By Candace Echols
Almost every day, a new piece of bad news arrives on our doorstep. Insofar as I can tell, it’s the same with almost everybody. I need not list the endless number of ways that this translates into my life or yours. But I can tell you this: never has my family needed a soft place to land at the end of the day more than we do now.
I’ve recently taken a writing sabbatical. A hiatus. A recharge. We’ve had our own news relating to health issues and it dried my few creative juices for a while, but I’m settling back in now. Thank the Lord things are on the upswing, but diagnoses are never fun. Now that the dust has settled, I’ve noticed something: just as much as my family needs a retreat to come home to at day’s end, so do I.
As a result, I’ve made myself a student of the experts—usually folks at least a generation older than I—so that my home feels like peace to all who enter here. It reads like a warm hug, a place to lay down one’s burdens. It is music, a nap, and Christmas morning all at the same time. I think we need this as a society. I know that we, personally, need it as a family.
So today, I offer you tidbits I’ve picked up about creating a corner of beauty called home for the people you share your life with. By the way, this is not only for women or mothers or wives. This could (and should) be done by anyone who lives with other people. Roommates. Mothers-in-law. Dads. Even some pieces can be completed by children. Hopefully these ideas will inspire you to make your house a little cottage of light during this season of unpredictable shadows.
Our human spirit, ablaze with passion and governed by conscience, is a stunning thing to behold. In the same way, a small candle holds the power of life and death. It’s quiet, timeless glow calls us to think for fun (not logistically or strategically) and to live from a place of unhurried humanity. While a crackling fireplace may be apropos for the quickly approaching autumn, flickering candles are delectable to the senses and moving to the soul throughout every season. Small, dancing flames call us to a place of controlled burning — which really is the best kind of burn.
I recently learned that the sound of rushing water inspires a chemical response in our brains that causes us to relax. It is a catalyst for the unknotting of our muscles and the un-frying of our nerves. I knew this intuitively, but when I heard it was a fact , I asked for a fountain for my birthday. My parents obliged and it now sits in our kitchen. That little stack of cascading bowls with water flowing through brings the outdoors in and its gentle trickling smooths the blunt edges of the day for us all.
“Let’s cuddle. I want to hear your voice the way it sounds when my ear is on your chest, and I want to feel the warmth of your skin on mine.” It’s so intimate, it’s almost embarrassing to write. But this is family life. Warmth and love and multiple heartbeats, all on one couch. Quilts, shackets (look it up), leg warmers, pillows, covers, fleece…cozy, cozy, cozy, cozy. Cotton calls us to soften our words, our faces, and our souls as we snuggle and cuddle and ease life for each other a little bit each day.
One piece of marital advice I heard from an elderly woman almost two decades ago was, “Keep the fires burning in the bedroom and the kitchen, and your marriage will be ok.” I feel certain there are people who would disagree with this advice, and I won’t comment on the first half here, but there is certainly something bonding about eating home-cooked meals together, and often. The scent of fresh, hot food wafting from the kitchen nourishes the whole person as it creates a spirit of anticipation, and then fulfillment— a natural pair often usurped in our culture of immediate gratification. Feed your family well. You’ll be shocked at how a person’s deepest thoughts percolate when his or her tummy is satisfied.
We spend at least a third of our lives asleep. Or we should. Consider getting serious about creating sleep spaces that draw your family to sweet slumber. I recently rented an AirBNB with the best bed I’ve ever slept in. The owner told me, “Oh, the bed is very ordinary but the 3-inch gel memory foam mattress on top with t-shirt sheets is what you probably noticed.” A well-made bed is a worthy finish line after a day of doing battle in our current world. Additionally, I’ve taken up reading before nodding off and it’s been a gift to wind the ol’ brain down naturally.
I cannot write about a home full of rest without writing about the author of the Sabbath. God, who spoke it all into existence with a word, took it easy on the seventh day. Consider praying through your house. Invite God to bring his peace into your home and to meet you in it. If there is an area where your family tends to get into scuffles (say, the back door, or maybe near the remote control), ask Him to bring his life-giving presence to that area. Pursuing real peace without inviting God into the conversation is a fool’s errand.
A place of calm delight is not a luxury these days. It is essential. Your home doesn’t have to look like Martha has been there. Just a few spots of intentionality and an attitude of kindness to those with whom you share your roof will convey the softness that they need. You might even find yourself surprised by the lovely reflections of gratitude that come your way.
And that? That feels like healing.
StoryBoard features “The Yellow Chair ChronEchols” by writer Candace Echols. Candace recently published her first book, the children’s book Josephine and the Quarantine. Candace is a Midtown resident, wife, and mother of five. She has written for StoryBoard’s Page One Writing Workshops, and writes in quiet moments from her yellow chair.