How IKEA helps us live Missionally

We have people in our home a lot. Dinners, swimming parties, sleepover, and afternoon play dates are all normal occurences in our home. When we were newly married, we had a couple, who eventually became some of our closest friends, model the power of a simple meal and inviting others to join in.  We rarely went a week, in those early days of marriage where we did not spend an evening in the Swafford home enjoying some home cooking and dessert.  We were not always the only couple there, but rather, we were a part of a revolving door of people who this couple were investing their lives and time in to.

17 years later, we look back and we see a legacy of faith that involves dozens of students now committed to full-time ministry, dozens in the public realm using their influence as leverage for the Gospel and dozens reproducing their lives into future generations.

All because two people opened their home and invited others to gather around the table and talk about life, faith and living fully devoted to making Jesus famous.

Over the years, this became something we just did…not because we are extroverts, or Southern, or throw the best parties. We simply did what was modeled to us over and over again. Moving to two new communities in the past several years, has shown us several things about gathering around the table.

  1. Keep it simple: Shortly after we moved to California, we were having a family over for dinner on a Sunday night. I not only prepped two homemade soups, but made bread bowls from scratch, a dinner salad, sweet tea and a desert. Evidently, new situations and stress bring out my inner Martha Stewart.  A very full Jason said to me afterwards, “Dinner was delicious and thank you for taking the time and effort to make a great meal, but….Don’t do that again. We want to make this easily reproducible. If people think this is what you have to prepare in order to have people in their home, they will not do it…..”  While I love to entertain and have people in our home, I can easily let my whole identity get wrapped up in to the opinions of others and how Pottery Barn my house appears. I want our home to be comfortable, not based on how comfy our chairs are, but rather by the loud, energetic, fun very normal and accepting environment we have around our table.
  2. Invest your Resources in the Right Places: When we began to have weekly rhythms of having people in our home, we knew we were investing and building relationships with others.  Building anything requires some sacrifice and some investment. Knowing we were in a season of building with other people, getting to know them, we looked at our budget, our calendar and our space.  As a recovering entertaining perfectionist, who was living in a rental home, I felt myself resisting having people in our home.  Whether I knew it or not, my actions were saying I needed the approval of others.  I was shutting down the very call God had burning in our souls because I was afraid of what others would think of our very old, very 70’s, very unremodeled home.  The enemy wins every time we believe that others need something from us besides the simple gospel of Christ lived out. The enemy gains ground in the battlefield of keeping us separate from each other when we allow the opinions of others to dictate the very deep, yet central Truth, to love our neighbor. While I love me some IKEA, there is some strategy in having most of our spaces furnished by this amazing, space innovating store. Our $20 coffee table doesn’t need coasters and a constant watchful eye for every condensation drop. We can purchase two large sofas to help accommodate large groups of people opening the Word, praying boldly for one another, sharing struggles and rejoicing in the victories God allows.  Their slip covers can handle the occasional spill and be easily cleaned. Our $79 rugs can look cute but also get footprints on them. Our $5 pillow covers can support backs or be used as floor cushions and be easily tossed into the washing machine.   While IKEA may be very affordable, it does require a bit of time to put together.  Building community and living life with missional intent is going to require time and effort, but in the end, it is so incredibly worth it.

We can open our home, actually use it and not live in fear of things breaking, being ruined or spend our time                    setting limits and boundaries that make people feel uptight and uneasy.  While I love our IKEA furnished home              and every visit there is like Candyland to me, what I value more is the freedom to be ourselves, to create                             an environment where people feel comfortable and see God SHINE.  Not my decor skills or lack there of, not my              cooking or my color scheme, but simply JESUS meeting with us around a table, around a couch and through each person present.

What helps you set others at ease in your home?

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  1. Janel Thomas

    Love this Kelly! You know I’m a recovering perfectionist as well, and too often I have let the enemy gain ground over my silly preoccupation with the condition of our home. It’s a lesson I have to keep learning… This summer we really stretched ourselves when we opened our house up for Open Pool (while attempting a DIY home improvement at the same time -yipes!). I felt pretty insecure about serving just hot dogs, water & s’mores… But people came and were blessed. They didn’t care! I’m realizing more and more how much people are really just longing to be invited and welcomed. They’re looking for authentic community –and what’s more authentic than entering a home with a stack of mail on the counter and a load of laundry humming in the dryer? I’m learning how awesome it can be to welcome people into the real life of our home and family, warts and all. If I wait until my house looks perfect, it will never happen. And no one wants to be friends with Martha Stewart anyway…

    Thanks for your encouragement and example to me in this 🙂

    • Kelly

      What Truth Janel! So thankful you guys opened your home and were able to bless others through it! This is a great example to so many, us included!

  2. Teresa Bennett-Smith

    Great article, Kelly. I am someone who really has to work through these issues of perfectionism and making things too complicated. Thanks for the encouragement!