Havoc or Haven? Rethinking Home

Havoc? Or Haven? I laugh and then groan when the Lord gives me that title, because when you sit down to write what you think you know, God has this way of making you relive it, aka God’s Refresher Course for writers and would-be know-it-alls.

(SIGH)

So, I asked him what to tell you and he said, “Tell them the truth.”

All I could think of was Jack Nicholson’s line in the movie A Few Good Men: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

I responded, “Lord, if I tell them the truth, they might never read another word I write!”

A half hour later I came across this quote: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” Maria Rukeyser.

So here we go; if the earth opens up under our feet, it’s not my fault. (Get it – fault?) 

More than anything, I desire my house to be a haven. Over the years, wherever we’ve lived, I’ve walked and prayed over the rooms, asking God to use our home to extend His Kingdom and he has answered those prayers, although not always in the ways I expected.

Unfortunately, even in the most heavenly havens, havoc can strike. We’ve experienced our share: unemployment, sickness, family struggles, a financial crisis. I’ll spare you the details and leave it at this: If we’d just run over the dog it would have made a great country and western song.

You know what I discovered? It’s possible to experience haven even in the midst of havoc.

Haven is a safe place

There used to be this upscale furniture store in my neighborhood called “Haven.” It overflowed with gorgeous earth-toned upholstery, squishy down-filled pillows that cost more than what I paid for my sofa. I called it, “Heaven.” 

Webster’s defines haven as the mouth of a river, a spot with good anchorage where ships can be sheltered from storms and violent seas. A harbor, a PLACE of SAFETY.

Our homes are havens in the sense they’re a safe place for us to escape. But a haven, or harbor is also a place of activity, where people come and go; IDEALLY our homes should be places where friends, acquaintances, and even strangers can drop anchor and escape the storms of life if only for an evening.

In my research I came across a word that is no longer used, but I want to resurrect: havener – the overseer of a port. We’re haveners of our homes!

Havoc is a waste place

When I told my husband the title of this blog he immediately shouted, “Cry Havoc!” quoting not Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar but the Star Trek movie, Undiscovered Country. Yea, I was confused, too.

“Cry havoc” (late 14c.), was a signal given to English soldiers in the Middle Ages to seize, plunder, pillage, loot.” 

Websters 1828 dictionary defines it as waste, wide and general destruction.

Havoc can also be a verb – to waste, to destroy. We could literally “havoc” our own home, which gives new meaning to the Proverb that says a wise woman builds her house, a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. 

Part of the inspiration for this post came from a plaque that hangs on my kitchen wall:

Haven is ordered, contented and hospitable.

Havoc is disordered, discontented and inhospitable. 

Order

I love order.

But if you run your finger across surfaces in my house you’re gonna’ find dust.  Dust doesn’t bother me. Clutter on the other hand, makes me crazy.

 

Cluttered closet

If you’re concerned about clutter, you’re not the only one. I have a friend who makes a living helping people deal with their clutter. “Business,” she says, “is good.”

Clearly she’s in the right business; I Googled “clutter,” and came up with 32,900,000 results. 

Here’s a sampling:

A furniture store called Elegant Clutter. (Clutter is ok as long as it’s classy)

The Clutter Fairy: “Conquer your clutter, love your life.” She sponsors meet up groups to discuss whether Clutter Makes You Depressed, or Does Depression Make You Clutter?

The deeper you delve into the subject of clutter the more “woo woo” it gets:

  • “Lose the clutter, find your soul”
  • “Uncover the truth and the clutter will vanish”
  • “Clear the clutter, cleanse the soul”
  • “How to manifest your soul mate by dealing with clutter.”

If you can’t afford a professional organizer, there’s an inexpensive solution: 

Visualization.

Let’s try it! Close your eyes – picture the messiest spot in your house: “I close my eyes and breathe the air or beauty and harmony that surrounds me. I go to that perfect place in my soul where the angels of neatness honor my presence.”

Alrighty then. 

For many of us, though, clutter IS a manifestation of deeper issues.

This is what I know to be true about clutter for me:

Clutter is one of the first signals that I’m depressed. I battle the clutter daily but when I’m depressed – I just don’t care. Or I care but can’t summon up the energy to do anything about it. 

My definition of clutter:

Clutter is the accumulation of anything that keeps me from being present.

Anything… not just the stuff taking up space on the countertops, but the stuff that takes up space in my heart and mind. Stuff like:

Old hurts

Failure, real or perceived

Insurmountable to-do lists, i.e., perfectionism

Unrealistic expectations of self and others – ouch

Bitterness

You can organize your home until it looks like an ad for California Closets and still not have peace. 

Friends call my home a haven; I love hearing that! But for a long time it wasn’t a haven to me, and it had nothing to do with clutter or decorating or storage systems; it had to do with stuff that had accumulated in my heart.

It’s the internal stuff that keeps me distracted, discontent and disconnected.

