The idea of ‘home’ has been on my mind lately. I love being at my house. I also love to travel and feel at home though I’m away. You see, to me, HOME is mostly a state of mind. It isn’t simply about being at my house, though my house is wonderful. Being at home’ is about being at rest, being able to settle in, if only for awhile for awhile, and being able to embrace my surroundings and the people I’m with.
Back when I was in Youth With A Mission (YWAM) I did some traveling. I went to Israel, Germany, and Mexico, as well as several cities and towns around the US (Chicago, Houston, New Orleans). I decided quite early on, probably in my trips to Mexico and Chicago as a high schooler, that wherever I went, I would be at home. I loved embracing the hospitality of our hosts. I loved exploring whatever city or town I found myself in.
I’d put on my shoes and take a bit of money and maybe a subway pass and roam around pretending like I knew what I was doing. I loved that feeling of being immersed in something big and somewhat mysterious. I enjoyed discovering. We’d check out the various neighborhoods in Chicago- visiting Pakistan, Vietnam, and Greece just by moving across the city. Or in Jerusalem I’d take a stroll through the Muslim quarter, easy walking distance from our hostel, and barter with the guy at the sandal shop. I was broke, darn it, but I really wanted those sandals and could only pay 30 shekels or whatever it was. I would go back every day trying to wear the man down until he finally caved (in an amused kind of way) and sold them to me. I ‘settled in’, made the city my own. I got comfortable as quick as possible with the streets, the people, the atmosphere.
As I said, I also loved embracing the hospitality of our hosts. Sometimes we were in church basements or youth hostels, but sometimes in homes. In Germany our hosts made us feel as though we were their own children. They were eager to show us their culture- their homes, churches, land, and cities, their amazing food and drink… and they clearly hoped we would embrace them and their homeland. We did. We felt so very embraced and we embraced back. I allowed myself to settle in, to relax, to be in the moment, to see the beauty and embrace it, to simply BE with my team and hosts and embrace them… and when we visited Bergen-Belsen and when our one host shared with us his sorrow about the war, to open myself up to that experience as well.
You see, receiving hospitality is about receiving the people who offer it. Hospitality is about making space for each other- whether cleaned up or messy, same or different, comfortable or awkward.
Another thought about being ‘at home’: being at home is about contentment. Contentment is embracing and appreciating the goodness of our ‘now’, even when we may hope for something different or improvement to our current state. It is not complacency, which is more about the giving up of hope of progress or improvement.
When I travel now I still enjoy being at home wherever I go. Whether visiting family far away or having dinner at a friend’s house nearby, I like the idea of settling in, being comfortable and at rest with the people I’m with, and embracing my surroundings. However, it was easier at 19 to do this. I was far more carefree then. I had fewer worries and fewer responsibilities. Namely, I didn’t have kids. I also had a more peaceful mind in general since my anxiety didn’t fully manifest itself until I was about 22. As I’ve gotten older I find it tougher to live in the moment. If I’m away from my kids, I find it tempting to worry about them. If I’m with them, especially away from the house, I feel the need to keep a watchful eye on them, especially the baby, to make sure she isn’t trying to go down the stairs or making a splash park out of the toilet. I am also more easily caught up in my own mind, obsessing about irrational things or sometimes becoming self conscious about social interactions.
So feeling ‘at home’ has more hurdles to it these days. Challenges I’m working on, step by step, to address and manage, but still very real dynamics inside me.
Still, I find the ‘at home’ mindset to be a worthy aim. To be present in the moment. In familiar or new places. Content. Seeing and embracing the people and the good things all around. Giving and receiving hospitality. Making room for others, complete with their beauty and flaws. It results in pure gain: The embracing of more and more of this beautiful world and the amazing people that inhabit it, and realizing the ability to be at home among them.
I am also finding that being at home is about offering hospitality to my own self: my beauty and flaws, my struggles and hopes, my spirit, mind, heart and body. It’s about making space, extending myself an invitation to breathe, to trust my God, to dare to be at home in my own soul, wherever on earth my soul may be at the moment.