When people ask where I’m from, I’m never sure how to reply. Where do I currently reside? Where was I born? Where do I consider I “grew up” (particularly difficult since I am still growing).
Geographically and chronologically, I was born in California, moved to upstate NY after 1st grade, and moved to Western PA after 8th grade. I did the first two years of college in PA and the last years back in CA before moving back and forth (calling myself “bi-coastal” to avoid more important self-determinations I should be working on) between the East and West coasts several times. Now, at 55, I find myself at my 22nd address, if I have calculated correctly. And, after 9.5 years at my current address, this is the longest I’ve lived any one place.
So, “home” can be a rather abstract concept for me. Although my parents have lived in the same house for over 40 years, I’ve never considered it my home because I did not grow up there. Still, the older I get, there is something increasingly comfortable about the place “out in the middle of nowhere” on an almost acre, but as Professor Gerry used to say, “It’s not about the house.”
Professor Gerry was one of my pastoral care and counseling professors in seminary. He told a story once about a husband who used to come home from work day after day, and every day he and his wife would get into some kind of disagreement during which his wife would yell, “I hate this house!” The issues at hand were obviously NOT the house, and the message to us as budding pastoral counselors was to look beyond the initial words to what the underlying issues may be.
Due to a series of unfortunate employment (and unemployment) adventures and my parents’ health situations, I’ve spent more time “at home” with them in the past few years than I have in all the previous years combined. I am very, very spoiled in that I’ve been able to spend all but a handful of Christmases with my parents and various combinations of my 3 siblings and their spouses “at home.” It is almost imaginable to think of not being “at home” with my family at Christmas, especially now that I have a niece and nephew that help make it acceptable for me to want to get up at the crack of dawn to help experience everything with them.
I’ve almost always had my “other” family to think about – which at this time includes my wife, her son & daughter in law, her grandson, her brother & sister-in-law, her niece, and nephew, and her sister-in-law’s dad. We’ve never had disagreements about how to spend Christmas. The two of us celebrate together, she celebrates with her family, and I celebrate with mine.
For us it is not about being in the same house at the same time. It is about being in one another’s hearts all the time.
Home is not a geographically place for me; home is in my heart. There is always someone there – me. Sometimes home feels a bit empty. When I am with those I love and those who love me, no matter where we are together geographically, the rooms in my home feel more occupied. When the people physically leave, their physical selves are gone, but part of their essence remains in my heart home. I am not tied to a physical building for a home, just as my belief in that which is holy does not tie me to a physical earth for a home everlasting.
At this time of year, when so many are physically separated from those they love, when so many others have no place to call home, may we all be able to find a heart home, a place inside where those we love and those who love us may dwell within us, shine light and love into our darkened attics and cellars, and join with us at the table for all. Amen.
This post was part of the December Synchroblog, which focused on “Coming Home and the Season of Advent.” Here is a list of other contributors this month:
- Christine Sine – Is There Room for Jesus to Find a Home In Your Heart?
- Jeremy Myers – It Sounds Like Christmas
- Nathan Kitchen – Coming Home
- Michelle at Moments with Michelle – Home
- Mallory Pickering – I’m Kind of Homesick
- Bobi Ann Allen – Coming Home
- J.A. Carter – Going Home
- Glenn Hager – Where the Adventure Begins
- Marta Layton – Can You Ever Come Home Again?
- Peggy at Abisomeone – Abi Has Finally Come Home For Christmas
- Amy Hetland – Coming Home
- Coffeesnob – Home
- Carol Kuniholm – Advent Three: Redefining Home
- Liz Dyer – Advent 2013 The Way Home
- Harriet Long – The Body and the Sacred: Coming Home
- Edwin Pastor Fedex Aldrich – Who I Was Made to Be
- Emkay Anderson – Homemaking
- Anita Coleman – At Home in the Kingdom of God
- Kathy Escobar – Mobile Homes (Not That Kind)
- Jennifer Clark Tinker – My Itinerant Home