I am an idealist, a writer and a mother. That means I am not only working on ways to improve Home Doerneman, I always feel compelled to write about that process. I love thinking about the different ways to actively create a strong and beautiful family culture.
Now that my 8 children are older (and can all flush and brush by themselves), I have even more time to write but I don’t want to lose a sense of reality. That’s the danger, you know? I believe it is probably incredibly easy to lose sight of the juice-spilling, head banging stage.
Knowing that, I invited Hannah Arnold, mom of six children (in eight years), to come into my home and chat with me for an hour or so. I wanted to get her pulse and see if the ideas that I had in my head would float in her water.
Okay, so what ideas have I been having? Well, our ministry is The Parenting Dare. And yes, we help parents in a very specific way with electronics and talking to their children about love, lust, p*rnography and such. But we are more than that. We are about healthy family living. We are about creating a strong, beautiful family culture.
And as I sat with that, I wondered how the ideal of a “domestic church” sat with moms of littles. So that’s why I invited this particular friend over. I wanted to see what she thought of this idea.
Now, so you can get an idea of exactly who I was speaking with….first of all, Hannah is physically beautiful. She takes good care of herself. She has a sanguine personality type, meaning she loves to have fun. She is always smiling and has an obviously loving heart.
As we sat down together, I wanted to get to know her real heart. So I asked her what terrified her the most about motherhood.
Hannah thought for a moment and then she said she was most anxious about the way she was affecting her children. She worried that she would scar them for life.
People. I was sitting next to one of the most grace-filled women and she was worried that she was going to be the reason that her children went to therapy when they got older.
She could tell that I didn’t believe her. She wanted to give me the proof. “Lori, I called my five year old a really bad name today.”
She told me exactly what had gone down. The five-year old poured liquid bubbles all over the baby’s head. And Hannah snapped.
I could tell she felt miserable about it, but to help me understand what was really going on in her life, she filled me in on more stories.
And I just started laughing. Why laughter? Well, I was chuckling at the way that older women (which is now me) can sort of beatify the whole motherhood process as something gorgeous and life-giving at every moment.
My time with Hannah Arnold gave me a healthy dose of reality.
And I was grateful.
As we chatted, I told her the reason I had wanted her to spend time with me, that I had been thinking a lot about the quest to renew the church and wondering how it looked to inspire us moms to be more intentional with our own domestic church.
Friends. Those words, “domestic church” and “your home” seemed like polar opposites from where Hannah was living.
She told me that she woke up that morning to dog diarrhea all over her floor. Whenever she sat down to nurse her baby, the other children sometimes got into things. She did not like seeing her own impatience and needs. She hated her utter lack of prayer time and she lived with plenty of comparison to other moms and an unhealthy amount of mommy guilt about everything.
And there I was, presenting the idea of a shiny Domestic Church.
Her life rejected the idea.
After Hannah left, I sat alone in my room and thought of all that she had shared with me. What a treasure you are, Hannah, and I am so grateful for your heart.
I could see that the constant demands that come with a lot of children almost taunted the idealistic side of life. It was obvious that you desperately want to create something beautiful in the home. Your longing was palatable. Yet. Hard to figure out how to do what when dealing with dog poop, eh?
So, after I sat with that for a bit, I decided to shelve the idea of renewing the church from within our individual homes. It would not work, especially while we had kids. Ha.
Okay. Now, I love the Holy Spirit and I love how He jingles and jangles in our lives. I love that. Seems He had more to say about this idea because I couldn’t stop thinking about this idea of spending good energy creating a working DOMESTIC CHURCH within our homes.
And then I wondered if maybe we had the wrong notion of it all.
Hannah thought of CHURCH as a place of beauty, yes, but also of quiet serenity. A place to find peace. She knew that was not her home.
She also knew that her yelling at her children probably disqualified her from, well, from anything good or godly or churchy. Yet she longed for peace. For beauty. For more of God.
How to satisfy the hunger in her heart?
I'd like to invite you to this conversation in a personal way; it is important that you and I actually examine what we think of when we hear the phrase “the domestic church.” I bet that most of us would think of perfection and keeping commandments and being a certain type of quiet.
No wonder that mom of six little children wanted to bash her head against the wall when I floated the idea of creating a domestic church within her home. She experienced dirt, clutter, screaming matches, lots of bodily functions and non-stop movement and needs in her home.
She knew that was not church. Not even close.
But what if that WAS church? I mean, if you look at my beloved Catholic Church, there is a lot of “messy” going on within its walls. There is a lot of dirt, clutter and non-stop needs going on with the PEOPLE of our Church. From the TOP down. There are hurt hearts. Infighting.
Hannah’s home is actually a pretty good example of the inner life of the living Church. It is filled with humans that can do a lot of damage on any given day. Yet my friend would also tell you of the grace found within her walls, too. Of how it felt when her children worked together and loved one another.
Maybe her home was the most perfect example of a real, living, breathing, church. Not in spite of all of the chas, clutter and spills, but because of it.
Interesting take, eh? Don’t you love the Holy Spirit?
The next thought: if our home is supposed to be a little church, how can we bring real, abiding joy into that home? How can we invite Jesus into the lives of our children? (And not just imitating what has always been done in a boring, quiet, churchy way.)
I think that is a deeply intriguing question. No matter where we are on the crazy scale, how can we TRULY, PERSONALLY, better experience God in our home? How can we invite Him into our dog poop-filled days?
Now, my temptation is to write a quick conclusion and tie everything up with a pretty bow. But I am not going to do that today. Why not? Because sometimes you and I, as strong mothers, need to kick thoughts around. We need to sit with difficult questions and we need to seek bigger answers.
So I have an "ask" or invitation for you....
If you have small children running around your home, I’d love your thoughts on “Creating a Domestic Church” within your home:
Does the thought make you want to gauge my eyes out?
Or do you feel compelled and inspired by that ideal?
Do you have any simple ideas that you have utilized?
How do you make time for God amid the demands of your little people?
What message would you give to moms of littles?
What would you like to say about your own experiences in this realm?
If you have raised some kids, you have that golden experience. I’d love your input, too.
What advice would you give my friend and those like her? Hannah is in the deepest trenches of motherhood. She gets up at dawn and works non-stop. She is tired. Yet. Her heart longs for the beautiful. She wants more.
What would you tell her about her home as a domestic church?
How did you find Jesus amid the Dog Poop? (That should be the title of my next post.)
I’m excited to read every word you have to say. THANK YOU for sharing with me. I am going to take your thoughts and make them into an offering for young moms that are on the crazy train.
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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