“My advice for you guys?  Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.”

That’s kind of random advice, I thought to myself.  Out of all of military life, this is what he chooses to share with us now?  Maybe he doesn’t realize how independent I am and how little I care what others think.  

When a retired chaplain gave Jacob and I this advice in passing at an event for chaplain candidates, I’ll admit I didn’t think “keeping up with the Joneses” would be much of a problem for me.  Well… the man was right and I was wrong.  Although this attitude of having to compete with others or live up to others’ standards can show up in many areas of life, I’ve noticed it especially rearing its ugly head in the area of home decor.

Yeah, it’s kind of a strange place for it to pop up.  But although I haven’t moved with the military yet, I have lived in three countries already and have lived in three homes since getting married in 2014.  Even as I think about moving with the military soon when Jacob finishes his degree… my thoughts often turn to stuff.

My current plan is to sell all our furniture and buy a whole Ikea house model to redecorate with, but I digress.

I’ve thought long and hard about home decor because it’s meaningful to me.  A home is a refuge, a respite, a place for making memories and rejuvenating.  It’s important!  Especially in military life, the stuff I take with me and my family members will be some of the only consistencies in each place.  However, I think I’ve gone past wanting to make a hospitable, loving home and veered into making a Pinterest-worthy home people oooo and aaaah over.

The idea of having a house that still looks put-together, cohesive, and intentional at each place we live has been on my mind, so when I got the chance to ask a 30+ year Army wife how she tackled decor and furniture-buying throughout her moves, I was surprised to hear her say, “I pretty much threw it to the wind.”

She went on to explain how some people will sell all their stuff and re-buy at each new location but it wastes so much money.  She admitted there were times when their house looked a little wonky and mismatched from fitting their old furniture into a new space, but it was worth it.  Their family saved money for better things, and it didn’t stop her from showing hospitality to other families around them.

This scruffy hospitality opens up doors for authentic relationships.  The guy that coined the phrase, Father Jack Knox, describes scruffy hospitality like this:

Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

I’m coming around to the idea that a talented homemaker doesn’t just blow lots of dollars on new stuff all the time.  Anyone can do that; it doesn’t take creativity or skill.  The smart homemaker uses what he or she has to make the home as welcoming, practical, and comfortable as possible.  She knows the limits of her stuff and budget, and she is content with it.  She doesn’t put her stock or value on her things; she puts it in those intangibles that are far more meaningful to people: hospitality and authentic relationships.  She doesn’t get frustrated with being “too poor” to buy the stuff she wants.  She doesn’t look at her home with disdain because it isn’t as fancy as someone else’s. She definitely rolls up her sleeves and works some decorating magic when it’s called for, but she also doesn’t wait for decorative perfection before being content and opening her doors to others.  (Pretty sure there’s a Bible story on this exact thing… get out your flannel graphs…)

May my future homes look like Pier One and Cracker Barrel had a baby?  Quite possibly.  And while I may not be getting a bunch of repins on those house photos, I think it will be okay.  They will be “make do and mend” homes full of warmth and real life.

First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
    rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
    is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
    diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
    reaches out to help the poor.                                  – Proverbs 31:17-20 (MSG)