Making It Home: Decorating for Dummies

I got the writing gene. I got the talking gene. I got the teaching gene. I got the love people gene. I did NOT get the decorating gene, nor the gardening gene, nor the artistic eye gene. I really have very few skills that a girl raised in the shadow of Southern Living magazine should have. I am not the girly girl who knows how to throw a luncheon for other Southern girls; I’m more a meet-me-at-Panera kind of lunch with friends girl. Despite what I lack, I do desire a warm welcoming home when someone stops by, one with decorations and an atmosphere that will make them feel relaxed and at home even amid the dust bunnies and clutter.

So with that disclaimer here are my tried and true decorating tips for dummies.

  1. Let your walls and shelves be adorned with scripture. As 20-something, fresh out of college newlyweds we moved to a new town and joined a new church. I learned this tip at our first Sunday school social. The other young woman’s house was their first purchased home. God had allowed them to acquire it through a miraculous string of events. To honor the Father for His good gift to them she had determined to put a scripture verse on every wall of her home. And she did. It was such an encouraging home to go to, I can only imagine living there every day! Every direction you turned you were face to face with God’s Word.
  2. Purchase fresh flowers for your table. I learned this tip years ago at a women’s conference from Edith Schaeffer (wife of Francis Schaeffer – the noted pastor, theologian, and philosopher who founded L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland). As a young family with babies coming I felt I didn’t have the extra money to do this. But I made a way in the budget as often as I could. I learned that the older flowers at the grocery store got discounted and would still last a week if you knew which bundle to pick. I didn’t at that time, but by simple observation I’ve figured out which kinds of flowers last. I also take a small sprig of the bunch I buy and place them in a short, narrow vase in my guest bathroom.
  3. Use a few frames to rotate recent photos to be put on display. When my husband took a photography class just for fun at the local university, the instructor had them buy three 8×10 frames to hang on the walls around the house. He told them that the only way their eye for a photo would improve was through practice taking the pictures. They were to look over all their photos once a month, pick out their 3 favorites, have them printed, and display them in the frame. Each month they would swap those out for 3 new favorites. The frames should be simple so as not to distract from the photo, so any Dollar Store frame will work.
  4. Frame kids artwork for decorations in their rooms. Similar to the last idea, use brightly colored empty frames to display what the kids have drawn and rotate these pictures frequently as well. An 11×14 would probably work better for kids since you may have some of their pictures done on larger construction paper. If you get the large frame with a mat included it can work for 8×10 or 11×14 size works of art.
  5. Learn to sew a straight line. It is so easy to make simple curtains or pillows with fabric that matches your style, mood, or season, if you can just sew straight lines. You can easily make rectangular panels for curtains and squares for throw pillows. No pattern needed unless you want to go that extra mile. Check out yard sales for a used sewing machine.

Our homes do not have to be perfect. Our decorations do not have to be expensive. We do not have to have special skills to add beauty and warmth to the homes we are making. First Peter 3:3-5 (NIV) talks about how we present ourselves in dress and hairstyle, but I believe the principles apply to our houses as well. It says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.” Likewise, our homes don’t need to be full of expensive adornments.

Acts 4:13 describes Peter and John as “unschooled, ordinary men” and tells us that the people they spoke with “were astonished and .. took note that these men had been with Jesus.” I long for that to be said of me, not only as I teach God’s Word, but even as people come into my home. Let us not worry over the state of our homes, let’s make them cheery and warm and spend more time in God’s Word and prayer so that when others visit us they will say, “She is an ordinary woman just like me, but I can tell that she has been with Jesus.”

Stink, Stank, Stunk

He stunk like sweat, cold, wet dog, and tree bark.

His white hoodie was a dingy shade of brown, his ears a shade of alarming red indicative that perhaps he had needed some ear coverings before he had headed to the yard some 3 hours before. I made a mental note and filed it under #MomFail… Sensory Kid needs ear muffs.

autumn-212733_1280He had piled the back of my minivan with numerous giant trash bags full of leaves. Had it not been 36 degrees out I might’ve rolled the windows down for a bit of fresh air and olfactory relief from the stinky teenage boy and his delivery. As we meandered down the road to my Mama’s house I strategically breathed through my mouth and made an attempt at conversation.

“So Bud you’ve worked really hard. I’m sure Grandmother sure will appreciate all these leaves for her compost garden.”

“I hope so and I hope she pays me for getting her so many.”

He has a way with words that keeps frills to a minimum, finds mindless chatter obsolete, and states what he sees as the facts; he leaves little room for argument. He is what some would consider blunt. I’ve come to realize over time that he simply states what is, and his monotone way of doing so can be misinterpreted as rudeness and even disrespect.

