The girls, later joined by two of their brothers, made a cat house out of a packing box. The youngest was a cat…the others worked hard on her home.

1.15refuge-011.15refuge-021.15refuge-031.15refuge-041.15refuge-051.15refuge-061.15refuge-071.15refuge-081.15refuge-09What started as a box on the ground later became a home on a soft place with “windows”, “doors” and handmade decorations. I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a home a refuge over the last year. My journal pages are filled with thoughts and ideas. (Sidenote: Sally Clarkson shared a post on Ann Voskamp’s blog last week on this topic too. A few of you shared it with me. So good. Click here to read it.) Creating a refuge for my family and others is near the top of my list of priorities. As I watched the kids create a home, a refuge for their pretend cat I tried paying close attention to the things they deemed as important. When they were done, I asked all the kids what things make our home feel like a refuge to them and what are things we could do a better job at in creating that refuge. Their list was both deep and humorous.

One of my boys suggested we post knock-knock jokes on the walls. He said that would make people laugh more and be grumpy less.

Another suggested we give guests a gift every time they leave our house.

They told me it is good for their friends to know that it is “no big deal” if something gets accidentally broken and that I should keep making chocolate chip cookies because their friends REALLY like them. They told me a home that is a refuge is a home that:

  • lets people spend the night
  • has a lot of comedy
  • isn’t too big…it is good to feel cozy
  • lots of playing happens
  • there are pets and dart guns. With extra bullets.
  • it feels peaceful even when it is crazy
  • it feels safe, happy, comfortable and loving

Then my 8 year old added one more thing. He said, “it is important that you know it is okay to feel sad too.” His words caught me off guard. In all my thinking about creating a refuge for my family and others, it never crossed my mind how important it is for others to know it is a safe place to feel sad. He nailed it. A refuge is all those things…a place where you are safe to feel happy, comfortable, silly and sad.

I’m curious what things make homes feel like a refuge to you. When you think of a home that you’ve walked in and it felt like a refuge – what made it feel that way? What are the practical things and the abstract things that made you feel like you could just take a deep breath and a break from the world outside?

I’ve have a lot more blank journal pages and would love your ideas and insight.

For now, there is a good chance some knock-knock jokes will be framed and hanging in my house soon. Less grumpy sounds good to me!

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  • chasing pure simplicity - I love the boxes! Isn’t that always a kid’s favorite toy? My crew got bean bags for Christmas and were so excited about the boxes!

    I love how you looked to your kids for ideas to make the house a home! I need to do that as we decorate and renovate ours – knock knock jokes included!

  • beth - Oh man! Usually I don’t “copy” off my friends on the internet, but we could certainly use less grumpy around here! I LOVE the idea of knock-knock jokes on the wall! Absolutely BRILLIANT!

  • Susan - Love this post! My kids love eating popsicles at their grandparents’ house. It is their thing with the grandparents. The sticks have jokes on them, and they always guess the answers. My mom framed some popsicle sticks. She said she smiles every time she sees those jokes hanging on the wall!

  • Jeanne - Love! Thanks for reminding me. I’m going to reflect on this and ask my kids their thoughts. Always look forward to your posts.

  • Suzanne - Just last night, my 12 year old spilled blueberry lemonade all over his schoolwork and the table and then froze as if he did not know what to do. I immediately went into “hurry and get it before it runs all over the table” mode and he dissolved into tears. Wow, this one never cries……he told me he is afraid to make a mess because I always get mad or have that “look” and he is always the one to spill, dump, etc. I dropped to the ground and hugged him and cried right along with him. I gave him my word that I would be more aware of this and I wanted him to feel like this was his home, not a museum. My point, he is a tough guy and never let’s his guard down……unless he is at home. So our home is a refuge because people can cry (even the mom) and it is okay, even welcomed.

  • Rachel C - Love this. I will be following to see the comments, and I agree your 8 year old nailed it. For me, one thing that stands out about a refuge is a place where I don’t feel like I have to leave by a certain time. That those around me aren’t worried about the next thing on their schedule, but that I have their undivided attention for as long as I need it. I think of a refuge as a place I never feel compelled to leave.

