A Place for Guests – Your Guest Space

While not every home may have a designated “guest room,” most families have some kind of space or plan for how to host guests. In our home, our guest space is multi-functional. When we do not have one of our parents (our most frequent guests – hooray for grandparents!) staying with us, the guest room serves as a sewing/weaving/film scanning/3-D printer/violin practice/overflow storage room. That’s quite a lot for one room. Whenever I am preparing for someone to come stay, I usually end up in the middle of it and wonder, “Where am I going to put them with all the stuff in here!?”

No matter how multi-functional your guest space is, there are things you do when you know someone is coming. I can recall whenever my own grandmother would come to stay we always had to clean the bathroom. It didn’t matter if it had been cleaned the day prior, my mom always (at least it felt like always, she may say differently) had to have the bathroom clean. I have a little mental checklist I try to get through at least 24 hours before a guest arrives. It goes something like this:

  • Clean the bathroom (surprised?)
  • Dust the guest room
  • Verify the sheets are clean
  • Clear off the table as much as possible to allow for guest use
  • Tidy room as much as possible, lament over how crammed it is, wish I had better storage solutions, try to cram the yarn boxes deeper into the closet, remember the closet doors won’t close because of the looms in the way, straighten the bed covers again because I can at least make that presentable, close the door and say it’s good enough.

It’s not perfect, obviously.

There’s another kind of guest I’d like to consider. So far, I’ve been thinking about the planned guest. What about the unplanned or spontaneous guest? What do you do when you child wants to have a playdate or you think it would be nice to have a family over for a weekend bbq? Depending on when you make those plans, you may or may not have time to overhaul your house.

When we lived in California, I dreaded having anyone over. I felt like our home was never clean enough, that I wasn’t prepared enough. I did not have a good system of cleaning and staying on top of things. I was easily overwhelmed with the prospect of hosting someone. I wanted to be the person who had it all together. Standing on the corner talking with a neighbor, playing at the park with a friend, the facade could stand. But to come into our home it would quickly crumble – at least from my perspective. I am a little sad to look back at that time, to see my lack of confidence in who I was and that I was enough, even if my home was quite less than magazine worthy (spoiler alert, it still isn’t magazine worthy). I know there are some friendships that I did not cultivate as I could have because of these doubts.

Back in 2010, the English version of the Roman Missal underwent a translation overhaul. One big change came during the Eucharistic Prayer. After singing the Lamb of God, we kneel. The priest elevates the Body and Blood of Jesus as says, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” In the old translation, we said, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. Only say the word and I shall be healed.” Today, this response has changed to mirror the words of the Roman centurion from Matthew 8:5-8 who said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Only say the word and my servant will be healed.” The faith of the centurion was so great, Jesus healed his servant on the spot, not needing to go be physically with him.

When we echo the words of the centurion, we are placing ourselves before Jesus, asking Him to heal us even in our brokenness. Even though our homes and hearts are not perfect, our checklists not complete to welcome him. We acknowledge our unworthiness. St. Paul says it more eloquently than I ever could: “But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And again, “All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-34).

Jesus does not say, “Get it together, then I’ll come over.” Yes, we are sinners. We are broken. But we are not lost. Jesus is the best kind of guest if we just let Him in. He will help us with our daily tasks, He will encourage us when times are tough, and no matter the mess, He will never leave us in our neediness. It doesn’t matter whether we’ve cleaned under the beds or not.

We are entering Holy Week. We’ve gone through most parts of our homes, considering how the function both physically and spiritually. As we transition to these holiest of days, the Church invites us into her home in a unique way. For each of the days of Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday), once a year liturgical experiences are celebrated. We are entering the heart of our faith, the Paschal Mystery which is Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection.

Every year we celebrate these sacred mysteries. Jesus didn’t wait for the world to be ready before He came to save us. Every year we are invited to delve deeper into this gift of salvation, to invite Jesus to a more intimate relationship within us. Every day we have the opportunity to welcome Jesus into our home, but these days of Holy Week are exceptional.

This week, instead of focusing on our physical homes, take the time you have been using with these reflections to spend time on your spiritual home. Have you invited Jesus into your heart? Take Him on a tour of the work you’ve done these past weeks. How have you grown? Where do you need His mercy, His strength or His tenderness? Think about the Triduum days from last year. What liturgies did you attend? Stretch yourself and plan to attend one more than last year. Embrace these days and the spiritual drama that is unfolding. These days are one big story and we are invited to enter into it.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

A Place for Rest – The Bedrooms

There is something sacred about your bedroom. I don’t think I consciously realized this until I noticed how fiercely my children guard their individual beds and bedtime things. Our kids each have a few (ok, total honesty? Clare, our 7 year old, has about 30 bedtime friends and multiple blankets in a friend fortress, or castle, or something it changes weekly) bedtime stuffed animals. These are special, sacred things to them. When we travel, they come with (no, not all 30 of Clare’s. We put the limit on 2. I can only handle keeping tabs on so many stuffed animals in a hotel room). For Gabe, our 2 year old, they are necessary for sleeping. He wakes up in the middle of the night and if he can’t find one of them, he cries for us to help him. You don’t mess with bedtime friends.

This isn’t to say that adults don’t have their own bedtime quirks, because they do. Ben feels pretty strongly about his pillow. If I were to switch our pillows he would immediately notice and insist on switching back. We all have a bedtime routine of some kind, even if it isn’t one we intentionally crafted. How many times have you gotten into bed and realized you accidentally forgot to do a part of your routine? I would bet you ultimately got up and completed whatever it was before you could sleep soundly.

As humans, we need rest. It is part of who we are and how our bodies function. Everyone knows what it feels like to be sleep deprived and most do what they can to avoid it. Our bodies have a whole series of functions and tasks that occur only during sleep. On the whole, we will not be able to perform our day to day tasks well if we do not sleep well.

