I used to underestimate the influence of space. Homes were always, to me, merely practical places to eat, sleep, and store our belongings, not places to invest too much money in because we can't take any part of them with us to eternity. And then the best thing possible happened: I started to recognize the feeling of hospitality in other people's homes. I realized that when Amanda had the coffee warm and the big cups out on the counter she was saying, "grab a cup and make yourself at home." I noticed that when Meghan took the kids toys out of their corner and spread them around the living room she was saying, "We have fun here, so stay a bit!" And when Emily took out the fleece blankets and threw one in your direction, she was saying "Let's talk awhile, get comfortable." Size, set-up, decoration, all of the vanity mattered little compared to the intention, and I saw in so many of my friends that they did one thing so well: they made space for us.
We bought our first home two years ago, a light blue house on 9th Avenue that came with 700 square feet of half-finished basement. For two years we have been saving and dreaming of the potential this space had: more bedrooms! big storage area! an entertainment room! But as our babies grew, we knew that this space had one destiny: a play room. And that it became: a big open space with lots of toys, a reading nook (!!!), and a little secret room that the kids and their friends can dream and pretend and laugh their little hearts out in. We forfeited every extra bit of storage space we had in lieu of nooks and crannies that we can use- perhaps a decision I will regret at some point. But every single day since this space was finished, we have been down there. Harper runs from wall to wall with her arms straight behind her, glee coming out of her eyes and mouth and body. Cannon crawls from corner to corner and finds every outlet in sight (baby-proofed, it's all good.) We have picnics and races, we play dress-up and have doctor check-ups, and we are loud.
I cannot help but look at the freshly painted grey walls and perfect bargain carpet and think yes, space does matter. Not size. Not embellishment. Not how much it cost or didn't cost. But intention, the way we use our space, it matters. Because our homes aren't just spaces of practicality and storage, they are spaces of love and laughter and prayer. They can be spaces that welcome, that feed bodies and souls, that encourage, that host kingdom minded talk and further the work God has given us to do.
I don't know if we will stay in our house forever. I don't know if we will ever be able to afford a bigger home, or if we might feel God asking us to consolidate and downsize. I wrestle all the time with the tension of financial stewardship: do we build more or do we give our abundance away? How big is big enough? How much is too much? If we have an extra bedroom does that mean God wants us to adopt? Good questions, all of them. Very different answers for each of us. But what I think about space now is this: God asks us to be intentional with it- to steward it, pray over it, use it well. To welcome others in to it, not because it is perfect, but because it is ours, and that alone makes it a practice in generous sharing.
I hope our basement sees dozens and dozens of kids playing and laughing and growing up together. I hope there are lots of "sorries" and life lessons in those walls. I hope our friends feel welcome, stay late for movies, talk through hard questions, laugh, cry, and that we all know more about Jesus when we are done. Beyond any practicality that our home offers us, I hope above all that it always makes space for others.