  • michelle hill - for the record, your blog post is my refuge. Its one of the very first things I read in the morning.
    This is such a brilliant question, I never even thought about it before. Lately, I have been very drawn to inspirational quotes, sayings, lyrics etc..in prints, artwork, photographs. I want them all over my house. I love the idea of knock-knock jokes, because laughing is probably the best remedy for the soul :)

  • Sonja B. - Love this. Now I want some sort of printable to frame, Something like….Refuge: a place of shelter, protection, or safety. For Smiles, Laughs, Hugs and Tears, and knock knock jokes!

  • Sara K - We heard a sermon a long time ago, before we had kids, about how a home should feel like “warm mashed potatoes”. To us, that means everyone can be him or herself (so long as that also includes respecting others privacy/space, etc). It also means, we play outside a lot during warmer months and let the kids go crazy in our basement in the winter months (if they sort of help clean up afterward). Our house always seems to attract the wayward kids who want adults to talk to. While sometimes it’s annoying when we want “family time” or our kids are just wanting to be alone, it’s also nice to know the local kids trust us enough to just hang out and play.

  • Carrie - I’m so glad he knows this already!!! Coming from a dysfunctional home, I remember being dumbfounded when I heard the definition of a healthy relationship (in a counseling class)- that you can feel safe to express positive and ‘negative’ emotions. It was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. So thankful that your home is fostering this for your children already. :)

  • Sarah - What a great list!

  • Helen - Beautiful post. I often find myself wondering how things look according to my children’s perspective. It’s a great exercise to do. You learn so much.

  • Sarah - The host, or the people in the home define the space for me a lot of the time. If they are uptight and on edge, I feel the same way. We recently visited a home that welcomed us with open arms, opened their home, were not worried about a little mess on the floor, a water glass forgotten on the counter. They cheerfully made a meal, welcomed our offer to help, but more than anything just wanted us to be at home. We spent hours just chatting in the kitchen, kids ran at our feet, and we simply marinated in each others company. They were genuinely happy to have us. A big home or small home, the people make it a refuge.

    I struggle with this – I would love to open our home more but I feel like it’s too small. We don’t have all the modern upgrades, a nice kitchen or finished projects. Not the right set up for welcoming people. How do you make a smaller home feel welcoming and inviting, and not cramped? I know it shouldn’t matter, but it’s a major hang up for me. And the ironic thing is I am not a person who needs all of those things, but I feel this way for some reason.

  • Elizabeth - wonderful post. I love it. To me a home feels warm and fuzzy when it is filled with creations…artwork everywhere!! I love colors and craziness….

  • Meg - My kids would want me to share their favorite jokes.
    Knock knock.
    Who’s there?
    Interrupting pirate!
    Interrup…
    ARRRRRRRRRR!

    and

    Where does a snowman keep his money?
    In a snow bank!

    Great post. Give your eight year old a fist bump from me!

  • Jenny B. - Love the knock-knock jokes idea! We could have benefitted from a few of those this morning as we were getting ready for school. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately too. My home hasn’t felt like a refuge for a while now, and I think I know the culprit. Too much stuff. I feel relaxed in a room that is clean and clutter-free, but not perfect. For example, it’s ok to have a Thomas the Train railway set up on the floor as long as it’s being used. It’s not OK for there to be piles of mail on every flat surface and dust bunnies rolling around in every corner (of course, I’m talking about my own house here). I feel most comfortable in other people’s houses when they are also clean and mostly clutter-free, but also not perfect. I visited a friend a while back, and everything was perfect. It even looked like the toys that were out had been staged. It was probably just a crazy day where she had just cleaned and then all the stars aligned for the brief time I was there, but it made me feel a little uncomfortable. I’ve visited the same friend at other times, and there were lots of real life messes going on. Ahh… much better. It was still mostly clean, though, and you could tell that the clutter wasn’t taking over the house, if you know what I mean. Anyway, YES. Making your home a refuge is an important thing to think about, and not just for making sure everyone is happy all the time. :)

  • Jenny B. - P.S. The Land of Nod site is a great place to find knock-knock jokes. I think there’s one on every product page, or at least a link to one. :) Here’s one I read there that I can actually remember:

    Knock knock.
    Who’s there?
    Dora.
    Dora who?
    Dora’s locked, that’s why I’m knocking!

