When You Want a Beautiful Home and Don’t Have One {The Grove – Nest}

We just moved into our third home … our third home this year. In a few weeks we’ll move again. To another temporary home. (Because our plans changed). We’ve been married almost twelve years, have lived in nine different places, and have never owned a home.

In one of our foreign apartments we had a bathroom tile that fell off the wall, shattering into dozens of pieces. The landlord came and gathered the broken pieces. I went to pass him the trashcan, when to my surprise, he began gluing every piece back onto the wall. He slapped some tape on top and called it good.

This level of craftsmanship describes a lot of the places we’ve lived. From permanently cloudy windows to rusty exposed pipes to broken elevators on the 18th floor to fake wood floors that burst clouds of dust with every step.

Having a Pintrest pretty home has never been my story.

It’d be easy for people who don’t live this lifestyle to assume that I’m the kind of person that doesn’t care about having nice curtains. I know some women whom I truly admire who ARE that kind of woman, they honestly aren’t concerned or interested in décor. I however am not one of those women. I do care. A lot.

When we moved into a five-month rental in the U.S. last fall, I was embarrassed to invite certain people over, knowing they’d see our brown marble carpet from the 1970s and the blue country wallpaper peeling off the wall.

I sigh with envy when I walk into friends’ picturesque homes. I have to ban myself from watching “Fixer Upper” because it made my struggle with contentment worse. I often  wish I didn’t care about these things. Aren’t they frivolous, worldly things?

I can quote you the verses…

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Matt 6:19-20a

Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age.” Mark 10:29-30a

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Hebrews 13:14

I know this. I’ve based my life direction and decisions off of these values. So why does my heart not follow? Why do I still desire beauty and comfort and a haven of a home here on this earth in this life that fits me and my tastes? I’ve gone down the road of feeling guilty for these desires and trying to squash them.

Guess what. It doesn’t work.

That’s because these desires are not wrong. Think about what we know about God:

He wanted the Israelites to have a place of their own, thus the Promised Land. He gave out a crazy number of detailed instructions for the temple, his earthly house. Why do we get a vivid description of the new heaven and new earth, complete with color descriptions and the most ornate building materials imaginable?

If God cares about these things, it’s not wrong for us to care, too. But what do we do with the longing? The desires not met?

One option is to become obsessed, to spend all our time and energy trying to force a beautiful home into existence, leaving a wake of blown budgets and frazzled discontent.

What does the other option look like? Practically, I think it looks like doing what we can with what we have, usually little by little. Spiritually and emotionally, I think it means making this realization:

Our longings will always be unmet, and that’s a good thing.

Betsy Childs Howards says, “When we wait faithfully with unmet longings, we become a powerful picture of the bride of Christ waiting for the day when he returns and God’s kingdom reigns.”

Let that soak in a moment.

If we have unfulfilled desires for a beautiful home, and we can sit faithfully with that longing, we are actually living out the gospel.

Here’s the thing about longings. Where one ends, the next one begins. Maybe one day I’ll get my beautiful house with its big windows and back porch and flower gardens. And you know what will happen when I get it? I’ll start longing for something else, probably for the old days of travel and exotic vacations and ministering on the “frontlines.”

All of you returnees know what I’m talking about, right?

Because we’re never satisfied. And we’re not meant to be. It’s C.S. Lewis’ famous quote:

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

So friends, let’s nest right where we are, with whatever version of “home” we have, delighting in the beauty we can find and create. But let’s not forget that all of it leaves us wanting more. We don’t have to squelch that longing. We have to learn to live with longing, always longing with a desire that will never be met… until we are home with Him.

 

What unlovely things have you lived with?

What has been your journey with desire for home and nesting? What has God shown you?

What nesting have you done in your home that brings you joy? We’d love to see them! Tag your Instagram images with #velvetashesnest. Or upload your images here in the comments. And Link up your blog posts.

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24 Comments

  1. Jodie August 18, 2016

    Can really relate to this post, Danielle. And those God-given desires for a home made me think of Jesus’ promise in John 14:2 “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”
    ‭‭

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 18, 2016

      Love this verse! Can you even imagine what those rooms will be like? A place prepared by HIM!!

