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Beyond granite: What kind of home are you building?
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I got lost in the details of building a new house until I refocused on what kind of home I want for my family. - photo by Erin Stewart
House hunting brings out a side of me that I dont love. We are moving out West this summer and I thought I would be pretty laid back when it came to finding a home. I didnt have a bunch of must-have items or strong opinions on granite or a Pinterest board labeled Dream Home.

But once we bought a home that is under construction, I suddenly had all these choices to make. Turns out I do have opinions on granite! And once I opened the floodgates, things like double ovens and patios suddenly seem like nonnegotiables.

Its easy to get whisked away in the details of house construction, and before you know it, youre looking at your husband saying something ridiculous like, No double vanities in the bathroom? What are we, animals?!

Yeah, this house-building thing is not a good color on me.

So I took a step back and refocused my priorities. Rather than asking what kind of materials I want my home to be made from, I needed to be asking what kind of qualities I want my home to be built on. Im not talking about travertine vs. hardwood here. I mean the characteristics I want my home to have the feeling that my children will get when they walk through the door and when they conjure images of their childhood.

I have been trying to build such a home since my husband and I were first married and lived in our tiny apartment in college. I set off the fire alarm making our first meal. We moved from there to a bigger apartment on the 30th floor of a Chicago highrise. We walked a block to get $5 pizza every Friday night. Then, we scraped together every last penny and bought our first house. We swung in our hammock and picked strawberries that we grew in our own dirt with our own hands. Our first daughter made us parents in this house. We moved back to my childhood home next, where we added another daughter and six more years of memories beneath towering oak trees.

Each house has been a stepping stone to building the family and the home we've dreamed of since that first basement apartment. As we pack our lives into boxes and venture on to a new house yet again, I hope I can do even better at creating the kind of home I want for my family.

For me, the word homemaker has nothing to do with sewing or homemade bread. It is a title given to someone who deliberately chooses every day what his or her home will be. Its easy to pick out countertops; its much harder to decide what actions I will take every day to make my newest house the dream home I want it to be.

So far, my dream home punch list looks like this:

Unconditional Love: I want a home built on relentless love. I want my children to always feel safe and accepted. I will apologize quickly for hurt feelings. I will embrace first no matter the confession. I will correct with love.

Order: I want a home that feels calm, organized and well-maintained. I want creativity and fun to run unencumbered by mess. I want to waste less time on cleaning, reorganizing and searching for lost shoes. I will buy less so there is less to organize. I will spend enough time cleaning so that the house feels orderly, but not so much that I miss moments with my children.

Priorities: I want a home where people come before things. I want my children to know that conversations are more valuable than screens and that the people standing in front of them are more important than the one texting them. I will watch less TV. I will put down my phone. I will put my family first.

Perhaps the biggest item on my punch list is that I want a home where people feel like they are treading on sacred ground when they walk through the doors. My grandparents have a home like this. Being in their family room feels exactly like being in the serenity of a temple. You get the feeling right through the door that you are walking in a holy place with people who love each other and God.

This is no accident, but rather a lifetime worth of choices and priorities that led to their home being a heaven on earth. They dont raise their voices in anger. They always have time for visitors, even when I know they dont. They fill their home with good music, daily scripture reading and worthwhile conversations. Love fills their words, and those words fill their home. I want a home like that.

Funny that I wrote that last paragraph in present tense even though my grandfather passed away three years ago. My nana now lives alone in this home they built together. But they did such a good construction job that my grandfathers spirit and love can still be felt resonating through their walls. Sometimes when I am there, I swear I am about to hear his cowboy boots shuffle down the hall or his voice ring out with welcome as he opens the front door. His Post-it love notes still sit in Nanas bedside drawer, reassuring her and us that his love continues beyond this life.

And while hes gone from this earth, their home together is still intact. No earthquake, no fire, no death could destroy it because its built on foundations stronger than dirt.

I want a home like that.