have a home birth. At my first appointment/ interview with my midwife I asked her what the difference between birthing at home or at a birth center is. Medically, there is no difference in care. But it depends on the families preference and that “most woman feel safest where ever they are most comfortable.” At that moment the choice was a no brainer for me. 1. I hate everything about going to the doctors office and hospitals. I get anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. And 2. The idea of a home birth offered me so much more control over my surroundings than I would get anywhere else. I was able to prepare for the birth far beyond what I was able to do with my previous pregnancies.  It all worked out to our complete enjoyment as we had a successful home-birth in the comforts of our own home. And to quote my husband in the moments after Jacson was born, “that was easy!” Not the words I would use, but the sentiment rings true. Get the full birth story here.

Maybe we are a bunch of homebodies and were just ok with it. Haha.

With my own personal experiences behind us. I want us all to reflect on the biblical Proverbial woman. The proverbs 31 woman to be exact. Now, let us note this is a poem, taught to King Lemuel by his mother; to instill in him the importance of finding a good, scratch that, a GREAT wife. She is not describing herself here. I am sure she wishes she were, but in reality she is describing the IDEAL woman.

proverbs 31.7
Now that I have a son. My perspective on his future spouses is a bit from that of my daughters. With the girls I am excited to imagine what kind of son in law I may be so lucky to welcome into our family. With my son, my first thought is, “I hope I like her” and my second thought is, “I hope she is like me.” Hahaha! Just keepin’ it real.

I imagine King Lemeul’s mother felt similar and envisioned only the best of the best of the best for her son. Someone that with the right seeds and desires planted in her young heart, may one day grow and become the very multi-faceted and talented Proverbs 31 woman. There are too many great passages to look at here and interpret them in regards to cultivating and designing your home. So… we will focus on 2. First:

Proverbs 31: 16-17

She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.

She CONSIDERS a field. Now before anyone thinks they need to go out and buy a field, let us focus on the word considers. Here is a woman who has a dream in her heart to buy a field. But rather than acting rash, she considers it. She makes a plan. She prays about it. She does her research. And then she buys it. Further, she buys it out of her own earnings. This is money that she has scrimped and saved and put aside, for probably a long time in pursuit of this dream. Again, emphasizing the time and dedications that she put into the plan in itself. 

Next she plants a vineyard and works vigorously with her own arms and hands. We already know she is not idle in her lifestyle. She is a go-getter. She makes her dreams happen for herself. She relies on no one else to get what she wants and she becomes stronger for her diligence for her planning and preparation. She becomes stronger and wiser. 

In cultivating a home this passage illustrates my number 1 piece of advice. Make a plan! Don’t act rash. Otherwise you will find yourself at HomeGoods where there is a pretty sofa that is too pretty and too well priced to pass up. But when you get home, you realize the color clashes with the other items that you also recently and impulsively bought on a weekly trip to Target. Without a plan. You will spend more money- even when you think you are saving. You will never achieve the cohesive look that you ultimately desire and you will always be moving 1 step forward and 2 steps back. In design a wise woman will set a budget for her space. Itemize out each item that she ultimately wants to buy, will make changes, cuts/ savings, splurges, and thrift finds along the way that fit into her plan and will be pleased with her efforts and the extra work. She will put in some elbow grease to make an old dresser into a new show stopping piece of one of a kind furniture. And she will be much stronger and wiser for first CONSIDERING her field!

You can see some of my other tips for home design based on the Proverbs 31 passage in your handout, so I’ll just breeze through these before I make my last point:

More Tips from Proverbs 31 as to designing your home:

Set a budget
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
    and never has reason to regret it.
Have a plan.
She’s up before dawn, … and organizing her day”
DIY! Don’t be afraid to work for it! 
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
Save up $$ (sell some stuff to speed up the saving $ process) and be crafty.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.”    
Make it your own but don’t be afraid to “copy”.
 “She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Collect things of meaning to you
“She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places 
and brings back exotic surprises”
Appreciate your home while your in it. Don’t be too caught up in the end result. Enjoy the process and the reward.
She senses the worth of her work”
Let your family share in your vision. They can help you achieve your goal. 
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.”
Share your home with others – open the door for friends family and those in need.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.”
Now for the most important stuff. The place where we find real JOY in our house. The end of Proverbs 31 gives me all the warm fuzzy feels.
proverbs 31.1
Proverbs 28-31
Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”
 
Honestly this just speaks for itself. Your children do notice you. They may not say it. They may not show it. But your activities, diligence, grace and smile will be the true fruit of your labor. My kids are young now and their daily messes often leave me a mess of emotion. But my goal is not in today, but in the future, when they are grown and no longer living in my house. I pray that they will always find my home to be their home. I pray they will love to come back and sit with me, talk to me, be my friend. All of my time spent investing in them and our home now, will become my greatest reward in our future. 
 
Now about that husband… My mother-in-law and sister-in-laws are here, so this may be awkward. Then again they probably already know…. But getting my husband to be really affectionate and flowery with his words is impossible. I have tried. But in all the years I have known him, I am sure of his adoration and praise even without the words to back it up. And it says it right here in proverbs, “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” My husband and I have been together since high school, so he has seen the changes, the fleeting beauty. Lets be real. He has seen me birth our 3 children– and he still loves me. He still lets me paint walls, buy and sell furniture, do crafts that make messes, and pursue beauty in our home(S). We walk this path in pursuit of Christ both separately and together. Our goal is the same. Our center of gravity is the same. And the praise can go unsaid because our actions are enough.