No place like home

Once upon a time, I was a homebody.  I know I live in Asia, and yes, it's exciting to travel there, but once I'm in my home, I prefer to stay. Travel around our part of the world is cheap, but I can't be bothered. Just ask my husband! 

I wasn't always this way. I was travelling internationally by the time I was in high school, and I jumped at every chance to go anywhere outside the US. In fact, the reason I ended up  in Malaysia for the first time was because I didn't want to go home.  But something in me changed when I got married and especially after Ellis was born, and I am no longer the adventurous spirit I used to be.  I like home and I like routine.  On this trip to the US, we've slept in over a dozen different beds and have almost no routine.  We are very uprooted. At the same time, these places have all had little bits of home in them. People, places, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings: if home was a puzzle, there would be so many pieces.  For us, lately, home has been a house, a really great meal, exceptional hospitality, and old family prayers at mealtime.  Simple things like walking on wide sidewalks, hearing the front door open or feeling the weight of blankets while we sleep remind me of home (we have no need for blankets in Malaysia!).  

The word home elicits strong feelings in many of us.  Depending on what part of the world the conversation is happening, home can be defined as many different things. Are you talking about 'home' or 'home home'?  Some might say home is where your family is.  Home might be that place where your childhood bicycle is sitting in the garage rusting, where your mom's favorite casserole sits on the counter, or where you raised your babies. Home can be a house with four walls, or the proverbial place where your heart is. It might mean the place where you slept last night. And for many displaced people around the world, home might be a place where you wish you could go back to, but can't.  Home might be an unattainable, imaginary hope.

I've done a lot of wishing for my home in the past few years. I've wished for more family, more space and comfort, a little patch of grass to call our own, and God only knows how many times I've wished for that awful floral print couch to disappear.  As contentment constantly ebbs and flows, I've grown to understand home as less of material things and more of a state of the heart.  Wherever you might point to on a map, and whatever you can fit inside it, home is where you feel safe, where you have somebody to love.  It's a place of hope. We might get distracted by space and stuff, but I think this is what we all are really looking for. 

I look at my home and see a lock on the door to keep my family safe, running water, and a passport and some cash lying in a drawer somewhere right now.  Life is easy for us.  These things make us feel secure: I have disposable income, a higher education, and I can cross (almost) any border I choose. Depending on what part of the world you are reading this from, these may or may not seem like unlikely things to find security in. But things like these are more than many could ever hope for. 

Reuben and I have found ourselves in a very unique niche in Malaysia.  We live in Malaysia but work primarily with non-Malaysians: people in transition. We work with migrant workers from Nepal, men and women who have no choice but to leave their homeland to find work and money to send home. They experience homesickness and their mom's cooking just as much as the rest of us.  We've worked with refugees who have fled for their lives and are searching for safe places and hope for their families.  We too want a safe place for our kids to grow up, be loved, and accepted. We are in community with people from all over the world, who happened to find themselves in Malaysia for a thousand different reasons, but are all searching for a sense of belonging. Just like us.

Our hearts and our ministry in Asia are rooted in this longing for a forever home.  We don't know how long we will be in Malaysia, but we know that we won't be there forever. Life is a journey, no matter where we live, no matter how long we stay, or how many borders we cross. Here is the good news: God is the most constant, forever and always place we could ever find, and He journeys with us (Psalm 39). We come home to a good shepherd who leads us.  We come home to a refuge that is the shadow of his wings.  We come home to quiet waters and the green pastures that all of us desperately crave, in one way or another. We come home and He restores our souls. He is our home. 

I'm beginning to see how all of us struggle in finding this sense of belonging, but each in our own ways and unique circumstances.  We can all identify with the need to feel welcome somewhere and with someone.  No matter what circumstances you, I, or our children were born into, no matter where we call home today (or not), we can all believe that our security is in God, not in where we live. There is a 'home home' that we all long for, but it is a person, not a place.  He is hope for the hopeless, homeless, the hope-full and home owners alike. If home is safety, hope, and love, then God is all that and more.  Wherever the journey takes us and whatever detours we are routed on, he is with us to the very end.  This is good news for the homebody in me.

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