08 September, 2012

The Sanctuary

I'm really happy to finally take a few minutes to post these photos.

My mom always emphasized the importance of the master bedroom.  She said it should always be prioritized as a special place.  (You should ask to see hers.  Tell her I sent you.  She'll be so embarrassed but their room is awesome. :)  She had reason to stress this point so heavily in my childhood; my bedroom as a teenager was usually wrecked (aren't they all?)  Mom was trying to plant the seed that eventually, my bedroom would be more than my bed.  It would be mission control for my marriage...a haven for two tired parents of young children...a refuge from life.

Once, when we were building our Amway business, we visited a home in a backwoods town.  The home was very small and packed full of stuff.  Cheap toys picked up second hand at a yard sale.  NFL memorabilia and tacky figurines perched under a thick coat of dust, on random shelves hung sporadically on the walls.  Childrens school photos, stuffed crookedly in their dollar store frames.  A TV screen entirely too big for the small room, glaring over dark stains on the carpet. 

I don't judge people for their homes, and even in these troubled surroundings, I was loving.  I didn't see drug paraphernalia or pornography, so it was less troubling than some other places we had been.  But when we asked to use their computer, we were led into the master bedroom.  The desk was along a cheaply paneled wall, next to the master bed, with about 8 inches between for walking.  No lamps in the room, leading to the switch of a harsh overhead light, creating unflattering shadows and hues.  An open potato chip bag, two empty glasses and a stack of various paperwork on the nightstand.  A cat litter box in one corner serviced by three enormous cats, which smelled horribly and hadn't been cleaned in several days.  A ratty screen-printed comforter presided over an unmade bed.  This room was full, too...crammed full of stuff.

I surveyed it briefly, and determined to keep my heart right.
  • Small homes are so difficult--there's just not a lot of storage
  • Families have lots of stuff.
  • Perhaps they work off shifts and one of them just woke up
  • Maybe they're artistic types, and they like clutter
  • Not everyone has a interest in decorating, homemaking or cleaning.
  • Women work hard outside the home; to come home and be Wonderwoman is often impossible.
But when you combine all the possibilities with the crumbs on the nightstand and the smelly litter box in the corner, this room was telling a story, and my heart ached at the punchline:  our marriage is not our priority.
You might think that is judgmental, and its possible but I have not learned all I need to in this area.  Its possible I should have more grace for this scenario.  As described in the disclaimer tab on this blog, I'm open to God's continual revelation on this subject.

But let me get to my point.  It was extraordinarily uncomfortable for me to be in that room.  Not simply because it was their bedroom, but because it was so clearly unkempt that I itched to dig to the bottom of the piles and begin helping them bring order to their lives.  Not because of my preferences, but because it was obvious that those two married people did not spend any leisurely time in that room by themselves.  It was not a comfortable or quiet place.  Nothing about it invited their communication or intimacy.

When we moved here to Liberty Street, we used the rooms upstairs as the former owners had, making our master bedroom the same room theirs had been.  After living here over a year, it occurred to me one day that we were not using the rooms as our family would best benefit.  And Nick saw my vision immediately.  Within a week, we had swapped furniture with Aly, and we were in the bedroom at the front of the house.  With the bright yellow paint that came with the house.

I am not a bright yellow paint girl.  When we were in the other room, I could reasonably delay "finishing" that room, because the fixtures and paint were at least temporarily pleasing.  But now that we had moved into our permanent room, it was time for me to invest in us.  With two young'uns underfoot, we were coming into a need of our quiet place, our refuge.  In our eight years, we had only had two new sets of sheets--using one set so thoroughly that one day, I slid my feet into the bed and punched a huge rip right through the bottom sheet.  We had only had one comforter in all that time, bought on clearance as a bed-in-a-bag set with some Christmas money one year.  Other than two valances bought for $10 from Ollies one year, our bedroom has never had curtains.  Our mattress is about fifteen years old, and we are the second people to use it.  We have beautiful bedroom furniture, given to us as a gift from Nick's parents when we got married, so we had that in our favor. 

Here are some photos of the "new-to us" room, complete with the new paint, sheets, curtains...  And it's attractive and orderly.  It's us--not fussy, not elegant, not retro, not even very trendy.  But we both walk in and think ahhh, I love this place.  We both relax here.  We like to come here and close the door behind us.

And it's clean.  It's still not natural for me to prioritize this room, to make sure it is vacuumed and tidied, perhaps even before the major rooms of our home.  It still takes effort for me to remember to make the bed, to put away the laundry, to put wallets, dishes, Kleenexes out of sight.  To slide the curtains back and put the blinds up.  But something about the act of creating an us place, something about intentionally investing in a sanctuary for our marriage, has been enormously impacting.  Our sex life is better, too.  (Bonus.)

We are using a basic mattress frame for now, which includes these delightfully tacky wheels.  Eventually we'll commit to some sort of mattress base...probably something with storage beneath.
Can I highly recommend lights like these?  Awesome for reading, and nice hue and brightness for other activities, adjustable, and low profile.  We didn't have room for lamp stands, so this was awesome.  (And they came with our house, which was nice!)
Bookshelves were a blessing from some friends recently--came on the exact day when I was thinking "Hmmm, what to put over our bed?"  What a blessing!
I took a chance following an idea to paint the ceiling darker.  I loved how it turned out!  It would only be a good idea for high ceilings (this house has 9 ft ceilings) or the dark topper makes the ceiling feel too close.  But I was so glad I risked it!  Even though I was in so much pain the next morning from painting over my head so much!
Another risk I took:  painting the window frame black.  I LOVE the touch it adds, but its at a standstill until I can borrow an extension ladder.  The outside of the windows were very sloppily-painted by a previous owner, and the windows have paint on them--which makes the inside job look poor.  But we'll finish at some point--and I just think it's such a classy touch!
I'll be honest, that's primer on the door.  I may never paint it.  I just can't make myself cover up that weird look yet.  I just really like it.  I know Mom, I know.  And I'll probably paint it at some point.  But not today.  I just think it's interesting to look at.
When I went to visit my friend Jen in Pittsburgh, she had eucalyptus in her house.  I loved the smell of it!  I had always avoided it because Mom used it years ago in her house, but something about it was so attractive to me.  So now I have some in our bedroom.  The lamp is temporary--not sure what I want that to look like yet.  The dresser is part of the bedroom suite Dad & Mom Helman gave us.

So whattya think?
Does your Master Bedroom need your attention? It doesn't have too look like ours.
Maybe you like a dark room.  I like lots of light.
Maybe you like bright yellow.  More power to you.
Maybe you don't care if the bed is made or not.  Awesome--as long as it doesn't hinder your ability to relax (for me, it does.)

The moral:  is your bedroom--the one you share with your lover--a safe place?  Is it comfortable and clean?  Is it attractive and appealing?  Do you seek it out?

If not, don't stress.  Just start, however slowly you like.  The next nice lamp you find on clearance, consider it.  Need sheets?  Start a fund.  Wish you had new pillows?  Talk to God about it.  Just start problem-solving and solution seeking.  No need to overhaul like we did.  No need to go crazy and do it in a week, like we did.  But use what you do have, and more will be added.  I can't wait to hear how it blesses you and your marriage!