To be honest, I've been working on this post for over a month now. Attempting to put to paper what has arisen internally from the pandemic fallout. Initially, I kept massaging what I wanted to share. (Perhaps because it's a bit vulnerable, personal?) But regardless,now seems like the perfect time to share.
Like most of us, I'm grappling with another set of emotions. Recent events in the US triggered by George Floyd’s murder have magnified a heaviness that has been present in my heart most of my life. Emotions around humanity, inequality, justice, love, pain, respect, and oppression. I consider these with a deep sadness...and unwavering hope. I'm drawn back to the root of what truly lights me up....dissolving and dismantling that which separates us (from ourselves and others as image bearers of God) all while expanding and deepening the often invisible ties that bind us together as human beings. Christ offers us his lenses so we can wipe away the miry dirt that seeks to snuff out any hope for authentic connections, whether it's with your spouse of 30 years or the stranger who looked you over in a judgmental way at the store. He calls us to look past comparisons, perceived threats, and anticipated hurts and truly love others because it gives life. He gives life (John 1:9-14)
I was going to refrain from publishing this post because it seemed so insignificant to what's going on in our world now. However, I realize it's actually relevant. Because now more than ever we're all in the position, welcomed or forced, to no longer run away from the truth of who we are and the life we are co-creating with God himself, starting now.
It's hard to believe a quarter of 2020 has been experienced strictly in the home. Shelters-in-place, quarantines, curfews, and social distancing have kept us from work, corporate worship, and everything in between. It took me a minute to settle into the new norm. Well really, there is no norm. Everything is still shifting and will continue as new discoveries are made. One truth that I discovered through this time of stillness is how for so many years I resisted being at home. I'll let you in on a secret...I was in the habit of running away.
It all started when I was quite young. Home was not always a safe place for me growing up. My parents fought a lot. Most of their arguments took place on the weekends, when my dad got home from being on the road in his 18-wheeler. Their fighting made it challenging for me to invite neighborhood friends over to play. I recall one day, after visiting a friend two houses down, I invited her to come over. As we walked up to the backdoor, I could hear my parents' arguing - loud and harsh. I immediately looked at my friend sheepishly as we turned around to find another place to go. The hurt and lack of resolve between my parents eventually led to their divorce when I was seven.
After the divorce, I found solace in leaving my mom every weekend to spend time with my dad. There was at least peace on the weekends after their separation. Despite this, my mom continued to deal with other stresses in life including grief from the divorce. It pained me to see her suffering. This, combined with the typical tension between a mother and an adolescent daughter, created a desire in my heart to avoid being home. Home still wasn't a safe place for me.
As I entered middle and high school, I became busy with community activities and school organizations. Luckily, I had teachers who mentored and took a special interest in me. I stayed preoccupied with activities that made me 'well-rounded' and led me down the path of opportunity. I was hardly at home.
My mom later remarried and began dealing with a new set of disappointments and challenges. She stopped cooking and doing my laundry because I was always on the go. Plus I was old enough to be responsible for these things myself. I went off to college, excited to be in a new environment and explore what the world had to offer. After being homesick during my first semester of college, I started to have the best experience ever, and I rarely came home. Avoiding home was a conscious and subconscious decision. The summer leading into my senior year, I even walked away from a steady internship in my hometown with career potential to a new internship that was located an hour away.
By the time I graduated from college, I had a job lined up in the Washington, DC area. I could now create a home of my own for the first time as a young professional. Shortly after moving, I became a disciple and entered into my first household with Christian roommates. For the first time, home became a safe haven. I thank God for these sisters. Twenty years later, they are two of my closest friends.
Living with Alexis and Nat taught me the value of home: having consistent family nights, inviting others in, praying together, cooking meals together, laughing, crying, fighting and making up. Living with them was so refreshing and easy. If they hadn't decided to plant a church, change careers, get married and have kids, I have no doubt we'd still be roommates!
A year later, I joined a new household with other friends from church. At the same time, I transitioned into becoming a servant leader in the teen ministry. Now busy with work, ministry, and life, I got into the cycle again of never being at home. I became extremely busy with spiritual activities that made it a chore to be at home. Can any of you relate?
It wasn't until I purchased my own home six years later that I felt 'at home' again. But within a year and a half of being in my own place, my mom moved in. It was the Great Recession of 2009 and she had lost her job. Although it was an opportunity for us to rebuild family, in all honesty, it was one of the most challenging times in my life. I felt like I was back in my teenage years: trapped in despair. And ashamedly, I became resentful because I felt that the only way to get peace was to not be at home. I questioned if buying the house was even worth it. My home ceased to be a safe haven. Experiencing dread upon entering the door was not what I signed up for. Thoughts of "toiling for nothing" often crossed my mind:
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
“and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
a miserable business! - Ecclesiastes 4:8b
After several years of being unable to secure a job, my mom decided to move back to her homeplace in North Carolina. And doors opened for me to move to Austin. I was now going to live the furthest from my parents that I ever had. In the hundreds of miles that separated me from my mom, I came to appreciate and cherish our relationship even more. In retrospect, I'm grateful for the opportunity we had to be refined by fire while living together.
Relocating to Austin created a fresh start for me...a life reset. And my escapes from home became more explorative in nature. It was nothing to jump on a plane for an international adventure or a spontaneous weekend trip to a bucket-list city. And the cycle continued where I was hardly at home! I found myself not setting roots, only seeing home as a place to sleep and shower.
Last summer me and my roommate of four years decided to go our separate ways. I moved into my own place, which was a big deal since I've had roommates for most of my adult life. Even though I had a deep desire to 'be still' and to make my home inviting for myself and others, I stayed in the same pattern of busyness.
In 2020, I set out plans to host beyond opening my home for travelers during overnight stays. I envisioned stimulating conversations with dinner guests and coffee chats on the balcony - transforming neighbors from strangers to friends. Any hopes of having people over for a meal and conversation were put to a halt when COVID-19 spread throughout the US. Fortunately and unfortunately, I couldn't run away from home anymore.
I experienced feelings of regret and anxiety. I wasn't afraid of being alone or feeling isolated, but rather of being idle, inward focused, and unproductive. As if being home was synonymous with all of these.
After the first month of quarantine, I quickly realized that it would be a while before life got back to normal. I had a decision to make - was I going to stay stuck in anxiety and regret, or was I going to use the opportunity to create what I wanted all along...a sense of safety and connection for myself and others? I chose the latter and released a plea to God for guidance and strength. Praise be to God for answering my prayers!
Immediately, God started to reveal ways I could meet and serve my neighbors while remaining vigilant and respective of social distancing. He inspired me in how I could encourage friends and family during the separation. He showed me how to make my home more functional and inviting with things I already had in my possession. He allowed me to ‘be still’ and cook a decent meal and bring others in to join me at the dining room table virtually through video chats. Through the stillness, he's provided me discernment in making wise decisions on how to be productive, more effective, and generous for his glory.
For the first time in a long time, being at home has restored my spirit and renewed my mind, transforming how I experience life. I can now say in all sincerity, "there's no place like home".
During this time, what have you discovered about yourself by being home? What is 'home' for you? Feel free to share in the comments section below.