How to Help Your Adopted/Foster Child Feel Welcome in Your Home

Have you brought a child home through foster care or adoption?

Or are you just beginning the foster/adopt journey and want to make sure kiddos feel welcome in your home?

On The Whole House Podcast episode 77, How to Help Your Adopted/Foster Child Feel Welcome in Your Home, Kathleen and Kristin share some quotes from crowd-sourcing and some from experience.

What are some things you do to make your adopted/foster child feel at home?

“Top of it:Schedules.

Their own stuffed animal bought by us the day they arrive.

A light on at night.

An anthem.” – Paige Bowser

I asked Paige to explain the anthem, and she said, “A song. Let the older child pick a song that expresses what he feels. This becomes their anthem.”

“I’m not sure how to answer this. We have only had a couple of placements and they have been babies. We give hugs and talk softly. We give them a new blanket. We try to get to know them as soon as we can by watching carefully so they have a chance to teach us who they are, and then we meet them there.” – Rachel Eubank

“ I agree with Rachel. We first have to see how traumatized a child is. Comfort comes from different things for each child. I think the first thing we give each one is Space enough to catch their breath. An overwhelmed child can’t make healthy trusting connections. Honestly, You have to trickle your love and comfort Into their lives. They gradually begin to trust You. The second thing is a smile and words of comfort.” – Bob Eubank

Smiling is super important because kids will mirror you. Everyone feels stress when a kid is first coming into your home. Don’t let it show on your face. Smile.

Some things to consider when welcoming a child:

  • Toys. Some kiddos (mine included) have none when they come “home.”
  • Ownership. Having their own stuff when they come to your home is big deal.
  • A comfortable bed. Some kiddos have never had their own bed.
  • A backpack. We got L.L.Bean backpacks embroidered with the kids’ names when they came home through adoption.
  • Words of reassurance. We need to give words of reassurance such as, “So-and-so loved you so much that they bought you this gift.”

Consider the perspective of the child. Older kids are more aware of what is going on in the adoption/foster care arena, so they may be able to communicate their thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants. Either way, it’s important to put yourself in their shoes as much as possible. Consider what they need and do it for them instead of for yourself.

Ten Practices to help your adopted/foster Kiddo feel welcome:

1. Calm fears. If kids don’t feel safe, they will act out in survival mode. Be aware of their past, and keep an eye out for triggers. You’re not always going to know why a child is afraid, but they almost always have a reason.

We all have fears, and even as adults, we sometimes can’t figure out where they came from. One of my fears is riding in the back of a car. It took me a long time to trace the fear back to after my parents’ divorce, when my dad would come to pick us up, load us into the back seat of his car, and start driving without giving us any information about where we were going.

2. Adjust the surroundings. You may have to adjust your surroundings for a season to help your new kiddos feel more comfortable. To them, you are weird, and your house is weird.

Even if a child was removed from an unsafe home, that doesn’t mean his home of origin didn’t feel normal to him. He’s still connected to it. Be more flexible than you are used to being. It will be chaotic for a while, and that’s ok. Helping your child achieve felt safety is worth it.

3. Be aware the child may have never been alone. My college roommate adopted a sibling group of three who had never been alone. For the first few years, they refused to sleep in their own rooms, opting instead to all share the same bed.

In cases of neglect, on the other hand, a child may be a little too used to being alone. It’s important to be aware of this and gently coax them into family time together.

4. Be prepared to adjust your menu. When we brought our four home, the youngest had a cleft palate. Getting nutrients into him became my second career. He was underweight, and because of his limited food choices in the orphanage, he wasn’t interested in eating anything new. I bought a food processor and pureed a variety of foods to meet his nutritional needs. It was a challenge.

After his cleft-palate surgery, he lost the ground we had gained in eating new foods after his month of liquids. One day at lunch, I stayed at the table with him, trying to get him to eat. All the other kids had left the table. I was so frustrated, I cried. I called a friend for prayer. Her husband answered the phone, listened, and prayed with me. Food challenges are real.

Yours might not be that extreme, but you still have to be flexible. You may find out your new kiddos refuse to anything spicy or that they hate peanut butter sandwiches or something else that’s a staple in your house.