  • Susan - Ashley,
    I love this post. It reminds me of the season that my son at age 3 decided to live in a box in our living room. It was a great box that had windows and a door, cushions for comfort, and even some days a little tiny tv! He enjoyed that cozy little cocoon for several weeks, off and on. Just letting them spend time imagining and executing their thoughts is so very much fun.
    To me personally, the thing that is most important in making me feel at home when visiting others is the hospitality extended. It doesn’t take a fancy home or even a very clean home if you feel welcome and loved when you walk in the door. Making guests (and family) feel good is quite simply making them feel welcome and loved!
    Have a great day with the kitty girl and her tribe!
    Susan

  • Katrina - Love this post Ashley. Like others, I too start many of my mornings here. I absolutely love your blog and feel like I know your family through it.

    Today’s post was a great reminder to think about being intentional and things that matter. The days are long when raising kids, but the years short (read that somewhere) and its so true! With three of my five in high school this year I find myself trying to make these last few years at home really count.

    PS: Hats off to your home schooling and job juggle. (I home schooled my 3 oldest until they started middle school. I know the challenges) So awesome! And you all look SO happy all the time :) Your children are blessed to have such a fun, creative mama that is investing in their futures by giving them a secure foundation in love and the support of family.

    Thank you for blessing us with your encouraging words often.

    -Katrina (in California)

  • heather m. - Love this– I can’t tell you how many box houses I made as a kid ? What makes a home feel like a refuge to me is warmth- hugs, blankets, hot meal on the stove cooked just for me(my best friend was famous for welcoming me to her house through every breakup or rough time with fabulous food), smells- candles burning are a must… and just being surrounded with things and people you love. When your house is filled with prints or colors or garlands that make you happy (not what the latest design trend gods decree) I think that’s what tips the scales to being a refuge. ?

  • Trish - To me home is where you feel loved and where you know that no matter how sad life may sometimes be, you know you will once again find the laughter and joy that will get you through it.

  • Georgia - I love this as always. I almost always read your blog first thing in the morning, too. I wait until I turn on my laptop so I can view the beautiful images larger than on my phone. One physical thing that makes me feel at home are pieces that have history. I love quilts and have one in almost every room. Some are family quilts, and some are purchased. I guess my philosophy is anything you love should be in your home. But I also think it should not be cluttered. Clutter stress me out. When I go to someone else’s home, I am okay with anything, even clutter. What they have in the house doesn’t matter, but it is their attitude and manner that makes me either feel at home or uncomfortable.

  • Georgia - PS I LOVE the idea of framing knock-knock jokes.

  • Amy D - Love this post, and how you learn from your kiddos. Prompts me to do the same. I’d add that refuge is a safe to let down our walls, to be scared (and then comforted) and even a safe place to learn the tricky balance of being upset (at little, seemingly mundane things all the way to big world injustices) and responding to that feeling in loving ways. Oh! One more… a safe place to confront parents with love, that we’d hear our kids out when they are brave enough to voice being wronged by us and then work towards not hurting them in that way in the future. I wasn’t allowed that freedom growing up, and because of that, I know how important it is!

    Thanks for the link too! So good.

  • Angela - I second the idea that a home is a refuge if it is “no big deal” if something gets accidentally broken. I’m an adult now and always try to let folks know that things are fine to be left out and messy and I won’t lose my mind if something falls or gets broken.

    I also may or may not call out my friends when they say something like, “Oh, well it is a mess, but I guess you can come over.” It’s okay! I like to be clean, but you are living your life in your home – it’s supposed to be at least a little cluttered, right?!