  2. Spring August 19, 2016

    We are currently fundraising living in my parent’s basement. It is mostly unpainted, and a bit damp. Thank you for the reminders of my focus and the fact that really being unsatisfied will breed an unsatisfaction no matter what other circumstances are. Thank you for the reminder of where my true home lies and helping me to think about what each day should look like

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

      That’s rough, Spring! I love how you put it: “being unsatisfied will breed unsatisfaction no matter what circumstances are.” I’m right there with you in seeking to learn the “secret of being content in any and every circumstance.”

  3. Erin August 19, 2016

    You had me at “Tiles falling off the wall”! I have to admit that once I got to the part about Fixer Upper (love that show and had to stop watching it) I stopped reading, made a strong, hot cup of tea and cozied up to the rest of the post. How did you get inside my head? I’m glad I’m not the only one that struggles with this and the guilt (whether it is having more or less, I find) that comes with it. I love the quote by Betsy Childs Howards. It is a timely reminder that discontent never ends after the “if onlys…” are fulfilled. Striving to live with my longing today! I linked to a similarly-minded post I wrote this February below, called “In all things that matter.” Thank you for your words, again!

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

      Haha, so glad that this post resonated. I’m a fellow tea-lover, so it’s fun to picture you cozied up with your tea. Glad I’m not the only one that has a love/hate relationship with Fixer Upper! And YES, the guilt comes over having more OR less! Such a good point.

      Can’t wait to read your post! Thanks for linking it!

  4. Liz August 19, 2016

    Thank you for this! I can so relate right now. We just moved overseas 2 months ago and are living in a mostly unfurnished apartment at the moment. I have been getting so anxious to really make this place look lovely and feel like home. I needed the reminder that, “When we wait faithfully with unmet longings, we become a powerful picture of the bride of Christ waiting for the day when he returns and God’s kingdom reigns.”. Such beautiful imagery! Your words have been a blessing to me today..

    1. Phyllis August 19, 2016

      Yes! We often spread a towel on the bathroom floor to catch the falling tiles, so that they don’t shatter (or startle us in the middle of the night).

      Whatever part of my brain works with housing is probably a tangled mess. I have so many complexes and fears and joys mixed up in there. Sometimes I’ve been afraid of making anything prettier, because I almost expect that if we fix it, that means we’ll have to leave it. And buying stuff…? Or even getting rid of bigger things. We had a bed frame that sat behind various couches for many years, because of “furnished” apartments where we didn’t have room for it. When we gave it away, our next apartment was empty. Isn’t it always like that?

      If someone had told me back in the beginning what a big deal renting and ugliness would be for me, I probably would have laughed at them. I would never have expected all this to be such an ongoing and real challenge. It is, though.

      1. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

        Phyllis, the towel idea is genius! So funny the little tricks we have to come up with! We’ve had the same seasons of too much of the landlord’s furniture and then later not enough. Yes, renting is definitely a real challenge. Praying that he draws us close with his truths and perspective along the journey!

    2. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

      I really needed the reminder of that quote too. It comes from a book called “Seasons of Waiting.” https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BU6F7HI/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnavencoding=UTF8&tag=velvashe-20 I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my to-read list, because I’ve heard it’s so good!

      And I can definitely relate. My strongest nesting feelings come right after I’ve moved in. I want to be settled and nested and done NOW so that home can be home and I can then get on with the rest of life. And when you’ve just moved into your first overseas that is when nesting takes the LONGEST!

      Praying he draws you close during this season and continues to reveal more and more of himself to you!

  5. Karen Huber August 19, 2016

    Oh how I’ve been there, been here. But of course, you know that – it is perhaps one of the sweeter aspects of the sacrifice: that we share in it.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

      Oh, I love this, Karen! It IS so sweet to know that we’re sharing in this same sacrifice.

  6. Julie B August 19, 2016

    Danielle-
    Love the quotes in your post….have used the CS Lewis one before – we were made for another world! We sold our home in the States last summer and it was a really hard decision. Apartment living with “less than standard” construction techniques has its challenges….you know, faucet handles that fall off in your hand, cracked tiles, duct tape around windows to keep out the winter winds. (I currently confess though, I do have a really nice apartment compared to some of the ones we saw when we were apartment hunting.) The fix-it TV shows I watched last summer made me grumpy and discontented and then I found myself having a very unthankful heart for all of the provisions I had been given. We always want the bigger kitchen and more cabinets. I think Eve must have experienced some of that in the garden….more of what she could not have – and that goes into another line of thinking…..but all that to say – I think the true beauty in our nests is not only in the furniture and the paint and pictures on the walls, but also in the atmosphere we create with what we have been given. I have been in some beautiful Ikea or “Early Chinese mismatch” living rooms which may not make the magazine covers for the best decor, but the atmosphere and the conversation sure made me want to come back and sit and have a cup of tea.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

      Such a good point! Eve literally had perfection and she wanted more!