5. Your child may miss friends (as well as family, which is a given). Be sensitive to that. Let them talk, and don’t take it personally. Missing their bio family, their old friends, and other parts of their past is natural. It’s not a comment on your abilities or value as a foster/adoptive parent. It’s not even necessarily a reflection of their thoughts or feelings about you.

6. Make sure your kiddos have plenty of snacks they can get to. In the orphanage, my kids didn’t always have the food they needed when they needed it. Kids from neglectful homes may have had a similar experience. You can alleviate the fear by having a snack basket within easy reach that they can access whenever they want.

7. Be sensitive to the clothing needs and the types of clothes your kids want/need. My kids had never owned a pair of jeans, so jeans were the item they wanted first.

8. Understand that their belongings have meaning, but they may not understand the value of things. Our kid came with nothing. Some kids come with a blanket or stuffed animal. Those belongings are important to them, even if they seem insignificant to you.

Keep in mind that kids who have never owned anything may not know how to take care of things. They may let something float downstream because they lack cause-and-effect thinking and don’t think about the fact that the item cost money.

Also, understand that if you put a high value on things, that will be tested by these kiddos. Remind yourself: “People are more important than things.” I reminded myself of this aloud so much that my kids repeated it to back me when something got broken.

9. Remember that your kiddos may need extra supervision, online and otherwise. In The Case of the Missing Person (more on that below), Sera is messaging people without her parents’ supervision or permission. All kids need supervision, but kids from hard places can get into trouble quickly and have trouble spotting dangerous situations.

One of my kids, for instance, started a forest fire out of a simple lack of understanding that lighting a fire in the woods is dangerous. The orphanage didn’t give them much practical experience with the great outdoors.

10. Schedules are security. They let kids know what will happen next, which is especially important to kids who find themselves suddenly in unfamiliar surroundings with complete strangers, as foster kids do.

If you’re not a schedule type of person, don’t worry! You don’t have to break your day into inflexible half-hour increments with every second account for. Instead, you can implement a general “first this, then that” routine. For instance, “after breakfast, we do chores” or “after lunch, we take a nap.”

The video below is an advertisement but paints a realistic picture of what happens when foster children come into your home.

Remember the weird things you had to tell your kids?

If you had biological children before you fostered or adopted, then you know you have to tell kids things you never thought you would have to say — like “Don’t lick the bathroom floor” or “Don’t lick your sister.”

Remember that, and apply it to foster kids. You don’t know what they have been taught about hygiene or whether they know the stove is hot. They may have been taught things that are not acceptable in your family culture. Don’t blame and shame the child for where they came from. Grace. We all have our perceptions of good and bad.

Assume that they know nothing — not as though they are stupid, but in the sense that they weren’t raised in your family culture. The first few times they do something “wrong,” assume they really didn’t know any better. Don’t assume they are being intentionally defiant or trying to push your buttons. They may just not know that something is annoying, generally frowned upon, “gross,” or “bad.”

Also, be specific in your instruction. Remember that it’s easier for kids to process positive instructions (“Do this”) than negative ones (“Don’t do that”). Instead of saying what you don’t want them to do, take some of the guesswork out and let them know that they should do. For example, you could say, “Use your inside voice” instead of “Don’t yell!”

Excerpts From The Case of the Missing Person

In the podcast, we mentioned The Case of the Missing Person — a book I wrote about a girl named Sera who is adopted through the Colombian hosting program (more info about that program here). The following scene describes her thoughts on coming “home.”


“Let me show you your room, Sera,” Clare said. I mean Mom. I couldn’t get used to that. I had spent my first eleven years in Colombia without a mother. I had come to the Craven family as part of the Colombian hosting program. Through that program, I had stayed with the  Cravens for three weeks. The Cravens had decided to adopt me. I was glad. Most of the time.

Right now, I was scared out of my wits. There was no going back to Colombia now. It wasn’t perfect there, but it was all I had ever known. Now I was here in the U.S. in a home I would be in forever. FOREVER.

The house was nice. Clare liked white. A lot. White walls. White cabinets. White furniture. There were a few colors in pictures on the walls. Totally different from the bright colors in the orphanage. Sunshiny yellows. Oranges. Terracotta tile floors. My room was white too. White bunk beds. Those were new.

“What do you think?” Clare, I mean Mom, asked.

“It’s very white,” I said quietly.”


You can listen to the first chapter of The Case of the Missing Person below:

A Few Responses to some Flack we received on What If We Treated Foster/Adoptive Parents as Missionaries?

