Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Tea

We make our homes and our homes make us.  Winston Churchill (paraphrased)

It was a good day when I first realized it was not only okay to love decorating the canvas which is my home but that it was also a reflection of the Beauty God gives us.  My permission to beautify came from various authors but one excerpt from an Edith Schaeffer book especially struck me... and has been quoted by many other writers of blogs, books, and articles.

She told the story of two young men arriving at L'Abri who were surprised by the beauty around them.  They had decided they were not interested in Christianity because the missionaries who had come to their country did nothing to put beauty into their homes... which reflected on how they viewed Christianity.

That story, first read somewhere in my twenties, has come to mind often when I think of what my home says about the people who live there.  Oh, not if one is rich or not... for a home can be made beautiful by shopping thrift stores and garage sales.

No, more about what is valued by the inhabitants.   As one walks through my front door, they would immediately recognize someone who loves books lives there... and cats... and pretty tea things... ... and her family... and stuff that is old and shabby vintage... and as they looked further they would definitely know a Christian lives there so I'd better show the love of Christ!  :)

As you know if you have read my Sunday Tea posts for any length of time, I believe our homes should be such that when we enter the front door... we feel like we are hugged by an old friend... whether we live in a house, an apartment, or a castle. 

On a recent rainy morning, I sat in My Room in the comfy Goodwill chair... feet propped up on the mini piano stool... Maine Coon sleeping on the hardwood floor next to the chair... and just listened to the sound of rain mixed with bird songs from the forest.

Gone were the tensions of the week left by intoxicated neighbors, hours of waiting in various official places, vertigo, and stretching the budget even further.  I realized how fortunate I am to have an entire room with things I love surrounding me, one in which I do not have to please menfolk with the decorations.   Perhaps I could get used to this empty nest.  :)

While our homes greatly reflected my taste (as the interior designer was moi'), I always tried to keep the rest of the family in mind so our home would be their warm and cozy place, too.   For instance, my husband does not like overly girlie decorations and he greatly dislikes the color pink.  But he has grown to like (and I emphasize the word grown) the feminine touches of Dutch lace and decorative china.

Which reminds me... many years ago I read an article about making your home reflect what makes you happy and the author suggested thinking of your favorite restaurant where you feel relaxed and surrounded by beauty.  I've mentioned before that I instantly thought of a restaurant we used to enjoy when we lived in Holland, Michigan.

As I pondered what it was about the room that always attracted me, I first thought of their Dutch lace curtains for they are not frilly but are feminine.  I loved their painted furniture, the sayings stenciled on the beams (in Dutch), and the beauty of the wood throughout the room.

The one area I copied was purchasing Dutch lace style curtains (for real Dutch lace is very expensive).  The original curtains were left in the house as part of a seller's agreement but a new pair were purchased and used through the years.  They now are in the dining area as shown above and after all of these years, I still love them... and I have lots of wood furniture.

Which also reflects my husband's taste, having a graduate degree in Wood Science, our friends and family threw sawdust at our wedding instead of rice!  But I digress...

I've also long enjoyed seeing how other people decorate their homes.  I had never decorated with large artwork until I visited a house in Iowa that had small rooms but large art hanging on the walls.  It was beautiful and seemed to provide extra warmth and color to each room.

I learned from other women's homes that it is always good to have a scented candle in the guest bathroom when company arrives (if it is safe), that soft music in the background promotes conversation, and that inexpensive hor dourves served on pretty plates make a guest feel appreciated.

I learned during a visit to another home that I loved how silver acts as jewelry in a room and that one can find silver pieces at thrift stores even if one is not "to the manor born"... and china... and crystal... and many other pretties.

What have I learned most recently?  That even if one lives alone or with one other person, it is important to feel warm and cozy when one enters their own home.  It seriously took me time to realize it was fine to just enjoy time spent beautifying our surroundings even if I no longer had people over very often.

That was difficult for me as I had long associated a warm and cozy home with hospitality.  As if company was more important than my husband and I living here 24/7. 

You will laugh when you hear what helped change my attitude... it was while watching a nature show in which divers filmed the spectacular gorgeous fish that lived so deep in the sea that only deep sea divers ever saw them. 

God made them beautiful just for His enjoyment!

