Ever since I was little, I have been a sparkle and shine kind of girl.
I am not a total froo-froo, but I do love pretty, shiny things. I especially love pretty, shiny little houses. And since our homes growing up were not exactly of the pretty, shiny variety, I developed a bit of an obsession with taking whatever we had and working to make it as sparkly as possible. My poor mother used to leave for a quick trip to get groceries and come back and find her entire living room rearranged and redecorated with whatever materials I could find (it really is amazing what you can do with old linens and t-shirts.)
And even now in this tiny little trailer we are living in until our house is finished, nothing calms me down or makes me happier than tearing through the whole thing, scrubbing and polishing and arranging things just so, and then sitting down for that glass of wine afterwards. I have just always found organizing and decorating very rewarding. And calming. And a great way to calm my anxiety and neuroticism.
You should never leave me unsupervised in your home.
It doesn’t take much sparkle to get me all worked up. And now that my lifelong dream of building/designing my own custom home is coming true, my sparklometer reading is off the charts these days (I might be a little over-stimulated.) Now before you start thinking I am building some big gorgeous mansion, let me assure you: I am not. I don’t do crystal and silver and my husband doesn’t believe in expensive. But I am getting to build a house that is just my taste and style and that is very exciting to me. When you combine my house obsession, love of design, and the fact that my day-job income depends on being able to help people find/build a house that suits their lifestyle and needs, and this isn’t just what I do… It’s who I am! So because of that, I naturally went into this whole thing thinking that would somewhat exempt me from the stress and drama of building. I had a bit of an “Oh, I got this” mentality (you’ll remember how well that served me during the move < read change here >.)
But the thing about building is that it doesn’t really matter how fabulous my builder is, how genius my architect is, or even how controlling and micro-manage-y I might be; things still don’t always go exactly as planned. There are millions of silly little details that slow things down along the way. For instance, it might rain EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.THEY.TRY.TO.POUR.OUR.FOUNDATION (just doing our part to help the area drought issue.)
I have awakened to the realization that no, I will not be in my pretty, shiny little house by Christmas after all. There will be no fires crackling and stockings hung by the chimney with care. My crackling fire shall come in the form of 3 space heaters, which at best will only defrost the trailer I am temporarily living in to just above freezing. And the only stockings in my life will be the thick socks I have to wear 24 hours a day to ward off frostbite.
Alas, there will also be no big beautiful tree with sparkly decorations, or yards of garland and big gorgeous poinsettias strewn throughout the house. The only sparkles I’ll be enjoying will be from the icicles hanging from my OUTDOOR showerhead (feel free to go back and read that line again if it was too shocking to absorb the first time) and my 4ft tall table-top tree from Lowe’s. And due to the limited space, there’s nowhere to put garland or poinsettias, so they are out too.
My big sparkly gift this year? The simple knowledge that I am vastly over budget on all those pretty, shiny little things I insisted on having in that pretty, shiny little house that may or may not ever be finished. And that I will be toasting in the New Year in our charming little trailer. And celebrating my birthday. And Kenny’s birthday. And our anniversary. Maybe even our Spring Break. But all of this is good for me because I am finding that my priorities are a little out of whack these days.
The good news is that, as of right this second (not the second you are reading this because I still have to edit and all that jazz – but the second I am writing this,) they are finally pouring my foundation. Glory, glory, halleluiah! And I am (of course) hawk-eying the whole process from the back of my SUV with Woody by my side and a huge mug of coffee in my hand. This is indeed a very exciting day.
However, all last night and even now as I write this, I am constantly having to remind myself that this house is not my home.
Like I said, my sparklometer is pretty maxed out right now with all the choices I get to make on finishes and the
dreaming obsessing I do about this house. So last night, I laid awake for hours thinking of what super godly and symbolic thing I would do to help remind myself that this house is just a house. I thought about carving a verse on the front door stoop or dropping a bible into the foundation. I could write verses on my framing or pray over each room. These are all good things, right?
