I love beautifully decorated homes with every little thing in place.

A candle quietly burning, fresh flowers in a vase, soft music playing, the floors and bathrooms are spotless and the furniture is freshly polished – and vacuum lines on carpet – ahh they make me feel happy.

As much as I would love to say this describes my home, it does not. I mean I still try. I haven’t totally given up on the dream, but I learned a long time ago that hosting kids in my home does not, in any way, help my dream become a reality.

The sleepovers.
The football team hanging out.
The basketball team hanging out.
The soccer team hanging out.
(We’ve had a lot of teams over the years!)
The gang dropping by for a snack.
The impromptu bonfires.
The small group Bible studies.
The mission team meetings.
The school study groups.

They all have left their mark on my home, literally.

The basement walls we finally got around to painting got a layer of Dr. Pepper sprayed on them 3 weeks later. (Although I didn’t discover the sticky residue – or hear the story – until months later.)

The ceiling fan light fixture got shattered by a body pillow being waved in the air by one young man who was trying to fan away body odors. (I could have told him that pillow had zero chance against those odors!)

The recliner no longer leans back all the way and kind of tilts to one side after a group of guys decided to see how many would fit in it. (The answer is five, in case you’re wondering.)

The money I could have spent on new curtains or bookshelves for the study went towards meals, late night snacks and keeping the basement fridge stocked with drinks

Oh and the handprints. The walls of the staircase going down to my basement have the handprints of just about every teen we know. And all those sports bags and backpacks scuffing the walls as they made their way down the stairs – yep, those marks are still there too.

Recently, after my son’s high school graduation, I found myself staring at all those scuff marks and handprints. As I ran my hand across what would be ugly to most, I uttered a “thank you” to God. I thanked Him for helping me open my home, because when I open my home, I open my heart. And in exchange, I received so much more than a beautifully decorated, clean house.

The sound of teens worshiping in my basement.
The laughter of boys being boys.
The excitement of girls talking over one another.
The huddle around the oven waiting for food.
The hugs from kids I barely knew.
The title of “Mom” from kids who aren’t mine.
And the “thanks Mom” from the kids who are.

Parents, open your home. Let your house be the hangout, the host home, the place where teens can be. Don’t wait until you think your house is good enough. All kids want is a place to be, with the friends they want to be with.

Yes, it’s exhausting and will cost you.

But I promise you.

It will be worth it.