Thursday, April 7, 2011

House plans

We're doing some work on our house. We've been in the design phase for awhile, arranging and rearranging some of the spaces in our home. We've changed our minds so many times, in fact, that yesterday as I was logging expenses, I asked Corbin if what we've paid our architect is "normal."
"Sure it's normal," he said. "Normal for three sets of house plans."

In this stage, our biggest questions have centered around, "What do we need in the coming decade? What kinds of spaces do we desire for our family, our marriage, our kids?" But along with the physical planning, I find myself doing some relational planning. It's not just what kind of home do we want build, but what kind of environment do we want to create? Corbin and I both grew up in "open door" homes. Pretty much anyone and everyone was welcome. Full rooms, full of people, and usually full of good food.

And as I think back on my own childhood home, it wasn't overly spacious nor was it impeccably furnished. I think every valuable vase was broken by the time we were introduced to a soccer ball. I remember getting new sofas in junior high, not realizing at the time how long my mom had patiently waited to replace the faded olive green and gold tapestry furniture. Our carpet showed a worn path from the sliding glass doors to the hall bath, as thousands of footprints wore a trail running from the pool to the bathroom. And back. And then our bedrooms. Every now and then Mom would declare our rooms a toxic war zone and send us to clean them up. But she decided early on that she didn't want to spend her time nagging us, and since she had to walk past our rooms multiple times a day to get to her own, she simply closed our doors. Problem solved.

Our home was simple, but it overflowed with love and beauty and joy. Mom is a gardener, a do-it-yourself landscape architect, and intentional with long-term planting. In the nearly three decades my parents lived in our Wren home, the backyard pool and lawn inhabited hundreds (thousands?) of kids and families. When it sold just a few years ago, the single mom who bought it communicated her appreciation for the beautiful backyard.

My brothers and I hosted a zillion sleepovers, much to Dad's dismay. We'd stay up all hours, watching movies and talking in the one living area our home afforded, not far from the master bedroom. Since my father usually worked early on Saturday mornings, he made one, simple rule: If you wake me up, you go to work with me in the morning. And we did. Yuck.
Not only did it quiet us down, but it motivated all of us kids to avoid careers in painting and remodeling.

Anyway, as Corbin and I plan and think and dream about changing our home and yard, I am convinced that my heart yearns for an open home. A place that welcomes people and peace, not perfection. A home where I make daily decisions to value my children over my china. Where worn carpet and smudges on furniture simply represent the people who live and relax here. In light of choosing paint colors and fabrics, I hope to be less concerned with what's in our home than who's in our home. 

I love beautiful things as much as the next person. And I probably value order even more than the next. In fact, it's the lack of order and cleanliness that gets me. I struggle with resting in the midst of the "fullness" of our home - stacks of papers, piles of shoes, closets that beg to be organized - again... And as much as I tell myself I'm just wired that way, that I need for everything to be in its place, I recognize that my children are going to enjoy their Mom a whole lot more if I learn to let it go.

So how do I foster an "open, full" home, without going nuts from the chaos it breeds?
I don't know the whole answer, but this song helps.
Allen Levi's words in are a salve to me, not only in thinking ahead, but even now, in our much-loved, far-from perfect, very lived-in home. It reminds me of all the things that make our home truly lovely, and all the things that don't. Enjoy -

Here is a song about two houses side by side on Baxter Street
One's always a little bit messy, the other is perfectly neat
One house is a landscaping legend, it's a pristine example of class
The other has bikes in the driveway, and the ballgames have killed all the grass.

1412 is a magazine cover, 1420 is covered with kids
One's just a picture postcard, but the other's where real people live. 

1412 is the house of a lawyer - a ghost with two kids and a wife
It's been said that they really do live there, but it's hard to find flickers of life.

1420 is a study in chaos, every year on the 4th of July
When the kids fill the pool for the big bar-be-que and the neighbors are sure to stop by

1412 is a magazine cover, 1420 is covered with kids
One's just a picture postcard, but the other's where real people live. 

Now my house a curse or a blessing? Does my house have the warmth of a home?
Does my door say "Please enter - you're welcome?" Or does it say "Leave me alone?"
We can keep our worlds free from intrusion, we can keep our lives neat as a pin
But just how can we love our neighbors if we don't let our neighbors come in?

1412 is a magazine cover, 1420 is covered with kids
One's just a picture postcard, but the other's where real people live.
One's just a picture postcard, but the other's where I'd like to live.

1412 - 1420 which will it be?