  • Heather - My home refuge is one full of books, laughter, quiet together moments, tears, hot tea, friends sitting in the middle of my bed as I fold laundry….a place where you don’t have to schedule a time for someone to visit, dustbunnies are family, photos, hairbows, piles of laundry, impromptu cookie making, lots of hugs, dancing in the kitchen, the living room, outside in the front yard…its a place where Jesus is REAL and ALIVE in our words and actions…its a place of grace and forgiveness.

  • Jessica - I think home should be a soft place to land after time in the outside world, whether it be at work or the grocery store or where ever we find ourselves in the outside world. I hope my home is a soft place to land, where my husband and child feel loved and not judged harshly, not criticized.

  • Kristin S - Oh, he totally nailed it. What a tender heart.

  • Julie - Lovely post….A lack of conflict is top of the list, and part of that is being adaptable and resilient around others. Forgiving quickly and eagerly. Lots and lots of grace and giving others the benefit of the doubt that their hearts are in the right place. We didn’t always live like that, but once iwe did the home became our refuge. A safe cacoon from the rest of the world.

  • kimberly oyler - i agree with the gift giving and chocolate chip cookies for guests ;)

  • Kara M - Kids are so smart. I agree a place where you are comfortable to grab a cup of coffee and feel what you feel. And it’s just stuff…the relationship is more important than the broken item.

  • Charmaine Wiebe - Good morning! Thank you so much for the time you spend sharing with us. Love it all … your passions, tips, thoughts … so very inspiring! I always find time to read your blog :).

    ideas/insights:
    You’ve got me thinking of hanging a funny board somewhere to pin all our funnies on. I can see it now and when we walk by it we’ll be sure to smile/LOL.
    Best ideas come from kids.
    Smell of oven baked cranberry orange muffins, music, warm blanket handy, fruit bowl in the kitchen. Simple and comforting. cheers!

  • Jennifer - i feel most at ease in someone else’s home when i feel like i can pitch in: i want to be able to help chop veggies, or set the table, or help the kids pick up toys or pull weeds. i want to rub shoulders and work alongside, and realize the intimacy that comes from helping each other. i’m not great at allowing people to do that in my home; but i’m working on it. i’ll come help you bake the cookies, and make the beds, and think up knock-knock jokes. ;)

  • Kat - I agree with your kids! What insightful little people they are. For me, a home is all of those things – a place you never like to leave and are always happy to come back to when you’ve been gone. When I have been thinking about the work I want to do to my own home to make it feel like our own I keep thinking about my high school ex boyfriend’s dining nook in his kitchen. It was built by his stepfather, all wood, got the nest afternoon light and required the whole family to sit on built in benches. I loved how it necessitated closeness and how it made meals there stretch out over hours. I hope to replicate it (and those feelings) in my own home very soon.

  • Kristen - So I don’t have any kids yet… But I just wanted to say how much of an inspiration this post was to me for my future family. The idea of making a home a refuge for yourself, your spouse and your children is of UTMOST importance. I think so many people today get so busy and forget to make a home more than a just a structure with walls and flooring. It takes time and effort and sometimes struggle to make a house a refuge for all who enter it, but what a joy it is to have! Thank you for this post and for encouraging me to make the most of every interaction and every relationship I have- whether it is with my husband, my parents or my children someday!

  • Hometime | Kin - […] pretty dramatically. So I took a break from writing, and somewhat miraculously came across a blog post by Ashley Ann Campbell, that helped me look at things from a new angle. She also cited another […]

  • Monique - That’s a fantastic list. Last night we had a group of friends here for a meeting and in the first few minutes one laid his head back on the couch and said, “I get lazy every time I’m here because it’s so restful. I feel the peace of God here.” It was probably one of the kindest compliments I’ve ever received about our home :)

