Sunday, November 6, 2016

decorating shelves on a sinking ship

Four months ago we moved into a grown up house - the kind with bedrooms upstairs, laundry in the basement, and a real garage that covers our cars. We traded the simple, landominium life for a life of yard tools, multiple toilets, and a mailbox that opens without a key. 

Fortunately, our home doesn't need much "work." Stephen and I are more "move-in ready, paint a few walls, hang a few pictures" kind of people. We don't tear down walls, expand windows, or reclaim wood to build barnyard doors for our pantry. We have moved at a snail's pace in turning our house into a home, and I have every intention of playing the "we just moved in" card for the next two years.

The truth is, it's just not my thing. Furniture shopping gives me anxiety, and finding cute knick knacks for every surface of my home makes me want to cry. When people start talking about window treatments and throw pillows, I only hear the teacher's voice from Charlie Brown. 

I find no enjoyment in hauling home seven rugs to unroll, shove under furniture, reroll and lug back to the store because I didn't get the right size or right color or right padding. Last week I brought home a rug so thick I couldn't open my front door. Good grief. 

And don't even get me started on the white, built-in shelves on either side of our fireplace. They're meant to be adorable, but those suckers taunted me for months as they collected dust and tools and toys. I knew what I was supposed to have on those shelves. I needed little vases, interesting books stacked in different directions, bamboo, a giant letter B, an inspirational quote hand painted from an Etsy shop, and probably some pictures of my children in a flowery meadow. I could just die thinking about it.

I finally had to call in backup, asking a friend to decorate them for me. She spent an hour walking around my house, gathering items I didn't even know I had from packed boxes and slowly piecing together picture perfect shelves. She left me with the task of completing two final shelves. This was two months ago. One is filled with cable cords; the other is lined with trucks and dolls. Done.

The irony is that despite loathing interior home design (we'll save stories regarding the exterior for another post), I am becoming obsessed with it, and not in a "haha, look at crazy Joy" kind of way. It is an obsession that has quickly begun to steal my joy. I am either overwhelmed by the next item on the to-do list or questioning the item I just crossed off. What should we hang up here? Did I spend too much on those pillows? I should probably return them and get the ones at IKEA instead. Can I afford that rug? Maybe I should move those shelves a little to the right.

I am constantly dissatisfied, focused on what I don't have, and feeling like a failure because our home will never make it in a world if Chip and Joanna are the standard. 

A great tension exists in my life as a follower of Christ. There is a desire for an impressive, yet child-friendly home, filled with lovely things and plenty of room to welcome guests. This is set up against the reality that my home and the stuff inside count for nothing. I'm doing a crumby job of balancing this tension and have been in a constant dialogue with the Lord about how this all plays out.

How do I create a home without letting discontentment consume me?

How do I make decisions without becoming obsessive, particularly when there are countless options?

How do I find joy in a task that brings out insecurities?

How do I shop and be a responsible steward of the money God has given us?

How do I buy a new sofa, pick paint colors, and decorate a front porch in our suburban home while being brave enough to look at poverty and find my place in a broken world?

This tension is so thick and so heavy I get lost in it. I go through cycles of purging, loathing excess, and utter disgust for our boxes filled with stuff we never use. I enter a state of constant awareness that everything I buy will one day end up in the trash, but ironically, find myself wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby just days later in search of decorations to fill a guest bedroom.

These past months have been filled with so many more questions than answers. God has not asked me to wake up each morning in a state of sorrow, apologizing for all I have that so many do not, but He is asking me to do something.

I have been working through the Bible reading plans provided by She Reads Truth. We recently finished reading through I, II, and III John. A few weeks ago we read these words:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him... 
The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 
I John 2:15 & 17

This world is a sinking ship.

There is no doubt about it. I am living on a sinking ship that will one day go under, and Satan is urging me to cling to it, to tie myself to it. I know better.

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. 
Jonah 2:8

Satan is getting such a kick out of filling my mind with lies and shame.  

Your home isn't good enough. 

You never should have bought this place. 

You live in this lovely home but are still complaining? 

Don't you know how much you have? Shame on you. 

Once you have this house together, you can invite people over. 

You deserve more. You deserve better.

Look around. Keep comparing yourself. You're not cutting it. 

I am calling him out on these lies. Instead, I will cling to my Jesus even as I decorate shelves and hold up paint colors. I will invite friends into our work-in-progress because I refuse to be someone Satan uses to perpetuate his lie that homes must be perfect. I will stop counting on this sinking ship, this fading world to bring me joy and affirmation because I do believe God can change a dissatisfied, greedy heart like mine. He can take my mess and transform me into a woman who believes, "The Lord is my Shepard, I have everything I need" (Psalm 23:1).

I am quite certain this will be a daily lesson - truth spinning in my mind, but not always playing out in the quiet of my heart and intensity of my actions. I imagine myself reading this post again and again over the next months, maybe years, as I plead with Jesus to be my one delight, my one obsession. I will keep talking to Him about this tension because He hasn't put it in my heart to ignore.


  1. I love everything about this post. And I wish I could come see the home the Lord has blessed you with, cords and toys and all. Because of who you are, I bet it is one of the most welcoming, comfortable places. I too feel all of these tensions and lies and this whole nesting process has brought me to some hard questions. I wish we could chat about it over coffee and then go to Hobby Lobby and maybe some thrift stores together with our envelopes. Thanks for sharing your life and your thoughts and prayers with us. Love you!

    1. This comment was such a blessing to me and makes me miss you oh. so. very. much. I might be on Allegiant Air website right now looking at prices for next winter... :)

  2. Oh, Joy! I remember the year we were asked to host the Christmas party for our neighborhood. I had just stripped off the terrible wallpaper in the kitchen (you know, where everyone wants to hang out). I didn't want to be rushed into deciding what to do with the walls, so I handed Zach and Lindsay and box of colored chalk and told them to decorate the walls with Christmas scenes. Genius idea!!! Definitely a hit at the party (or else we just had great neighbors and friends). It broke my heart to cover it up with paint. You'll get it decorated in time for graduation, and then realize it didn't bother anyone but you. Debbie D.

    1. This is an amazing idea! Totally #momforthewin moment!

  3. I absolutely love hearing your heart through this. I count it a joy and privilege to be challenged by you and be welcomed into your love filled home no matter how many trucks are on the shelves, we feel right at home. Your love for Christ shines through in all that you do. Thank you for challenging me this morning.

    1. And thank you for being such a great friend to toss around ideas with..over and over and over again.

  4. This is a such a timely post for me. Thank you. We are also people still settling in to the house we bought 2.5 years ago - there are still many blank walls and empty frames. Just this weekend we rearranged to convert the dining room mostly into a playroom, totally shattering my 'this is what a grown up house is like' image and trying to embrace what makes this living space more useful for us right now. So now the toddler sized trampoline is next to the china cabinet and next weekend I'll host brunch in the kitchen and remember that my community it built in Christ, not in coordinating dishware.

    1. It makes me so happy to hear you're opening up your imperfect (yet child-friendly) home! Keep doing that! It is a blessing for others to see you being real.