Kristin and I take a few random moments in this week’s podcast episode and respond to some of the criticism we recieved about this article. One theme was that we shouldn’t see our adopted/foster kiddos as a ministry. Our response?

Whatever we put our hands to is a ministry.

We aren’t running around John 3:16 ing everyone. I didn’t  to adopt to have a ministry. I love my kids. They are a priority to me. I’m very protective of them. I don’t share their stories. Those are there own.

Another theme was – all parents need support to an extent.

All parents need support to an extent. Fostering is different. It’s harder. You can’t plan a vacation. You can’t take them to get a haircut. There is so much added stress. The visitation is planned according to the the availbility of bio family, not foster family or the child. Saturday-

Another theme was -Reunification should be the goal.

Culturally, that is not always a good goal anymore. Drugs, alcohol abuse is prevalent and our culture has changed.  There has been a moral downward shift in our culture

It is not always in the best interest of the child to be reunified. Keep children in mind first.

4 Reasons to Be Real – Even When It’s Uncomfortable

We’ve all heard the call to be real — to stop putting on a show and let the “real you” shine through. To be open and honest about the struggles we face, because we’re all human. To really put ourselves out there so that we can form deep, genuine connections with other people.

Of course, the problem we run into is that being real is uncomfortable. It involves risk and vulnerability. When you let others see the real you, you risk rejection. You risk judgment, criticism, mockery, and hurt. So why do it?

The good news is that being real is worth the risk. Here’s why:

Keeping Up Appearances Is Hard Work

Often, we assume it will be simpler and safer to fake perfection than to deal with all of the risks that come with being real. But is that really true?

As scary as it is to let yourself be real and vulnerable with other people, in the long run, it’s actually easier than the alternative. Keeping up the illusion that you are infallible, invulnerable, and self-sufficient is hard work. It is stressful, exhausting, and dangerous (more on that in a moment). We think we’re protecting ourselves, but in reality, we’re perpetuating a myth about our lives and our selves. Brené Brown explains it well:

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

The problem is, we can’t control what other people think, say, or do. No matter how “perfect” we manage to look, we cannot guarantee we won’t get hurt. We subject ourselves to the monumental strain of keeping up appearances, and in the end, we’re not really any safer than we were before. Don’t we have enough to worry about, without adding to our list the unnecessary and futile attempt to maintain a perfect image?

Dishonesty Can Become a Lifestyle

You’ve probably heard that practice makes perfect, but life isn’t that simple. A more accurate saying is “practice makes permanent.”

Here’s where the danger of perfectionism lies. Even if we manage to fool others into thinking we’re perfect, we do so at great risk to our souls. Eventually, that dishonesty about who we are, what we’ve done, and where we stand can become second nature.

In Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, John Ortberg explains:

“We fake it in life to bolster our ego. But the result is, we feel like phonies and become more deceptive and cynical with others.”

No act of dishonesty is truly insignificant, because it shapes how we view ourselves — which, in turn, affects the standards we hold ourselves to and the choices we make. You’ll drift further and further into the fakeness until you lose sight of not only yourself but also God.

We need to ask ourselves (in the words of Brené Brown):

“What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?”

Your Kids Will Get the Wrong Message

We’ve all heard someone say, “Do as I say, not as I do” — and we all know that’s not how life works. If you won’t follow your own advice, why would other people listen to it? No one respects hypocrisy.

Kids, in particular, can spot hypocrisy from a mile away, and they are far more likely to follow your example than your instructions. As James Baldwin said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” No matter how good you are at faking perfection for other people, you won’t fool your kids. They see what you say AND what you do, and when the two don’t match up, the message your kids hear loud and clear is that being real isn’t worth the risk.

Set a good example for your kids by being real with them and with others, even when it’s uncomfortable. Let them see your flaws and imperfections. Your kids need to know you’re human. Perfection is an impossibly high standard that neither you nor they can ever live up to. There is great freedom in allowing yourself to be real. Give them that gift.

God Made the Real You for a Reason

Finally, remember that you were made in the image of God — and God doesn’t make mistakes. In Philippians 1:6, Paul wrote:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

In the meantime, our struggles and imperfections serve a purpose. They allow us to better empathize with others and demonstrate God’s grace and love.

