As you walk around my house you’ll probably notice a few odd things. One of them would be the stacks of books and papers haphazardly piled here and there, some of them even tumbling over having been stacked too tall and too hurriedly. Reading and writing are two very important things to me, and while most piles are associated in one way or another with my faith, there’s also the ‘bills to pay’ pile, the ‘junk mail to shred’ pile, the ‘recipes to try’ pile, and the list goes on and on. Another thing, in contrast to my apparent hording tendencies, is that I’ve uncluttered my living spaces. For the most part I don’t have a lot of nick-knacks sitting around my rooms. The one’s I’ve kept on display are all pretty important to me. They each tell a story, some obvious, others not so obvious.
One of the not-so-obvious things is a heart-shaped sign that reads, “Home Sweet Home”. It hangs from one of the pegs on a cup holder on my kitchen wall. The sign was a welcome gift from the ladies at my church when I became a member a few months ago. It isn’t very valuable, but I treasure it. It really is one of those things that no one would realize how important it is unless you explained it. But it hangs there so innocently, who would think to even ask for an explanation. So here it is . . . .
I’ve lived in too many places to really remember them all. But still, I’ve tried to do that for the sake of this essay, and I’ve come up with a list of 36 different residences. If you take out that one childhood place of 4 years and the other place as an adult of just over 6 years, then you come up with the average of one move per year. You can see why I’ve grown fond of traveling “light”; taking too much stuff with you each time is just too much of a hassle.
But mostly, all this moving has just been hard on my heart. I ache to finally feel settled and comfortable, to get connected into a church and a community without the fear and reality-check that in a few months I’ll likely be somewhere else. It has made me a very guarded person and I hate that about myself. Those first 20 or 30 moves seemed adventurous and I was a willing participant. I know that sounds absurd, but for the longest time I just thought it was sort of fun. However, the last few moves have been accompanied by tearful rants, a lot foot stomping, empty threats, broken promises, etc. The reasons for all the moves blur together in my head, but in the end, it always boiled down to finances. In hindsight, I’m not sure there was ever a move made for any other reason.
So you can imagine why my sign reading, “Home Sweet Home” might be so meaningful. And you’re partially right, having a place to finally call home and feel like the Lord is going to let me stay for a significant amount of time is wonderful, and overwhelming, even frightening. Am I up to the challenge? Building and keeping long-term friendships is something I haven’t had a lot of experience with. Eventually I move away and both our lives get too busy to keep in touch for long. But for me, there’s more to this sign than just this very obvious meaning.
When I see that sign hanging in my kitchen I’m reminded to make others feel welcome here too. The friend I’m sharing a cup of tea with may be feeling like she needs a place to come and escape, to feel safe and secure from whatever storms are raging in her life. Maybe her heart aches and she’s in the middle of some tearful rant and doing a lot of foot stomping too. She needs a place to hide from all these problems, even for just an hour, a place to feel comfortable and let down her guard. And so I’m reminded to practice hospitality, sharing my “Home Sweet Home” with whoever may come knocking on my door that day.
The sign also reminds me of my new church family and how wonderful it was for these ladies to reach out to me the way they did. It wasn’t much; it didn’t take a lot of time or money. But it did take some thoughtfulness, and I am so thankful for their efforts. The gift came with a card that welcomed me into the Church Family and it was at a time when I felt so lonesome, I just wept as I read it over. I truly believe that the Lord has given me this church home – a “Home Sweet Home” where I can get comfortable, become involved, and even make a difference. And so looking at this simple sign I’m reminded to try and be equally welcoming with whoever may visit our church each week, making them comfortable and feeling like they’ve found a home too.
But lastly, the same sign oddly reminds me that my home isn’t here at all. No matter how wonderful my church is, no matter how many fabulous friends I gather round me, no matter how grand the house I’m blessed to be living in, or many years I’m allowed to stay in one place, in the end I’m still just a pilgrim, wandering this earth until I can go to my true “Home Sweet Home” in heaven. For you see, most of all, this sign reminds me to not get too comfortable here; Jesus has promised me I have at least one more move to make!
John 14:2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”
Describe a place you lived as a child.
What does “Home Sweet Home” mean to you?