But when I woke up this morning, none of them felt quite right. And as I sit here and think/write about it, I know what the problem is. It is the very same issue that has plagued me all throughout this building process: My love of sparkles has gotten completely out of control.
I have to stop and check my heart and motivations here. Whose house do I really think this is? His – and I am so grateful I get to live here for a while? Or mine – now get out of the way so I can design it? Do I want to carve a verse on the front stoop to dedicate this house to Him, or to try to look all “godly” for my friends? Do I want to bury a bible in the foundation because I want the very core of this house to be love and truth, or because I am trying to earn God’s favor and blessing so maybe He will never take this house away from me? Hmmm…
If I am being honest, it is a little of all of those things, and that isn’t something I am proud of. My deeds should only be a true reflection of my faith or it makes me a hypocrite. And I HATE when I am a hypocrite. If faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26,) what would deeds without faith be? Legalism? Superstition? Trying to earn what I can’t? Yes, yes, and yes. So as I sit nestled in the back of my car overlooking the cementing scene, I am thinking and praying really hard about where my heart is with this house.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it is perfectly okay to love sparkles. I even believe God put that love of pretty, shiny little things in me Himself – it is the part of me that also stops to marvel at His handiwork all throughout creation. But I also know my sinful, fleshly self and what tends to happen if I am not careful. I don’t want to get so caught up in the sparkles that I forget what really makes my life shine.
Case in point: I totally rushed through my quiet time this morning so I could be here before the first concrete truck rolled in. And likewise, the holiday season brings a whole other level of temptation my way. This house is a lot like Christmas for me: I find myself easily getting caught up in the worldly sparkle and shine of it all, and forgetting to celebrate God’s love and provision.
It is just a house y’all. Sure, it has beadboard and beams and other pretty little things I love, but it can be here today and gone before I can say “backsplash.” Just ask Job, or the South Austin flood victims, or my friend Sharon who watched her home (and 30 years’ worth of memories) go up in flames.
It is just a house.
I will say it again (for my benefit, not yours:) It is just a house.
It’s made up of nothing more than concrete and wood and glass. And while it is designed to offer some safety and security and be a place where love and joy and laughter lives, it can never compare to my Savior. By contrast, Jesus is made up of love and grace and redemption, and more than any home human hands can build, He is my true safety and security. And if there ever was a place where love and joy and laughter lived, it is in the halls of Heaven.
I am entirely sure that having a pretty, shiny little house does not impress the Lord. But having a pretty, shiny little heart- committed to serving and glorifying Him – now THAT is a very good thing. Dropping 40 bibles into this foundation this morning or writing the entire New Testament on my framing will be nothing more than deeds without faith if I don’t get my heart in the right place on this. This isn’t a one-time act of dedication. A heart like mine needs to be constantly reminded whose house this really is, and that true dedication to Him means living out His will within these walls.
Honoring the Lord with this home will mean remembering to choose the words I speak in it each day just as carefully and lovingly as I have chosen the materials and finishes. It will also mean continually striving to make this home a haven of love and grace for my husband, my family, and my friends – not just a place with pretty, shiny little things in it.
So at long last, when I finally do get to enjoy the pretty, shiny little sparkles this house has to offer, I hope that I remember that this house is not my home, and that the shiniest of houses pales in comparison to the beauty of a Christ-filled life and the promise of Heaven. Because as pretty and shiny as the little things can be, nothing sparkles like a life lived for Jesus.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
I will leave you with some lyrics to 2 songs that speak to me in this struggle. The first is by Edward Mote and is one of my very favorite hymns. It is my personal song to this house:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand; All other ground is shifting sand.
And the second is by Steve Earle and has been playing relentlessly on that jukebox in my head. I’ve edited it just a tiny bit to suit me, and it is my hope and prayer that this is what Jesus sees in me:
My baby- sparkle and shine, sparkle and shine, sparkle and shine.
My baby – sparkle and shine, and everyone knows she’s mine.
She blesses all that she sees, a toss of her hair and a kiss in the breeze
But she don’t love no one but me, and everyone knows she’s mine.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