I’m Learning to Dwell

I’ve been choosing a word of the year since 2011 (I think), and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that my word often surprises me. When I chose dwell as my word for 2017, how could I have known then that we’d be purchasing a house? How could I have known that I’d have a clean slate on which to create the home in which I really wanted to dwell?

At first, I began planning a million Pinterest projects. Evan and I talked about paint colors and new rugs, replacing lighting and building shelves. I scrolled and scrolled (and scrolled) through every home decor picture I’d ever pinned. We read DIY tutorials and talked about which projects would get top priority.

But then I remembered something: to dwell well requires transforming and renovating the interior of my heart, rather than my home. Colorful pillows, large pieces of art, mid-century furniture, and fiddle leaf figs are merely decoration; they are not the foundation. The home I want to create is one defined by peace, grace, joy, laughter, music, reading, and conversation.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” —1 Peter 3:3-4

What if I learned to view all my life—not just my physical appearance—in light of that verse?

“Your home’s beauty should not come from outward decoration, such as trendy wall hangings and the arrangement of furniture or paint colors. Rather, it should be that of your family’s values, the unfading beauty of a kind and Kingdom-focused community, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

“Your marriage’s beauty should not come from outward appearances, such as date night and cute Instagram selfies. Rather, it should be that of your mutual submission to one another, the unfading beauty of two people committed to serving one another like Jesus, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

“Your motherhood’s beauty should not come from outward actions, such as craft projects and fun adventures. Rather, it should be for your own sanctification, like a calling from God, offered to him as a daily sacrifice, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

In The Nesting Place, Myquillin Smith writes about visiting the home of Topiwo, a boy she and her family sponsor through Compassion International. She writes, “I had braced myself for shock and sadness and guilt and hopelessness over Topiwo’s house. I knew his family had struggled to survive through drought until Compassion stepped in to help. But after visiting that beautiful dirt home, I didn’t feel sad about where Topiwo lives. Unlike most of the homes we had visited, Topiwo’s home was rich with love and community and joy and gracefulness. Richer than a lot of homes I see in our country. Rich with the contentment I want to have. It was, in a word, breathtaking. I had been welcomed into a true home. Topiwo knew. He knew what I so easily forget.”

We’ve lived in our house for a few months now, and on some days, I feel frustrated by the apparent lack of progress and the growing (rather than shrinking) to-do list. I so easily forget!

To dwell —to find the containment, peace, and freedom I hope the word will usher in this year—I need to pin less and pray more. I need to focus less on the outward appearance of my home and more on how I want people to feel when they are sitting on our couch or playing in our basement or gathered around our table. (Or, most often, driving Hot Wheels across the floor.)

These aren’t the lessons I was expecting to learn when I started thinking about what it would mean for me to dwell this year, but they’re the lessons I’m learning.


Did you choose a word of the year? I’d love to hear about what it’s teaching you (or not), and how you’re approaching it moving into the second half of the year.

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