 

Stuff that had seized and taken hold of my heart; stuff that had made it hard.

CHAOS

My organizer friend says clutter gives people an excuse for not interacting with others; it’s a way of insulating yourself from socialization. She calls it CHAOS (Can’t Have Anybody Over Syndrome). A good counselor will tell you the same thing about the internal clutter.

It’s the internal stuff that keeps me distracted, discontent and disconnected.

if you’re a prisoner to your clutter you have to dispose of stuff that no longer serves your purpose, whether its 20 years worth of Bon Appetit magazines (I did it, by the way) or 20 years worth of resentment.

Elisabeth Elliot says, “God is a God of order and peace.”

I’m learning to get the order straight: Order my heart, then my home. Then and only then will my home be a haven of peace and contentment. 

Contentment 

As I flip back through my journals I realize there are a lot of “If Only’s” that have to do with home:

If only I could buy a new sofa 

If only we owned a home

If only I could re-model my home

Then my husband lost his business and we couldn’t pay the mortgage. 

Insert: If only I could keep my home. 

Feel free to substitute your own, “If only’s…”

The thing is, contentment means being satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else. “If only’s” can’t buy contentment.

Contentment vs Contention

If contentment is a blessing, then contention is it’s evil twin. 

Proverbs 25:24 says, “It’s better to live alone in a corner of the attic than with a contentious wife in a lovely home.”

Contentious means quarrelsome and get this: that verse is in the book of Proverbs TWICE, word for word.

This hit home for me the other day when I came home from a trip and had to put my suitcases back up in the attic. There’s plenty of room to store things up there but we stack everything right around the opening because of how hot it is. It’s so miserable it literally takes your breath away and that’s WITH an attic fan. Imagine what the CORNER of the attic must be like.

Contention comes from the word contend which means to stretch out or strive after. What is it we strive for? What’s the “more” that makes us contentious instead of content? 

James puts it this way: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God and when you ask you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives.”

Then James offers us some wise advice: Submit yourselves, then, to God. There’s that letting go thing again; it’s hard to receive blessings when your fists are clenched. 

We don’t find contentment; we learn contentment. 

“For I have learned the secret of being content…” Philippians 4:11.

Contentment is the choice to believe that everything I need I already have. That frees me to offer hospitality. 

Hospitality 

Designing a beautiful dinner party, setting a lovely table, trying new recipes, drinking a great bottle of wine, laughing and enjoying a stimulating conversation; I love it all. It’s a wonderful feeling to pull off an evening like that.

It’s tempting to turn it into a formula: get the house in order, serve a beautiful meal, find contentment and take all the glory

But hospitality isn’t about our glory.

Hospitality is about the Father’s glory. 

If you’ve heard me speak about hospitality or read my previous blog The Shared Table (posts are searchable in the sidebar) you know that when I talk about hospitality I’m talking about the original meaning: “loving strangers.”

My motives aren’t always perfect, and neither is my house, but that’s ok. Hospitality is about what you’re becoming – what you’re learning.

You know what I’m learning?

Authentic hospitality or “love of strangers” can only be based on Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. It’s not about having a well-ordered pantry or how content you are with your home– it’s about what’s in your heart.

We are called upon to offer hospitality even when the house is a wreck and our hearts are breaking. The only way I know to do that is to open our doors to the one who is both guest and host. Invite the One who has prepared a banqueting table for you into the havoc of your heart and home.

A true dwelling place 

Now for that truth I promised you:

I eventually got the “If only’s,” I wrote about in my journal… the new sofa, the house; I even got to remodel the house. And then we lost it all. Sometimes you have to lose what you think brings contentment before you find true contentment. I had a safe haven all along; I just didn’t realize it. 

JESUS is my safe haven. Even when it’s hailing havoc.

The determining factor between havoc or haven is right here: WHERE YOU DWELL. The phrase “to dwell” didn’t mean “to make a home” or “reside” until the mid 13th century. Prior to that it meant “to mislead, deceive, make a fool of, stupor, vapor or smoke.

This is what I believe is true:

We’re mislead if we think our homes are havens purely for our own enjoyment.

It’s foolish to believe that a well-ordered closet is the key to contentment.

And we’re in a smoke-filled stupor to think we can somehow avoid ever experiencing havoc.

Where do you dwell? 

If you abide in the shelter of the most high God, your heart and your home will be a haven. 

Havoc may hail, but Christ, your Haven will prevail. 

Clear out the clutter in my heart. Order my thoughts. Dwell in my heart and in my home so that whoever enters will find a haven from the havoc in their world.
Hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, Please share.

One thought on “Havoc or Haven? Rethinking Home

  • August 23, 2018 at 9:25 pm
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    Love the idea of being a havener of my home. This piece really spoke to my broken heart that has found it’s safe place in Him alone. Thank you for sharing your heart, your home and your havoc and His perfect haven.

    Reply

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