Come On In

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The most important thing in our house is a little post-it note stuck to the inside of our front door. When people are coming over, that little post-it note is placed on the outside of the door so that anyone who approaches our home has no need to knock, but simply follow the directions handwritten there to “Come on in!” It is an open welcome, hopefully making all our guests feel like part of the family when they walk through the door.

This is a reminder I need right now; that this house my husband and I have built is not ours alone – it is a home that God has created through us – with the purpose of welcoming others. It is not our house; it is God’s home.

It is just the beginning of December 2018, and I am reminded of what I wrote a year ago at the end of December 2017 about our ‘come on in’ policy. Last year makes this year look like a cake walk. Travel back in time with me and read my musings below from last December.

We live in one of a kind home. First-time visitors, within their first minutes, usually ask the same question; “Can I get a tour?” But it is not because it is a decorator showcase house. It is not grand. How do I even describe it? Especially since I almost don’t notice it anymore?

We started out here over thirty years ago, and the house has grown with us, and become an extension of our life together. We decided early on that this would be a house built on things and ideas we loved – not a house that we were renovating for resale.

Walls and ceilings came down. Floors were paved in terrazzo tile and colors that no one in their right mind would choose were painted across curved walls. Curtains of gray silk, aqua velvet, and vintage bark-cloth cover not just the windows, but also walls and doorways. Paintings from little-known outsider artists hang from floor to ceiling and mingle with papier-mâché masks made by our children. Bird nests and the dried shells of cicadas and the wings of butterflies and bird feathers sit on shelves beside beaded bowls and animal sculptures from our travels out west. Lighting is always lamplight and candlelight, and music usually fills the air softly in the background. It is easy to sit back on a pillow filled couch and soak it all in.

But today it is the 28th of December and I am tired. I have been tired for weeks now. The kitchen sink barely gets emptied of its once again clean dishes before it is time to lay them out again for the next incoming guests.

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It started in the first week of November, actually before that if you count the baby shower for 24 guests in mid-October, come to think of it. But starting in November, my beloved niece and her husband and new baby moved to town – just blocks away. Put the post-it note on the door, buy kosher food and bagels and put clean linens on the bed for them and Dara’s in-laws who had traveled for two days with them to help them move in.

My daughter had her baby, and her best friend came from Birmingham to hold her hand and hold the baby, and to sleep in my daughter’s old room; the one she had first slept in as a fourth-grader who lived just two doors down. Though she moved away by the seventh grade, she continued to return for the senior prom, and local concerts, and my daughter’s wedding. We have had many whispered early morning discussions sitting on that floor, as my daughter slept late on the bed above us.

And then it was Thanksgiving, so change the sheets again as nephews and their wives and children from Virginia and Mississippi fill the rooms. Breakfasts and dinners are cooked by the men in the family, and I act as assistant, handing out bowls and finding platters and searching for the cornstarch and more paper towels. Gravy drips onto the rug. Dogs race in and out of the dog door, barking to announce each arrival.

It is time to decorate the Christmas tree and an unusual snowstorm blankets the city in white. A big pot of soup simmers on the stove. Clean sheets go down for my daughter and her stepdaughter and new baby; they stay here so they will not need to travel the icy streets. My son and his girlfriend arrive early the next morning to run joyfully through the unmarred snow and pile into bed with daughter and baby, and we all camp out in there with them as the morning quietly drifts into afternoon.

A cookie-making party is next on the calendar and the house fills with both adults and children wound up from too much sugar icing and warm apple cider. Then it is the Christmas dinner for my leaders of our bible study group – a formal dinner with china and cloth napkins and candlelight, of course, and presents that get chosen and stolen with much laughter filling the room.

Family members come here to wrap gifts on the big table in the back of the den. There is a family brunch with my niece and her husband cooking. And then another one, after church on Christmas Eve day; with casseroles and ham, a whole spread of breakfast breads, and babies crying and being soothed.

My sister comes from Greenville with her dog Macy to camp out for the week in the guest room. And the Mathews come the day after Christmas. Jeff cooks barbecue and mac and cheese and Brunswick stew and Collette brings baked beans and the cousins open presents around the tree as the babies sleep. Red wine threatens to stain the white linen sofa. And they all leave again.

I go to bed tired again, saying as a bedtime mantra; “It is too much. I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore. It is just too much.” Jeff reaches for my hand the next morning and asks, “Are we done yet?” I laugh a tired laugh. We haven’t gotten to New Year’s Eve yet. And our nephew’s wife arrives New Year’s Day with 14 students and sleeping bags to camp out here during the Passion conference.

The kitchen is almost put back together. The washer and dryer ran all day yesterday and clean linens are once again on the beds. And I read my devotion for the morning and God’s words remind me that the most important thing in our house, in our home, is the little post-it on the door, inviting, welcoming all who enter, “Come on in.”

This is God’s home, not our house. He built guest rooms and provided enough clean towels to accommodate 14 young students, hungry to hear His word and sing His songs. He provided a dining room table that could easily seat 10 (or more) and another table in the den (now cleared of Christmas paper and red ribbons) that can seat many more. We have sofas in almost every room, and plenty of floor-space and plenty of room to spread out.

‘You have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy. You have set my feet in a large place.’ (Psalm 31:8 New Heart English Bible).

Jeff and I had bought a small worn-out brick ranch house with smelly stained carpet and peeling wallpaper. God has enlarged it and filled it with light. And placed a note on the unlocked door.

“Come on in,” it reads. You are welcome here.