HOUSE OR HOME….?

Bungalow….just the word makes me sigh.  The bungalow style of architecture is my favorite.  The exterior appearance is simple and comfortable, always including a front porch from which one can watch the world go by.

The interior workmanship is warm, cozy and wrapped in wood in the Arts and Crafts decorative design.  Fireplaces, inglenooks, claw-foot tubs, stained and leaded glass windows, breakfast nooks, built-in sideboards and book cases.

This quote from a 1910 bookplate inscription describes a bungalow and it’s idyllic lifestyle best:  “A small house, a large garden, a few friends, and many books.”

I live in a, not quite 1200 square foot, house.  I have made a life in this little abode for 38 years. Two children nested here until it was time for them to step out into a life of their own.  The one constant in this little house has been the presence of friends and family.

Once a year our children and grandchildren are all here together.  With only one bedroom, that creates strategic planning for sleeping arrangements.  Cushions come off chairs and couches, sleeping bags are lined up, and air mattresses inflated. It’s not the Ritz Carlton by any means.  But most important, at least to me, we are all together

Once a month a group of friends are welcomed into our house for a pot-luck meal.  There are five of us who worked together for a few years.  Our hearts were bonded.  Even though we are now scattered to other employment and circumstances, we continue to find time to join together with our families and catch up on our lives. This month we had the addition of my in-laws to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday.

We numbered 14 adults and 2 children.  One friend was concerned it was too many people in our limited space and didn’t want me to become overwhelmed.  I shared with her that I was one of those crazy mothers who had invited a multitude of family members to celebrate my children’s all important first birthdays.  I had managed to tuck at least 45 people into every room available for both of my children’s first birthday parties!

But….hospitality in my house used to have a dark side.  I wanted everything to be perfect when guests came.  In my preparations, I became a not-so-nice mommy and wife.  A sharp tongue, short temper, tension…..it was not a pleasurable experience to have friends over.

My children love the story of the time I was “sent to my room”.  In addition to cleaning and cooking to prepare for guests, I was also nagging and scolding.  My husband had finally had enough and informed me I needed to go to my room for awhile.  You can imagine my children standing there with wide eyes wondering what I was going to do.  For a brief moment, the day and my poor behavior replayed through my mind.  I knew I was in the wrong and shamefully headed to my banishment.  My husband’s final admonishment was…”don’t come out until you can be nice.”

One day, in brutal honesty, my husband told me he would prefer we no longer invite people over for meals and fellowship.  The strain my performance based behavior was putting on our household was too much.  You need to know this about my husband to understand the cost to him of his request.  He is the consummate people person. He doesn’t know a stranger.  He is outgoing and welcoming, accepting of people from all walks of life. He thrives around people.

That was my wake up call.  Why in the world did I become such a nut case when opening my house to friends and family?  Very simple really.   Insecurities, people pleasing, and performance for acceptance.  My BIG 3.  How grievous that I would cause our house to become silent and lifeless with my selfish inhibitions.

I can happily report that I now open my home to our friends and family without thought of dust bunnies, dirty dishes, grimy oven, stained and worn upholstery.  I have come to the conclusion that time is precious and fleeting and loved ones of much more value than sparkling windows and immaculate furnishings. And I can thankfully say that I haven’t been banished to my room for quite some time!

Did you happen to notice that I used the term “house” until the previous paragraph? A house is just materials and space.  A home is filled with an atmosphere born of peace and contentment.  A home reaches out and embraces you with love and acceptance.  A home is a safe haven from a world of disjointedness and pain.

May you find comfort in a home and not merely exist in a house….