Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Sixth Sense

When I was young, my mom and I used to take evening drives around pretty neighborhoods to "look at houses". My mom, though not a professional decorator, had such an eye for beauty, and taught me from an early age to notice details and to zero in on things that spoke to me aesthetically. From these "educational drive-bys", I learned quickly that I loved colored front doors, (even more if a wreath was hung on it!), the soft, welcoming glow that came from a lamp in a front window, flowers bursting forth from pots on the front porch, and front yards that were neat and tidy. I liked the homes that seemed to say, "Welcome, I'm so glad you're here. Come inside!"

Nowadays my 13 year-old would call this "creeping" or "stalking", but back then Mom and I liked to take our drives at dusk, or a little later, because then you could actually catch glimpses inside homes! I remember seeing lovely bookshelves loaded with books, mantles decorated for Christmas, and pretty wallpapers. I'd imagine what kind of lives the people must live inside of these homes ... my dreams for my own future home had begun in my little-girl mind. A few years later, before I was even married, I was clipping and saving magazine pictures of homes that I loved, and kept long lists (of course) of things that I wanted to include someday, like a Swedish pine grandfather clock, overstuffed sofas, beautiful curtains at the windows, and a wind chime on the back porch.

My tastes have naturally evolved over the years, but I am still in absolute love with the idea of creating a warm, inviting, beautiful home ... not full of expensive antiques or art, necessarily, but full of love and of the Spirit, so that my family and others feel enveloped when they step inside the front door. And guess what? I have that Swedish clock that chimes on the quarter-hour, my husband built me beautiful bookshelves that line a whole wall in our living room, and I wouldn't think of NOT having a lamp in my front window! Above, you see our front porch with the black door and (of course!) a wreath (eucalyptus). Our home will forever be a work in progress, and I'm still, with my husband, planning, improving, organizing, changing, creating, designing, and remodeling. Our goal has always been to make our living space more inviting and cozy for those we love.

In our ward Relief Society last year, we spent lots of time discussing the idea that our homes can be "refuges from the world". I began to think of improving our home by concentrating on one "sense" at a time. This is what I'm working on right now ... here are some beginning thoughts ... feel free to chime in with YOUR ideas!!

Look around your home as you consider the five senses that we're all familiar with. What stands out as you view your surroundings through your sight? (Be honest - right now, I'm looking squarely at a jar of drippy raspberry jam on the counter and leftover lunch dishes!) What do you hear? What can you touch that is soft and comforting? What do you smell? (Dinner in the oven? Your laundry detergent? The flowers outside your window?) What tastes have you experienced in your kitchen today? I am beginning to believe that when we pay close attention to creating a home based on the senses, we can really personalize our living spaces for the total comfort of our family members. I want my family to love coming home, to almost utter an audible "aaahhh" when they walk through the door. If friends and neighbors can feel a measure of this, too, then I will feel like I'm doing my homemaking job well.

I'm going to take the liberty of adding one more "sense" to the other five: the feel of the Spirit. Though this is not something that can usually be concretely identified, it is (in my mind) absolutely the most important thing a home can have. Here's how I learned about this:

I grew up in a beautifully-decorated, immaculate, loving home. However, when I was a young teenager, I started visiting a new friend's house after school and immediately noticed something different and unfamiliar and downright wonderful there. My friend Lori's mom would always greet us at the door, and her home was lovely and clean like mine was. But there was also THIS FEELING. As I looked around, I didn't notice any real differences, but the more I thought about it, well, here, you take a look...

*Lori's mom was usually in the kitchen and there were usually wonderful smells wafting from in there. She was often making homemade cinnamon rolls or bread, and seemed to pulling something out of the oven just as we walked in. We'd pull up a bar stool, she'd pour us a glass of cold milk, and as we'd bite into that warm goodness, Lori's mom would stand there and talk to us. It was as if there was nothing else she'd rather be doing ... she was SO INTERESTED in our teenaged lives.

*Lori had four younger brothers and there was lots of activity in her home. I was an only child and I watched the interactions between all of the kids with great interest. There was certainly the occasional skirmish, but overall, a happy, even joyful, feeling prevailed. Homework was spread out on the dining room table, a baseball game was happening in the front yard, newspapers were being folded in the garage for the route that Lori and her brothers threw. Through all of this, there was a feeling of working together, of "being on the same team", that fun was happening here, and it felt great.

*Where my mom decorated with beautiful, bold colors and patterns, Lori's mom favored more neutral tones. But it wasn't really that that affected me ... it was the what was on the walls. I had never seen a picture of Jesus in a home before, or framed mottos/quotes, or paintings of temples, or so many family photos. The focus in this home wasn't about a perfect decorating style, but about the people who lived there and what they believed in. After spending an afternoon in this home, you knew what was important to them.

*The central feature of Lori's downstairs family room was the big piano. Oftentimes, our friends - and possibly a brother or two - would end up standing around it singing while someone played. Who in the world did THIS kind of thing after school? Well, when we were at Lori's, we did. It was a blast! I began to see the impact that music can have in a home environment.

*Finally, when I visited Lori's house, everyone seemed so happy that I was there. Her mom's face lit up when she saw me, her brothers would run past with repeated "Hi, Macy!"s, and her dad would put an arm around me when he came in from work. I felt so instantly included, even loved, there. Like part of the family.

I came to realize in later years that this "thing" that I felt in Lori's home was the Spirit of the Lord. It transcended a clean home, or a lovely home, or an organized home ... it was an almost tangible feeling that kept me coming back for more. Lori's family had this Spirit there because of they way they lived their religion within the walls of that home. They had kneeling family prayer every night, they studied the scriptures together, they offered blessings on the food at mealtimes, they held family home evening one night a week, and they continually taught one another about living Christlike lives. This religious, Christ-centered lifestyle filled their home, so that those not familiar with it (like me) could actually FEEL IT when they entered. Their home was a sacred space. And I wanted to have THAT in my home someday. You'd better believe that became #1 on my eventual list.

So this is my focus for the next few blog posts: making our homes refuges from the world by focusing on each of the SIX senses. Tomorrow, I'll share some ideas about how what we "see" when we walk through our doors can make an immediate difference in the feeling within our homes. Come on back and check it out, and as always, please feel welcome, even invited, to share some of your thoughts.



  1. I had to smile when I read this. I love to drive around at dusk. It is still light enough that people have their shades open, and dark enough that their lights are on. It is so easy to see inside their homes. I love catching glimpses of their homes. Not in a "creeper" way- I just like to see what other's have created within their own walls. Thanks so much for writing this. I am so excited to get to know you better (when I get back from vacation, that is!)

  2. MOM! I just taught a lesson on Sunday where we took scriptures about the temple and talked about how to make our homes have the same definitions. I wish I could have shared this whole blog post with them! I'll have to send you those scriptures when I have a chance to write them down.

    We are so alike!