Sunday, December 27, 2015

3 Keys to a Heavenly Home

Happy Holidays! I hope all of you reading this had a wonderful Christmas. This season, home is on a lot of people’s minds. It’s been on mine too, but not in the way you might think. Have you ever wondered what makes home so...homey?   

I visited the Idaho Falls area over Thanksgiving, where I lived for about eight years before moving to Boise. Going back always brings back so many memories--good and bad. Living there was, in the words of Dickens, the best of times and the worst of times.

It’s where I went to college, dated Ben, fell in love, got married, and started my new life with him. We lived close to his family, including his parents and extended family, and even a few of my cousins. We had several close friends living there at the time, too--the kind of friends you hold on to your whole life. Those years were full of wonderful times--family dinners, annual reunions, get-togethers with friends, and adventures into Idaho’s great outdoors.

The crystal clear mountain lake at Palisades--one of our favorite hikes

It was also the most difficult time of our lives. Day to day, we didn’t see much of each other--we were constantly overloaded with the demands of school and work. This made the long, dark winter months seem even more lonely and depressing, especially when we were struggling to start a family and cope with miscarriage after miscarriage. And as independent as I’ve always been, it was tough being separated from the familiar support system of family and friends that I grew up with in the South.

But in good times and bad times, there was always home. I look back now and picture our small but comfortable apartment on the outskirts of town, our cozy cottage on Putnam Street, and even our tiny, 400-square-foot, 100-year-old apartment where we lived as newlyweds. None of those places was anything special, except that we made them so. Home, wherever it was, was always a place of safety, peace, and comfort.

Our first *tiny* apartment

I felt that same familiar sense of comfort while visiting family and friends over Thanksgiving, too. Each home was very different--at my in-laws’, there were 19 of us in one house, including 11 kids, while at the home of our friends Jeff and Jamie, it was just the two of them (although they’d welcome 11 kids after trying for almost 11 years), and my cousin Emily is single, living with roommates. As different as they all were, I was struck by how much each place felt like home.

So what exactly makes a home feel homey? What is about home, other than being together with loved ones, that gives us that sense of belonging? I’ve been trying to put my finger on it, because I believe you can feel at home no matter where you live, whether it’s a dream house, tiny apartment, basement, or bamboo hut--or whether you’re single (been there), childless (been there, too), or living with a large family. After thinking long and hard, I’ve finally decided on what I believe are 3 keys to a heavenly home.  

Key #1: What you give to your home, it gives back to you.

This saying is my Aunt Robin’s, to give her credit (which is very well-deserved, as she has a lovely home), but I was raised on the same principle. The kind of home you have is up to you, and it all depends on what you put into it. Your home is a reflection of your heart, and your attitudes and priorities set the tone there. Will you make your home one of kindness or criticism, open-mindedness or ignorance, harmony or discord? Will you bring to your home a love of art, books, sports, music, nature, thriftiness, humor, or fun? These choices all influence the look and feel of a home.

Likewise, the time, energy, and even money that we put into caring for our homes--within reason and within our means--are all worthwhile in making home a heavenly place. It doesn’t have to look like a magazine cover, it doesn’t matter if everything is second-hand (#craigslist), it doesn’t even have to be perfectly clean--when you give your heart to your home, it will give back to you joy, peace, and comfort. It will be a piece of heaven on earth.

Key #2: When you worship God in your home, He dwells with you.

I believe we lived with God before we were born, and that we can live with Him again because of Jesus Christ. So, eternally speaking, our true home is with Him. But our home on Earth can be a glimpse of that heavenly home, especially when we invite Him to dwell with us.

Daily devotionals--prayer, scripture study, sacred music--do more than bring you closer to God, they also bring God into your home. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” (John 14:27) As the Prince of Peace and our Eternal Father, He brings a sense of peace and belonging to our homes that cannot be matched by anyone or anything else.

Key #3: Opening your door will open your heart to others.

When you welcome others into your home, they feel welcome--it’s as simple as that. But it’s easier said than done, especially when your home life gets busy or complicated or just plain messy (I should know--with two little ones, I’m only beginning to learn the meaning of messy).

But I’m also learning to open my door and invite others in, in spite of my shyness, in spite of bad hair days and no make-up, and in spite of laundry baskets and toys on the floor. Because these days, what I can do is mostly limited to what can be accomplished with one hand, but fortunately, it takes only one hand to open the door. And making visitors--even unexpected ones--feel at home doesn’t take any hands at all, just an open heart and a genuine interest in others. Of course, we can’t forget the people who already live with us--it’s even more important to make sure they always feel wanted and welcome at home, too.  

No matter your circumstances, I believe you can unlock the door to a heavenly home when you welcome others with an open door and an open heart, when you invite God to dwell with you, and when you give your heart to your home. One more thing, while it’s true that happy people make a happy home, we can never underestimate how much a home itself can make people happy. In fact, in my opinion, one of the best cures for unhappiness is the haven of a heavenly home.

Now it’s your turn: what do you do to make your home a happy, heavenly place?