HOME. I've been thinking about this word a lot lately. Probably because I've been hosting a lot of people in my home in the last few weeks. Or maybe it is because I'm so incredibly THANKFUL I have a home. But most days, it is because I can hardly stand the thought that Davey and Weston will never go back to their home.

As I walked into Amanda's home on Friday, November 13, I remember feeling anxious and nervous, and a whole slew of emotions that I had never experienced before walking into her home. I had walked into her home hundreds of times - and each time I felt happy, and excited, and welcomed, and - well, HOME. If you've ever been to Amanda's home, you know that it is always warm and cozy and beautiful - you can't help but feel drawn in. There is always a beautiful wreath on the front door that marks each new season. Her home is always clean and clutter-free (even with a 15 month old...I told her to wait until she has two or three kids!). It smells like Autumn in the Fall and Fresh Balsam in the Winter. There is ALWAYS candy in a bowl on her coffee table. There is a candle-light glow in every room. The pantry is always stocked full of the BEST snacks and treats (and usually the BIGGEST bag of left-over candy corn that she tries to keep in stock year round! ). Her fridge is covered in black and white photos of ALL of the wonderful people in her life (no one is left out!). Her oven is always on with chocolate chip cookies baking. Elevation Worship is playing in the background. In the cooler months, there is a crackling fire that brings warmth and light to the entire house. There is a rustic touch in every room with a unique story behind each and every piece of furniture and decor. Everything in her home has purpose. It is practical and organized, yet creative and lovely at the same time. She has a place for everything and everything is in its place. She lives by the words - "just make yourself at home!" She is an incredible hostess, and makes every party, gathering, event, and holiday about the PEOPLE in her home. You can't help but love being there.

As I walked through her home for the first time without her, I could hardly breathe. You see, there was a beautiful wreath hanging on the front door. In spite of everything that had happened inside only a few days before, her house was spotless. Her Autumn candle was sitting on her kitchen countertop. There were two and a half pieces of candy corn in her candy bowl. Her pantry was stocked full of the best snacks and treats. The pictures on her fridge were updated with pictures I had never seen, and I stopped to take in all of the wonderful memories she had made. She had added a few rustic pieces of furniture to her living and dining room that I couldn't help but notice and admire. Her laundry was done and her closet was so perfectly organized. She literally had a place for everything and everything was in its place. Her Bible and journal were sitting where they always were. Her chalkboard in her dining room read - "You will keep in PERFECT PEACE, him whose mind is STEADFAST, because he TRUSTS in you." I couldn't help but think that in the midst of utter tragedy taking place in her own home, there these very words were written. As if God planted them there not only as a reminder to Amanda - something for her to glean strength and courage from in those final moments - but as a reminder to all who are left on this earth - to TRUST Him, to remain STEADFAST, and to look to God alone for PERFECT PEACE.

In that moment I realized that the reason I feel such warmth and love when I'm in Amanda's home isn't because of the way she decorated, or the candle she picked out, or the cookies in the oven...it is the way she makes you feel VALUED while you are there. It is the CONVERSATIONS you have in her living room about life. It is her BIBLE and journal on the living room table that she lives by every single day. It is the powerful words of each song that plays on her Pandora station that she doesn't just sing, but makes her LIFE-SONG. It is the PEOPLE on the fridge that she has impacted. It is the TIME she spent grocery shopping to make sure she has YOUR favorite treats and snacks stocked in the pantry. It is the DISCIPLINE she has to make sure she picks up toys and keeps things clean - even when she doesn't feel like it. It is the WARMTH and LIGHT she radiates because she loves Jesus. It is the very PEACE of God in her that makes her house a warm and cozy and beautiful place to live.

I don't know about you, but so often my home becomes about the decorations and the candles and the cookies, and I miss opportunities because my house isn't perfect or "clean enough" for company. I have a very long way to go, but I want the PEACE of God to rule my home and fill it with warmth and light. I am going to commit to that this year. I'm still going to buy Fresh Balsam candles and put candy in all of my candy bowls and fill every picture frame with pictures of Amanda - but I want my house to be a HOME - a place where people come and see Jesus and experience the PEACE of God. Thank you, Amanda, for being such an example to me, even now. I love you so much.

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