I nodded and responded with the truth, “Well Grandmother is a woman of her word and if she said she would pay you, then she will.”

He simply said, “Good.”

When we arrived at Mama’s she wasn’t home. She had run an errand. So he began to unload his bags near her back gate, adjacent to the area where over the summer he spent a day digging holes. She still compliments and comments on his hole digging skills. She wanted to plant some shrubs or bushes or something but the rock hard red clay proved a difficult foe. She had tried all manner of methodologies to penetrate the earth, but she admitted her senior strength lacked the ability and employed her strong, young, grandson to do the job.

He likes to work, if he know exactly what to do and how he is to do it, and he prefers to work alone. Despite the sweltering temperatures over the summer he confided in me that he liked digging all those holes, and when he took a break Grandmother had Lemonade and Fudge Rounds for him for a snack. Two of his favorites, a combo I find repulsive, lemons and chocolate, just the thought makes my tummy churn a bit more than usual.

About the time he had unloaded the last bag and relieved my already tired ol’ minivan from its added load, my Mama arrived home. He was elated to see her so we took a candlelights-candles-christmas-730584.jpgmoment to visit with her. Scattered about were the beginnings of what would become her house decorated for Christmas. (I love it when she decorates. She was farmhouse style before it was a thing. She can put together a styrofoam elf, a sprig of holly, and a Santa ornament she has had since 1984 and turn it into a vignette worthy of Southern Living.) She keeps her Christmas decor stored in her attic. Her tree is at least 9 feet tall, I mean, maybe not really, but it sure seems that way.

As we visited a moment he came too close to her, she made a face, covered her nose with her shirt, and I laughed.

“Shoo, he’s stinky.” I laughed again at the obvious statement.

“I know. I had ride over here with him, but he insisted on making your delivery tonight.”
She laughed, and I commented on it beginning to look a lot like Christmas. About that time she said, “Hey Shel, can you help me get some things down from my attic?”


He was happy to help although from the never-changing tone of his voice the undiscerning ear would not have known that. We have learned to read him, to know what Autism tried to make unknown. We have learned what joy looks like, and sadness. To the untrained eye well, they look the same. We know how frustration manifests and satisfaction appears. Those of us close to him do not always get it right but for the most part we do. Time and training have taught us that.

christmas-tree-1792267_1280.jpgAs he helped his Grandmother with her tree he did so relatively quietly. He spoke to Grace, Mama’s older Doxie, who has a knack for naps and snoring. She had come to investigate the commotion and soon settled on a rug next to her Master. She seemed unconcerned as her oddly smelling Master’s grandson hauled faux greenery to and fro.

When we got back in the car to head home I said, “Straight to the shower while I get supper ready.” In the dark I couldn’t tell if he’d nodded but I knew he had heard and understood. As we drove on I heard him talking to himself; he was holding a wadded up bill in his hand. I was unsure of the monetary sum but was sure of one thing, come Sunday morning a part of it would leave his hand and be placed in an offering receptacle.

Many times I will look to my left and wadded up in a tight fist I can make out the color of money. He holds it tight because he literally holds everything tight, not because he is stingy. I’ve often wondered if the money counter person gets exasperated as he or she has to unwad the crumpled bills he regularly puts into the offering.

“Halfway there, but this should be enough to buy presents for Charlotte and Maggie.”

I almost wrecked the minivan I was navigating into my neighborhood. What?!

He had worked like crazy, stunk like stink, was filthy from head to toe just so he could bow-box-christmas-1474961buy his sisters presents?! I clarified.

“What Bud?”

There was a pause.

“This is for me to buy Maggie and Charlotte’s presents. I already have some,” (hole digging money I presumed) “but I needed a bit more.”

My heart felt like it might burst. I understood fully the verse in the King’s word that says in 3 John 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
His sisters are adopted, they do not share his genetic makeup, one of his sisters drives him mad some days and one he has known as long as he has known any of us. When we brought him home from the hospital she pointed at him from across the room and declared he was a dog. She was 14 months old and I reckon from her perspective he was sort of dog-like. Noisy, oddly smelling, he slept a lot in a cage, or crib, depending on one’s perspective.

If you’d‘ve asked me I’d’ve figured he was saving up for some random Lego dude or a particular book, or those awful candies in a toxic barrel he likes. I could not have been more wrong.

As I meandered home and he talked of his surprise Christmas plans, I was reminded once more what Christmas is about. What Christ Himself represents. How He was about Compassion rather than consumption. Giving rather than getting. And Need rather than Greed.

May the very essence of Christ and Christmas fill our hearts and homes this year.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17