The Missing Element...

Ever wonder what some homes are missing?

I've spent hours in others homes, large and small, rich and poor. One of the loveliest afternoons I spent was with a friend, many years ago, who had five children, two bedrooms, and no kitchen cabinets, only rough-hewn shelving. She made me potato soup, and I drank ice water, and we thoroughly enjoyed one another's company, and her home was clean and spare and happy.

Another home lingers sweetly in my memory - that of a doctor friend who lives south of Tennessee. This home is large with every imaginable amenity...but manages not to condescend. I am sure the unpretentious, relaxed atmosphere is due to a mix of philosophy and design.

Philosophy, in that the lifestyle portrayed by the home and in the home was real.

The sewing nook on the stair landing was obviously in use. The library was well loved and even more well read. The wood fired pizza oven, above the stone fireplace, had seen many meals.

Design, in that the elements of the house were collected over time. This family had endured seasons of lack and times of plenty, and all of this living was well represented throughout the home itself. No attempt was made to erase the signs of those years when needing to sew and grow a garden and utilize second hand furniture was necessary to make ends meet.

Necessity is always the mother of invention. Don't erase signs of necessity! Some of the most beautiful design elements in use today, are simply a result of a previous generation's frugal economy. This doctor's home, south of here, was not ashamed of a worn chair here or there.

I've been in small and large homes, where I get the distinct impression I am being either deceived or condescended to. Few situations are sadder or more unnecessary than a new McMansion, either partially empty, or stocked with items mostly purchased within the last five years, and meant to portray a certain look, or worse, a faux lifestyle. These homes are empty of soul. Or, what of the small home of modest means filled with expensive gadgets and rent-a-room furniture? Same empty result: a home with no soul. No seasons of life.

The missing element? Grace.

More than a doctrine to be confined within church walls, grace is a designer's or architect's or artist's dream. A home is meant to be a grace-note...a place where things worn and flawed and people worn and flawed are nevertheless loved. Anything or anyone we truly love is made beautiful in our eyes, and others usually agree. A home is meant to be a place where, yes, beauty is celebrated, but never at the expense of honesty and faithfulness to our individual callings and stories. Never at the expense of true hospitality.

True hospitality is simply a sharing of who I actually am, with those God brings into my life. I have to live the life first....only then can I share it authentically, and for a lifetime.

May my home, and yours, be an actual haven. Places of manifold graces.
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