[ I am going to be honest. Hosting His Presence began as a two-fold project. A place to share my passion for hosting the presence of Jesus both in my heart and in my home. I longed to share revelations from God AND all my tips for home design, DIY, and hosting gatherings. But shortly after I began this blog, I gave up my home and moved back into my parents’ house with my husband. Since I’ve been here (two long years now) I’ve refused to mention any of those passions on the blog. “I’ll just wait until I’m back in my own place,” I thought. But the longer I wait, the more I realize I just can’t anymore. That I was never supposed to anyway. And so, today, I introduce the Hosting His Presence “In Our Homes” category. In the category’s very first post, I would love to share with you the incredibly vulnerable journey I’ve been on. The journey that’s led me to accepting where I’m at and giving myself permission to decorate even temporary walls. ]
There’s a can of tan paint that sits in my parent’s garage. It’s been there for the last several years, and my mom has offered it to me on a few different occasions.
“Go ahead, paint the walls,” she says. “You’ve been here a while longer than you planned on. Don’t you want to make it a little more homey?”
She’s talking about my bedroom. The 10×9, two-tone pink painted bedroom that I was moved to 25 years ago when my brother was first brought home and I gave up my spot in the nursery across the hall. As far as I am concerned, it is the only room that has ever been mine though. It is the room I was read bedtime stories in, conquered childhood nightmares from, and rehearsed synchronized dances to all the best 90’s hits in. The room I sat up in as I wrote out college essays, and then picked out wedding colors and details from. It is the room I moved out of when I got married and moved in with Justin. It is the same room we moved back into, together, just over two years ago now.
First white, then yellow, lime green, and now two-tone pink. Mauve, maybe. Definitely more grown-up than the lime green. That’s what I remember telling myself during my freshman year of high school.
I had stayed home sick from school the day that those walls were painted. At first it seemed there was nothing to do but sit and stare at them. But I should mention I’ve never been good at resting. (Even now, I am writing this from outside the local coffee shop. I should be home in bed. It was only three days ago that I got my wisdom teeth removed, but there’s only so much lying around a girl can do before she needs some sunshine on her skin and a little movement in her bones.)
So I stayed home sick, but still I found the strength to push all my bedroom furniture to the center of my room. I found a couple rollers and the primer in the garage and I rolled those lime-green walls until they hardly showed through anymore. A difficult job considering how bright they had been. By the time my mom came home from work, she took a look around and… she laughed. I thought she would be shocked, maybe a little upset, but really she had grown to expect this sort of thing from me. We went out and picked out my new, mauve colored paint. Within a few more days we picked out linens and curtains, shelves and mirrors, even a few new wall hangings. The room was transformed, and it felt even more “mine” than before. Absolutely perfect for this new high school me. Not even bad for the college me that followed.
It’s funny to think about that now, when those “mature” mauve walls feel less like me than they ever have. My mom notices too. It’s why she pushes the tan paint. The cute flowery calendar and hand-lettered canvases have all come down and now, in their place, hang the few farmhouse accents I resisted shoving into storage with the rest of our belongings. They hang on top the mauve walls, desperately out of place.
Still, I refuse the paint.
You might think it sad that I sit and stare at those mauve walls and think about how much they deserve to be transformed again. They deserve more than the clashing pieces of this girl’s complicated life. They deserve to be transformed for something, even someone, else. A craft room. A laundry room. A guest room. One day a nursery for sleepovers with Grandma and Granddad, maybe.
Even I thought it sad once. I sat in that room and felt sorry for those mauve walls. Sorry for myself too. But my perspective is changing, and part of me wonders if it’s exactly the reason God asked me to sit here and look at them for just this long. This could be what He was waiting for me to notice all along… The difference between getting settled in this season hung right on top the resolve not to settle what was spoken for the next season.
