This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I am Laura Wifler and I have my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen, here. First off, we want to encourage you guys, if you have not yet, come find us on social media. We’re on Facebook, we’re on Instagram, and on Twitter and we’re @risenmotherhood for all of those platforms. We just do a lot of different things. We share a lot of things especially around the same topic as what that week’s show is on. We hope you’ll come find us for more encouragement and to communicate and talk with other women who are pursuing intentional motherhood. It’s a really cool community, and we’re really thankful for what God has done with it. We wanted to encourage you to get over there if you haven’t yet, if you’re on those platforms. Today, we are talking about decorating. We’re not talking about the Pinterest, Instagram decorating if that’s what you think.
Emily: It’s always hard. Laura and I, as we were talking through this, we were like, “Oh, how do we describe exactly what we mean?” But just the idea of, as women, as moms, we want to take the environment that we live in, regardless of how big or small it is and just make it a place where those who are in our home feel welcome—kids, husband, even the people who come to visit. That can look a lot of different ways, but God has certainly used a creative beauty, and so we want to reflect that.
Laura: Decorating can be one of those things. I love to decorate, for the record. [laughter] I really enjoy putting together a beautiful and functional home environment, I like helping friends out with it, I like receiving help from my friends.
Emily: Laura’s helped me out a ton.
Laura: It is something that I really enjoy, even just for the aesthetic of it, which is a great and good thing. But one thing we want to talk about today is that—whether or not you feel like you have talent in this area or you have gifts in this area, or you even have one big hindrance—we can feel like our home isn’t the right home yet or our next home will do that. It’s something that we can easily put off, or want it to be magazine-worthy, want it to be Instagram-worthy before we do it. There’s just a lot of emotions tangled up with decorating and how we make our homes function. But no matter what, most people, no matter how minimalistic you are, you think you need a chair, you need a bed, or you need a dresser. You need a few things, and you have to pick those things. Picking those things is decorating, whether people want to think so or not. The chair you sit on, you picked it, you probably purchased it, or maybe it was given to you. But there’s decorating elements in that, and there’s a way to create a home intentionally for your family that also has beauty and significance. We’re going to talk about balancing those two things and what the Bible says about it, of course.
Emily: Of course yes. It would not be Risen Motherhood without trying to understand how does the gospel play into this. That’s one of the things that we keep coming back to, and harping on, is these things can seem very materialistic or cultural. They can also be redeemed and used purposefully for the glory of God. A lot of times it just takes us thinking about it more critically. So jumping in right in here into creation. Honestly, this is one of the most convicting points for me Laura, of realizing God is a great creator of amazingly beautiful things. He’s the most awesome designer ever.
Laura: Oh my word. If you just ever take a second to look at the Rocky Mountains, or to look at a flower petal or any of those things, and you just realize no-one could have ever done this or thought of this on their own. He loves beauty. Even outside of what we read in the Bible, all of nature proclaims his glory, and people have an awareness of God, of a higher creator, just by looking around at the beauty. I mean look at a rainbow. How beautiful!
Emily: I don’t know much about math, but I know that there are supposedly like patterns in everything. It’s not chaotic. It was well designed, it is so intricate, it’s so thought out. Even if you look at the Old Testament—I remember a few years ago when we were studying through the design of the tabernacle or the priestly garments, and you’re going like, “Wow.” Every single part of that had beauty and symbolism and it was luxurious. It was the nicest materials they could possibly get their hands on. It’s really interesting to even think that God obviously values beautiful, well-designed, well-thought out, organized things. He’s a great artist.
Laura: That’s the point that we want to drive home is that our God is a creative God. He loves great design. He’s also a God of order and of function. Good design really takes good function into account. We see it in the scriptures; I am just thinking about 1st Corinthians 14, “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” Right there it’s just laid out that he is not a God of chaos and craziness. As we’re starting to hit on, if you even just take a second to look at science, and see how orderly God is with the way our bodies are made up, the seasons, the earth’s rotation, or like all the planets don’t run into each other—all of those things. Or how numbers are used in the church, or used in the Bible, and patterns, the Levitical law, and the order that goes with that. It’s pretty cool when you start trying to find it in the Bible.
Emily: I love thinking about the order that he’s intentionally given to us within our churches and within our families. There is again, design in a way that things are supposed to work together. They aren’t just thrown out there; God has a specific plan for the way that they work best.
Laura: And we just want to make an important note here too that to know that while God loves order and function, he’s not always predictable. We want to make that clear here. He doesn’t fit into a perfect mold; he’s still a wild God, and we can just see that in the life of Jesus, and how he was consistently doing the exact opposite of what cultural logic would have rendered itself to. We can see it in the life of a lot of the people in the Bible. Take Job for example. We don’t really know the why. Just remembering that just because God is the God of order, doesn’t mean that...
Emily: He’ll fit our order.
Laura: Yes. He will do as he wills. He’s not always predictable, but he is always good. Then we have the fall, right? We have the fall deal.
