There is something mysterious that happens on the eve of company coming over. I have a theory that it is a gene that lurks quietly until word comes that a toddler you did not birth is going to come in contact with your carpet, and then it springs to life, Rip Van Winkle style, and suddenly you see dirt everywhere. You notice that the same pair of flip flops has been sitting by the door for weeks, you observe that dust bunnies have built a colony underneath your gold vinyl chaise lounge (what? You don’t have one of those? It has a story. Keep reading) and were just about to hold their first honest and free elections for mayor, and that your bathroom… never mind. Let’s not get into that. This has to be the twin of the gene that awakens the second the stick turns pink and you learn that you are going to be a mother, causing you to suddenly see sharp corners and slippy rugs that you never before observed. It is the Maternal Flinch Gene (I was going to try and abbreviate that to make it some more scientific… but it looks like I am abbreviating something else when I do that. I’ll let you figure it out yourself), and I cannot tell that it ever goes dormant again.
News that my southern buddy is going to pack up her adorable children (side note: when I say that, I am not being polite. Not everyone has cute children. There are definitely offspring that the kindest thing you can say is, “wow, they can really burp, can’t they!” So when I say these are stinking adorable children in every way, it is better than the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It is canon law) and bring them from light to darkness, from eastern to western Washington, it is the best possible news, bar none. My day is made. And the Hospitable Flinch Gene is activated, Siamese twin of the aforementioned gene. How have we lived like this?!?
My Southern Buddy is the height of classiness in every way and her home is one of the most peaceful places I have ever had the privilege of visiting. The interior is white. Fantastically white, with clean lines and thoughtful details, with a blend of antiques and modern furniture that is altogether pleasing to the eye and comfortable to be in. It is, in a word, hospitable, and the home is a reflection of its mistress, the height of resourcefulness and gracious living.
All of this comes rushing to mind as my various Flinch genes shake themselves out of mothballs. As much as I admire the clean, white and smooth, I have never seemed able to pull it off. When it comes down to it, I am drawn towards patterns and colors and probably an unfortunate level of busyness. I love gingham and learned the hard way that since I have covered my skin in patterns, I absolutely must not wear it — the hard way being my buying a black and white large check gingham blouse and my husband about vomiting in his mouth when I walked out wearing it. Awkward.
It would be a ridiculous waste of your time for me to describe my whole house. Let’s just take a snapshot, shall we?
My favorite corner of Feodora is my reading nook. The center of the house is built of brick, fireplace on one side, kitchen on the other, and off to the side is a built in barbecue. I’ll now pause while you contemplate the potential joys and hazards of an indoor barbecue. I assume that when it was built, they did not have carpet directly underneath it like it does now, so I use it as a bookshelf for cookbooks and a cake dome, with a towering bunch of pussy willows as a backdrop. Next to it is a small set of wood and iron shelves and an orange leather recliner that my mother found for 30 bucks at a St Vincent De Paul that I squirreled out of her house. There are stacks of books surrounding, in a system that probably only makes sense to me, right down to the top book being a less favored volume so that I don’t feel bad setting cups and water bottles on top of it and leaving watermarks.
I loathe the systematizing of books. What is the point of having them in alphabetical order, or by genre, or (chagrin!) by color?? I “organize” my books by affection — the most loved are the most accessible. They are like dear friends that I want to be able to reach out and commune with, quickly and often. This also gives me the default pleasure of being house librarian, as trying to find a particular book is quite impossible if you don’t ask the librarian where the heck she put it last (note I am not even attempting to describe the area next to my side of the bed).
I did promise you the story of the chaise lounge, didn’t I… Well, here is the thing. As newlyweds, we were blessed by the castoff furniture of many different households (who am I kidding? We still are and it is fabulous) and we housed a set of leather couches for several years. Made out like bandits, right? What young family wouldn’t love to have big poofy leather couches to go with their toddlers?
Hi. My name is Barbara.
I hated them from the get-go, despite knowing they would be easy to clean and did I mention free and beggars can’t be choosers etc? I finally reached a point where I decided it would be ok to try and find furniture that I actually liked. I made plans to sell the existing couches and I found a vintage/consignment furniture store that I loved from which to choose my replacement couch.
(Side note: one of my many quirks is that I dislike full sized couches. I don’t care what anyone else does, but for my own home, I like having to squish up a bit. My role model in this raised ten children and never had a piece of furniture larger than a love seat.)
The couch I set my fancy on was a consignment piece, French, black velvet with gold trim, curved back and arms — the least practical couch for a house with four children, all small at the time, and I swooned over it as only a young wife buying furniture for the first time can. While I was there, I stumbled upon the gold vinyl chaise lounge with it’s awkward arm rests and wooden handle that could kick your feet sky high and I was enthralled. Did you ever watch the movie “Auntie Mame” with Rosalind Russell? This could have been lifted straight out of her apartment. The store had just gotten it in, and they were willing to set both items aside for me while I raised the money. This meant that I sold the leather couches out from under us and we sat on the floor for a solid month while I scrimped and pinched to earn furniture that I chose myself. We named them Peanut Butter and Jelly, in honor of what we ate day in and day out in order to buy them! The chaise lounge may not be the most practical chair in the house (though it is quite handy for sprained ankles that need elevating above the heart), but there is something to be said for having furniture that makes your heart happy.
Herein lies the beauty, the exquisite grace that is the body of Christ! Our homes could not be more different, yet the aroma of Christ’s love pervades both. They have beauty because He gives them beauty, and the variation is a joy rather than a source of discontent and comparison. It is fantastic fun that we do not have to work out God’s good gifts in identical ways! And by all means — work them out! Bless the Lord with your gorgeous, open white kitchen and I will sing with you from my vibrant, cozy galley kitchen! Explore how to decorate, discover the wide variety of textures and fabrics and scents and styles that are yours to appreciate and use for His glory — you are free in Christ. Live as a free woman! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is GOOD, and this, our souls know very well.