Before we heard this call for Justin to quit his job and head back to school- before we wrestled through these years of wondering if we have heard correctly and why things still don’t look the way God promised- we called a small apartment home. I remember how exciting it was to slowly fill it with things that I thought told “our” story. No longer were the walls about defining me, but about defining us. I checked with Justin over and over again as I hung new pictures. Were all the people we loved represented? How was it possible to hang the faces of so many loved ones on so few walls? How could we ever choose which few verses would fill our home and feed our family’s faith?
We finally chose a gallery wall that fit the faces of all our favorites, and a vintage windowpane turned chalkboard that hung just above our entry table. Each week I erased past memory verses from that chalkboard and, in my best pretend calligraphy, wrote a new verse for us to walk past and whisper until it was written on our hearts too. Sadly, these things were not taken with us when our move happened. There was just not enough room, it was decided, for the large chalkboard and gallery wall in a 10×9 two-toned mauve bedroom. I packed them up with care and tucked them in storage unit 103, right along with the rest of that small apartment’s curated contents and every routine we had established as a newly married couple. I didn’t even know it, but pride was the packing tape used to seal each box.
Three months in the mauve bedroom soon turned to six months, six months turned to a year, a year to two, and I’ll be honest… I never memorized another Scripture. At least not intentionally the way I had before. In all my stubbornness, I refused to bring the traditions of my own home into a place that I did not intend to stay. Instead of my chalkboard, I wrote memory verses in journals that I resolved to open up daily and read, but never did. I compromised quiet time because I couldn’t read my Bible from my favorite olive Lazy Boy with the basket of blankets stored right beside. I grew selfish in my prayers because all I could think about was how none of this was supposed to be. My heart became scarred by the people who tried to step in and offer advice, as if the plan for Justin and I was obvious and we were the only ones who couldn’t see it. The more I refused to settle into this season, the more discouraged I became.
My breaking point came when a new construction went up across the street, a straight shot from the bedroom window I opened the curtains of first thing each morning. A Kay Homes sign out front boasted that it was the new home of the such & such family, and I sat staring at it in disbelief. I’m not sure if my jaw or spirit felt heavier in that moment. A couple not even married yet but already receiving a home- OUR blessing. What was going on? We had done everything we knew to walk in the Lord’s will.
It sounds terrible to admit, I know it, but still I don’t think I’m the only one whose been there. The only one whose felt overlooked by God as they’ve looked around at what others have. This past year I watched my husband put away his law enforcement certification, the edges just as crisp as the uniforms he never got to wear, and humbly ask God for new direction. I watched three friends lose their precious baby boys. I watched a man lose his beloved mother. I watched the heartbreak of those still awaiting spouses, and the desperation of those who imagined so much more for their young lives than the busy 9-5’s they are caught in. You can’t tell me that they haven’t been where I have been. That there are not others who have watched the hows and whys of life stack up all around them and who have desperately tried to make sense of them as they sat with them. I wish they would tell me how they handle it because I only knew to do one thing. Like a Jenga game when your tower seems to be teetering anyway, I kicked the pieces and figured I’d at least have some fun watching them fly. If it all were going to come crashing down- my future and all the plans I had for it- then I was at least going to enjoy it.
I went back to my storage unit and pulled out the Scripture art I could reach, and I hung it right where I could stare it down. Believing those verses, even now, felt bold and provocative. I painted and hung pictures- one of a pair of angels and the other of a church. They had drip marks and running colors, but I didn’t care. I indulged in Bible studies and books about seasons of waiting, and then I bought a bookshelf to keep them on when the collection grew too large. I didn’t even know if it would fit, but I brought it home anyway. What did I have to lose? I had a storage unit indefinitely, remember? When Justin’s grandmother moved out of her condo, she offered me her antique table with the vintage roses painted on it and I took it without hesitation. I stuffed that in the small room too. I bought a runner for it just because it was on sale and, later, a matching dish towel (which I hung from the pulls on one of the dressers since there is no oven in the 10×9 mauve room.) I lit candles and stuffed vases with eucalyptus leaves. I did everything shy of dragging out that dang tan paint.
