Inhaling the aromas of fresh paint mingling with unadulterated wood and carpet, I step inside the still, empty house and wait for the new homeowners to flick lights on in every room. A canvas of quiet green in the entryway welcomes when wall scones illuminate the darkness.

As five friends gather in the kitchen to bless the house, my mind becomes a filmstrip of memories freeze framing between fragments of conversation. I am in London but my mind is traveling back to a season of life in North Carolina.

“God’s promises always intersect with places. To remember is to return. To return is to remember. Rootlessness is a kind of forgetting. And home is the dwelling place of memory,” writes Christie Purifoy in Roots and Sky.

If our true home is in Christ, then what is it that He wants us to remember?

Image via @ShellyMillerWriter on Instagram

Fourteen years ago, we arrived at dusk on the curb of our brand new, fully lit house; weary after a cross country drive from Phoenix, Arizona, the birthplace of our two children. From the passenger seat, I gushed over blue hydrangea bushes flanking the door. Always too hot in the desert to grow them outdoors.

With cautious optimism, we stepped inside our new home only to discover our builder standing at the bar in the kitchen, cleaning up after completing some finishing touches. The twang in his voice instantly reminded us that we are strangers in a new culture.

Tears threatened to pour from tired eyes during that first glimpse of beautiful contrasts. From shiny chestnut wood floors against tall white base boards to polished stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, every detail declared, “I love you.”

For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4)

On a random Monday evening, we meet in an empty house to wallpaper every room with prayer before five children take up residence. But first, we eat freshly fried fish and chips from paper bags while standing around a giant island. Passing condiments and pouring soda into plastic cups, we marvel over the beauty of architectural lines and generous white spaces.

“Why did you decide to stay in London when so many couples move to the country as they have children,” I ask inquisitively as a hunter-gatherer of back stories.

They tell us about a random moment during an intermission at the National Theater that becomes a marker of God’s providence. Drawn outside on a veranda overlooking the Thames, their eyes capture the cityscape. And what they see intersects with their heart.

“We realized we are not in London by accident, we are here because we love it.”

“I have had that same experience,” I quickly admit with alacrity.

Before moving to London, I often scrolled through photos captured by Londoners on Instagram. I was living in a tropical resort town on the Atlantic but my heart was longing for British culture. And every time my eyes landed on an aerial view of London, my heart physically ached with love for the city and its people.

God is planting seeds of hope before providence is ready to bloom. I may be a stranger in a new culture but in my heart, I am home.

Two years ago this week, I left a spacious open floor plan and two car garage in the US for a terrace house in London that is too small for an overstuffed leather couch. We arrived to see the kitchen walls painted in a familiar shade of blue.

Mired in nostalgia, I can become lonely in the longing to recreate the past. And remembering crosses the threshold: from doubt and regret into hopeful new stories God is writing for us.  

In the contrast between the past and where we currently stand is the beauty of our authentic self.

Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (Hebrews 3:6)


What are the smells, tastes, sounds, and sights that remind you of God’s faithfulness?



Shelly Miller / Posts / Blog
Shelly Miller is a veteran ministry leader and sought-after mentor on Sabbath-keeping. She leads the Sabbath Society, an online community of people who want to make rest a priority, and her writing has been featured in multiple national publications. Her first book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World, will release with Bethany House Publishers in the fall of 2016 with a second launching in 2017 with Lion Hudson. Find more of Shelly’s writing on her blog, Redemptions Beauty, and connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where she loves to share photos of the beautiful places she visits while living as a committed immigrant in London.
  • C Allyn

    Walking down the street and smelling cooking smells from neighbouring homes makes me think about diversity. God is wonderfully, creatively diverse.
    In the early morning I hear the chickadees calling back and forth to each other communicating & God alone interprets their needs.
    There will be no time to garden this time around because of another move yet bright green shoots from garlic planted last season like their head out from the earth.
    All reminders that the earth is the Lord’s and everything, everyone in it is for his glory.

    March 15th, 2017 9:22
    • Shelly Miller

      Celeste, your comment brought to mind morning walks in SC when I could hear people’s voices echoing in the pines because our neighborhood was so quiet. And the bird chatter was jubilant. That memory brings back a painful season but also, and most importantly, the nearness of God on those walks. It makes me want to cry just remembering it. Thank you!

      March 15th, 2017 11:11
  • Mary

    Oh, Shelly…this piece brings me to tears as I think of all the times in my life when God has been present, been so real that I felt I could touch him and often those times have been some of the saddest times. Looking back, though, they have been life-changing times. Times that made me grow. That stretched me until I was about to break.

    This line preaches to me: “In the contrast between the past and where we currently stand is the beauty of our authentic self.”

    Shelly, you are such a gifted writer. Truly. Thank you for sharing your gift in this space. Today’s words spoke volumes to me.

    March 15th, 2017 9:35
  • Shelly Miller

    Mary, you are too kind and equally gracious, thank you. I echoed your thoughts in my comment to Celeste above. There is something so mysteriously sweet in remembering the hard stuff and noticing where God was afoot in the details the entire time. Thanks for being a faithful reader and friend!

    March 15th, 2017 11:51
  • charlene cole

    For me it’s always been trees! I love how strong and grounded they are…like the stability of God’s love! The smell of a cedar tree reminds me of the cedars i climbed in my back yard as a kid. They were a safe refuge during a painful childhood. I often sought refuge as a teen walking alone in the woods. I love the smell of autumn leaves and the way they sound when the wind blows through them.

    I was running through a wooded area the other day after a freshly fallen blanket of snow and as I emerged I saw an image of myself running through a bridal veil. God reminded me that His love can fill all the aching places in my heart where i gave up on ever being known and loved.

    Trees remind me I am rooted and grounded in the strong, safe love of God for me.

    March 15th, 2017 20:52
  • Shelly Miller

    Love all the imagery you’ve painted for us here Charlene — of beautiful redemption and God’s unfailing love witnessed in creation. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us here!

    March 16th, 2017 3:50
  • Mary E.

    This is something I am currently struggling with, where and what is home? And as I watch years pass behind me, the ache of nostalgia tries to tell me that home is “back there” but if I dwell on that I will never go forward. Yet my future is so unknown and I too seem to ache for the land and the surroundings where I am now. I live in the West now, but was raised in the middle of the US so I think if I could only have the lushness of my Missouri upbringing, then I would be home. But then I love the South, where I lived briefly, and I think the humidity and closeness to the ocean and that culture, that is home. I have to hourly remind myself that my home is in Christ, it’s such a difficult conception to go forward on that though. My home is important, what I surround myself with, how I decorate, how it makes me feel, how do I equate that with something I can’t see and feel? Thank you for your post!

    March 16th, 2017 9:49
    • Mary

      Oops, that should say ….I too seem to ache for the land and the surroundings where I am NOT…

      March 16th, 2017 9:51
  • Nancy Ruegg

    It makes me happy to know how happy YOU are, Shelly, planted and now thriving in London. God “built” within you that yearning for all things British in order to prepare you for his plan. It’s been a beautiful thing to behold, God’s construction of your new life across the ocean. Such an intriguing question you ask at the end of your post! The #1 indicator of God’s faithfulness in our lives is the looseleaf journal I started in 1983 in which I’ve recorded (so far) nearly 1200 ways God has demonstrated his abundant goodness to us. As for tastes, sounds, smells–I’ll have to give those senses more thought!

    March 18th, 2017 16:20

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