Emily: Yes. The fall specifically, again, thinking in terms of decorating, bringing it home here. We as humans now with sin always use every possible opportunity to have things point to us.
Laura: We are so good at that. [laughter]
Emily: So especially in this area, decorating can be this additional way we’re like, “Oh, look at me. Look how many financial resources we have,” or “Look how beautifully I can pick things out.” It just becomes another way to compare and another way to display our own selfishness and it can get really gross. We can really distort it.
Laura: We can definitely fall into either a lot of pride or discontentment or despair in our decorating. As Emily was talking about, you can have pride in some of your talents and start to worship all of those created things, even yourself, over the Creator and the original designer. That’s something that we have to remember that we are never worth being prideful in ourselves, because God’s holiness is our standard and we’ll never measure up to that. We have a whole show, episode 18, just about comparison. If you’re wanting to dive into that or feel convicted on that within design, that’s a good show to listen to.
On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many moms I’ve talked to that fall into despair or discontentment with decorating life. Em, don’t you feel like that’s more common maybe?
Emily: I go there a lot. And we’ll probably get more into this—there’s Christian freedom in this. This is, again, another way that we’re living out the great commission, but we can feel like, “Because I don’t look like something I saw on Instagram,” or “Because my friend’s home is really well decorated, I don’t feel like mine looks as good.” We can start to get self-focused and focused on the wrong things—stuff instead of people. We have more episodes on that as well.
Laura: We’ll link it in the show notes. You just have to be careful to not let it hinder your life if you’re discontent with what’s going in. That’s a common thing is that we become introverted and weird about what our homes look like. I do that, I am like, “I don’t want anybody over because this doesn’t look perfect.” We need to remember that our homes are designed to serve us in helping us to serve God’s purposes and to fulfill the Great Commission. We’re not meant to serve our homes. So if you’re feeling like you’re in enslavement to what your home looks like and lusting after these different images that you see online or at your friend’s home or a specific lamp that you really need to have, you need to remember to check your heart in those things. To make sure that really your home is in its proper place and what it looks like is in its proper place—where it’s just serving you in being able to participate in the great commission and to raise our children to know and love Jesus. It is literally a vehicle. It is not the end all, be all. So it’s really important that we’re finding out our true source of life in Christ and not in the new concrete counters that we really, really want.
Emily: That goes back to the heart of what we try to talk about on every show which is just that our identity is found in Christ. That’s what the gospel buys us and that’s where we are now defining ourselves. When we know that we have all of our needs met, and this is just a short time where we have a specific purpose and mission to accomplish. Then these other things are, like Laura said, they’re good and they can be useful, but they’re not the ultimate thing. We can have seasons maybe where our home isn’t decorated the way we want or we can have seasons where it looks beautiful and we don’t have to take pride in it. But all of that, too, comes from an ongoing relationship with God and studying scripture and being reminded of that over and over and over again. We’re so forgetful, and I’ll literally get up from my Bible study and walk around the house, and be like, “Oh, I don’t have a rug for that spot yet, and I don’t want to have people over because we have this blank living room.” We’re just so forgetful. We have to keep going back to the truth over and over and over again.
Laura: To leave you with a little bit of practical here, as we work through making sure our heart motivations are pure, there are still some good guiding principles or questions to ask when you’re thinking about the design and decor of your home to help it function well for your family. At a high level, our first question is asking yourself, “What materials, fabrics, shapes, styles are best for the makeup of my family?” [laughter]
Emily: If you have little kids, it probably won’t include a lot of white on furniture, unless you really love Scotchguard, which Laura told me about.
Laura: I do love me some Scotchguard. I also love the washing machine and stain remover and of all those things. [laughter] This will change as your household changes. So with littles, it is making sure you have a lot of soft surfaces; maybe you have indoor, outdoor fabrics or rugs or you’re keeping your breakables on the side, like Brad and Emily’s house. You guys, it’s so funny. If you walk into her house, everything is adult shoulder-height up.
Emily: It actually might be like 6ft and up [laughter] because my kids can climb.
Laura: They have removed anything that’s lower than 6ft in their home. It just takes away some issues. Sometimes that’s the wise thing to do. One thing that my parents always pounded home into me that is always a good thing to remember is if you are devastated when it breaks, you shouldn’t have it. There are family heirlooms or really special things that are different, so protect those. But if you’ve got a vase out and it’s within touching distance of your children and it breaks, you know, my mom would just be like, “Whatever.” I used to have an open hand with it, and if you’re caught up in feeling anger and frustration and you’re just devastated, it might be not the right time in your life to have that. It’s just a quick note.
Emily: That relates to our next question we wanted to bring up, which is how does our home, in the decorating, reflect our interests and the things that we value as a family? This could be everything from mom and dad’s personal style and personal design choices and preferences down to thinking through the practical, missional aspects. Like people who always have a spare bedroom because they like to have people over to stay the night. Or people who have a larger-than-average kitchen table because they know that they have people over for dinner a lot, and they like for everybody to be able to sit in the same place. It is both the beauty aspect of, "How does this reflect our family?" but also the, "How does it reflect our family’s priorities and the way that we want to serve the kingdom of God? Have we strategically used our home in a way that promotes that?"