Now, I realize this is more an epistle than a blog post this week but it is a subject near to my heart... that women in general and Christian women in particular understand we are designed by God to not only love beauty... but that we need it... and so do the people around us.

It is also important to know in this materialistic world that beauty can be possible on a budget.  To be honest, the most warm and cozy homes I have been in have all been decorated on a budget!  Perhaps because it takes more time and thought as we seek out frugal treasures?

As the hurricane winds of adversity surround us... as we hear of wars and rumors of wars... as we read about (and some affected by) record breaking heat, cold, storms, and wildfires; let us ponder ways to make our homes a sanctuary for ourselves, our family, our Maine Coon kitties, and those who walk through the front door whether family or friend or stranger.


Terra said...

This post is profound and I like what you write and how you create a beautiful home, and how as soon as someone steps into a home it should feel very welcoming.

Vee said...

I have been reading and re-reading your epistle for some little time now. I keep saying to John,"Now listen to this!"
Yes, I am so in agreement with you and would extend this to our vehicles and our gardens and our persons. I am reading the story of an island where a woman keeps a beautiful home and is, in her own person, nicely groomed and wearing scent and a smile. Have a lovely afternoon...

Nancy said...

I love this, Brenda. Most of the decorations in our home have either been found at thrift stores, garage sales, or handmade by my grandmother and me. I love creating a beautiful home for my family and me, even though my husband and I are empty-nesters too. Thank you for inspiring me each time I read your blogs. So, so many times I have related to what you are sharing and experiencing in your life. God bless you.

Anonymous said...


My parents moved a lot and My mother made a Home out of each "company house".

We women aren't called homemakers for nothing.

Nana said...

Hi Brenda;
Wow, this is a Terrific post! It gives me an incentive to do a little redecorating in my living room and dining room. Thanks so much for your insight! Have a Blessed Sunday! Love and Hugs, Nana,

Anonymous said...


What a lovely post. I great enjoyed reading this and the reminder it brings.

I am very soon to be an empty nester and am thinking it might be time to tweak some things.

I also agree with Vee's comment of being nicely groomed, wearing scent and a smile. Love that!


Anonymous said...

Thank-you for today's post. Reading your blog has helped me feel more comfortable with how I like to decorate my home (with vintage books, teacups, shells, etc). You've inspired me to tweak my decor with the seasons and just for the sake of variety, too. Just in the past week, I was so blessed by two different visitors who commented on how cozy my home was and they felt God's peace when they entered the front door! Wow! What a Blessing! It's taken a lifetime to get here, but God has done amazing things in both my life and my marriage and to hear it's reflected in my home really blessed my heart. Your blog has really inspired and blessed me, too, and I'm So glad you plan to continue. Hugs and Blessings,
Laura C. (from WA)

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...


I so agree with you. This is a subject near and dear to my heart as well. I read in an Emilie Barnes book about a woman who lived alone and travelled quite a bit for her work. It was depressing for her to come home and find dirty dishes in the sink, and everything so quiet. So she started to make her home warm and welcoming for herself. She made sure everything was clean before she left and she used timers to turn lights on a head of her arrival and music too! I thought that was so genius!

I'm starting to write a novel so I am going to do a blog post and I'll link to yours!

Thank you for your vision for your home, and for sharing it!


Beth said...

I agree so much with what you have written. In my work as a home health nurse, I see up front on a daily basis what is so important for various people to keep. I see some really lovely homes in the worst areas of town. I can tell that these homemakers love their space. It grieves my heart to see that some people really trash their homes (along the lines of Hoarders, really) and it does reflect the chaos in their lives. Your decorating "style" is lovely, but not my style. I think it is important that we love where we are to give us the peaceful place to come home to.

Scrappy quilter said...

Love this post. As always they make me stop and ponder. Like the new look of your blog too. Hugs

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

I agree with you so much on this, Brenda. And my home is mostly decorated and furnished with things from my family or things I've made or things I've found in thrift shops. I don't seem healthy enough to offer much in the way of hospitality just now, but I live here and so does my son, and my daughters and their families are here. Homes are meant to be havens. They won't be perfect, but can always be works in progress.

Anonymous said...

