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Turning a House into a Haven



Between work, school, sports schedules, homework, and ministry responsibilities, it can be hard to meet the expectation a home should be simultaneously clean, organized, and Pinterest-worthy.

What I most want is for the home to be a place our teenagers and young adults find irresistible and invitational.

Here are some items I have strategically placed to do just that: 

1. Circle table and kitchen island. Every house we’ve set up has a circle table, so you can always pull more chairs around, and everyone feels included. An island keeps you facing others while preparing a meal, and in the end, it’s the conversation you remember.

2. Throw blankets. I don’t think you can have too many! I put them on ladders, in baskets, and draped over couches. I want the message clear: you can settle comfortably here. 

3. Burning candle. A burning candle is akin to a lighthouse, it signals someone is here and watching for you. Bonus: it smells good!

4. Art. I have art on almost every wall, delighting us with a beautiful image, reminding us of what we value, or evoking a memory of a place we’ve been together.

5. Cookie dough or fresh salsa. I always have cookie dough ingredients on hand, and fresh salsa in the fridge, so a craving can be met and they remember home is where things taste the best. Whatever your taste prefers, keep it handy, so it’s easy to pull out and share.

6. A basket of playing cards. We have a basket of cards by the table, so it’s on hand when the mood strikes, and visually prompts someone to initiate a game! 

7. A box of conversation starters. I bought these table topics cards years ago, so when there is someone new, we can navigate small talk into a meaningful exchange and invite all ages to participate. 

8. Portable speaker. Any kind will do, just have one paired up, so an impromptu dance party is just a click away. 

9. Family calendar. Posting this on our pantry door has kept me from answering questions about where people are and what is for dinner, and allowed everyone to engage in an agenda other than their own.

10. Rocking chair. These just make my heart slow down and want to linger. I’ve found conversations are longer and moods are lighter, when you can rock back and forth. I have one in every room of the house.

Some people have fresh tea always made, or house plants that bring life to a space… this list is distinctively ours, you will have your own list.

I am just looking around and feeling satisfied that life isn’t happening to us, we are creating spaces where we intentionally make room and time for one another.



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Beth and her husband, Todd, live with their family in Cincinnati, Ohio where they serve as Co-Executive Directors of Back2Back Ministries. After graduating from Indiana University, the Guckenbergers moved to Monterrey, Mexico where they lived for 15 years. Between biological, foster, and adopted children, they have raised eleven children.


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