Home – What Is It?

In the email version of today’s blog post, I shared the results from the question “Where Do You Live?” from the “Books and Mennonites Survey.”

An interesting comment caught my eye.

“After all, home is where your suitcase is right?”

There’s something profound about this statement from a few different angles…. something that makes me happy and sad at the same time. I hope I’m not about to make offensive, over-general statements. I’m just looking back over my own life and thinking what has constituted “home” for me in different situations, especially since leaving my childhood home.

Here are my thoughts!

First, I love the idea of home being where your suitcase is

That’s not me right now and maybe won’t ever be again. But those words remind me of a time when I was much closer to saying “home is where my suitcase is”. A time I lived in a small apartment, worked all night and slept all day.

The suitcase phrase brings back the time when I was completely independent, volunteering in New York City. That night that my co-volunteer and I took the New York subway from Brooklyn to Harlem late at night, just to see the city.

Then I remember the time I landed in Amman, Jordan, and met complete strangers to fly to Beirut, Lebanon to research with more strangers. I still remember that dazed feeling of trying to explain to a clerk in the Amman airport terminal what I meant by “Do you have any pretzels?” You know, they are hard and crunchy and….. I think I tried to make a motion with my hand suggestive of a twisted shape.

“No, no,” he said, “We don’t have those.”

Those words remind me that tears come to my eyes almost every time I think of the country of Jordan. It’s lonesome calls to prayer. The city of Amman on seven hills. Or the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Lebanon, washing around my ankles after the waitress served me a whole fish in the restaurant on the pier above. And, as odd as it seems, those places are home to me, distant yet inches from my heart. I have tears in my eyes writing now.

I love the feeling of mobility, of something mattering more than a particular square of lumber and brick and trusses on a particular spot on the map. Of finding that life is bigger than our American system and prejudices. That there are people in the world who don’t know what pretzels are.

People whose home is with their suitcase tend to be full of passion and ideals. They see the world, and they want to see it changed for the better. I’m thinking of the Apostle Paul. Or, for that matter, Jesus himself. I don’t think it’s exactly an easy life. But a life full of purpose and focus.

Second, this quote trifles with the question of what home really means.

This is reassuring for the less typical walks of life. Sometimes, when I was a single person, it was hard to define home. Often, at those points, home meant something other than a physical address. Maybe it was that matching sweatshirt I bought with my cousin back in the late 1900’s. Or my computer bag that went with me everywhere. Or that travel oasis over the toll road.

Yes, I still have that odd feeling of being at home when I go to over-the-road travel plazas. I know you’re thinking of writing me off as a lunatic right now. But I’m serious. Somehow, there in that impersonal, institutional squalor, that place where no one goes unless they have to, I get this feeling of health and well-being. As I watch the cars rush below me, some going east, some going west, I realize how many blessings I really have when compared to the rest of this crazy world. As I listen to families squabble and see the discontent in countless eyes, I realize how lucky I am.

Now that I’m married, home is a person. I don’t think any place would feel like home long-term if Marnell wasn’t there. And any place could feel like home if he was there.

Recently, I told an acquaintance that I hoped they would find something familiar and home-like in a new place they were going. (Uh, yeah, that incredible vagueness is intentional.) Anyway, that person said that there was a certain person that felt familiar and home-like to them, and therefore the actual place would feel that way too. Beautiful!

Ultimately, for a Christian, God’s presence is our safest home.

We can’t even put our true security in a spouse. So this brings me full circle to the suitcase people. That’s what I love about suitcase people, especially followers of Christ. That sense of mobility, that dependence on God alone. I think there is something mysterious and wonderful that can be had as a single person that gets a little cloudy when you marry someone. I’m not saying the cloudiness is bad, because I consider marriage a blessing. But when it’s just you and God, there is a sweetness that can’t be felt when you have other securities in your life. (Is that an offensive, over-general statement?)

And, please don’t bother emailing me about how much more immobile we will be with a child. Trust me, my imagination works on more things than writing stories. Every time we do something fun or relaxing these days I look at Marnell and say, “Well, I wonder if we will ever be able to do that again?” (You know who I want to get an email from? Email me if you’ve gone to an art museum with a baby and survived. I need to tuck some positive stories about mobility with children into my mental binder.)

The bottom line is, God’s presence is our safest home. I just got a wonderful email from Shari of Manitoba, who shared this quote.

If you ask, “Why is this happening?” no light will come. But if you ask, “How can I glorify God now?” there will always be an answer.

J. I. Packer

Isn’t that fantastic? Sometimes it’s not clear whether it’s better to be a suitcase person or a person who can’t ever leave the house. Both people get tired of their lives at some point. What that quote says to me is that it doesn’t matter. If our aim is to glorify God, we will always have a home. It might look like a suitcase, and it might look like immobility, but it won’t matter.