  • Arielle - I must say that I love how you took the time to listen to your little ones in making a home a refuge. And their thoughts were precious. We call our home, our safe place, our sanctuary. A place to leave it all at the door and be yourself because love is here. We pray that God’s love is in our four walls daily and that our human nature would not get in the way of it. I think having cozy corners for snuggles, intentional places to gather, access to blankets everywhere and something hot to drink within a few minutes help to make your home that refuge. I have a good friend that plays worship music softly in the background 24/7. That might be why I love to linger at her home, it just feels safe.
    I think most of all in having or making your home a refuge is to slow down and look at the eternal things that are going on in your home and not the external. Love this post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - So, I asked Brian your question and here was his answer :) “being welcomed when I get home – the kids running at me and your smile”

  • yellow treehouse » this week – 1.2 - […] that note, I enjoyed Ashley’s thoughts on what makes a house a […]

  • Laura - Mmmm…this has got me thinking. Our home isn’t really decorated at all and I’ve been wondering what to do to make it more homey. I love your kids and their creative energy and hearts. :)

  • Kellee - I have to stop reading to leave a comment on this post. The picture of your older daughter working on the cat house with her little tongue peaking out of her mouth as she works in concentration is heart warming for me. I lost my mother in 2001 to cancer. In the years before she was diagnosed she was able to follow one of her creative dreams and open her very own flower shop here in our little town. She was so great at it. During her most creative, concentration moments I would always notice her tongue. She always unconsciously held it slightly out of her mouth. I have 2 daughters now of my own 3 and 7. They both are very wonderful just like my mother, but the 3 year old I have recently noticed holds her tongue like this and I cherish it. It’s funny what memories make us smile when we have lost someone. I am so glad you captured that photo and so glad I decided to catch up on your blog today, I needed it.

  • Our Home: Our Refugee - Love From MI - […] read on one of my favorite blogs, an writer’s take on the idea that our homes are our refuge. And it got me thinking about […]

Kids grow up, which means parents constantly enter new phases of life. It seems like just when you get one phase figured out, you enter a new one. You can’t get comfortable long (or ever) as a parent.  I’m so thankful for the constant change. In hard phases, I’ll remind myself, “this too shall pass” and I get through it. In the overwhelmingly good phases, I remind myself, “this too shall pass” and I savor it. The hard and the good – they compliment each other in the best way.

I’ve been a mom for 11 years now. So, not very long. But, long enough to know how desperately I need my friends.

I’ll never understand why or how, but I am surrounded by incredible friends. Some since my middle school days, some from college, some I’ve met online and some new. Women that hold me up when I can’t stand and women that cheer me on and make me feel awesome.

When I became pregnant with my first son, I also became friends with a handful of girls that were at the same stage of life.  We’ve gone through the stages of parenting together. The early phase of having one baby and doing church Bible studies together. Then more kids came along and we did play dates at parks. Then we fretted over all day kindergarten and what school to choose. Next came the season of juggling elementary aged kids with babies and toddlers at home. We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder screaming at the top of our lungs for each others sons on the soccer field. We’ve watched our collective kids grow.

We’ve watched each other grow.

For nearly a decade, we’ve cheered kids on and we’ve supported each other as moms when mothering required our everything.

We are entering a new phase now. A phase where passions and dreams that were sidelined for a season can now be chased. We get to cheer each other on in new ways.

This weekend one of my girls (my friend, not daughter) competed in her first Crossfit competition. She killed it. For a decade I’ve watched her mother her four kids with endurance, patience, strength and grace. I’ve watched her show up for every game, plan countless parties, pray over her kids and be a rock for her family.

This weekend instead of watching her grace, endurance and strength in the parenting realm, I got to see it among a field of athletes. And she shined.

I stood next to her four kids, her husband, my family, my other friends and their kids. We’ve been to countless sporting events cheering together for our various kids. This time we got to stand and cheer for her. I’m so proud of her. I’m so thankful for friendships that span time and enter new seasons of life.

I’m thankful that seasons change.

At one point I leaned over to her son next to me and said, “You know – your mom is super awesome.”

He smiled back at me and said, “Yeah, I know.  She is.”

