Our move to Austin from Dallas back in 2015 was significant. We left behind a two-bedroom condo with a two-butt kitchen, and a slab of patio. We moved into our first house with two stories and five bedrooms, set on a third of an acre tucked back in a caul-de-sac like we wanted, just 20-minutes from downtown. It had taken us about two years of prayer and planning for all the circumstances to align to make that move.
Despite a lot of “stuff” to move, we lacked about 1,000 square feet worth of furniture for our new home. After our down payment, the moving expenses, and having to finance the purchase of all new appliances, while still carrying our other home as a rental property at the time, there was not much for me to work with budget-wise for décor.
I was also physically limited at that time since I had fallen down the stairs right before our move and badly sprained my ankle. I was hobbling in a boot and unable to drive for our first three months in our new town. My husband was commuting to work in Dallas half of every week, and since it was 3+ hours each way, he stayed up there. So I was often homebound in a new neighborhood alone.
I recall the excitement of having our first house and the mounting frustration amidst the challenges. As a creative, the new home decorating I had always wanted to do was pitted against limiting circumstances. Meanwhile, I was laying the foundation of my nonprofit iAmplify, and the startup phase always requires the greatest amount of effort.
The reason to celebrate came when half of my family made plans to travel to Austin to visit our new house the month after our move. With my dad and my brother’s family of five coming in, we decided to have our house blessed during their visit, followed by a housewarming party.
With visitors coming, the focus shifted to getting the essentials for visitors. We needed another bed for the second spare room, plus areas to accommodate the kids sleeping. The covered porch would not house twenty-five of us, and the Texas heat of July required shade, so we got a yard tent. Other commodities for comfort were added to the list. So the small, secondhand table for four with the broken leaf would need to suffice in our new dining room alongside a folding table. And the sofa with the slipcover, old armchair, and the rocking chair from my childhood would need to remain in the living room.
If I were to ask any of our family and friends what they remembered most about that time, the style (or lack thereof) of our home would not have been on the list. But number one would have been that everyone had a wonderful, memorable time together. Just having a place to gather as a family is what mattered most. And having our family gathered in our house is what made it finally feel like our home. It brought me back to my childhood, where my stay-at-home mom entertained family and friends on the regular. In those days, my mom was considered a homemaker.
Although the term homemaker is rarely used today, it not only a vocation, but is still seen as an official occupation to list even on a tax return. Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines homemaker as “a person who manages a home and takes care of the house and family as their main job.” The value of homemaker is often overlooked. Other definitions often point out that the homemaker does not make outside income. Since her full-time work involves caring for the most precious people and the place where they reside, that makes sense, but comes across as less prestigious.
Our family home was more functional than stylish. Having four children within eight years, we were my parents’ primary focus and investments. We were the poster children for “this is why we can’t have nice things.” Like the time when my brother burned the carpet with the iron, or when I spilled nail polish remover and ruined the finish on my mother’s beloved sewing machine cabinet.
Mom put in a lot of time and effort keeping our home clean and orderly. That was what mattered to her, and there was never any pressure to make our home look curated. My parents did the hard work themselves of painting, wallpapering, ripping up carpeting, and the like. It took years for us to get that new grey carpeting and update our furniture. And the small kitchen that Mom had dreamed of, which would involve tearing down a wall to open it into the dining room, never happened. But that did not prevent family gatherings, visits from friends, or events being celebrated in those spaces.
Now I see in my own home that a house becomes a home over time, with care and love. The walls and roof create a dwelling, a house. A home is a space where people fill it with meaning and memories. A space where we have been living out our vows. Where we have said our prayers and broken bread. Where we have experienced the everyday living alongside milestone moments. Where we entertained friends and family, and offered our home to the people God knew would need it. Where we could bring my dad over to share time with us in his final months, and later bring my mother-in-law as a refuge while grieving her husband was still fresh. Where we could be creative as well as work from home. This home has been a place that brings unity and communion. And so, in its own way this home been a little glimpse of our eternal home, heaven.
As a recovering perfectionist, I look around and often see what remains undone in our home. But even the imperfections of our home tell a story. The mark on the wall from the suitcase as we hauled it downstairs for the trip to Ireland and the UK, and the scratch on the table from the time we were working on that project… That is how I can work on reconciling the Pinterest Boards I’ve made for our home with the chipped tiles, outdated cabinets, and neutral walls with cheap flat paint, the upkeep we haven’t kept up with, and the list of projects I want us to tackle.
I recently read something by a homemaker on Instagram, Katie Calabrese, that resonated with me. “We will find a lot more satisfaction when we stop being distracted by others houses and instead turn that attention to building our own homes,” Katie wrote. I hope to implement this mindset and focus as we continue to make this our home, and hope that it will inspire the same for you.