"What people are craving isn't perfection. People aren't longing to be impressed; they're longing to feel like they're home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they'll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd."
For seven years, we lived in a house that, by my warped Americanized standards, always feel too small, too dated, too wanting in some way or another. Especially when friends who lived in comparative splendor came by. I'm not proud of that feeling, but there it is. Yet we had people over -- maybe not as much as we could have, but we did. Every Thursday night, the table was full and spilling over. The tire swing in the backyard groaned under the weight of the neighbor kids. The beauty of that house emerged from the laughter, the fellowship, the heart-to-hearts that led to quiet prayers.
And then we moved across the world to a place half that size.
It was like the Lord said, "You're learning, but you're a slow learner. Let Me make sure you REALLY get the point."
So this place is not only smaller, but also even less of a showplace. The walls are plain white. The furniture has no unifying theme. The carpet requires near-constant vacuuming (or in British, "hoovering"), which fills the vacuum canister with bits of fuzz. Have I mentioned that once you sit down at the table, you're kind of trapped?
Yet it is, unmistakably, what He has given us for this year. And although we once managed to fit twenty-two women and children in here for a baby shower (!), other than that the gatherings have mostly been small, intimate. Guests have squeezed around our table and slept on an air mattress on the living room floor. No one has complained. Their presence has blessed us and expanded these walls with a blessing that cannot be contained.
And the food? Well, I have my beloved and trusty Le Creuset braising pan, which has done everything for me from pizza to chicken curry to cornbread. And I've had a soup pot on loan from a friend for a few months. But other than that, my pots and pans are limited, there's no such thing as dessert plates, and I dream of such things as a proper blender and a KitchenAid mixer. There are no fancy dinner parties coming out of my
Yet if this year is proving anything, it's that when I say Yes to Him, it is always enough. When anxiety creeps in because our time here is dwindling and we won't have the time or bandwidth to invite everyone we'd like to, He reminds me to ask Him what He's really doing right now, and just do that one thing, catching the current of grace. Simplify, simplify.
And there's been no shame in having a brother who serves as a full-time missionary drop by just to chill out and play with the kids and eat quesadillas, because that's what we usually have on Sunday nights. Or asking our neighbors if they're feeling brave enough to try our experiment with nettle soup (made from stinging nettles that we foraged, and surprisingly yummy and painless to eat). They came, they brought elderflower cordial, we ate and talked and laughed, and no one seemed to want to get up. Then again, maybe they just couldn't get up. Remember: trapped.
When I go to someone's house, it's never to inspect their decor or with the expectation of receiving a show-stopping meal. What makes me feel most welcome is that they take the time to listen, to ask questions, to be interested in who I really am. I am learning to make the same assumption about people who walk through this door. They need to be seen and heard and prayed for. They need a host who's comfortable in her own skin and her own home, because those are places where Jesus dwells, and He is always more than enough.
I read somewhere a while back that life boils down to these two things: Trust Jesus, and love people. The first, then, quite naturally, the second. What a gift to have a home of any size that helps us to do just those things.