And when I had finished, I looked around and I didn’t feel the fury of a kid who just had to kick the blocks anymore. I felt…. fulfilled. I started to realize that, even though it looks so much different than what I imagined it would, there’s still purpose for me here. There are still people to love, needs to meet, and prayers to be sent. I saw it in every piece I hung, just begging to be understood.
My Scripture art was one of the first pieces I took out of storage and hung on top those mauve walls. “Be still and know,” my life verse, was scripted beautifully across the wooden wall décor, hinting that there might be more to this season than first met the eye. Somehow I had let my life speed up again. I had been thinking that, if everything were fast-paced, this uncomfortable season would pass more quickly and I’d be closer to a home of my own, but it had never crossed my mind that I needed to be here. That I might as well slow down because there was a process at work. I had compromised all of the things that meant the most to me. Quiet time, Bible study, regular prayer. I figured I‘d get back to my routines when I got back to my own space, but truly there was something for me to learn as I adapted and created new routines here. You know the way a baby refuses medicine? They twist their heads and squirm to avoid a spoonful of the very stuff that will make them better. I’m quite sure that was me as I refused to slow down and let God do the work that needed to be done. When I finally hung this verse though, there was no more running. I let myself sink hard against the slatted headboard of my teenage bed, and I picked my Bible back up. Soon, I even bought two small chalkboards from the Target dollar bin. They weren’t my large, vintage-window-pane- turned-chalkboard, but they WERE the proof that it was time to start storing Scriptures in my heart again.
The paintings I hung, well, I painted each of them during girls nights. A friend had received an art kit as a gift, and inside were tiny tubes of acrylic paint no bigger than a AA battery. She brought out a pack of canvases and invited me to design one beside her. I hesitated because the tubes of paint were tiny. I didn’t know how she’d ever paint a canvas with the little paint she had, let alone having me paint one as well. The size of the tubes didn’t matter though. Only minutes later we would discover that, although sealed, every single tube in the art kit was empty. Rather than expelling messy gobs of paint when squeezed, they let out only faint (and hilarious) sounding puffs of air. We rolled on the floor laughing with every tube we squeezed and, when the last tube was squeezed, we left them in a pile right there beside our little newspaper mats and cups of water and we drove to the closest Walmart. We bought big bottles of the cheapest acrylic paint we could find and I wasn’t scared anymore to use it. In fact, I used more than I probably should have. I let my colors splash and water drip from my soaked brush as I designed those angels. We had so much fun that we made plans for another painting night the very next weekend and invited even more girls. That was the night I painted my church building. Those paintings are perched atop my jewelry organizer now. They remind me not to lock myself away until life is neat and tidy. They remind me that, even if I can’t invite others into my physical space, I can still make room for them in my life. I can surround myself with people I love and I can let myself laugh, even when I don’t have all the answers.
I found my bookshelf at Marshalls around Christmas time and asked Justin if I could have it. Usually he’s a hard “no” when it comes to bringing home furniture. (Which is why I find all my furniture on the side of the road and just re-finish it to make it beautiful. He argues less when it’s free.) But this time, Justin told me he would buy it for me as my gift. I loved the way it brought a little more “farmhouse” to our room. I stacked our books and journals on top of it, added a canvas that said “blessed,” a few pictures of Justin and I, and his grandfather’s infamous whiskey bottle. Poppy got that whiskey bottle on his 60th birthday. It came in a beautiful leather case with a black and white horse hand-painted on the front by the same woman who gave it to him. It was his prized possession and he often took his grandchildren into the depths of his walk-in closet to pull it out and show it off. We loved asking him what special event he was saving it for. Each grandchild secretly hoped it would be when THEY got married or when THEY had children. That he’d use it to celebrate THEM. But every time we asked, Poppy just winked and smiled. “I’ll know it when it comes,” he’d say. Poppy passed away with that whiskey bottle still unopened, and when Justin’s grandmother began giving away his possessions to the grandchildren, it was the one item Justin and I really fought for. We open our eyes and see it across from our bed on that bookshelf every morning. To us, opening our eyes to that painted leather case and unopened Canadian whiskey bottle is starting our day with the precious reminder to live always believing the best is yet to come.
