Written by Trisha Pull
Have you ever considered the idea that some of our favorite places and pastimes can give us insight into life and priorities?
My in-laws house sits on 25 acres next to a river in rural North Dakota. The property is full of places to play and relax – swimming pool, zipline, tree swing, sand pit, and homemade disc golf course. My favorite spot is the quiet screened porch on the south side of the house. It’s my place of respite. The screen keeps the bugs out, the comfy blue couch invites an afternoon nap, and the picnic tables host conversation, game play and good food.
As I prepare for school this fall, that porch gives me a fresh perspective on priorities.
Perspective 1: Messes Mean Memories
The back porch is usually a mess. It’s littered with towels and swimsuits, mismatched shoes, decks of cards, abandoned toys, and the remnants of dinner eaten but not yet cleaned up. I cherish it. I don’t cherish the mess, exactly, but I do cherish what the mess represents. Those towels and shoes and cards represent games and laughter and memories with cousins and grandparents, nieces and nephews. Those messes are hugs and snuggles and cannonballs in the pool.
At home, in the humdrum of daily activity, it’s easy to forget that the piles of dishes, loads of laundry, and scattered school books are a gift. These messes can be a reminder that my family is learning, growing, and making memories in my home. That’s a joy and a privilege, not a burden of one more thing to manage. This fall, I’m asking God to shape my attitude into one of gratitude. As I train my children toward tidiness and yet continue to step over school books and clothes, Lord please remind me that these messes are memories in the making.
Perspective 2: In Quietness & Trust, I Find Strength
The porch is a place where I connect with God. In the quiet of a summer morning, before anyone else is awake, I love to sneak out there with a cup of coffee, my Bible, and my journal. With the birds chirping and the sun rising, He whispers to me and I to Him. It’s gentle. It’s slow and beautiful. In the quiet, I’m fueled for the day.
As school commences, I’m reminded that from September to June life can feel anything but slow and gentle. Daily I’m tempted to let my feet hit the floor without a thought toward my Bible and journal. It seems easier to run through the day in my own strength, just to gain a few minutes more rest in bed. Isaiah 30:15 reminds, “in quietness and trust you will find your strength.” This fall, I’m asking the Lord to wake me and in the quiet of the morning to fill me with His strength for the day ahead.
“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!” 1 Chronicles 16:11
Perspective 3: Imperfection Invites Connection
The porch isn’t a perfect place. The carpet has burn marks from my father-in-law’s grilling, the paint is peeling in a few places, and the couch is a cast off. The imperfection doesn’t repel, instead, it invites. The porch is a place where people connect, as they are. They show up in dripping wet swimsuits, sweaty workout clothes, pajamas, and dressy church clothes. They come in a variety of moods and manners and find connection in a shared meal, board game, or conversation. The truth is, no one cares about the carpet or the paint or the couch.
Like the porch, I want my home to be a place that invites others to connect. With breakfast dishes unwashed and books scattered, I want my children to gather at the kitchen table for school. They can bring their emotionally overwrought response to math and I want to meet them with gentleness. My childrens’ friends, with their quirky, awkward teenage ways, are invited to relax at our table, even if there are still a few lingering school books from the day. I want my friends, who are weary from demands of life and family, to unload their struggles at the counter while I clean and cook and sometimes burn the rice. Remind me, Lord, that connection isn’t about a lack of dirt and fingerprints or a well chosen curriculum and perfectly behaved children. It’s about being where you are with people where they are. Wherever they are, if they are in our home, they are invited into connection.
Wherever you make your home, may you be blessed to make memories, find quiet, and connect deeply with others this school year.
And as you go, so will your children be blessed to follow.