This article was originally published with Convivium.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved to bake and I’ve wanted to be a mom. I grew up in a community that places a high level of importance on hospitality and that has always been a value in my life. For a time, I viewed hospitality as the same as hosting, as creating a stunning dinner party or a well thought out afternoon tea. And while today I enjoy doing those things, I no longer associate them with homemaking or hospitality.
I’ve come to view homemaking as just that – the art of making a home. Homemaking is setting up our homes to be places that are restful, where we can be refueled and renewed. Hospitality is inviting others into that.
I struggle with this in different ways and in different seasons. When I found out I was carrying my sweet girl (our long awaited, answered-prayers gift), my capacity shrank seemingly overnight. The combination of the aches and pains with an exponentially increasing desire for nesting and home meant that going out into the world required an ever-growing amount of energy.
Today I find the desire slowly growing again. My guess is that it will continue to change as the seasons do. As I do.
I am learning to be more gracious with myself. I think if we want to make a home, we have to be gracious with ourselves. Sometimes there are blocks, books, spit-up blankets and sippy cups littering the pathway from the kitchen to the nursery and the piles don’t get hidden behind closed doors. I am learning to not apologize for that.
My home is not perfect. It never has been and it never will be. I embrace a degree of minimalism out of sheer necessity. I will gladly abandon any task to read aloud and cuddle with my baby girl. Presence over perfection, as the mantra goes. I will always choose Peter Rabbit, The Magical Toy Box and Bless You Little One over putting away my socks. Every. Single. Time. My sink is filled with dishes more often than not and clean laundry sits unfolded until the arrival of the next laundry day shames us into quickly folding and putting it away.
I have three “piles” in our house: One on a window sill, one on the kitchen table that often gets moved around before ultimately ending up back where I found it, and one on my bedroom dresser. These piles are the bane of my husband’s existence.
“When are you going to take care of your pile?”
I did take care of my pile, thank you very much. But the magical, evil mess-fairies brought it all back in a shockingly short period of time. Bad evil mess-fairies! Bad!
My desire is not for a perfect home. My desire is that our home be the place we come to, battered and bruised, to be held close and stitched back together. Life can be hard, the world can be harsh. My desire is that our home be a safe place: a place that restores us, that simultaneously softens our hearts and puts iron in our veins for whatever the next challenge is.
A place where we can remind each other to stay soft, stay kind, while also reminding each other to be tough, to persevere.
Home is meant to be a place of training, not only of our children (though the value of that cannot be overstated) but of ourselves. We read books that challenge us and invest hours in learning about things that matter. We push each other, sometimes grate on each other – as any imperfect human beings living in immediate proximity to one another do. We sing songs and read Bible stories to our baby girl, praying the Holy Spirit will light all the spiritual kindling we put around her into a glorious Christ-focused fire in her heart.
For years I have heard about the “lost arts” of slow living, cooking, homemaking, hospitality. I don’t believe these arts are lost. I believe they’ve simply slipped from the forefront and are in the beautiful process of being rediscovered. They are slowly coming back in brilliant colour.
These arts have changed and I don’t think that takes away from them. I’ve changed and I don’t think that takes away from me. Rather, I think change contributes to survival. Change is good. It can be hard and it can require the pruning off of things that are comfortably familiar yet unhelpful.
And that can be hard. But just as we smile and whisper to our daughter as she struggles to crawl, hard things aren’t bad things.
The art of creating a home is no longer forced to fit within the confines of an exaggerated, 1950s ideal. Rather, couples and families, roommates and friends, come together to create a space – to create a home. And home is the candle flickering on the window sill in the snowstorm that says, come in. Leave your boots and burdens at the door, you are welcome.