When Home is not Homey

After a long, 42-hour trip with my two youngest, after yet another delay Stateside (this time we can all blame the same thing, no?), after grappling with the grief of leaving yet again, I climbed out of the car, and stepped through the door into my home – to find it smelled, felt more cramped than I remember, and distinctly did not feel like my home. Wait, my mind stalled right there at the door, is this really my home?

This was definitely not the feeling I was anticipating; usually, after a long (or even short) trip anywhere, I love the satisfying feeling of returning to my space, to resettling with my people in our own nook in the world, to the peace and joy and content that comes from just being a place of our own, together.

I suppose, in that moment, there were a couple of possible reactions to my disappointed arrival home: I could conjure all the homey feelings I know deep inside somewhere, and “put on a happy face” until I make it. I could go crawl in a corner and sit in my mournful melancholy for awhile (my reaction of choice had I not four eager children). Or, and what I did, I could unpack all the bags I had brought in a mad rush and attempt to quell the mental storm with the restoring of some small sense of order. Control what I can control, anyone else? Cleaning and organizing always seem to help regulate whatever emotional rush I am currently battling. In the following days, I tackled the deeper cleaning, the washing of all the things, and the random decluttering, and within a week, this house began to feel again like the home I had been anticipating settling back into. I saw with fresh eyes the beauty throughout, the peace and goodness we seek to cultivate within its walls, the potential for love to reign here, in the midst of grief and evil and suffering.

While there are a lot of elements that played into the overall disappointment of that particular arrival home (namely, the use and abuse of our home by others while we were gone), the concept of home has always been a complicated one, particularly for those of us who live outside our passport countries. For Ben and I, we have lived in six homes, in three different countries, over the course of our marriage, and we now can say, after five and a half years, this is the home in which we have lived the longest. There is the struggle that none of these homes we have owned, unlike most of our peers at our age and stage of life.

Even in all of that moving and resettling and renting and non-owning, each of those homes, in their own seasons, have been havens of rest, shelters for us from the raging of the world, and spaces we could open and into which we could bring others. Each new home has called me into a deeper sense of how? can this work for us, for our family, how? can this be a space where love reigns, peace is pursued, and goodness and beauty abound, and how? can we use this to share the love and peace and goodness and beauty of God with others? That challenge – of bringing forth in a space its best utility, and natural beauty, and cultivated peace – has been one for which I have gratefully accepted the transitions.

And for those seasons where I feel rootless, when home does not feel homey, when I wonder when it will be our turn to own, truly own, our unique piece of land in this wide world, I am leaning into the age-old promise that our true home is not found on this earth. That all of this good work of creating homes this side of heaven is a reflection of the Creator who has a home waiting for us – one filled with beauty beyond measure, filled with perfect peace and unending goodness.

In the meantime, you may find me cleaning again, or organizing something. Making our little house a home all over again, thanks to the goodness of God, until someday, we will be truly, forever, home.

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