I was 22, fresh out of college, and living in Jordan when I set up my first apartment. I arrived in the country with two suitcases’ worth of belongings for a year’s stay. Most of that was clothing, but I managed to squeeze in three small items to make my place feel homey: good smelling hand soap, a little throw blanket and a fragrant candle. I had visited enough places overseas to know that pleasant smells and bits of cozy are a necessity.
My apartment was small but adequate, with one bedroom, a living room/eating area, tiny kitchen and bathroom. I didn’t need much, but I knew that I wanted to have enough room to invite people over for dinner and sit comfortably in the living room. Once I had my apartment secured I began the process of buying furniture and decorating my space–something I had been looking forward to for years! There wasn’t a Target, Ikea, or even online shopping options. Furnishing a home in Jordan consisted of walking the streets at Eighth Circle, sipping strong Turkish coffee with shop owners and receiving marriage proposals from old men who wanted their sons to marry the blue-eyed American woman who was just trying to buy a couch.
I finally secured dark brown living room furniture, a king-sized bed and an easy-bake sized oven. I had a few framed pictures of my family, a bath mat in the bathroom and some gorgeous Turkish pillows; that was the extent of my decorating. But it was home, and that little apartment became my refuge during the nine months I lived there.
Things have changed a lot since that time eleven years ago: I moved back to America, got married, gave birth to four children, and have lived in eight different apartments/homes. Two things, though, have remained constant: I still look forward to decorating and I still want my home to be a refuge. Creating a refuge in our home has always been something I felt happened pretty quickly, but having it decorated beautifully is something I’ve had to work at. It’s also a process that has evolved as my tastes and style have changed and our family has grown.
We’ve moved seven times in our 8.5 years of marriage and each time I find myself haphazardly hanging things on walls and decorating shelves and surfaces so that I can be ‘done’ and just enjoy my home. But, then, I don’t enjoy it because it is haphazard and things don’t always feel right.
When we moved to Virginia at the end of January, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I wanted to take time to piece together our home in a way that worked for our family–our budget, our time, our style and our day to day life. So, when I heard about the Cozy Minimalist Course, that Myquillin Smith was offering, I was more than eager to participate. And I am so glad that I did! Our first assignment seemed counterproductive to me. We were told to “quiet the room”, i.e. take everything out of the room that we were working on decorating. The furniture, things on the walls, books on shelves, curtains, etc.
It felt really strange to have a completely empty room. But then it started to feel really good. I was able to walk into that room, look around, and start imagining what purpose I wanted it to have. And as its purpose became clear, I was then able to start envisioning how I wanted to decorate it. So, I started pulling in chairs and tables. I would tweak a little here and there, always taking my time and choosing what I thought was best for that particular spot. Three weeks later I’m still tweaking, and our room is still pretty empty. But I know where I’m heading and I’m pretty sure I’ll love it when it’s finished.
I wish I could quiet my heart and mind just like I quieted my room. Just take everything out and slowly bring commitments, thoughts, relationships and life back in. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Quieting my room, though, has made me evaluate aspects of my life that might need to be rearranged. Areas that may be in need of a new or restated purpose, or perhaps just some prioritizing so that I don’t feel haphazard in my day-to-day tasks of mothering, wife-ing, and everything else. So, how does one quiet their mind? I think it begins with stillness. “Be still and know that I am God,” Psalm 46:10. Stillness can seem counterproductive. Especially in the busyness of life when there’s so much to be done. But when the Psalmist spoke of being still it was in the midst of talking about the earth giving way. You’d think maybe that would be the time to run. But, no. He says to behold the works of the Lord in stillness before Him. Because God is our fortress and refuge. As I take time to be still and consider God, He begins to expose areas of my heart that need cleansing. I can see more clearly where
I need margin. And I can better discern how He wants me to serve– in my church, my community, or in the lives of family and friends. Quieting a room helps you to see it in a new light, decide what purpose it will serve and what style it will reflect. Quieting a heart and mind helps you to evaluate what is necessary in order to live in a manner pleasing to the Lord–however it might need to change at any particular time. Sometimes we might find that everything was just as it should be, and we can keep on serving accordingly. Other times we might need to remove or rearrange in order to serve better. Ruth Simons, writer at GraceLaced, said in a post on Instagram yesterday:
…funny how sometimes, we can accomplish more by way of a leisurely heart than one frantic to keep up.
I want a leisurely heart, one that is quieted in stillness before the Lord so that I can serve God more fully, however that might look. How might you need to quiet your heart today?