      And absolutely, the atmosphere created is what matters most. You are a master at this, Julie! Just the one afternoon I got to have in your living room made me long for more!

  7. Lauren August 19, 2016

    I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear these words today! We just moved back to China after a year of home assignment, and I’ve had so many of the same thoughts over the past few days. Thank you for the reminder that longing is not a bad thing, and that the material will never satisfy. Praying that we can live in contentment wherever we are, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

      Lauren, the transition back after a home leave can be a really tough! It was for me too, especially right at first. I think it surprised me that I struggled because I’d lived here before! Joining you in that prayer for contentment wherever we are, whatever the circumstances.

  8. Joyce Stauffer August 19, 2016

    Thanks so much for sharing, everyone. Coming back over two years ago after 30+ years overseas, I realized quite quickly that I will never be able to own a house. And it’s hard when most of my peers do. However as was said, my “real” home will some day be in heaven. So I do want to be content with and enjoy my apartment I have now. Compared to the many rentals I have had overseas, I have much to be thankful for. And at last I have a chance to plant flowers outside and enjoy God’s creation and fresh air around me! Contentment is so important for my heart I know. Truly the best gifts are from our Father’s hands and can’t be bought by dollars.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

      “Truly the best gifts are from our Father’s hands, and can’t be bought by dollars.” So true! And yes, so hard when we compare our lives to our peers, to what their standard of normal is. I think you hit exactly on the solution: thankfulness.

  9. Emily August 20, 2016

    This post really resonated with me, Danielle! Thank you. It’s good to reflect on the unfulfilled longings we have. Right now, for me, those include a beautiful home, stability, and deep roots in a community. Oh, to feel settled and established! But I think you are very right: if there comes a day when I finally have those things, I’m sure there will be other things I miss and long for. I like the reminder that those longings help point us to our real home.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

      So glad this post resonated, Emily. I can definitely relate to your longings. They are such powerful ones! So thankful for the community here where we can understand each other, be reminded we’re not alone, and nudge each other towards truth and contentment in him.

  10. Grace L August 20, 2016

    We have been living in our house here in China for 10 years. It’s comfy enough and it’s ours. One of the things that gives us pleasure are all the things we have bought for our kitchen over the years. We don’t have a great oven, but it works. But we have a nice assortment of kitchen utensils that we love working with and bring us memories as to where we bought them or who gave them to us. All in all, our kitchen/dining room is the homiest part of our house as we share meals with a variety of guests, or get to cherish some quiet times by ourselves.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 20, 2016

      What a gift to have a house for 10 years in ever-changing China! And yes, I agree, the kitchen/dining room is the heart of the home. I share your love for special kitchen things!!

  11. Bonnie August 22, 2016

    I can completely relate! It took me so long to even think of HOW I could try to make our mud hut in Chad beautiful. Everywhere we’ve lived, my version of what makes our home lovely has changed somewhat. It’s usually the little things: the small triumphs of beauty over blah, creativity over chaos, that make a house into a home. Here’s a picture of my kitchen in our African village, shortly before we had to evacuate, due to terrorist activity. The reed “bar” to hang my kitchen tools and the second-hand poster art were a couple of things that made me feel happy to be in that simple kitchen with no running water, and only occasional electricity.

  12. Monica F August 27, 2016

    LOVED this post Danielle! I’ve lived for extended periods in huts, years in a cement block house with no running water or electricity, and then many years in a barely-there apartment in rural China. I remember feeling painfully jealous of the IKEA style furnished apartments our friends had in the city…in comparison, my home in the countryside had bags of rice, pumpkins and sweet potatoes in the corners….chipping paint, broken tiles, and simple wooden furniture to match the ‘style’ of the people we lived among. But you know, I look back, and I love that home…so simple, definitely a fixer-upper, but a place people felt comfortable coming to and where wonderful memories were made. Now that we’ve been back in the States, I miss all those imperfections of my rural apartment. Like you and many others who read Velvet Ashes, we’ve all experienced different sorts of homes, and it is such a comfort knowing we have a heavenly home waiting for us. Thanks for this honest and sweet post!

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