I’m sure you’ve been asked the question and you’ve wrestled with how to answer.
Several years ago, I was shopping in Northern Wales and I found myself fumbling and mumbling to answer the question about where I was from. The brief conversation went something like this…
“So where is home for you, Miss?”
I glanced up at the Welsh woman ringing up my groceries and replied, “Uh…ummm, America, I guess.”
“You guess?” she said. “Where else would be home then?”
“Just America,” I responded decisively. I avoided the backstory, the myriad of locations I lived up to that point in my life, hoping to make it as easy for her as possible. Trying to explain “home” was complicated, almost exhausting.
What I wanted to tell the Welsh grocer is this:
Home? Home is a million moments in spaces and places all over the earth.
Home is the place of my childhood, where the fog settles over a salty bay, where the evergreen-laden mountains cascade into the crevices of my inner compass.
Home is the scent of African rain hitting a dusty road in the hinterlands of Kenya—to a place where, from my front porch I watched starlings perch in the crooked branches of a baobab tree. Where, in the moonlight, I listened to the murmur of my neighbors cooking green grahams over an open fire.
Home is where I used to wedge my way through a crowd in a bustling wet market, where the fruit sellers handed out oranges to my kids.
Home is a mountain village, shrouded by bamboo forests, where I rocked my babies asleep to the evening lullabies sung by my neighbors.
Home is a Californian beach, a vibrant pink southwest sunset, a rushing river bursting with Alaskan salmon.
Home is Bangor Cathedral where I listen to the Welsh choir sing during Evensong; the high, harmonious notes ricochet into the chambers of my heart and make me want to burst into tears.
Home is more than a place: it’s all my neighbors, co-workers, the shops, the roads, and even the animals that intersected my life past and present. Home is my family, my husband and my children—without them I feel untethered, and with them, I am centered in my home life, ever fastened to the anchor of Christ.
That’s what I really wanted to say to the nice Welsh woman at the grocery store.
It’s totally cliche, but there really is something to the time-old phrase, “Home is where the heart is.” My own heart has been stretched and enlarged to hold memories of many homes: homes that I may never get to visit again, but that shaped me and left a forever mark on my life. Some of those “homes” embody lost dreams, hard regret, or grief; some “homes” offered rest, adventure, and incredible community. And yet, one thing has remained true for me and my sense of home: that my Creator God has been ever-present, ever-loving, and the ultimate dwelling place for my heart. The Lord has gone before me, beside me and behind me, through every new doorway, every new stairwell, and every new abode.
I imagine that you too, have encountered the challenges that come with spreading your heart across borders, languages, and cultures while remaining tethered to past places and faces. Though moving around and navigating new communities can be difficult, I have taken comfort in knowing I am under the Lord’s protection and care. Christ’s home in me will lead me into safe pastures where I can love, serve, and grow. What a comfort knowing that when we love and obey him, Christ remains in us (John 14:23). We can know His peace—even when displacement comes, when the address changes, or the boxes get unpacked—because Christ remains in us!
Still, when speaking of Home, I want to tell people, “It depends.” The question itself conjures up a thousand memories—sights and sounds and faces—perhaps the scent of jasmine tea or charcoal fire, perhaps the sound of a cicada symphony or a hard rain pelting down onto a corrugated roof. I think of my neighbor boy running after my chickens or my son stopping to buy fried rice on his way home from school. All my homes, all over my heart.
Deep down though, I know where my true home is. I know where I belong. I know where I’ve been, and where I’m ultimately going. There is a true comfort in that.
How about you? How do you navigate the question, “Where is home?” Does it come easy, or do you find it complicated? What has Christ taught you about “home?” Tell us what “home” means to you in the comments below.