Home. Such an inviting place. I believe deeply it should always be, welcoming you with warm, open arms. If it doesn’t, I dare say it isn’t home. As well by my definition, home is never a guarantee or a given, it’s a luxury. It’s something of incredible value fought for with determination, commitment, consistency, and occasional tears and sleepless nights.
Last night as I lay in bed snuggled up next to my husband, our dogs curled up at our feet, I reflected on the highlights of the past several days. I learned so much history and geography, stood in awe before so many landscapes and ancient monuments, connected with so many beautiful hearts…but the thing that stood out me to most, the thing that warmed my heart despite the achingly cold British winter, was this…
Rewind to the Monday night before I left for London. As I shared last, I was up late packing and organizing, mentally preparing for the little journey I was about to depart on when Tommy and Linda came through the back door in their pj’s. I was sitting in the kitchen floor amidst heaps of stuff still to be packed as Linda walked over and tossed this stack of cards on the floor at my side, one for every day I’d be away. I recall gasping out loud and jumping to my feet to squeeze her, squealing with delight and already fighting the urge to rip them open immediately!
You see, she knows me. In the deepest, most real and vulnerable way, she knows me. I didn’t have to explain my apprehension about what I would or wouldn't be able to eat with my gluten issues. I didn’t have to tell her I’d worry about my dogs, my husband, or if I really could do this tour guiding thing. I didn’t even have to tell her how much I was going to miss her and our daily walks and talks and cooking together and laughing, and how incredibly grateful I was to know she was here making sure everything was taken care of. I didn’t have to say it, because she already knew. Because she knows me.
What’s so important to note here, is that Linda (and every other unspeakably beautiful soul with whom I do life every single day) doesn’t know me because she lives a few doors down. Or because we hang out a lot. Or even because we pray and worship together. All of those things will introduce you to a person, give you a tiny glimpse into who they are, but that in no way means you know someone. We know one another because we fight on a constant and daily basis, to rip our hearts open and let each other peek inside. We do it with fear and longing and trepidation. It isn’t easy, or fun, or simple. It’s complicated and difficult, indescribably beautiful, sometimes painful, and so, SO scary. Because it only works if both parties engage wholly, and never can we guarantee that they will. Loving people well is always risky, your very heart the gamble on the table.
For us, it means sharing our darkest struggles and secrets. The shameful things. The ugly things. It means yelling and screaming and dancing around kitchens with utter joy when we overcome. It means telling each other when we’re hurt or mad or angry with someone, or each other. It means fighting, confessing, forgiving, and saying we’re sorry, a lot. It’s sharing our pearls, our greatest hopes and dreams, and never worrying they’ll be trampled although we know it’s always a very real possibility. It means crying openly. And laughing. And making lots and lots of fun of each other. It’s hurting when the other hurts, getting angry when someone wounds them, and helping make up for each other’s mistakes rather than saying I told you so. It’s defending one another, making concessions, and having the courage to never let anything go unsaid. It’s encouraging and affirming constantly. It’s reminding one another of truth, the truth of who we are and often who we aren’t. It’s sheer, unadulterated commitment, regarding one another best we know how as greater than ourselves. It’s serving, even when we don’t really feel like it. And it’s love. It’s loving deeply and wholly because we know we aren’t alone. Because we know that we’re known. Because we know that this life isn’t meant to be lived in solitude. It’s meant to be shared and so we share it, completely and transparently, knowing doing so will change us always for the better, always for eternity.
Every morning in England I woke up and read my note for the day, almost first thing. I would try to brush my teeth and such first if I could stand it, but I always left my note out waiting so I’d see if first thing upon waking. It gave me a sense of knowing that I wasn’t alone, I could do this, tangible evidence that a tiny army of people on the other side of the world missed me and believed in me. Some days they made me laugh out loud, others caused me to reflect on beautiful memories, but every day reminded me of truth.
And Day 3, a quote from one of our favorite books, brought tears to my eyes:
“This is your chance to become what you believe deep in your secret heart you might be. You are an artist, a guide, a prophet. You are a storyteller, a visionary, the Pied Piper himself. Do the work, learn the skills, and make art, because of what the act of creation will create in you.”
--Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet
Knowing other people believe in me, especially those who really know me, makes me believe in myself.
Home is about safety. It’s a place to find rest, to be the best and the worst of yourself. It’s a place of constant celebration and hope, a place that always rises to the occasion of meeting whatever need you may have. It’s beautiful, warm and inviting, no matter your mood or position in life. Home is a place, yes, but it isn’t just pillows and coffee cups and candles. It’s living, vibrant, flesh and blood warmth you can feel in the deepest part of you and wrap your arms around. It’s people. It’s souls. Without them, home would just be a place full of things you love. But with them, home is a place where not only your body, but your soul finds rest. It’s a place of belonging. A place to be seen even when you think you’re hiding. A place to be known.
So grateful for the beautiful journey I’ve just returned from, I’m even more grateful to be home.