How To Make Your Home a Sacred Space This Holiday Season
I would use many words to describe myself but “sentimental” would not be at the top of my list. I’m not sure it would even make it on the list.
For example, I do not plan on keeping any of my children’s baby clothes. I can easily toss things we haven’t used in a while – even if it was something we bought that one special occasion, date, or vacation. My mom is holding my wedding dress captive at her house out of fear that I will sell it.
However, there is something I get very sentimental about – places. My parents have lived in the same house for the last 30 years, and the thought of them selling it one day brings me to tears. My grandparents have lived in the same house for 54 YEARS, and if/when we have to say goodbye to that place, it will probably send me into a full-blown depression. My dad’s side of the family owns a beautiful cabin in upstate New York that we have gone to every single summer of my life. I can honestly say without a doubt that this is my favorite place in the entire world.
I bet if I were to ask you about the special spaces in your world, you might be able to tell me about a few. Each and every one of us has certain places that our hearts will forever be connected to.
I am writing this as we head into the holiday season. Since I am a future-oriented, I tend to wonder what the holidays will look like in the coming years. Right now, my babies are with me all the time. Even though it is hard to imagine now, someday my girls will grow up and leave the nest. My hope for my own family is that I create a home that they want to come back to once they are grown and gone.
What makes some spaces feel more special than others?
I am still figuring this out but here are five ways my parents and grandparents created sacred spaces that made me want to return, even in adulthood:
A Place of Security and Rhythms
Homes that provide regular rhythms and traditions bring security in the midst of a chaotic world. My parents and grandparents were BIG into tradition. We went to the same places for every vacation. We watched the same movies, ate the same things, and did the same activities every holiday. (I may or may not have still been hunting for my own Easter eggs well into my late twenties…) My mom would even burn the same scented candles for each holiday season. When I smell those same scents as an adult, it brings me right back to my childhood. You probably already know that the part of our brains that processes smell has strong connections to the two areas of the brain that are linked to emotion and memory. That is why certain strong smells can trigger our emotions and memories, transporting us right back to a moment in our past. I know there are some of you out there who think traditions are boring and maybe a little silly. My husband is that way. But the traditions in my own childhood brought me such a sense of security. When my world felt messy and uncertain, it was comforting to know there were things I could count on year after year. This is not something I am super good at as a mom, but I hope my own little family develops a handful of really special traditions and rhythms.
A Place of Good Cuisine
I wish this point were more insightful, but as I think back to all my sacred spaces, I was always fed. I’m not talking about “spiritually fed” here, I’m saying these places literally put good food in my belly. My mom would make chili on cozy fall evenings. My grandma would always have some kind of casserole or roast for Sunday lunch. Going to the cabin meant a week of going out for ice cream every night and then coming back to make s'mores around the campfire. Growing up, we always had family dinner together every night. I’m not talking about takeout here– my mom actually cooked food…in her kitchen…every night. Now that I have my own kids, I often ask her, “How did you cook every night?” It baffles me. Not only that, but how did you get all of us to sit around the table every night? I remember being annoyed that we always had to be home for dinner, but now as an adult, I see my parents were doing so much more than simply feeding us. Food brings people together. And good food makes them want to linger. This is the best part about the holidays – people get serious about food. Isn’t there something spiritual about gathering around the table with your loved ones while enjoying good food and great wine? Perhaps that is why Jesus spent his last night on earth around the table with those he loved most.
A Place of Fun
I don’t know about you, but I get so bored with the daily grind. Sometimes you just need to do something fun and out of the ordinary. Before we all become lactose intolerant, my family used to be ice-cream-addicts. We would spontaneously jump into the car and go grab mint-chocolate-chip shakes or this thing called a PBF Chipper (imagine a fudge and peanut butter sundae…so good). We played games, or went to Blockbuster. (Why don’t Blockbusters exist anymore? This is a shame.) Blockbuster wasn’t just about getting a movie, it was about cramming tons of kids in the car, spending an hour walking around the store to choose one movie, and then hauling everyone back home to watch it. Seriously. I often talk to my husband about how much I miss Blockbuster, but this is entirely beside the point. The point is that when we do something out of the ordinary, break out of the mundane, or take a break from the messiness of life, we create memories. This holiday season, try to do something you have never done before as a family. Go to a tree lighting, volunteer in a soup kitchen, or maybe decide on a last minute ice-cream outing. These memories are different than the memories made of traditions because they add just a bit of spice and spontaneity to life.
A Place of Connection
This one probably made the most impact in my life. My parents and grandparents were always interested in my life. They asked me questions, familiarized themselves with my interests, and got to know my friends. As I write this, I am aware that the holidays can be difficult for those who come from homes of disconnection. Maybe some of you out there are living in a space that doesn’t feel safe and peaceful right now. Maybe you doubt whether or not your kids will ever want to come back home someday. Even though my home growing up was a place of connection, it didn’t mean it was free from conflict. We had our share of teenage drama, sibling rivalry, hurt feelings, mistakes, and misunderstandings (what home doesn’t?), but I think what made our home ultimately one of peace was my parents' ability to mend. Here are a few questions for every family to consider…Whenever conflict damages our relationship with another, how good are we at stepping into the discomfort? Pursuing another even though they have hurt our feelings? Trying to understand instead of seeking to be understood? Working towards connection instead of allowing disconnection to fester? Whenever Stetson and I discipline our kids, we always try to work towards connection by quickly mending the relationship. We are young parents so we are still fumbling through this (suggestions welcome!), but our goal is that our babies always feel pursued and worthy of connection, even when they have made mistakes.
A Place of Prayer
Yes this point is obvious, but I’m not including it on the list because I feel obligated to. I truly believe that the sacred places in my life are because someone prayed over the home and in the home. Here is the truth: What makes a place sacred is that God is present in that place. This isn’t ritualistic. It doesn’t mean that when we don’t pray that God leaves the space. When we pray over our home and in our home, it reminds us that he is already there with us. Jacob was camping overnight, for instance, when he realized God was there, yet he had missed it. He exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16). Once Jacob realized the Lord was with him in that place, he called it the “House of God.” So let's pray over our home, in our home, and for those who are about to enter it. This is a great time of year to begin making your home a place of prayer as you entertain, host dinner parties, or welcome out-of-town guests into your space.
I hope this post encourages you to make your own space sacred, to make new memories, and to enjoy your people this holiday season.
This is a long blog post, so I am going to wrap it up with this beautiful prayer of blessing over your space:
Bless us, Lord, this day with a vision.
May this place be a sacred place,
A telling place,
Where heaven and earth meet.
From Celtic Daily Prayer