1.15kointheok-01

I’m not naming her because it might embarrass her, but she’s somewhere in that picture above…she might be the one on the bar that you can see her killer shoulder muscles. Maybe. That might be her;)

In parenting, in life, seasons change. Kids growing up isn’t a terrible thing to dread. In fact, it is pretty much awesome in my opinion. I sure loved that season of newborns and playdates, but it was hard too! This season of kids getting older and more independent….well, it has it perks too.

Even better than seasons changing is having friends to walk through those seasons with you.

This weekend reminded me of how grateful I am to know and be known by my close friends. It is a rare and beautiful gift.

 

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  • Julia - I’m glad you don’t take that kind of friendship for granted, becuase I’m 52 years old and have absolutely no idea how that feels.

  • Cathy S. - Ditto to what Julia says. I’m 60 years old and admire people who have those kinds of friends in their lives.

  • Diana - Love the message that seasons change, especially with kids. Mine is getting close to two and it makes me miss the baby he was. But he is so fun and perfect at this stage right now!

  • amy - I was just thinking the same thing this week. super thankful for friends. xoxoxo

  • Jenny - So true! :)

  • Helen Shields - I needed this reminder today. We are navigating the very tricky teenage years with two of my kids right now and its a killer. I am struggling as a Mum to know how to deal with the constant mood swings, sniping and general nasty sibling rivalry that is going on. Thank you for reminding me it is a phase and I should cherish being able to go through this. I will take a step back, breath and then continue.

I attempted to teach the kids a few basics of using my potter’s wheel. We went over a couple beginner essentials, but then I let them just get a feel for the clay spinning. It was beautifully strange to watch them using my college ceramic tools. Their little bodies covered in aprons, water and clay. Sitting at the wheel in college, it never crossed my mind that I might one day be teaching my own five kids how to do the same. It’s a gift – getting to share something I love with the people who have my heart.

My youngest daughter isn’t too keen on things on her hands.  Maybe one of these days you’ll see her at the potter’s wheel too. Maybe not, it is totally up to her. Right now she is content staying far away from us and far away from the clay.

The wheel and small kiln were a gift from my dad several years ago. He is still waiting on me to make him a cereal bowl. I’m working on it Dad. Our neighbor is an artist and so kindly gave us her old large kiln that she no longer used. I’ve yet to fire it up – I need to watch a few You Tube videos first to refresh my memory!

1.15potters-01Just because – well, because….if you know how to throw a pot on a wheel, these photos are the kids just getting a feel for wet and dry clay, the pedal and the speed.  We’re slowly working on centering the clay.1.15potters-021.15potters-031.15potters-041.15potters-061.15potters-071.15potters-081.15potters-10

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  • Kelley - Firecracker’s apron is so cute! I actually thought it was a dress at first! Ha!

  • Tanya - Very cool project for your kids!

  • Leah Heffelfinger - This is awesome! So jealous of your studio set up…can’t wait to teach my (non-existent) kiddos my fav things :) you are so inspiring!

  • Alison - Love these pics! My grandmom was a potter and we spent many hours in her pottery shop growing up.

  • Serene - Love the kitty getting right in there to see what’s going on. Too cute!

  • Angela - That last image with the quote is gorgeous. Love it!

  • Juli - <3

  • Katherine - I’m so jealous!

  • christina larsen - That looks like so much fun! I miss my pottery class days in college!

  • Amy M. - Such precious pictures and children and memories…”Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Is. 64:8

  • susie - I am jealous too of your studio! Pottery was my favorite class too- wish I would be able to teach my kids too!

  • Carrie Campbell - Ashley, I love that your kids see your creativity and desire to create themselves. I feel like it is such a gift to them and I know it must be a gift to you. :)

    Also, I was wondering if there are specific books you recommend regarding adoption? Specifically from or about adult adoptees. I remember you doing a lot of research along the way on your journey prepping for Little One. Thank you!! :)

  • Gris fleur - Hello ! Great idea ! I have a kiln used for painting on china. I write used because I realised that the paintings and solvants were bad for health. I got rid of my stuff but not the kiln. Any advices on the list of clay, wheel and books for beginners ? Although I’m French ( as you can guess with my poor English ;)), I’m fine with English books. Thanks a lot !