After Justin’s grandmother, Nanny, went through and gave away many of Poppy’s possessions, she began the process of giving away other things from her home too. She planned to downsize and move into an independent living facility. In her bedroom was a small side table with vintage roses painted across it. One look and those roses were painted across my heart too. We loaded it into the truck, and dragged it in right beside the rustic bookshelf. The vintage romance of the table alongside the rough beauty of the bookshelf was a stark contrast. I had hoped one day these pieces of furniture would sit in separate rooms, each styled accordingly, but I chose instead to remember the words of The Nester… “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” Our home décor. Life itself. It’s all the same. I’m learning from these mismatched pieces of furniture that, as long as it is a reflection of who we are and what we love, then we can’t get too hung up on the small details.
And that brings us to the runner, and the matching dish towel. The dish towel hung from the pull of Justin’s dresser. They match beautifully, but they are so ridiculous in that bedroom. I laugh every time I see the dish towel hanging there. I laugh even harder when I think about how good Justin is to me. He hasn’t taken it down, and it’s not even like I told him what it means to me. That I see that dish towel hanging there and I remember the Scripture that says to “call those things that be not as though they are.” Even now, I can take small steps towards the future of my dreams. It may look silly to everyone else, but to me, it’s a demonstration of faith. I’m still choosing to believe that the Lord has a home for me. A home where friends will gather as I pull fresh baked, gooey chocolate chip cookies out of the oven with a blue ticking striped dish towel hanging from its handle.
All of these decorations and accents have transformed the small bedroom into a glimpse of the farmhouse that will one day come. And, yet, shining from behind them are those two-tone mauve walls. The ones that make me both shake my head and smile. The ones I refuse to paint because, to me, they’re a symbol of hope. A reminder that things aren’t always going to be the way they are now.
In one corner of the room, where the hardware for wood blinds used to hang so no painter could get behind, there is a trace of every paint color that bedroom has once been. I can see it all. The white, the yellow, the lime green, the mauve. Each of them felt perfect for me at one time and then, I grew older and the color I once had was no longer suitable. I needed a new color for a new season of my life. And guess what? It came. It might have taken time for my mom and dad to hear my thoughts about why this new color was necessary or to come up with the budget to repaint the walls, but they always did. Things changed just when they were supposed to, and I celebrated each the same way that I celebrated those mature mauve walls as a new teenager.
It’s why the can of tan paint remains untouched on the bottom shelf of the garage’s last shelving unit. These are not the walls that are supposed to be painted tan, but I have no doubt they will come when it is time.
After these past two years, I’ve learned there’s a difference between settling into the season God leads you into and settling what He’s promised for the next season. I hope that all the struggling endured to get here and the time invested to tell you my story will be enough to save you from having to learn the same hard lesson. I hope that you will take this revelation and clutch it close, resolving to truly live in the moment God has given you. It is so precious, sweet friend.
You can give yourself permission to adjust to and even to find joy in your circumstances all while refusing to give up the hope for what God said is to come. And when you do, you will lose both the fear to live in the moment AND the fear of what the future will hold.
So unpack your storage unit, girl. Take out the very best of who you are and what you love, and settle in with those things. Hang them right on top your mauve walls and celebrate this season while you have it. There’s peace here.
We’re settled, but we’re not settling.
[P.S.] I almost didn’t show you my oval picture frame with the paper still in it from when I bought it, but I decided that I’d rather be real. Yes, it really does sit there like that. No, I don’t have a picture in mind for it yet. Maybe, just maybe, one day it will hold a picture with the two tone mauve walls from which we came.