None of us will achieve perfection here on Earth, and it doesn’t do anyone good to pretend we have. After all, perfection isn’t very relatable or approachable. The heaviest burdens people carry — post-partum depression, miscarriages, childhood trauma, grief, abusive relationships, cancer, chronic pain — are often accompanied by feelings of shame, guilt, and fear. They worry that no one will understand. They wonder if there’s something wrong with them. They agonize over whether it’s their own fault.

By cultivating the illusion that we ourselves have never struggled with anything greater than skipping a day of devotions, we send a message loud and clear: “Don’t come to me for help. I have already arrived. You could be like me, if only you tried harder. I don’t understand what you’re going through.” It’s like closing a door. Being real, on the other hand, is an invitation. As Brené Brown put it, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

I can guarantee that if you choose to be real, you will be uncomfortable at times. Some people will judge you. Some people won’t understand. Some people will think less of you. They may gossip behind your back or say hurtful things to your face.

But for every woman who uses your vulnerability to make herself feel superior, there will be one who sees your realness as the precious gift that it is. Who hears your story and feels relief because she’s not the only one. Who feels hope because someone else has been where she is and come out the other side. Who realizes it’s ok to ask for help and finds a community of women to support her.

And that is worth the risk.

The Basics of Design With Tessa Allen

On the podcast this week, special guest Tessa Allen shares some design tips and a little about her background in interior design. It’s encouraging to listen to her perspective because she doesn’t come from an attitude of “having it all together” or “knowing it all.”

It’s okay to copy color

In Tessa’s home, the color flows from room to room. It’s cohesive, calm, and comforting. What’s amazing about the color? She copied. The ideas/tones/color palettes came from looking at other people’s homes. She picked her mindful gray (Sherwin Williams) and navy from friends’ homes and a model home.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief. It’s okay to copy. This isn’t a third-grade spelling test — it is your home. If you feel comfortable with a color in someone else’s home, try using it in yours!

Don’t follow a trend you don’t like

On the podcast, I share a story about a blue couch. I bought a blue couch with those tufted pillows attached to the back because it was a trend. Neighbors and friends were putting this style of couch in their homes, so I followed suit.

Guess what? I didn’t like it. I bought it because I wanted to follow a trend. I put that couch in my basement family room hoping the kids would jump on it, spill stuff on it, and it would need to be replaced. They did all of the above, but I didn’t get to replace the couch right away. Instead, I had to live with the stained couch for quite a while until I passed it on to my younger brother.

The lesson? Don’t buy something you don’t LOVE just because it’s trendy.

If you love a Trendy Idea, use it in Moderation

I have a wall of shiplap in my family room. I love it. The truth is, the shiplap wall was birthed out of a need to cover some holes — big holes that meant the wall needed to be replaced or covered. I chose shiplap, and I love it.

I also love bright colors. Sometimes they are the trend, sometimes not. Although I learned the hard way not to cover the walls of my house with them, I still have lots of accents of color that can easily be changed. If you see a new trend such as the popular navy or blush, try doing an accent wall, or a paint a piece of furniture that can be changed with little effort.

Shop for Used furniture

Let’s face it: We don’t all have unlimited funds to purchase furniture and wall art. I can’t tell you how many times I see a piece and tell my husband, “It’s all in the details,” as if he will jump on board for my purchase. The truth is, he doesn’t really care about the details until he sees it all together. It’s just a personality trait, not a fault. He often doesn’t mind my logic or my latest purchase at Hobby Lobby of a coffee mug to display on the coffee bar — if there is money set aside for it.

If there is no money, there is no money. If there is a bit of money, then consignment stores are the way to go! Consignment, second-hand stores, and yard sales all have treasures waiting to be found! You just have to go find them. Just don’t go hog wild without Tessa’s next point in mind.

Know your color Palette before you purchase

Tessa suggests carrying your paint swatch in your purse when shopping for decor. Brandi Panson mentioned this on last week’s podcast (and article). “Begin with the end in mind” is the way she phrased it. If you have no color palette, no end in mind, no style in mind, you will buy whatever appeals to you (raising my hand) and waste money. It doesn’t save you any money to buy all kinds of knick-knacks and decor unless they fit your home’s style and color palette.

