Monday, June 16, 2008

Suite Dreams

"A welcoming home is a place of refuge," writes Emilie Barnes in The Spirit of Loveliness. "A place where people worn down by the noise and turmoil and hostility of the outside world can find a safe resting place. A welcoming home is a place that you and others enjoy coming home to" (p. 15). These words speak to the deep need I feel for a serene space that at once relaxes and invigorates me.

The last few weeks of summer vacation have really taken a toll on my house. With our family of six home most of the day, I often feel that my day is consumed with chores. I am not a natural housekeeper, so just trying to stay on top of meal preparation, kitchen clean-up and laundry often leaves me with little time or energy to de-clutter and clean the rest of my house.

I have been focusing most of my attention this summer on maintaining the public spaces in my home, but last week I realized that my bedroom was in need of some attention. Half-empty suitcases stood against the wall as reminders of recent vacations and business trips. The children's toys and shoes littered the walkway, and piles of laundry covered the floor -- some clean and folded, some sorted for washing, and some gradually working their way from the clean to dirty pile. In an effort to take control of the laundry, I had temporarily set up the ironing board in the bedroom, but now it had been there for a week.

Soon I realized how much my neglected bedroom was bringing me down. Rather than providing a nourishing place of refuge, my bedroom was actually draining me of energy and joy. Awaking to the site of my ironing board, my first waking thoughts were of the mountains of housework awaiting me. And I arose already feeling defeated.

So last week I set to the task of creating a personal sanctuary. First I emptied my bedroom of clutter, then I vacuumed, dusted and cleaned every surface. Invigorated by the newly restored sense of order, I remembered the inspiration I have gleaned from my daily visits to The Nester. In her creative blog, she shares design ideas in her trademark witty, unassuming style. Always striving to balance home and family, she reminds moms like me, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."

So I thought about the rolls of fabric tucked under my bed. Years ago I fashioned window treatments out of sheets and pillowcases. I played with fabric -- looping, pleating and fluffing it until it looked just right -- then tucking under the selvage edges. But then we bought this house, and somehow I felt the rules had changed. I dutifully lined my curtains, sewed pretty trims on pillows, and invested a lot of time into every home improvement project I tackled. I had intended to make a canopy for the four-poster bed in our master bedroom, but I never could seem to find the time to make all the panels I would need. So I pushed my pretty pink chintz under the bed, and there it sat for more than five years.

Until I visited Nester's site and was reminded how much fun "mistreating" my home could be. Viewing her lovely windows, I realized that in the five years I have waited for a canopy, I never once even pulled the fabric back out from under the bed.

So last week I gave myself permission to let go of perfectionism. I brought the fabric out and played with it. I unrolled it, draped it, gathered it and cut it. As I allowed the fabric to puddle gracefully onto the floor and tucked under the selvage edges, I smiled realizing I had found the place of refuge my restless heart had been yearning for.

Emilie Barnes explains, "A refuge is not a hole where you disappear to eat and sleep and then emerge to go about the business of life. A welcoming home is where real life happens. It's where personalities are nurtured, where growth is stimulated, where people feel free not only to be themselves but also to develop their best selves. That caring, nurturing quality -- not the absence of noise or strife -- is what makes a home a refuge" (p. 16). When I created my bedroom oasis, I worried that my efforts might push the rest of my family out of the space, but instead I have found that the softness and tranquility have actually drawn them in. Our whole family has shared story time, devotional time and snuggle time under our canopy of dreams. And now each morning I awake ready to venture out from my sanctuary, eager to embrace the imperfect beauty that waits to greet me beyond my bedroom doors.

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