There is a certain sweetness about finding a place to call home.
It was back in 1823 that actor and writer John Howard Payne penned the lyrics "Home! Sweet, sweet home! There's no place like home" for his musical "Clari." Then Judy Garland made the words famous again in the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz," when she played the role of a young woman desperate to get back to Kansas.
I concur with Payne and Garland. There's no place like home sweet home. Yet home is not confined to one specific building, zip code, or area code. That's good news because the average American moves 12 times.
Last weekend I moved from Stewartville into Rochester and transitioned from renter to first-time homeowner. The house in Stewie was the longest I'd ever lived in the same place. After nearly eight years, I had grown quite attached to the hilltop views of sunrises and sunsets (and the marvelous stargazing opportunities). But it wasn't just the solar sights that endeared me to the dwelling in Stewartville. It was everything the home represented.
I pulled off Interstate 90 from Chicago to Stewartville at the end of July 2009. I was fresh out of seminary and a bit like a baby fawn taking her first pastoral steps. Since then, I've become a full-fledged adult. The house I rented was a sanctuary while I transitioned from graduate student to grownup. I could always be myself at home and never needed to pretend. That was a gift.
The hardest work I've done in the last eight years has been the work that's taken place within. Like a well-trained surgeon, God has been cutting strings that tied me to other people's expectations and judgments. In slicing those strands of emotional twine, I've been freed to find my true voice. Having a safe space to come home to has been priceless. I am deeply grateful for what has been my home sweet home … and for the people who provided encouragement, love and acceptance along the way.
Now, surrounded by stacks of boxes in the new abode, I begin a new season. Though I'll certainly miss the old place, an sense of blissful anticipation permeates my spirit. Justin and I found the new place together. This summer we'll get married and he'll move north from his current home in Iowa. I'm excited to make this house a home together. To garden and laugh with our neighbors, to pay bills and mend fences and go on more dates to Menards.
Pulling out of the old driveway for the last time was bittersweet. Justin was driving and I was tearing up. "Goodbye, house," I said one last time.
I don't think the house's response was audible to anyone else. But I just may have heard a faint, "Thanks for coming" as we headed north on Highway 63 toward a new home sweet home.