They don’t make it like they used to

My parents used to say “they don’t make them like they used to.” I thought it was weird, then. What’s weirder is I say it myself now. I have wanted a yellow chair for years because yellow is my favorite yellow! I’ve looked at ones at IKEA for many years, but I just couldn’t plunk the money down to get a yellow chair that doesn’t fit my style.

So I waited. This past Christmas season, my sister Anne found a vintage yellow chair in a local shop, The Looking Glass. She sent me a photo. As soon as I opened the message, I knew that chair was yelling my name! “Kathleen! Kathleen! Kathleen!” I immediately contacted the owner of the shop and asked her if it was available. She said yes, but she could only hold it one day.

I texted hubby: I found my Christmas present. I waited a few minutes and shot him this text: We have to pick it up tomorrow, and we need the truck. A few minutes later: It’s this much $$$$. He got a laugh out of it, and I got a vintage yellow chair that I love… which leads me another one of Tessa’s points:

It’s okay to wait

We have been conditioned by HGTV to think that a whole house can/should be done in a weekend or a matter of months. That’s not realistic in many scenarios and not always the best idea. When you move into a home, it’s important to see how your family functions in that space. It’s also important to figure out what style you want to see. This takes time.

And with a limited budget, often we have to design in the most cost-effective ways. That may mean stripping wallpaper off the dining room walls is the first design step. It may also mean that sectional you want for the family room will have to be on the back burner for a while, even if you are shopping second hand. That’s okay. It is more important to be content with what you have then to have everything look perfect.

If you are struggling with this concept, I hear you. I struggle to. For years I made my home an idol. You can that my story here.

Make your home fit your family

I think we alluded to this on last week’s podcast, but it’s worth repeating. You may be looking at all the photos of homes from our social media this month and thinking, “That’s just not me. I don’t like any of that.”

If so, that’s okay. The point isn’t to pattern your home after someone else’s (unless you want to) — the point is to make your home fit your family. Your home should be unique. It should speak your name, not mine. My family affectionately calls our home “The Guire Shire” (we’re huge Lord of the Rings Fans). Maybe you could try naming your home, too.

Whatever you do, make your home fit your family, then invite me over for a cup of coffee.

Tessa and her daughters

Hi, I’m Tessa.  Daughter of the King, wife of Jess, mother to Lexie & Alivia.  I love to laugh and have fun (not the wild and crazy kind of fun, just simple fun).  I also love music! I play piano, teach piano lessons, and accompany local choirs and soloists. I love teaching, whether it’s piano lessons, general music class, or teaching my girls something new.  I also love to learn.

Interior design has always been something that I have enjoyed.  As a freshman in college, I took an intro to Interior Design class and really liked it.  While I was working on my music education degree, design was always in the back of my mind.  So, once I completed my music degree, I stuck around and got an interior design degree 😊  

I used my design degree for a few years once I graduated, although it didn’t really look like what I had envisioned while in school.  Throughout the years, I have always loved putting my house together, choosing colors, figuring out where things go, discovering new items I want, and deciding how to put it all together.  Since we have moved four times, I’ve gotten to do that a lot!

For me, design and having people feel comfortable in my home is important.  If it brings peace to my soul and my family and friends feel at home, then I consider it a success.  

My Mission Field Is a Fitness Mat

When God called upon my husband and me to open a fitness studio, I knew there was a greater purpose than just fitness. I knew that God was giving me an opportunity to let others see His works through me. I knew that I could be an example of the perseverance and strength His grace provides and a reminder that after storms, with Him, there’s always a rainbow.

My Journey

Just a few years ago, I was fighting against myself in a spiritual battle over my self worth and self confidence. I was suffering from a major stint of disordered eating, and I didn’t think I’d ever find my happy self again.

But God has perfect timing, and my story is proof. I mustered up enough confidence in the beginning of my recovery to take a fitness certification workshop. I had been putting off this workshop for years because I just didn’t deem myself worthy, but I knew that I owed it to myself to see it to completion. I had been doing the format, POP Pilates, for 6 years and knew that it was the one thing in my adult life (outside of God) that always just made me believe in myself.

The workshop did not disappoint, and it left me feeling more confident than I had felt in a while. At the end of the workshop, we had to say one word to describe how we felt, and mine was WORTHY. It was a full-circle moment for me.

I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would use this new, unleashed passion for His purposes alone and that I would remain grateful no matter what that looked like or how hard it was. I started to focus more on God and less on my appearance, and that was my second major step in my eating disorder recovery. I quickly realized that where He was leading me, a six pack wasn’t required.

