I’ve shared before that I grew up in a military family. Sometimes people ask me what that was like moving around so much; it’s all I knew, so in that regard it’s a difficult question to answer, but at the same time, I think about how Mamma always seemed to approach moves with a sense of adventure and anticipation. It never crossed my mind to be upset or scared—we were on to the next promising place of potential friends and fun experiences.
We didn’t have one house we grew up in or the same neighbors our entire childhoods or go to school with the same kids; but in looking back, I think that one reason we kids always adjusted well was that we had a strong sense of home.
It wasn’t until Daddy retired from the Air Force and Mamma bought new living room furniture for the first time in our lives that she shared with me how she kept that gold and orange set from the 70s so that no matter where we moved, we would always feel at home with the familiar furniture. Furthermore, she always arranged it in the same way just for that extra touch of familiarity. Now as a wife and homemaker and mother myself, I see how many little things she did to make sure we always felt right at home no matter what city we lived in or what our house was like.
I feel like homemaking is a fluid thing—families grow, things break, people age, tastes change, Pinterest happens. As I work on little projects around our home, which we’ve fondly nicknamed the Bungalove, I think about the purpose of having a home—how are we called to use this little place? What is it for?
My parents used to tell us that home was our sanctuary—that after being out in the world all day, we could always come home to a safe place of rest. They reached out to others, too, bringing them into our home and offering a haven, for an evening or weeks, depending on the situation. They explained that they were simply stewards of our home, that it was theirs to share. I love that, and I strive to create that with our Bungalove. But I’ve been wondering: what does that look like for our family?
We moved into our little house 5 years ago, excited to live in an urban area, curious about how we could be a part of the neighborhood, excited for downtown life. What we didn’t expect was the drunk man singing from our steps late at night or the intoxicated woman whom we would often see curled in a ball on our front porch in the early hours of morning. We started keeping supplies for coffee-to-go, and we put a bench outside so no one had to sleep on the ground (side note: that dear woman refused to speak with us; we haven’t seen her in a long time, and I still pray and wonder where she is now).
Then we joined a church plant, which meets in a school. That means no official space for church gatherings, so for two years we held praise team rehearsal in our living room every Thursday night and even recorded music here. I host a weekly women’s group, and we regularly invite friends over for meals fellowship. Yet still, I’m not quite sure our home is the haven I want it to be.
As I wrestle with this, I am continuously struck by the imagery in Psalm 1:
I am not a theologian, but I love the imagery of this passage: the gospel changes us and gives us a love for God that transforms our soul’s DNA; we become like trees, nurtured from seeds, that learn how to extend God’s love to others. Our roots stretch to the Living Water, and out of that, we grow shelter for our brothers and sisters, fruit for others, and we become a safe place of shade and respite.
This is who I want to be. This is what I want my home to be. So many people have provided this in my own story—my sister Erin, who opened her home to me for a year after I moved across the country for a wedding that never happened; Kara, whose house felt like home to anyone who stepped inside; my Marmee, whose house was our home base all those years of moving around; Elizabeth, who hosts our women’s study and treats all the mamas and littles as family. The list goes on and on.
And now I’m wondering—how much of this has to do with our actual home? With our sweet bungalove? Yes, it’s a huge blessing to own a house and to be able to use it to gift others, but I’ve experienced this sense of shelter in tiny apartments with second-hand furniture. In fact, some of the most welcoming homes I’ve been in have been in third-world countries. What is it that creates a haven?
Meditating on this passage, I think it must be the heart itself. I think this person who loves the Lord so much is the kind of person who would extend her home to others, but that it is her actual heart that is the haven. Whether she is a tree offering shelter in a desert or a suburban housewife offering her home to other mamas, the love that makes others feel safe comes from the heart, from her understanding of God’s love for her and his passion for the brokenhearted. How can my home be a sanctuary if I myself can’t offer safety? How can my home be safe and warm if I can’t offer safety and warmth in my relationships? What good is my house to others if I can’t greet people at the door with open arms and the good news of God’s love for us?!
How I want to be a safe place. How I want the gospel to permeate my very soul to the extent that my arms reach high toward Jesus and then out toward others, providing rest and shelter like Jesus does for me. Lord, help me to understand your love for me more and more each day; deepen my delight in you and invade my spirit with the truth of your grace. Make it spill out of my heart to reach others, and may I be a light in the darkness, shade in the desert, sanctuary in this broken world.