On a street in one of the boroughs of Greater Manchester lives our dream home. This house currently has 3 bedrooms with failed windowpanes, a kitchen that has more mould than bricks, a lean-to that is trying to pass as a conservatory, and an electrical wiring system that trips out every half an hour. But we are so excited at what it can be. The possibilities of the house transforming into our home is very tangible and what keeps us going through the long renovation process.
My younger years were spent growing up in a council house on an estate in Nottingham. I have very vivid memories of moving into our families first mortgaged house the day before I was 10. It seemed like a very big deal for my parents. I was far too young to understand what that truly meant to them. All I knew was that it was the start of something new. However, not much changed in terms of our relationships with each other. Since then, I have moved countless times into all sorts of properties and in a whole variety of places. One thing that I have learnt is that a house is just that; a house. Yes, it keeps us safe, dry, and warm (if we can afford to heat it). But when a house is transformed into a home it has endless possibilities to change and impact the people who both live in it and visit it.
But how do you even start transforming your house into a home? Let me start by telling you that it is not by buying beautifully handcrafted pieces of furniture, following the latest home decorating trends or up-cycling old bits of furniture. It starts with relationship.
I have a rule in our house. No-one is allowed to talk about private family conversations outside of the home without the permission of the speaker. For example, if one of my children has had a particularly gruelling day at school and just needs to vent without a filter, that is allowed. If they need to cry, work something out with the rest of us, get beaten in a board game or cry their eyes out at the last episode of the Chicago Fire season (that might have been me), they have the space and privacy to do those things at home. Those private moments that we share as a family are just that; private. They are used to help us create a deep bond and friendship that will last the test of time. They are not to be used as a gossiping tool with their own circle of friends at school to name and shame their sibling. This is an extremely helpful rule when creating a blended family as well.
A home should be a place where you are free to discover who you are, figure out what you like and don’t like, dream about where you want to go, find comfort in the words and arms of your family knowing that they will always have your back, grow, stretch, develop and feel loved. I am going to go into more depth about the silent pandemic of disconnected parenting, and how to reconnect, but for the moment, just start by talking to those you live with.
When we bought our dream house, we knew that it had seen and heard trauma. We felt it in the atmosphere of the rooms and saw the physical damage to the walls, and we heard the story of a traumatic divorce from our new neighbours. As we moved from room to room praying over it and invited God into the spaces, we felt a change. Praying over your house and its rooms is so important.
As we started the renovation work, we uncovered more and more damage. Hidden beneath layers of wallpaper were cracks, some small but some that could potentially affect the structure of the house. As we continued, I was struck by how often we do the same things to our own lives. We hit a traumatic event in our life that rocks us and shakes our mental health, but instead of stopping and dealing with the effect that it has had on us, we paper over the cracks and carry on. We learn to adjust our faces in the mirror before we face the world outside of our house and pretend that all is well. And for a while, maybe we trick ourselves into believing that if we ignore the crack, it will eventually go away. You already know the truth; it will not go away until you have faced the hurt. This is what a loving and nurturing home can help you do as well as a deep and personal relationship with Jesus.
The Bible recalls many events relating to the Israelites. Towards the end of the Old Testament, there is a story about how God allowed the Israelites to be exiled to Babylon. When Persia took over Babylon years later, God moved the heart of the King of Persia to allow the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Led by Zerubbabel, a group of Israelites made the journey back to Jerusalem and started the rebuilding project. Now there was a priest called Ezra, who felt moved to approach the King and ask for safe passage for all Israelites to return to Jerusalem, which the King agreed to. When Ezra returned to Jerusalem, the temple had been rebuilt, but the people were not living in a way that was honouring to God. They had spent a lot of time making sure that their own houses were pretty but had ignored God. Ezra came to Jerusalem and what followed was the last recorded spiritual revival in the Old Testament. There is nothing wrong with pretty houses, but if we ignore our relationship with God and those around us, it is as meaningless as covering cracks in your walls with rolls and rolls of wallpaper.
So, I wonder how you are building your home. Is it still a house with pretty things decorating the walls and floors? Or is it real, honest, a place of safety and growth, filled with love, laughter, snot and tears and authentic life? Keep on reading these blogs and we will have a look at how we can do this over the next few weeks and months.