Today

Six short months later, my husband and I jumped feet-first into our studio. We knew that God was going to provide a space for me to help women feel loved and worthy — and that’s exactly what He continues to do. It has never once been about anything other than that for me. Does that make me a savvy business owner? Probably not, but it does make me a content one. Week after week, I get to “minister” to women by simply loving them and encouraging them to love themselves. That’s what Jesus Himself does.

“Ministry could simply be about loving the person in front of you.”

This past week, I was humbly presented the POP Pilates Instructor of the Year Award, and I’m again taking this passion to the Lord to allow His work to be done as a result. Let whatever light shines on me reflect straight back to You. Let me never look at this mission field with anything other than faith, hope, and love. Let those three traits be felt by anyone who encounters me. I know that you did not bring me this far, just to bring me this far.

LEAD ME WHERE YOU NEED ME.

All I did is praise. All I did is worship. All I did was bow down. All I did is stay still. (Shout out to that song, Defender.)

Photo credit to Kassia Phoy

When My Home Became an Idol

In a culture that worships perfection, we women struggle with creating perfection in our homes. We follow Instagram accounts, hang on Joanna Gaines’ every word, and watch HGTV to make sure we are keeping up with the latest trends. (Raising my hand here.)

I love home design. I love making my home look beautiful. But here’s the catch: I can get caught in the trap of thinking the only thing my home can or should be is perfect. Or I can go to the other extreme and think my home is completely utilitarian. It’s just a place where the food is stored, our beds await, and the TV resides. Either extreme will leave me feeling empty and frustrated all the time.

Our culture has lost sight of a home’s purpose. It’s all too easy to put interior design on a pedestal and worship it. (God forbid we have an outdated avocado colored bathtub!) We get embarrassed when our home doesn’t look like the Instagram accounts we follow, so we don’t invite people over.

My Confession

Can I share something with you? That was me. I cried over a shower color and shape. Yep. Actually cried real tears and begged God to replace the gold shower/tub combo in my master bathroom. My home had become my idol.

An idolater is someone whose soul is devoted to any object that usurps the place of God.

After living in a new home and then a farmhouse that we remodeled ourselves, we bought a home that needed a lot of work inside and out. A job change, a Job syndrome, and now limited finances had landed us here. The things we fixed first on our non-existent budget were not visible things. They were necessary fixes that didn’t make the home look beautiful — things like safer outlets in the kitchen. You get the picture.

So, here I was, crying over a gold bathroom. One morning, I was getting ready for church and showering and blubbering about not being able to remodel, and the Holy Spirit prompted me to thank God for the gold shower/tub combination. I did it with tears dripping down my cheeks.

Thanksgiving

In the fall of that year, I hosted Thanksgiving (as per norm). I was embarrassed to be hosting in a home with one brown bathtub and one gold one. Wallpaper was peeling off the walls. An avocado shower sat in a basement bathroom that was more like a cave.

Despite my embarrassment, it turned out to be one of the best holidays ever. My house was full of immediate and extended family from near and far away. No one complained about the wallpaper or the color of my bathroom showers/tubs. We enjoyed our time together.

All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. – Proverbs 15: 15

The point? God needed me to tear down the idol of my home. It needed to be knocked back into place.

When your home becomes an idol as mine did, then perfection becomes the goal instead of comfort. Ask yourself this question right now: Have I made my home an idol?

Remember Your Home Has a Purpose

Homes are gathering places. Places of connection. There is a science to running a home, and there’s an art to keeping a home. Believe it or not, your home can be a work of art when you have a gold bathtub. In case you are wondering, it was another ten years before I was able to replace the gold and brown in my bathrooms. And yet, I hosted holidays, birthdays, cookouts, book clubs, swim days, Bible studies, and more during those ten years.

Making my home an idol impaired my ability to make my house a haven. It became a shrine. That day when I thanked God for my gold bathtub/shower combination while crying was a starting point. It was a seed.

I used to believe that my home had to be perfectly put together in order to invite people over. For many years, I was able to achieve that in other homes. I believed that lie and practiced it until it became truth. When my world bottomed out and we moved into a home that I couldn’t make look perfect (according to my standards), I felt empty. Useless. Unable to function. I ranted, raved, and cried.

