As I go through the day-to-day routines of motherhood, it can be easy to take so much of life completely for granted. My son and I were settling in at bedtime the other night. Lately, I’ve been purposing to stay next to him and not hurry his lingering questions at the close of our days. My boys have a seven-year gap between them. It wasn’t so long ago my sixteen-year-old wanted to share deep, drowsy thoughts, or to ask me questions about God and relationships as we wound down for bed, now he tucks himself in without my presence. Knowing this allows me to sit with my younger son longer. I want to soak up the moments before this time together slips away like mist on morning grass.
That night he asked me, “Mom, what was it like when you went on the Mission to Mexico to build the house for that family? I mean, what were they like? Why did they need a new house?” I began telling him about Anna’s old house. The walls were made from scraps of wood, plastic, and cloth. Her family’s pallet beds with flimsy mattresses lay on a floor of compacted dirt. Their toilet consisted of a hole dug in the ground with a PVC structure and fabric hung around it for privacy.
My son probed for more details. I shared the lack of physical amenities we use every day. Instead of a stove or running water, Anna cooks in a pit outside their home with water she carries in from a local spigot.
As I spoke, my son was quieter than usual. He took it all in. Finally, he said, “Mom, they have so little. We have too much. We have everything we need and way more than that. We take so much for granted. You take me all these places and do all these things for me. If I want to eat, I get a snack in the kitchen. They can’t do that.”
I held onto the silent moment between us, feeling something deep establishing itself in my son’s heart as I remembered the reality of all he was saying. He was right. Anna and her family have very little in terms of material comforts.
I didn’t want my son to miss the biggest lesson I had learned from my few days with Anna. Despite their lack of resources, Anna’s family took the little money they had and bought chicken, beans, and corn flour to make us one of the tastiest meals I’ve eaten, preparing it all by hand over an open fire. She spent the whole day cooking for us with gratitude and love.
My son and I shared a prayer for Anna’s family and their new home, which is now over one year old. As my son drifted off to sleep, I considered what makes a house a home. In Mexico, Anna and her family had so little regarding earthly possessions, yet she welcomed us to her home, showing me a hospitality I will remember until I die. Her humble provision of all she had, the gracious way she quietly served us — this was home.
Her children ran around at our feet as our team worked through that hot day. We painted, hammered, leveled, and finished the job by hanging the handmade curtains in their windows. We gave them a house. They already had a home.
As I left my son’s room that night, I continued to think about our home. Despite all the differences between our outward circumstances, Anna and I cultivate home in much the same way. Home is the familiar little ways we live around one another as a family. Home is where we belly laugh, and where we let the hardest tears fall. We cultivate home by developing deep relationships with one another. Our shared joy and common struggles weave a fabric of connectedness that gets more thickly layered over time. Home is the familiar and comforting melodies and rhythms of life together.
Sometimes it helps to step back and think through how I am cultivating home. Over our years together, my husband and I have talked over our family purpose statement. We started doing this about 15 years ago. During one of our first conversations laying out purpose for our family, he mentioned wanting our home to be a sanctuary for each of us. Beyond that, he wanted to share what we cultivate in our home with others, so they felt that same sense of welcome, safety, and rest when they visited. This introverted man, who would (admittedly) live in a cave if it weren’t for me, said all that. I was floored and blessed.
Anna, with her simple chicken meal, and the gracious love in her heart created this type of sanctuary and then extended that feeling of comfort to others. Even though I leave our home regularly and even work away from home several days a month, her example reminds me of the irreplaceable role I have as a mom, making a place where my children and husband feel they can return to and be loved well.
Anna taught me the beauty in serving others with what we have. Her gracious care made everyone around her, including her husband and children, able to rest and receive. Sometimes I forget the simplicity of what it really takes to make my house the home I long for it to be. What my family wants most is me; not me being perfect, just me being present as is—as Anna was for our group when we went to Mexico.
*Patty’s new book, Slow Down Mama is now available on Amazon (affiliate link).
Patty Scott is a mom to two boys, ages 9 and 16. She has been married to her surfer/skater husband for over 20 years. Her home is full of neighbor kids and a whole lot of joyous mayhem most days. Patty writes to inspire and empower moms to love intentionally and make room for what matters most. Her passion is to encourage mothers and to create a place of solace for them as they do the most important work of motherhood. You can connect with Patty on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog.