What memories do you have of home? What about home makes it a place that you want to return to? For many, the memory has little or nothing to do with a place, but a feeling of comfort, of peace, or of possibility. When I think about the homes I long to visit, or bring to mind when I stop and think about it, they are not places, or trappings, or even events…they are feelings. I enter their presence with acceptance. If I have become down hearted, the experience there offers comfort, someone listening, or laughter to escape to.
A wise friend of mine who has four spirited adult children counseled me early in my marriage
“Just make home a place folks will want to come home to, the whole world judges, but home is about feeling loved…my children are not perfect, I am not perfect, my husband, God love him, was never perfect, but here we choose to accept what is with love.”
A Joyful Place Called Home began as a blog almost eleven years ago when we were a young blended family and I wanted to focus on creating a home where being loved was guaranteed. (as my husband would say, “I choose to love you despite however this moment feels” ) Children and adults of divorce have already been through serious losses in the love department, so re-establishing our home as a joyful place was the order of the decade for me. We had as much dysfunction in our family as others, but I wanted something new and old at the same time…a home where love lived.
These became my go-to list to consider:
1. Every heart in this home likes to be noticed. Whatever I am doing is never as important as taking the few moments it takes to stop, greet, and listen to whichever family member is experiencing when they come home or into my office after their day.
2. Whatever hurts isn’t made better by fussing back about it...often those hardest to love are those acting out because they are hurt. When tempers flare, or words are unkind, I work really hard to remove an emotional response, but to reflect their emotion in words back “you’re really mad I can see so…” and then make appropriate choices to help them dispell their situation. Some solution sets: time out on the topic for now, shelf the conversation until emotions are more handled, take a time out together…amazing how in the heat of life a shared experience of cooking/shopping/movies especially with presence or in one of my children’s personalities absence allows them to recover…
3. When difficult communications come assume the best not the worst. Teachers, counselors, other parents may share negative reports that are absolutely happening (after all I have to assume that the adults I trust our children with are already qualified to know what needs to be dealt with) so when an authority tells me my child/teen/co-worker is struggling I want to assume first of all that there is a reason (other than they wanted to disrupt my day) and that the person involved may be guilty as sin or there may be more of a situation than the reporter was aware. The conversations though start with my family and co-workers knowing I believe the very best about them, so if it isn’t happening there is a reason and the surface event may not tell the whole story.
4. Today starts over tomorrow. The Bible says to not let the sun go down on your anger. Some of us are living endless days if that’s the case. Our family table is a place where the question is asked “Does anyone need to deal with something to be at peace tonight?” You’ll be amazed what they say and what they face when it becomes safe to say what’s bothering them. Frustrations, fears, and fallacies come out at the table and there is this fab release when we help each other deal with what stresses us.
5. Do what you can do. When we first married, there were 4 new to each other siblings from 5 to 17 in a tiny two bedroom carriage house that had been perfect for the single mom, no so much for a family of six. We lived a really fun life that year though, we didn’t have “go out” money so we stayed in and did free things at parks. The best memories are made simply doing something….raking, baking, gathering to make the tree look nice, making things together. The work of the home is love made visible, and when we teach our children and spouses to help love each other through doing we are sending a powerful message. I personally am not geared to say “Oh wow, the kitchen needs cleaning I’ll just hop up and do that” but I know that it brings calm to my husband’s heart when he leaves in the mornings if it is…so I try (and often fail) to do so. Cookies made and baked together was a way to detox our struggles as teacher/principal/student at home. We called a territorial truce at 4 pm for “high tea” together. It was fun and yet it was serious, we chose to willingly make that about each other, not the stresses of the day. It was 25 of the BEST moments of investment in our day those years. We had cookie making down to a science!
6. It’s okay to tell it like it is. In our family there were six opportunities for someone to come in the house disgruntled. We learned to ask and receive whatever they rated the day. “how was your day?” “Tough”..and from that we could affirm that we are sorry and ask why. Being heard matters. Being left alone when one needs to be matters too. Adjusting routines to make difficult days better is essential. We plan some “time out” meals, movies, and board games to help on those days, whether chores are done or deadlines are met. An hour of play can sometimes make ALL the difference.
7. Tomato Staking works with Teens too Our children and spouses are influenced by being WITH us. Our family dinner table was a non negotiable through middle school. At high school two nights a week was non negotiable to be home and as a family for the evening. We asked our children to plan social events on Fridays not Saturdays where we had a more laid back atmosphere of family movie night or down time in our home. Dinner and breakfast together (on the days dinner isn’t possible) changes how we communicate. The very presence of children/spouses/teens at the table lets you know a visual if not verbal check in of what is going on in their lives.
8. When crazy happens to your week, don’t feed the beast. Today’s real time media, basketball schedules, work deadlines and clubs keep our families moving. We protect family members like crazy at our house. We look at the real time they need to sleep, play, practice, and do chores of the home. We consider meals on those busy weeks, higher protein, fewer sugars when tournament weeks come. When they were little bedtime was a huge focus, for if they slept they didn’t get as sick, fussy, or cause as many disagreements. Self preservation was 9/10ths of the law as a step mom and mom! Helping them establish no electronics zones/sleep zones/ study zones and habits are life long strengths for their lives.
9. As holidays come, define what matters to you…to them. There are all sorts of memories in my mind of childhood, but the most important ones to me are the ones where I felt loved and loved others well. Gift giving is not about money, its about knowing the heart and spirit of the receiver as well as the experience of giving. Our children gave homemade presents to family in our home, no buying allowed. It is still that way. We keep gifts down to 3 per child and under $50. Birthdays we focus on a bigger item, Christmas is about the time we spend doing as a family, the gathering, the extras we do like baking and delivering goodies. Christmas is about giving to others and being in awe of what was given to us, our lives!
10. Love heals lives where hearts are protected . Do you protect your head and heart? Do you protect your health? Do you think of the cost of not doing so? Going, going, going can so leave our daily life in such a tizzy that we learn to shut down feeling and just do. Christmas is a wonderful time to step off that train and work on being fully present in the moment. Love at home means focusing on that. Put away the unnecessaries, track how much time is being spent doing, or working instead of engaging with family. Protect your spouse or loved ones hearts by choosing them over whatever electronic gadget is in your hands. Respect, love, honor all start with being fully present. The messages we send are loud and clear through our actions, let’s choose love this season.
Wouldn’t that be a great message to come home to?