By Christine Prater
March/April 2014

Ever since I was little, I have been a sparkle and shine kind of girl.

I am not a total froo-froo, but I do love pretty, shiny things. I especially love pretty, shiny little houses.  And since our homes growing up were not exactly of the pretty, shiny variety, I developed a bit of an obsession with taking whatever we had and working to make it as sparkly as possible. My poor mother used to leave for a quick trip to get groceries and come back and find her entire living room rearranged and redecorated with whatever materials I could find (it really is amazing what you can do with old linens and t-shirts.)

And even now in this tiny little trailer we are living in until our house is finished, nothing calms me down or makes me happier than tearing through the whole thing, scrubbing and polishing and arranging things just so, and then sitting down and admiring my work afterwards. I have just always found organizing and decorating very rewarding. And calming. And a great way to cope with my anxiety and neuroticism (you should never leave me unsupervised in your home.)

It doesn’t take much sparkle to get me all worked up. And now that my lifelong dream of building/designing my own custom home is coming true, my sparklometer reading is off the charts these days (I might be a little over-stimulated.)  Now before you start thinking I am building some big gorgeous mansion, let me assure you: I am not. I don't do crystal and silver and my husband doesn't believe in expensive. But I am getting to build a house that is just my taste and style and that is very exciting to me. When you combine my house obsession, love of design, and the fact that my day-job income depends on being able to help people find/build a house that suits their lifestyle and needs, and this isn't just what I do... It's who I am! So because of that, I naturally went into this whole thing thinking that would somewhat exempt me from the stress and drama of building. I had a bit of an "Oh, I got this" mentality.

But the thing about building is that it doesn't really matter how fabulous my builder is, how genius my architect is, or even how controlling and micro-manage-y I might be; things still don't always go exactly as planned. There are millions of silly little details that slow things down along the way. For instance, it might rain EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.THEY.TRY.TO.POUR.OUR.FOUNDATION (just doing our part to help the Central Texas drought issue.)

I had to awaken to the realization that no, I will not be in my pretty, shiny little house by Christmas after all. There were no fires crackling and stockings hung by the chimney with care. My crackling fire came in the form of 3 space heaters, which at best will only defrost this trailer to just above freezing. And the only stockings in my life were the thick socks I have to wear 24 hours a day to ward off frostbite.

Alas, there was also no big beautiful tree with sparkly decorations, or yards of garland and big gorgeous poinsettias strewn throughout the house. The only sparkles I enjoyed came from the icicles hanging from my OUTDOOR showerhead (feel free to go back and read that line again if it was too shocking to absorb the first time) and my 4ft tall table-top tree from Lowe's. And due to the limited space, there was nowhere to put garland or poinsettias, so they were out too.

My big sparkly gift this year was the simple knowledge that I am vastly over budget on all those pretty, shiny little things I insisted on having in that pretty, shiny little house that may or may not ever be finished. And that I would be toasting in the New Year in our charming little trailer. And celebrating my birthday. And Kenny's birthday. And our anniversary. Maybe even our Spring Break. But all of this is good for me because I have found that my priorities are a little out of whack these days.

The good news is that they have finally poured my foundation. Glory, glory, halleluiah! However, all the night before they did so, I was constantly having to remind myself that this house is not my home.

Like I said, my sparklometer is pretty maxed out right now with all the choices I get to make on finishes and the dreaming obsessing I do about this house. So that night before the cement trucks finally rolled in, I laid awake for hours thinking of what super godly and symbolic thing I would do to help remind myself that this house is just a house. I thought about carving a verse on the front door stoop or dropping a bible into the foundation. I could write verses on my framing or pray over each room. These are all good things, right?

But when I woke up on foundation morning, none of them felt quite right. And I knew what the problem was.  It is the issue that has plagued me all throughout this building process: my love of sparkles has gotten completely out of control.

I had to stop and check my heart and motivations. Whose house do I really think this is? His - and I am so grateful I get to live here for a while? Or mine - now get out of the way so I can design it? Do I want to carve a verse on the front stoop to dedicate this house to Him, or to try to look all "godly" for my friends? Do I want to bury a bible in the foundation because I want the very core of this house to be love and truth, or because I am trying to earn God's favor and blessing so maybe He will never take this house away from me? Hmmm...

If I am being honest, it was a little of all of those things, and that wasn't something I am proud of. My deeds should only be a true reflection of my faith or it makes me a hypocrite. And I HATE when I am a hypocrite. If faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26,) what would deeds without faith be? Legalism? Superstition? Trying to earn what I can't? Yes, yes, and yes. So that next morning, as I sat nestled in the back of my car watching them pour my foundation, I was thinking and praying really hard about where my heart was with this house.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is perfectly okay to love sparkles. I even believe God put that love of pretty, shiny little things in me Himself - it is the part of me that also stops to marvel at His handiwork all throughout creation. But I also know my sinful, fleshly self and what tends to happen if I am not careful. I don't want to get so caught up in the sparkles that I forget what really makes my life shine.

It is just a house y'all. Sure, it has beadboard and beams and other pretty little things I love, but it can be here today and gone before I can say "backsplash." Just ask Job, or the South Austin flood victims, or my friend Sharon who watched her home (and 30 years' worth of memories) go up in flames.

It is just a house.

I will say it again (for my benefit, not yours:) It is just a house.

It's made up of nothing more than concrete and wood and glass. And while it is designed to offer some safety and security and be a place where love and joy and laughter lives, it can never compare to my Savior. By contrast, Jesus is made up of love and grace and redemption, and more than any home human hands can build, He is my true safety and security. And if there ever was a place where love and joy and laughter lived, it is in the halls of Heaven.

I am entirely sure that having a pretty, shiny little house does not impress the Lord. But having a pretty, shiny little heart- committed to serving and glorifying Him - now THAT is a very good thing. Dropping 40 bibles into that foundation or writing the entire New Testament on my framing would be nothing more than deeds without faith if I don't get my heart in the right place on this. And this isn't a one-time act of dedication. A heart like mine needs to be constantly reminded whose house this really is, and that true dedication to Him means living out His will within these walls.

Honoring the Lord with this home will mean remembering to choose the words I speak in it each day just as carefully and lovingly as I have chosen the materials and finishes. It will also mean continually striving to make this home a haven of love and grace for my husband, my family, and my friends - not just a place with pretty, shiny little things in it.

So at long last, when I finally do get to enjoy the pretty, shiny little sparkles this house has to offer, I hope that I remember that this house is not my home, and that the shiniest of houses pales in comparison to the beauty of a Christ-filled life and the promise of Heaven. Because as pretty and shiny as the little things can be, nothing sparkles like a life lived for Jesus.

About the Author

  • Christine_Prater's picture

    Christine lives in the Lake Travis area of Austin, TX with her handsome hubby and plethora of pets. Through her writing, she tells her  story of a long bumpy road to redemption and her ultimate peace in Christ. She tries to share her adventures as honestly, transparently, and humorously as possible; hoping to encourage and remind us all that He is indeed a God who keeps his promises. Get more of Christine’s story at

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