Home sweet home.

Homebuilding runs in the family.  My dad is a homebuilder by trade; he built the house we grew up in. One brother is an architect, who designs homes and spaces. I also have a carpenter brother, and he builds furniture and cabinetry. And I don’t even know how to list the millions of ways my mom continues to make home.

When both J. and I “go home” (that is, go back to the homes of our families-of-origin), there is a tangible sense of recognition and embrace, of solidness and rootedness. It is an understatement to say that our first homes shaped what kind of home we are building together; despite the differences in J. and I’s setting and circumstances growing up, our family cultures reflected similar values – faith and prayer, celebration and joy, sharing and prioritizing time together. As newlyweds, we are of course building our first home – not just our household and our physical place, but more importantly the spiritual space where we live out this vocation.

I suppose I’m thinking about home lately because, well…I’m always thinking about home. Home seems to be a recurring, central theme for me – leaving home, returning home, making new homes with new communities. Between Boston, Seattle, and St. Louis, trips abroad and summers as a camp counselor, engaged and married life – I have returned to my childhood home for various periods of time, as an “in-between” place between one experience and the next, a touchstone of sorts. I think with tenderness about the early morning of our wedding day, when I woke up in my childhood bedroom and cried with both the loss of leaving home and the joyful anticipation of J. and I’s home together. I think J. experienced a similar sense of joyful loss when we stayed with his parents for the first time as a married couple, on the tail-end of our honeymoon. A tender understanding that home is different now.

When we were planning our wedding liturgy, we decided to create a theme to guide our chosen readings and songs: a call to joy. However, little did we realize that we were prioritizing another theme, through our actions and intentions and the way that we tried to include celebrants and hosts and musicians and friends: hospitality. Our celebrant surprised us, by emphasizing this commitment to hospitality, to making home for others, and to finding home in each other. Something about hospitality felt so close to each of us, that we might not have even noticed this value had it not been mirrored back to us. This intention — to build home for others — has become a mission statement of sorts for our marriage. Papa F says it best, from his time in Rio last year:

“From the moment I first set foot on Brazilian soil, right up to this meeting here with you, I have been made to feel welcome. And it is important to be able to make people welcome; this is something even more beautiful than any kind of ornament or decoration. I say this because when we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them – some food, a place in our homes, our time – not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched. I am well aware that when someone needing food knocks at your door, you always find a way of sharing food; as the proverb says, one can always “add more water to the beans”! Is it possible to add more water to the beans?  Always!  And you do so with love, demonstrating that true riches consist not in material things, but in the heart!”

 These words hang on the wall in our home. More than a new armchair or an old kitchen table or recovering a sofa, these words make the home we’re building. God, grant me the grace to remember this kind of homebuilding when I’m perusing the West Elm website…
Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
Let us build a house where love is found in water, wine, and wheat:
a banquet hall on holy ground where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus, is revealed in time and space;
as we share in Christ the feast that free us:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Marty Haugen (1994)

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