The Intentional Home
by Karen Stott
Home should always be the place we feel the most seen, the most treasured, the most loved. Yet many times, often times, the sacred place that our soul is meant to rest, and our hearts are meant to be filled up, can be the very thing that drains the sparkle right out of our eyes.
Between the laundry, the meal planning, checking the mail and sweeping the floors, cultivating an environment that restores, lifts up and helps call our family members into greatness can sometimes be the last thing on our minds. And don’t worry, if this sounds all too familiar. I’m raising my hand right there with you.
With all of the things I have to juggle as a mama, wife, homemaker and business owner, I’m often tempted to throw up my hands and surrender to the fact that this is just the way life is. But is it really? On one hand that feels great. It seems easier to just let what really matters fall to the wayside of what’s on my to do list. But on the other hand, there’s this ache inside that is crying out to bring magic into the mundane.
I want laughter to replace the tired sighs of not enough time, and not enough energy. I want kind words and edifying conversation to fill the spaces that’ve been silent.
I want possibility and hope, joy and connection to be the mantra of this place where I spend my days and raise my family.
As I’ve been mulling this over the last several years, the word intentional has echoed through my heart. I’ve realized that we don’t have to settle for mediocrity, and check lists, and disconnected days. We hold the keys to the atmosphere and attitude of our homes. And as much as I wish that this wasn’t true, it can all start with me.
Every choice I make as I go about my day can bring me closer, or drive me further from the woman, mama, wife and friend that I want to be. And just as importantly, those same choices can bring our home closer to the atmosphere I desire for my family to have, or damper that dream all together.
After experiencing a long season of tension, and walking on eggshells in my own home, I became even more aware of the power the atmospheres of our homes have over the health of our souls. God began breathing a deep passion in my heart to cultivate a place of rest, affirmation, laughter and peace between our walls. A place where all who entered would feel His presence, be able to take a deep breath, let down their walls, curl up with a good book, be fed well and laugh again.
I knew what I wanted our home to feel like, but I also knew it wouldn’t just happen on its own. It had to be intentionally chosen, cultivated and brought into our everyday rhythms. Changes like this take time and tending, effort and evolving. Since I knew I’d need focus and accountability to get where I wanted to go, I decided to hone in on four areas that I wanted to intentionally grow in the culture of our home: tuning in, truth, tone and time.
Tuning in became the foundational piece I wanted to focus on. Setting our hearts toward Jesus and welcoming His presence into our home was pivotal for changing the atmosphere of our home. Because of that, playing worship throughout our home whenever possible was one of the best decisions we ever made. As we get ready in the morning, and prep our meals in the evening, His truths, praises and goodness are being sung over us. Our kids have begun to sing along and worship God throughout the day, and the whole scene makes my heart fill with gratitude.
Secondly, I knew that truth was a large piece that I wanted to focus on. Not only God’s truth, and having His Words present in our home, but also speaking truth to each other, and about each other. Lying is something the enemy has been doing since the beginning to derail God’s children from following Him and thriving in their calling. He whispers lies about who God is, who we are, what our faith is like, what people think about us, and on and on. But this house, the space within these walls, and the voices inside can stand for truth. This means taking every opportunity we can to speak truth over each other. Through constant conversations, plastering post it notes on walls and mirrors and coffee makers, and written letters, we’ve established our home as one where truth is highly valued, and commonly spoken. This practice has helped us and our children identify the lies that are replaying in our minds, as well as encouraging us to always look for the truth in each other.
Tone isn’t exactly something I ever thought about until I had kids who were old enough to express their feelings. But after a few times of one child expressing to another child a seemingly simple statement while ultimately sounding like an angry version of a wookie, I began to investigate the whole voice reflection a little further. Turns out, unless someone is about to get injured, and you need to warn them from being harmed, there’s really no reason to raise your voice to communicate how you feel. We’ve now been practicing this tone adjustment theory for well over a decade, and I haven’t run into a single altercation where changing one’s tone when speaking didn’t lead to a better solution. We all have this innate desire to be seen, and respected, and loved. Yet so often we talk to each other with annoyance, frustration or dissatisfaction for how someone else is acting. The truth is, we can communicate the exact same message while maintaining tact, respect and a voice of love. And when we take the extra step to calm down, take a breath, regain our composure and use a loving tone, everything changes. Walls come down, feelings of being attacked are diminished, and the opportunity for reconciliation and a positive outcome go through the roof. And over time, the entire tone of your home changes, from one where the people we love are on edge, timid or nervous of making a mistake, to an environment of love, acceptance, support and peace. Greeting people in a tone of love allows us to communicate what we need while building the relationship up instead of tearing it down.
Another pillar we’ve clung to in our home is that of guarding our time. The world seems to be speeding up and pulling us in more and more directions the older that we get. And as much as I wish it weren’t true, no one is going to guard our time for us. We must take that action ourselves, and it must be a proactive intentional choice. It’s been said that if we don’t give our dollars a place to go, they will seemingly fly away. And the same is true with time. If we don’t delegate our time, and safeguard it, the minutes and hours and days and weeks will fly by, unaccounted for, and we will get to the end of our month, or year, or life, not knowing what we even did with our time.
In our family, we decided to safely guard family meal time. Even on busy nights when we are jolting from one activity to the next, and we have to pick up something to go, we make a point not to eat it in the car on the go. This isn’t possible 100% of the time, and we understand that. But aiming to make not eating in the car a habit has been a huge gift to our family. We are often seen carrying bags of food in from the car between activities, grabbing real plates and glasses, dumping hamburgers and fries onto our plates and sitting down to pray together. These times together around the table have become foundational for our family to remain connected and involved in each other’s lives. Especially as the kids have gotten older and busier.
Engaging together has been another thing we’ve intentionally chosen to redeem our time together. We put devices aside and pick up card games. We turn off the TV and head outside to shoot some hoops, or have a picnic, or play with the animals. It’s hard at times to sit down on the floor and play with our preschooler, or play a game for the 100th time with our middle schoolers, but intentional, focused, present time has become the glue that ties us all together. And I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.
As we’ve cultivated these things in our home over the last decade, it’s become common for others to enter our home and say to us, “Wow, it’s just so peaceful here.” To which I simply nod, smile and say thank you. These people are dwelling in the fruit of years of tilling and tending. Enjoying the goodness of intentional choice, after intentional choice to tune in, speak truth, curate our tone and be engaged with our time.
And I’ve never been more thankful for the harvest.
Karen Stott is a visionary, entrepreneur and farm girl. Founder of Pursuit Community and Haven Hill Ministries, she believes that the good stuff is worth fighting for. Karen and her husband, Isaac, live on a small farm in the Pacific Northwest with her 3 children, 2 puppies and 14 chickens. Follow on Instagram @KarenStott and www.karenstott.com
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