We like to throw parties here. Big parties, little parties, fun parties, pizza parties, princess parties, pajama parties. You name it. But never fancy parties.
Last night we had some friends over for pizza. Two families with kids our kids' ages were coming over, and I spent most of the day putting our house back together after the Christmas tornado had swept through for about two weeks straight. I don't necessarily "clean" my house for company, it's very "lived in", but I do at least like to make my home look tidy and comfortable for guests. Some days that takes 20 minutes. Some days, like yesterday, it takes eight hours.
As I was putting my house back together yesterday, God spoke to me about how much a house can say about a family. The friends that came over last night are relatively new friends that hadn't been in our home yet. What would they learn about our family simply from being in our home? What stories would our house tell them during the few hours they spend here eating Little Caesars and visiting? What would they take away as being our family's priorities?
I know for certain some stories my house won't tell:
My house won't tell stories of organization or cleanliness. My floors haven't been mopped in many weeks and my windows haven't been washed in even longer. There is a film of dust on our picture shelves and piles of laundry on my sons' dressers. There is a huge pile of unorganized and un-filed mail and bills sitting right beside the file cabinet. It gives me anxiety every time I look at it. (So obviously I close the door, walk away, and only reopen the door so I can add more mail to my piles.)
My house won't tell stories of great wealth. There is nothing fancy here. We have several pieces of hand-me-down furniture, and our most expensive wall art comes from Shutterfly. Our couches are have been jumped on a million times, so yes siree, you can sit on the sofa, plop your feet up, and enjoy your pepperoni pizza. If you spill your soda, please don't worry. Four babies have puked on that couch a thousand times and that's far grosser than your soda spilling.
My house won't tell stories of scholarly knowledge. There is so much about the world that I don't know. I don't watch the news and I don't read enough. Oh, our bookshelves are filled with books, and we read a hundred each day, but the average length is about 30 pages and most pages are filled with make-believe. I want to know more, but my brain is really tired by 8pm and I lack motivation to learn more.
My house won't tell stories of perfect parenting. If you look around, you'll see too many toys and not enough responsibilities. You'll see too many "rights" and not enough "earned privileges." You'll see too much sugar and not enough vegetables.You'll see too much facebook and not enough face time. Too much of mom looking at her iphone instead of at her children. Too many demands and not enough hugs.
If you listen, you'll hear too much bickering at my children and not enough building my children up in Christ. You'll hear me rushing my children instead of being patient. You'll see me frustrated instead of cheerful. If you look at me in my house, you'll see too many scowls and not enough smiles.
But there are some stories that I'm hoping my house will tell you when you come to visit.
I hope when you come here, you hear stories of fun. We have fun here. I don't clean well and I totally fail at organization; empathy is a struggle for me. But I can do fun. The walls of this house are filled with photos of our family having fun. Snowy pictures, sunny pictures, laughing pictures. Our closets are filled with games and puzzles and paint and playdoh. One whole wall is filled with our children's art, and it's downright fun to look at what they create. When you come here, I pray that you hear stories of fun.
I hope when you come here, you hear stories of together. We play together, we eat together, we struggle together, we fight together, we grow together, we laugh together, we cry together, we fail together, we forgive together, we read together, we worship together, we pray together. We don't do it perfectly.
We fail a whole lot. But at least when we fail, we know we're not alone.
And sometimes together is the last thing we want to be for a moment or even a day. But we're in it together, so we stick together.
Today in church our pastor mentioned that the people in our family are the ones who see us "in the best of times and in the worst of times.". It's true. In our best and in our worst, we're together. I hope when you come here, you hear stories of togetherness.
I hope when you come here, you hear stories of pain. Yep. You read that right. Pain. Because the last thing I want to be is fake, and if you think my life is all fun and no pain, well that's just totally fake and I don't want that. Neither do you.
We've had our share of pain in our journey, and you have too. Paul & I have dealt with the things most of you have dealt with: death, miscarriage, depression, anxiety, financial stress, medical stress, relationship strife, marital strife, parenting strife (that's a whole lot of strife isn't it?) But in the midst of it all there is hope, and I hope my home speaks of hope.
I hope when you come here, you hear stories of grace. Grace is our aim every day. Trust me, we fail. Even though we ourselves are basking in God's grace, we fail to extend it to one another. As parents, we forget to extend grace to our children even though God's grace is exactly what enables us to parent in the first place. We yell and embitter our children and fail at grace daily. But then, by grace, we get back on our feet, our children forgive us a thousand times over, and we aim again for grace. Isn't it funny that it's only by grace that we can even aim for grace?
When you come here, I pray that you experience grace.
And when you come here, I pray you hear stories of love. As you look at wedding pictures on our walls of a guy and a girl who were young and in love, I hope you see us now as a man and a woman who are a decade less young but a decade more in love. We worked really hard in our first decade fighting for love; so I pray you can see the love now when you come to our home. And if you're in our home and you hear our children fighting and bickering, I pray that you can see past it to the love they really do share for one another.
And I hope this love will always overflow to cover our sins against one another as the Bible says, "Love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)
I pray that our home tells you stories of a family that has each others' backs and fights for one another and not against one another.
And when you're in our home I hope the love is evident enough that it flows over into your own heart, and you know that you are loved, and you are welcome here.
And more than anything, when you come to our home, I pray you hear and see evidence of the God who loves us. The God whose love enables us to love, the God whose grace enables us to give grace, the God whose forgiveness enables us to stay together, the God who has conquered and overcome our deepest pain, and the God whose adventurous Spirit enables us to have fun doing life together. I pray you see Jesus here.
So those are the stories I hope my house tells you. Yes, you'll see my failures as I parent imperfectly. And you'll see my sticky kitchen floors and my overflowing anxiety-causing mail piles. Unfortunately, you might also hear me yell at my son or scold my daughter too harshly.
But my prayer is that the evidence of love and grace would be louder. I pray that this home would be an invitation to experience and embrace the beautiful-yet-messy, sacred-yet-imperfect reality that is family life.
And most of all, even if the yucky stuff is louder than the good stuff on the day you come to visit, I pray you'll see Jesus here.
So come on over. Let's swap stories.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.