A peaceful dwelling place means a home where people feel heard and respected

Some friends are naturally welcoming, naturally a bit crazy. That’s my friend Tanya Herrold. I think she hesitated a bit when I asked her to write a few paragraphs for this series on making our homes peaceful dwelling places because she doesn’t see herself as a writer, but I knew she would have wisdom to share. Take a minute and see if this helps…

Tanya’s daughter, Ayanna, enjoying dinner.

Family time is very important to us so that is where we focus. When we eat dinner – no matter where are – we do not use electronic devices or allow other distractions. This means we do not answer cell phones, we don’t use iPods, televisions or e-readers. We focus on each other. It is our 30 minutes of peace, which we savor often, more than the food. In fact, Ayanna, our daughter, will be the first to scold you for using these devices, as she did me when I took the picture of her and my mom.

Ayanna swims six days a week – you can imagine that creates chaos, especially when the team was searching for a permanent pool and we were driving all over. We printed the calendar so everyone knew where we had to go and what time we needed to be there. This helped the peace along with me being in charge of bringing the drinks and snacks. I have made the choice to use the drive time to and from swimming as some peaceful family time as well. I turn down K Love radio and ask Ayanna not to listen to her iPod. We chat about everything – boys, family, girl stuff and of course, we solve the problems of the world all within the confines of our vehicle.

We work really hard at planning and organization too. These help but, the organization doesn’t always last and some times, you just can’t plan! We have made the choice to capture each moment we can – after all Ayanna is closer to leaving home than she is a baby and Billy and I, well, we will be together forever!

I think one thing that will help you remain peaceful, which will help the whole house, is to not be too hard on yourself. Creating a peaceful dwelling is a constant battle as we balance work, kids, spouses, animals, family and friends. Phew – that is a lot and there is more! Let things go and give yourself credit for all you do! Pray before you begin each day and be at peace with yourself and who you are in Christ.

Tanya got in a little bit of trouble for pulling out her cell phone to take pictures at dinner. She did it for a good cause, though — to show you her daughter and her mother!

Stretching, reaching to please God

Colt is at the age where he can reach new things every day. The door handle that was too far of a stretch yesterday is turning in his little palm today, and that cup we left on the counter, well, now it’s on the floor.

This time, thankfully, it was only a damp washcloth that he grabbed. I carried it out to give the table its final cleaning for the day and just turned my back for an instant to hush the little dog.

Colt already had it that quickly. He had to stand on his toes, but he was wiping the very edge of the table. I scooped him up and let him stand on a chair, and he continued to clean. When he reached a tiny piece of leftover cheese, he carefully picked it up and handed it to me. I applauded. Then, he called for “Da” to come see what a big boy he was.

While Dad hovered by the chair, I went to get the camera. Our littlest guy was doing what he could to help, and I was proud of him. By the time I’d made it to the closet and was unbuckling the camera bag, my smile had faded a bit – not because I was any less pleased with Colt, but because I was embarrassed before God.

How long had it been since I stretched myself all the way to my toes to do something for him? When was the last time I took on a task without first worrying how it would turn out, without wondering how it would measure up to other people’s standards?

Colt didn’t mind the work at all, even though it was difficult for him. He just so badly wants to be like us that he’ll imitate almost anything. And if we smile or clap, he’ll do it over and over and over.

How badly do I want to please God? How badly do I want to mold my life in his ways?

By the time I made it back down the hallway and snapped a few pictures of Colt, my heart was plotting ways to change, ways to reach both farther and further.

What does it mean to simplify?

I love to toss things out, to walk into a room and feel the calm that comes after the decluttering storm.

But my mind is often cluttered. I worry about my need for new kitchen cabinets and for fresh paint in the hallway. Even in my modest home, our home improvement project list is always a year or two longer than our budget. Always.

Sometimes I forget that just a few generations ago, indoor plumbing was a luxury. Sometimes I forget that there are people in the world who have walls that sing in the wind.

I could stand to let go of a few more things.