"We shape our homes and then our homes shape us." - Winston Churchill
A couple weeks ago, I was watching an interview with a ministry leader from Northern Ireland when she stated that the way we decorate our homes can have a profound impact on all of our life.
I smiled when she started talking about "spiritual warfare through interior decorating". That is similar to a title I put on a blog post many years ago which left people asking, "Huh?". You see friends, we have the same Holy Spirit within when we know Jesus as Savior. We shouldn't be surprised when we hear the same message on opposite side of an ocean. ;)
The world she grew up in is not unlike the one we find ourselves in today when Northern Ireland was going through a civil war. When religion and politics collided. Except "The Troubles", as they are known, became an armed war resulting in thousands dead or injured. While it is said to have begun in the 1960s, the roots of the conflict were growing long before that and the peace they know today is unsettled.
She understood the need to have her home as a place of spiritual strength and safety as well as beauty, where one can be their own gatekeeper of what is allowed in and out of their immediate environment. As a Bible teacher, she talked about the use of color and "decorating" in the Word and the importance God places upon these things.
I love to talk about interior decorating with friends but especially with my
daughter, who not only holds a four year degree in Interior Design but
who shares an overlap in favorite styles with me. We scheduled two
different trips over the years so she and I could go to the famous
Brimfield Antique Flea Market in New England together. We both brought home "treasures" that remind us of those Brimfield days now many years ago.
As for me, I wasn't brought up thinking much about decorating a home but as I began to read books by my Christian literary mentors such as Edith Schaeffer, Emilie Barnes, and Anne Ortlund to name a few, I came to understand how important our homes can be to ourselves and others.
Edith tells the story in one of her books of young men who came to L'Abri from another country who had wanted nothing to do with Christianity after going into the home of a family who were missionaries in their home country. They talked about the bleakness of the home and how there was no beauty in it. It was not surprising that they associated Christianity with being dull and lifeless.
They were astonished at L'Abri to find such a beautiful, warm, and welcoming environment in a home of Christian missionaries (as the Schaeffer's actually were in Switzerland). I read that account as a young wife and I've thought of it many times throughout the decades. What does my home reflect to those who do not know Christ?
True decorating as a type of spiritual warfare begins, of course, with having those things in our home that will only bring glory to God. That is not always easy in the culture we live in today. Especially with the number of screens in each home that lets in the outside world. It was much easier doing so when my kids were young.
Sometimes I walk in our front door and look around to notice what the rooms would say to someone coming in for the first time. It would probably indicate furniture purchased at different times over the years, although some of it is inherited. Either one or both people living here may need an intervention for the amount of books and tea things on shelves but otherwise, I think they would find it warm, comforting, and welcoming.
The photo of a corner of my Study above was taken and shared on Instagram last week and shows the 1990s era hunter green chair I bought at Goodwill next to a wingback chair purchased brand new in the same decade. This room also includes a mixture of furniture and artwork purchased full price, from thrift stores, and inherited from parents.
Such a mix and match of furniture would never make it in a fancy decorating magazine but it makes me smile because of the things I find lovely surrounding the room. Including... tucked away where only I can see them from my desk... is a collection of Bigfoot related gifts received through the years. Yes, this is my Study! ;)
I would hope that each of our homes reflects the people who live there and provides a sense of warmth and coziness to each person. No home is perfect because there are no perfect people but the home can be a place of refuge from a troubled world. I would hope even the colors chosen, the artwork, and the various accessories would bring joy.
I love having items that were collected over decades at very inexpensive prices. They include teacups and other "tea things", lots and lots of books mostly purchased at library sales for a dollar each during our homeschool years, my collection of vintage Pyrex bowls that are in the kitchen, and both real and silk plants. The real plants bring life to a room, the silk plants bring depth and further green color.
While I do have "Christian" related items hanging on my walls, on my various tables, and even held with magnets on the side of my refrigerator, I don't think they are the real way to share Christ in our home. If anything, they may indicate Christians living in the home but I wonder... what will they really find here?
I would hope they find warmth and hospitality despite their religious or political affiliations. Although, I am rather infamous when asked a question on any topic to hand someone a book. We are all able to provide a testimony of the work of Christ in our life. However, only if we have shown the fruit of the Spirit which would reflect well on our Savior. We all know Christ followers who make us cringe with their unkind words.
Does that mean we water down the Gospel? Oh, my goodness, not at all! For to water down the True Gospel is to take away from the mercy and grace Jesus offers us. If there is no such thing as sin, then being saved from that sin has no meaning and Christ went to the Cross for nothing.
However, we can speak Truth with kindness. Often it will only be possible when we have truly come to know another person. When we have spent days, weeks, and even years covering them in prayers. It certainly means a lot if they have been welcome in our home and been able to see (hopefully) those who love Christ in a home environment that brings peace. Where they have been served a good meal or at least chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.
I once read a book by a person who knew the Schaeffer's very well who said there would have been no L'Abri without Edith's ability to provide a warm and beautiful home-like atmosphere with good food served. It was in this environment that the unbelieving wayfarers coming to L'Abri with many questions were prepared to ask and receive honest answers.
What can we learn from all of this? That we were meant to love making our homes pretty, to budget for those grocery store flowers or plants, to spend time learning to cook and bake well, to enjoy reading about creativity and making a home warm and lovely. We love to do these things because we were meant to do them.
Beauty is found in Jesus. Peace is a Person. Love and the lovely are never found in the enemy of our souls. When our homes reflect Beauty, Peace, Love, and all that is Lovely, then we have created (with the help of our Creator) an atomosphere where Christ reigns and the enemy does not.
That, my friends, is what sharing Christ is about in the first place and why decorating is a form of spiritual warfare. When the world is a dark place and often people feel alone and unheard, how amazing it will feel to them to walk through the doors of a home filled with creative beauty and the aroma of a simmering soup and bread in the oven.
I personally think the average maker of a home can do more for the cause of Christ than the theologians of the world. While we do need good Bible teachers, what people are longing for is Truth and fellowship. That which can be found in the homes of those who love Christ in all His Truth and Beauty.
Someday, our doors will once again be open to visitors, families can get together for Thanksgiving, and friends will enjoy parties at Christmas. I don't know what the world will look like in the next months and years but I do know what my own home will look like. That is within my realm of making things happen.
In the meantime, we can do the best we can to make this world a warm and peaceful place within our walls. Imperfect as they are, it is still home. Until that day we go Home to be with Him in all His eternal glory. We can be salt and light where we live.
Enjoy making your home a place of spiritual warfare for all that is Good and Lovely and Beautiful and Peaceful in this world where all of that is hard to find. You are an artist and your home is your canvas.
CORRECTION: I mentioned last week that Rupert Murdoch had passed on Fox News to his sons after his death. Apparently, he is still quite alive at age 89 and had passed it on for various other reasons which involve a rabbit trail life is too short to go down.
Photo: @coffeeteabooksandme on Instagram