Sleep scientists have compiled whole lists of things we can do to help us sleep better. Parents already know quite a few from their days of struggling to teach their children to sleep. A routine helps tell your body it is time to sleep. Engaging in stretching or other gentle exercises help to relax your body and rest your mind. Journaling is a great way to let go of the day’s work and worries. Environmental factors such as a lighting, temperature and breathing ability (sleep apnea is no joke) will affect the quality of your sleep.

As you spend time in your and the other members of your family’s bedrooms, consider the following questions:

  • Does this space encourage rest?
  • Can the person sleeping here access what they need in an environment that is conducive to sleep?
  • Does this room have unnecessary items that do not promote sleep?
    • This could range from an overflowing closet, too many toys, electronics, general clutter
  • All bedrooms inevitably end up with some kind of storage space, usually under a bed or in a closet. If you are up for a challenge, empty those storage spaces and see what needs to stay, what can be donated and what needs to go.

Spiritually speaking, God is a big promoter of rest. Part of God’s great actions of creation was to rest on the 7th day. We wouldn’t talk about it if it wasn’t significant. God modeled for us the goodness of rest and we should take note. In our modern culture, most jobs provide for time off during the week. It may not be on the traditional weekend (Saturday and Sunday), but the days are there. We recognize that it is not good for people to work non-stop. There has to be time for hobbies, for entertainment and for rest.

As Christians and Catholics, we also recognize that there needs to be time set aside for God. The Church offers us Sunday as our day of rest, the day that Jesus rose from the dead. We attend Mass, joining together with our community to worship God and keep holy the Sabbath as instructed in the 10 Commandments. But we know that to have a healthy relationship with God, we need to give Him more than 60 minutes on Sundays. Each day there needs to be time to connect with God, to talk with Him, to be with Him. Just as we need to sleep everyday to be physically healthy, we need to rest with God everyday to be spiritually healthy.

Take time this week to assess how much time you spend at rest. How do you use that time? Could you try to spend a few more moments resting with God, rather than Instagram? Could you read a Scripture passage instead of a Tweet? Challenge yourself to rest more with God and less with the things of this world.

One final week! I wonder what last space we will be in. I’m looking forward to talking with you about it then!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

A Place for Renewal – The Bathroom

Ah, the humble bathroom. Restroom. Loo. Porcelain throne. My husband’s particular favorite, “The last bastion of freedom!” We have many names for the place where we take care of, shall we say, necessities. Or, if you’re a parent of littles and are no longer put off by potty talk, it’s the place where you go potty and poop and everybody does it so please, please, just go on the toilet!

Yes, no conversation about cleaning our homes, the ones we live in or our spiritual ones, would be complete without a trip to the place where we clean ourselves. In our physical bathroom, we are cleaned both internally and externally. We shower, shave, put on lotion or beauty products. We do our hair, clean our nails, brush our teeth. There is quite a lot happening in this room, ironically usually one of the smallest in our homes.

Though the smallest, this little room is one that we cannot live without. A quick story. We had just (and I mean less than 48 hours just, no furniture or household goods just) moved into our home in Kansas. One of the toilets was clogged and no amount of plunging was fixing it. We had to call a plumber who regretted to inform us that the sewer line had literally disintegrated between the toilet and the clean out in the back yard. Oh by the way, it was buried under a concrete floor that would need to be cut, the pipe completely replaced, and new concrete poured. Every time we flushed we made it worse. We had to leave. Immediately.

As the story illustrates, we cannot live in safety and good hygiene without good plumbing. Maintaining a clean bathroom may sound obvious, but it is worth saying. Depending on the layout of your bathrooms, they can become places of hidden clutter. Drawers and cabinets that have all manner of hair ties, half used bottles of soap, old wash cloths of questionable cleanliness, and who knows what else. We will come back to this idea when we talk about our spiritual restrooms.

When it comes to spring cleaning your bathroom this week, don’t gloss over those places you know work is lurking. Perhaps empty one drawer each day and sort the contents. If you haven’t used the item in the last year, it’s probably time to let it go. You can enlist your family members to help you as well. Maybe it’s time for some bathroom reorganization. We have found this true as our children have started to grow and mature. They need their own space just as much as Ben and I. This week is also an excellent time to pull out the bleach and really give your bathrooms a deep clean. Put on some good music and get it done well!

Have you ever thought about a spiritual bathroom? Probably not. But believe it or not, even the bathroom can have spiritual significance. All of us is a sinner. Plain and simple. We are in need of saving, we are in need of healing, we are in need of cleansing. God knew this which is why He sent His Son, Jesus, to come and save us. While our salvation was won once and for all by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we still need to turn back towards God when we break away from Him and follow our sinful inclinations. We all fall short and are in need of continual cleansing. Enter the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is such a powerful sacrament that most neglect to take full advantage of. Jesus is waiting to restore us into right relationship with Himself, to cleanse us of our sins and make us clean and pure once again. The word “cleanse” is even in the words of Absolution the priest says over us after we have confessed our sins.

This week, go to Confession. Make it a priority in your schedule. Most parishes have regular confession times on Saturdays and before daily Masses. If none of the times at your parish genuinely will not work for your already established schedule, call the parish office. Your priest will make time for you in his schedule whenever you are able to get to him. It’s in their job description, they are in the business of bringing people closer to God. If you are feeling uncomfortable about confessing to your familiar priest, go one town over. But go. This week. Today, even, if you need to rip the bandaid off.

Here are a few tools for making a good confession:

Next week, we lean into rest. These have been a busy 4 weeks and it’s time to remember that we are made for both work and play. For active participation and for restful reflection.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com