Back in early 2017, I shared that my word for the year is remain, arising out of Jesus’ metaphor of the branch and the vine, and that I began to realize that God has been dropping other similar metaphors like breadcrumbs for me to follow: the image of a buoy, the image of a tree, the image of a shepherd, and the image of a rock climber.
And then I stopped publishing new blog posts. Part of the reason for that was the necessary shift in attention toward contributing to the launch and care of the Common House online community. At the same time, my husband and I began the journey from apartment-renting to home-ownership and renovation. Now, here I am sitting in my newly-painted kitchen, watching the leaves fall as our puppies wrestle in their very own back yard, and I realize that God has given me yet another breadcrumb. This time, it’s not only a metaphor but also a tangible, lived experience: the image of moving into a new house.
The New House
There is something so permanent about owning a house. The space is entirely your own. A blank canvas to be filled up with your lifestyle, your personality, and your family. You can leave your mark, not just with a paint color or a painting on the wall, but also with trees and bushes planted, structural changes, and upgrades––able to be enjoyed by future owners or even future family members.
Let’s imagine your dream house. What country, city, or neighborhood would you choose? Who would your neighbors be? How many bedrooms? One floor or two? Would you have an office or an exercise room? A pool or a wooded back yard? A small lot or many acres? Who would live there with you? Where would your sacred space be? Where would the family gather? How would you leave your mark? You might like to sketch the image in your mind or make a wish list.
Now, take a moment to reflect on what you’ve imagined. What might your choices reveal about your values, your desires, your hopes? What might God be inviting you to notice?
When my husband and I began the search to buy a house here in Kansas, I realized I didn’t have a dream house. Since I first left home at age 18 to go to college, I have lived in dorms, rented rooms, and apartments. Since marrying my husband six-and-a-half years ago, we have moved six times and lived in five towns and in three states. Temporary living space has seemed fitting and even necessary for such a transitory way of life, but it also lends itself to feeling temporary and depersonalized. It was hard for me to imagine my ideal permanent space, and I felt overwhelmed by all the options. What if I made the wrong choice or didn’t like the result? What if I changed my mind later? It felt like shifting sand under my feet.
But then I realized all those details didn’t really matter. We didn’t have to make all the decisions at once. And if we didn’t like the result, we could start over and try something else. I was approaching home-ownership like a temporary resident, feeling pressured to squeeze everything that comes with permanent living into the space of a 12-month lease. But God was inviting me to learn to remain, to think long-term in my space, to relax and release, stretch out and expand, explore and experiment.
A house has many rooms, and they are all waiting to be useful to you, to help you live into your space and out of your space, to give you an anchor, a touch point. Because you don’t just live in your house. You leave it to drive to work, drop the kids at school, pick up groceries, walk the dog, go out into the world and make your mark there, too. And then you come back again, and again, and again. You come back to rest, to nourish yourself and others, to spend time alone and with family, to bring something new from the world to store up for a later time, to host others, to play, and to just simply be. Your house is there to protect you, to provide for you, and to remind you of who you are and what you care about most.
You come home, you go out into the world, and you come home again. You always come back to the same place, that place you have made your own and that you can always call your own, that safe place that is always ready and waiting to welcome you.
The Invitation to Remain
Next week we’ll continue the house theme with a reflection on moving into Common House. For now, fellow pilgrims, I am renewing my prayer that we would all have the strength of heart and the gentle attention necessary to remain in God’s love no matter what obstacles we encounter on our journey homeward.
As we walk this way together awhile, I’m curious: what is your dream house like? What did your reflection bring up in you? In what are you being invited to remain?