Hello Brenda,

I apologize for having to use 'anonymous' as my identity for now, but I have had some bad experiences using my name and email address before, so am just extra sensitive about it. I have enjoyed your blog for a few years now; not sure where I tagged onto it, but am very glad I did. Please don't consider quitting your posts! You are a blessing in so many ways through it and I'm sure I speak for others as well.

You are in many ways a kindred spirit. I am amazed at how some of your 'ponderings' exactly express how I feel or react or have lived life. I enjoy decorating and making a home; I love to cook and read and garden; we share a Faith in a loving God; family is important, but we aren't perfect. I can't go so far as to say we share a love for cats, as I am very allergic to them, but I do enjoy photos of them!

Your last post about decorating (creating a home that reflects the joy living a faith-filled life brings), has especially touched me at an important crossroads in my life and I am thankful for your last Sunday Afternoon Tea post. I have enjoyed decorating, mostly with thrift store items and hand-me-downs, all my life. My mother says I was re-arranging things as a very young child.... However, I have had much guilt and angst about whether it is a good thing to spend time and energy and limited funds on beautifying my surroundings. I have questioned whether my strong desire to decorate and re-arrange and otherwise putter about is God-given or something that takes away from more serious forms of service. Today you have given me an answer to my prayers about the place 'homemaking' has in God's plan. THANK YOU for verbalizing how important it is to create an atmosphere that is cozy, welcoming, restful and perhaps a blessing to family, friends and random strangers who stop by.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever notice how so many houses look as though no one loves them. When we are out walking, we are particularly struck by this. It doesn't take much - a cheerful color for the front door, a decorative door mat, flower boxes or a few pots with flowers. It is amazing how many people stop to comment on the appearance of our home which we purchased a few years ago. The previous owners did not make much of an effort and it showed.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your posts, but I especially enjoyed this one. Being surrounded by creative beauty and order is so important to me! Always nice to make our home a comfortable haven to our guests, and to ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Although I love to put up a new- to- me wreath or pot a plant in a used pot on our front stoop I didn't realize for a while that others too enjoyed it. Children started mentioning my changes to me when they walked by the property. What I was doing for me gave others a smile too. Many around us have very neglected property and children also need to see beauty and know it is possible. That has spurned me on when I am feeling overly tired. I also found that how doing pretty things inside, even if I am the only one to see it, or only one who cares lifts my spirit. When you feel uplifted you even feel better in so many ways. God is the original author of beauty. He designed a beautiful earth for us to live in. He didn't have to do this, but He did. He really cares. Sarah

Sue said...

What a lovely post Brenda. I agree completely. I have always thought your home should convey to others what is important to my home it would be books, grandchildren, and faith and a love for beauty. I also loved Vee's comment about keeping one's person "beautiful too, neatly groomed and smiling" I often run to the store and feel like such a mess, and I am sure I fail to greet others and be as kind as I ought when I am so rushed and disheveled.
More to ponder:-)

Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life said...

Cozy is my operative word. :-)

When we sold our last house, the buyer said it was the first house she walked into that felt warm and welcoming, like a hug. That's about the highest compliment someone could pay me about our home. We don't have the latest and greatest, but I work very hard to make my home cozy with what I have. :-)

Morning's Minion said...

I nust confess that the first thing a visitor might notice on any given day is that I'm not overly tidy in my housekeeping. Clean--not tidy. It is usually books and such that are the culprits--tottery stacks of things to be read.
Beyond that, it would be easy to see that I love vintage items, that I am a quilt maker, a dedicated gardener, and that we have given refuge to an assortment of CATS. The activities of the feline residents dictate that most of my glass and china collectables [either inherited or found in charity shops] are displayed only behind cupboard doors.
The house usually smells good--something simmering or baking.
The former owners of our 1980-built cottage were gardeners and their legacy of flowers and shrubs has been enhanced by my three past seasons of flower gardening, so the dooryard itself is welcoming. My husband's collectibles occupy the set of rustic cherry shelves on the right of the fireplace. The left-hand shelves are mine and I change the displays infrequently, as the spirit moves me.
My Grampa Mac's rocking chair sits near the shelves [adjacent to the fireplace]and a small table overflows with my Bible, a study guide, and whatever books and magazines I'm currently enjoying.
I hope that our home is inviting [in spite of cat hair which I constantly vacuum] and suggests that the occupants are interesting folk!