The story I want to tell you is not mine to write and yet, to write my story is to write hers. We’re knit together, she and I, not by blood or by marriage but by Jesus who makes families from nothing but willing hearts.
My family is stretching and all the stretching is painful.
Placing one twin bed with one beloved quilt at the end of a noisy hall with the two windows and the small sitting area was a small, simple act of faith a year ago. An outward expression of the inward work happening in the heart of our family.
Last month, that act of faith became an act of obedience.
The twin bed got new sheets and new pillows and a new throw. New towels filled the bathroom and a fan filled the corner where the sun pools on the floor. Totes full of belongings from a past life filled the one good closet and hours of stories from that past life filled every waking minute. The fridge brimmed with new favorite foods and small bottles of Mountain Dew.
A house once buzzing with normal, messy life morphed into a house swarming with not-so-normal, messier life.
Mornings became a juggling act of people coming and going. Mid-days became a blur of pick-ups and drop-offs and surprise pop-in visits by public servants. Meal preparation became something other than the usual humdrum-let’s-make-do sort of meal preparation and blossomed into something unmanageable and quite Martha Stewart-ish. Quiet evenings became prime time for late night counseling and truth telling, swallowing up any sliver of solitude that ever existed.
And if ever a body did sigh, mine did.
If a soul ever longed for what used to be or a heart ever broke for propelling itself into an abyss of unknowns, mine did.
I woke every morning, grappling with the day ahead of me while looking for some semblance of normalcy. I checked off my to-do list and hugged my kids with more intentionality. I cleaned with a ferocity, trying to find a new rhythm in an old task. Books once held in my lap became books listened to over sinks full of dishes and piles of laundry. Loud conversations with my kids turned into quiet whispers in stolen moments of togetherness. Words of affirmation and belonging and thankfulness rolled off my tongue as the mother in me felt the overwhelming need to speak love over my children, reminding them that they still had all of me. I slipped into the fold of my husband’s arms whenever I could do so without being seen. Time spent lingering on the porch turned into smoke break counseling sessions. Old thoughts about poverty and homelessness and custody and jail time dissipated as real life played itself out under my roof.And every minute of every day, every thing I looked at, every task I completed, and every person that gathered around my table only served to reflect back to me a deeper longing for home.
But what was home, exactly?
In my mind, I tried to define home in the simplest of terms, making it something accessible in the chaos of the ever revolving door, feeling shame at the thought of having to ponder the definition of something I’d known my whole life.
I conjured up every childhood memory, every Norman Rockwall painting I’d ever seen, every dream I’d ever dreamed for the classic American family and held those up against the current image etching itself into my life and I shook my head at the discrepancies.
I weighed the pros and cons of this radical hospitality, counting the number of days we could keep living like this and still create for our children the kind of picturesque childhood I had growing up.
I allowed the lump in my throat to grow as I let myself lament that first act of faith that led to that one act of obedience that had stolen all my dreams of the home I used to know.
And then I lamented all my lamenting, knowing the lamenting had sprung up from a heart that desired something other than Jesus.
And I desired the home in my head more than the home Jesus was making for me.
This morning, home is creaky old stairs and drippy faucets and sticky floors. It’s makeshift furniture and borrowed things and always one more person at the table. It’s sweaty boys from across the street hanging out in the kitchen trying to get the first fried chicken leg, the front and back doors ever revolving to the rhythm of their coming and going.
Home is yeasty cinnamon rolls, rising on the counter. It’s mesquite BBQ pork simmering in the crock pot. It’s homemade ice cream and hamburgers on the front porch. It’s a new recipe for deviled eggs and one more set of hands in the kitchen sink. It’s sleepy time tea swirled with honey and lemon and served up in chipped mugs.
Home is threadbare quilts and striped blankets and mismatched floral sheets. It’s mixed together laundry and two women getting it done. It’s totes lining the hallway and neighbors filling gaps at all hours of the day. Home is impromptu visits from a daughter who does not belong to me and hearing her laughter from my girls’ room.
Home is time spent curled up on timeworn chairs with new-old books and quiet conversation laced with silent tears rolling off cheeks. It’s figuring out how to mend broken fences and break bridges where bridges need breaking. Home is a safe place to land, a launching pad into new living, a celebratory applause for merely breathing and putting one foot in front of the other.
Home is learning to live in our own skin, knowing the fullness of our humanity, both spirit and flesh and dealing compassionately with both. It’s a posture that invites God to pull up a seat at the table of heart and take every desire of ours and turn them into something holy and right and useful for the kingdom.
Home is making space for the Holy Spirit to blow fresh and wild and free in our souls, stirring up the greatest, God-given longing found there which is Jesus.
Home is Jesus.
Everything else is simply the means by which our soul cultivates a relentless pursuit of Him.
Every minute of every day, every thing we look at, every task we complete, and every person that gathers around our tables, only serve to reflect back to us a deeper longing for Jesus.