Take what you have and make it beautiful

Here’s the thing: My personality didn’t change. I learned to live with a gold shower, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a desire to have a beautiful space. I think it’s an innate feature in women. We love beauty in our homes. We each define it differently, but the desire is there. It’s a god-like attribute.

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*These are some photos of my home now after years of sweat equity. I couldn’t find a picture of the gold bathtub or get a great picture of updates in bathrooms!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God makes all things beautiful in their time. God gave each of us the desire for beauty. To answer that desire, He has created beauty all around us in nature, from the flowers and trees in your backyard to the diverse geography around the world. In The State of the Arts, Gene Edward Veith Jr. says that art is simply copying the Creator. He adds:

“The God-given capacity to make things is the essence of art.”

When we desire to surround ourselves with beauty, we are copying the Creator. Some religions would argue with this and say that we are supposed to deny ourselves any joy in our surroundings. I disagree. When we surround ourselves with beauty, it makes us feel alive. We feel refreshed after a walk in the woods — why wouldn’t we want to bring that beauty into our homes?

So what are some simple ways to beautify your space?

One of my favorite things to do is rearrange my furniture. This habit may be attributed to the many times we moved in my childhood, but I consider it a great habit. Rearranging my living room gives it a fresh look and gives me a new perspective. It only requires some muscle on my part  (and a little help from whoever I drag into the mix).

Rearranging is a simple way to refresh your space. Try it!

Get a new perspective

After living in the house with the gold tub for a few years, I was still despairing over the fact that it would never look “good.” My kids and I had done a lot of projects that required little or no money. We took down wallpaper. Painted walls. Cleaned the basement. Scrubbed the tile in the basement that hadn’t been cleaned properly in a long time.

In my mind, I still had a picture of a dilapidated home — more of a shack than a home. But it wasn’t a shack at all. It was a solidly built colonial. The mind can play tricks on us!

My sister-in-law was in for the holidays and she mentioned a course she was taking. One of the assignments was to take pictures of each room in your home. The goal was being grateful and getting a better perspective. I was intrigued by the idea but didn’t think I would see anything different than I saw in my mind’s eye.

After the holidays, I cleaned each room, making sure there was no clutter on surfaces. I pulled out my camera and got to work. I took photos of each of the rooms from many angles. I loaded them on the computer and scrolled through. The rooms looked amazing. Beautiful. I was shocked. Astounded, really. How could this be? My home looked nothing like the pictures I had imprinted on my brain.

I wanted to make sure what I was seeing was accurate so I called my husband over. I scrolled through the pictures without saying anything. I wanted his reaction to be his own, not based on what I said.

“Wow! That’s gorgeous. Whose house is that?”

“That is our house.”

“No way!” He clicked through the photos again. “I had no idea our house looked that great!”

His perspective had been skewed like mine. In our mind, we were seeing the baseboards that needed fixing, the marks on the hardwood, or the infamous gold tub. We didn’t know what other people were seeing until we looked at those photos.

Perspective makes a big difference.

Try the exercise yourself. Maybe your home is not clean right now, so don’t stress. Wait until it is, or make an appointment with yourself to clean and take photos. If you have lots of littles underfoot, try one room at a time. Shove everything into another room or corner if you have to.

The purpose is not to be fake for an Instagram account. The purpose is to get perspective. Try to wait until you have all the rooms photographed and then look. I know it’s tempting to want to look as you go. Try to wait. Look at each picture and record your perspective. Let your hubby look too. Then go ahead and post it on Instagram and see what your friends think.

I can’t promise you it will look like something straight from HGTV, but I can promise it will give you perspective. Looking at your home through the lens of a camera can give you fresh eyes. You can replace the hypothetical you have floating in your mind with actual photos and move on from there. Maybe the pictures will give you ideas about what things really need changing (and which things look fine the way they are).

I’ll admit I still struggle with the perspective issue. When someone is coming over for the first time, I have a case of last-minute panic. I suddenly see the grime in the faucet creases or the spot of coffee on the floor. Instead of looking at my house as I whole, I see the little bits of dirt or imperfection. It’s silly, but worth mentioning.

We do the same thing with ourselves. When we become more comfortable with people, we don’t mind our imperfections as much. So, if you come to my house regularly, you know where the coffee and mugs are. You can even make yourself a peanut butter sandwich if you want.