Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Pinterest and Perspective
Last year the house we lived in while in Haiti was plain. It was functional (after a lot of creative re-working) but the walls were white, some floors were cement, some were indescribable, and the boy's room had bunk beds. The end. Their space definitely did not look like your typical American kid's bedroom. In despair one night, while standing in the boys' room I remember saying to Aaron, "It looks like our sons are at youth camp. A really crappy one." There was not a single piece of art or decor on the walls of our home. Not one single thing could have been labeled decorative.
I knew we probably would not be in that house for long. I didn't want to go to the trouble of decorating or making the house feel more like "me" or "us." Living in a third world country, seeing poverty every day also makes those kind of things feel extra silly. We lived ten months in a house that didn't feel like "us" or look like "us" or have any creative elements to it. I'm sad to admit that we survived. I'm also sad to admit that my sons and husband did not care that the house was plain and uninspiring. They loved being home, felt that it was comfortable, and never complained. Bummer of epic proportions!
One day when I was complaining about our Haiti house to Aaron, I remember desperately trying to pull the "guests" card. A lot of what I did to make our house so ding-dang spectacular in the States was for our guests after-all. "I want to show hospitality and make everyone feel comfortable and welcome." Well darn it all. We didn't have anything special in Haiti...like there were times when people had to bring their own plates to eat dinner at our house, and yet we experienced some of the sweetest community and fellowship we have ever known this year in Haiti. Can someone growl with me, because that makes me want to throw a brat-tacular fit.
I was left with only one depressing conclusion to make: A lot of what I was doing for years and years in the States, trying to "make my home a haven" and pour my efforts into having an adorable house my family and others enjoyed was not really for them. It was for me. Glad that's out.
I think it's especially easy in the Christian community where book upon book is written to encourage women to care for their homes and family (all good things) to go a step too far and convince women that their homes need to be stylish. I can't speak for everyone, but this linking of "cute house" to "good wife and mom" caused me to spend unnecessary funds, time, and energy on making my house aesthetically pleasing.
I have been guilty of looking at magazines, repainting a room, or buying all new bedding and window treatments while justifying my obsession with my home as a really good thing. "I'm busy at home. Those new curtains make me a good wife. If I sewed them myself, it makes me an even better one. This new technique I'm using to repaint this dresser for the eighth time will surely make my kids look back on their childhood with delight." Lots of what I bought was from garage sales and cheap antique fairs. I didn't spend a lot of money. Just a lot of time and a whole heck of a lot of my thought life went into fantasizing about what project I was going to do next.
You would think living in Haiti in a "this-house-is-so-not-me" kind of house, surviving, and seeing dire poverty day in and day out would cure this crazy obsession with my home.
You would think.
I have simultaneously discovered and fallen in love with Pinterest. I don't think I believed in love at first sight until discovering this online bulletin board of all things lovely and inspiring.
When we decided to go back to Haiti for two years, I also decided I do want to put more effort into our new house feeling a little more homey and "like us" all the while admitting that most of that will be for me and not for anyone else in my home. I obviously need this. They probably don't. In a country where most people don't even have houses, much less decorated ones, I have to admit that I'm most likely being ridiculous and yes, even selfish. As lame as it is, I really want the boys to have rooms that they love. I want painted walls. I want all that while trying to balance my desires with the truth that the majority of the world is suffering and doing without the most basic needs in life. Such friction. There is no escaping it.
I don't want to feel entitled to a decorated, fashionable home when millions and millions of people will fall asleep tonight without a roof over their heads. I love Pinterest. It's incredibly inspiring. I've gotten several ideas for decorating the boys' room in creative, simple ways. But I'm also trying to tread through this whole topic of "making a home a home" cautiously. I know my natural tendency is to try and justify home-improvement projects as "necessary" when really most are not. I really want my husband and sons to care if we have art on the walls and adorable throw pillows. Mostly, they don't. I know I'm guilty of using the gifts I've been given and pouring them all into projects that benefit myself or my family or other people in my life who also do not need one single thing. I struggle with that even though I know...deep down...I know that a lot of women have been gifted with brilliant, creative brains, and there are many ways a hurting, desperate world could be cared for and loved by the same creativity I am tempted to use to sew new curtains. I am easily distracted, but during the rare moments when I'm thinking straight...I truly want hurting, broken people...not walls or counter-tops...to be the primary recipients of the love and creativity I possess. I want to make a difference in this world. I want to spend my time advocating for people who are helpless. I want to care about the world, my eyes opened wide to the suffering, my soul in prayer, my energy in big, heaven-birthed movements. In my heart I want that. In my mind I'm trying to figure out how to paint paper mache eggs to look like robin eggs.
So here I go...tip-toeing ever so cautiously through the world of decor. Can I easily, simply, cheaply, environmentally and socially responsibly find a few ideas online and make those things come to life (and fit in our luggage to take back to Haiti?) I really, really, really, want the boy's rooms to be cool, even though it does not matter one tiny bit. I realize how ridiculous that is.
While I was in Haiti I really didn't care about any of this stuff. There were moments when I'd look around my house and shake my head. Mostly we were too busy living life, trying to love others, and engage in our community to care about having matching dishes. As complex and draining as Haiti can be, it can also give enormous gifts...like freedom to this "I heart my home" junky.
I'm grateful for art and beauty. Aren't these wonderful gifts? Creating art and beauty is surely a talent we've inherited from our Maker. I'm sure the canvas of creativity will be my home, but I hope these bursts of ideas, inspiration, and beauty I add to this world are also found outside our front door.
As I go about "pinning" all things incredible on Pinterest, I do so with the images of Haiti in my heart and mind. The ever-present friction of being a first world girl in a third world country. I'm learning there aren't easy answers or a nice rule book about how much is too much. Instead, there's just a soul tug. A constant one. I'm learning to be more comfortable in that uneasiness. I'm sure it's probably best to consistently feel the burn...to feel the pull calling me to invest my time, mind, and energy in life-giving things that not only matter now, but will matter forever.