Laura: Then drilling that down even further, thinking about, in what ways can I create special places for my family members and their unique talents and gifting? It’s a little more specific than what Emily was mentioning, which is still a great question. But saying like, “I’ve got a son who’s obsessed with Legos, let’s figure out a way to organize those beastly things." I am just starting little Lego world and it is killing me. I don’t know how you feel about it.
Emily: I hide the Legos right now, but I know they’re good; they’re going to start coming out more.
Laura: You’ve got a ton of them, I am sure.
Emily: When you step on a Lego, it’s about the worst feeling ever.
Laura: Yes, I want to die. [laughter] So things like reading nooks, or maybe dad needs an office. Maybe it’s a play room for your kids, or if you have older kids it’s having the TV room with a fridge so you’re like the cool people. [laughter] Basically, this means intentionally thinking through and placing a high value on the things that will serve your family well.
Emily: Speaking of family, our husbands are a huge part of that. This is a question we sometimes don’t ask right away. [laughs]
Laura: Maybe we don’t want to know the answer. [laughter]
Emily: What does my husband want? What is it to him? And just to give a really practical example, my husband, Laura’s brother, is an engineer by training. He is a very efficient, excellent, driven man, but he loves no clutter, minimalism, and keeping things as simple as possible. When we designed our house to build it, he thought through every door swing, every detail of the whole house. That was a little bit hard for me because I am a little bit more knick-knacky and eclectic and I want these cool, fun pillows.
Laura: She’s got the Bohemian style you guys.
Emily: Things like, “Why are you putting little figurines on the shelves honey? I don’t like that.” [laughter]. But over time I’ve come to really appreciate that’s my husband’s preferences and his style, and actually it really helps our family function well. It’s a hard question to ask, but a really good one. It’s fun when your husband comes home and he just loves the place that he lives in.
Laura: Some guys have more opinions than others. My husband has no opinions so if he says like, “That’s a weird looking pillow”, I am like, “Oh, get rid of it!” because he has so few opinions. I really do want to take into account the few things that he has. The next one is, "How do you create spaces for people to connect and develop relationships?" This can also go with family values, but no matter what, all of us as believers are called to, again, spread the gospel and to use our homes as vehicles to help disciple others. This includes both your nuclear family and maybe a hospitality arm. Are there ways to arrange your furniture that will foster conversation better, even if it’s an intimate small one? Maybe re-thinking the layout of your room. Emily has a really cool coffee bar, speaking of her new house, for hospitality and I am super jealous of it. No I am not jealous, I am happy for her. [laughter] Then maybe creating a big space for kids to play, so you can have people over for play dates. Thinking through those spaces, how can they function best for the spread of the gospel?
Emily: Something to keep in mind, and again, this is super practical, is bringing in other friends who may be do things well. I have a friend of mine who’s super good at organizing, and many times, I have had her come over for a play date. She’ll see stuff around our house and be able to strategize in a creative way how I could use this space that I do have differently. So even if you feel like, “Oh, I don’t have all the pieces, or all the rooms that I want,” sometimes it just takes a strategic eye to help figure that out.
Laura: Our last question is, "How can I bring the beauty and creativity into our home?" Those first five questions are sort of order and function and priorities. Then this is where it gets really fun; I like to call this the second layer of decorating because it’s all decorating, even though this feels a little bit more like what traditional decorating is. This is where we can bring in the plants and maybe get flowers from the backyard or hanging up your kids’ artwork, adding throw pillows and blankets. Thinking through those things practically, like, “What would serve my family well to make this a space that we feel like we belong in, and that we enjoy spending time in? What would foster conversations and real heart connections?”
Emily: Just before we close out here, to bring it in, I am going to call it western-Christian-subculture, feeling that your home has to be decorated from the latest Target stuff or it has to have that certain standard. It can feel like, “Was that really attainable for all women in all households for all of time?” It’s like, “No, not really.” Just want to differentiate here real quickly, what Laura’s talking about, like bringing in some fresh, cut flowers, finding some plants, using your kids’ artwork. These aren’t things that cost a lot of money. These aren’t things that require some special design skills. It’s just valuing the beautiful things that God has created, seeing the beauty that’s in front of us and trying to show that, and point our family to this lovely loveliness in the lovely world that God has given us. That’s just something to keep in mind, that this isn’t about meeting a cultural expectation or even like a Christian sub-cultural expectation. This is just about wanting to reflect the gospel in everything we do, including the way that we create our home environment to bless our family and others. We will have a lot of resources in the show notes. There are some good books that have been written on this that Laura and I have read and some good articles. You can head there, risenmotherhood.com and definitely check us out on social media @risenmotherhood.
Laura: Yes, and thanks for joining us guys!