The Latest Updates and Announcements

Seriously, I can’t keep up with this new book. We have several things to announce –

  • All of you who pre-ordered copies of From the White House to the Amish will be getting your books soon. We expect them to arrive Monday, and plan to ship out on Tuesday. If you haven’t, and want to get in on the Tuesday shipping, order at the button below. Note, we have dropped the shipping to a flat rate of $3.50. That’s all the shipping you pay, whether you buy 1 or 5 books. It may go up in time, but that’s what it is for now.
  • Believe it or not, we have an e-book coming of From the White House to the Amish! It is available for pre-order on Amazon and hopefully soon on Nook, Kobo, etc. I’m excited about this for those of you who live outside the United States and might not want to pay $25 in shipping. In addition, the e-book is $5 cheaper right now (in US or Canadian dollars). You can pre-order at the buttons below (I’ve added the links for Canada and Australia, but I think you can find it in any region). It will arrive on your Kindle on October 20. If you like a different vendor than Amazon, I will be posting those links soon. I also can sell to you directly if you know what file format you want.
  • Don’t forget to subscribe by email if you haven’t. Often when I post a blog there is something extra tucked in the email. Next week, most of my post may be email-only. It’s the week for discussing the results to the survey question, “What I Dislike About the Mennonites.” Now, I’m not opposed to dialoguing with anyone personally about my thoughts. But I’m not sure that I want to moderate a public online discussion. Some people are good at that; I am not one of them and have no interest in going viral.

16 thoughts on “Home – What Is It?”

  1. Katrina, what I have long suspected is confirmed. Much, much kindred spirit between us! This post totally resonated with me!

    I have not taken my children to an art museum (not an interest of mine) but last year, we took our 6 children -ages 14-2 to Peru for 2 weeks. Yes, we were visiting family there, so having a true ‘home base’ was a lovely perk. But we totally dragged them to all sorts of unique experiences on a daily basis, and they LOVED it.

    Yup, Mama missed out on a few things because the 2 year old was konked out on her lap sometimes, but that is life as a Mom. I’m (mostly) ok with doing that while traveling. It’s harder sometimes with a crew of little people, but when I hear my older ones reminisce about how that trip changed their perspective of the world . . . It’s so worth it.

    We do a fair bit of traveling Stateside too, and it’s good.

    One practical tip, the less you pack, the easier it is. 😁

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      That’s awesome Rachel! I love the “totally dragged them to all sorts of unique experiences on a daily basis!” That’s just great.

  2. I love the thot that home is a person… and besides the security of that being my husband that as a Christian Gods presence offers us His great security no matter where we are.
    We have a girl we’re connected with who literally has none of that right now. With her mom, stepdad, father, boyfriend and sister not wanting to be “bothered” with her and not having the desire (tho we pray for this) to glorify God, truly sadly she is homeless. We pray we can be a testimony and influence to guide her towards a relationship w Jesus.
    Looking forward to reading your book!
    Oh and my tip as a mom is you can do anything w kids:) just lower expectations and see the world you offer them thru their eyes:) it provides a unique and rewarding joy and thrill unlike independent experiences. 🙂

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Thanks for sharing the sad story – and thanks for the tips! I love the “you can do anything with kids”!

  3. Absolutely you can travel with kids! Mine love to road trip and visit museums (altho we’ve never visited an art museum) My then 3 yr old daughter told me, (about a week after returning from a family vacation) “My head hurts, I think its hungry to sleep at a motel!”

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      That quote is really funny! I’m glad you take your children to museums. Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. This resonates deeply with me! Yes, I have a house to live in that I call home, but the places I where I really feel at home are many miles away. Adrian (then 16) and I were in Africa two years ago for a month and that feeling of being “home” is hard to describe or explain to someone who has never experienced it. The longing to go back has never gone away. We have also been on several trips to Mexico, and that feeling of “home” is there, as well. I believe the adage, “Home is where your heart is”, has a lot of truth to it.
    I don’t very often comment, but this one really touched me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  5. Krista Burkholder

    Home is where the suitcase is… I love that thought. And especially since I am in the ‘suitcase’ phase of life. Sometimes when we’re in that phase we just don’t know where home is. We feel out of place with were we are but not sure where else to go. And sometimes we just wish the suitcase could be in another location! I recently spent 8 months serving in Belize. And when it was time to suddenly move ‘home’ due to covid, I felt like I was leaving ‘home’. How does one know where they belong? For me, home is not an address. It’s places, and people, and memories.

    It is also a challenge to me because even if im not where I would like to be right now, this is where my suitcase is. This is my home right now. Thanks for sharing this!

    This quote is a favorite of mine:
    *You will never be completely at home again because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place. *(Miriam Adeney)

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Wow, Krista, that’s a great quote too! I guess maybe that is the bottom line – probably we wouldn’t feel homesick for different places if we had never been there. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Home is where your honey is! -Winnie-the-Pooh-
    Ahh…it’s so easy to get wrapped up in this life and feel to comfortable here and loose sight of our eternal Home. Home where my first born baby is.

    My children have plenty of toys but I want them to have more memories of things they did with their parents at home and away from home -doing and seeing a variety of things. Being out in the water in a little boat with 3 children ages 3 months to 3 years old for 3 hours is just one thing we’ve done so an art museum would probably work just as well…😁

    That book will surely be on our annual Christmas book list. With the place where I live being very cautious with the covid spread, I don’t know if we’ll be able to gather with family as usual this year so we might need ALOT of books to get us through a lonely Christmas season 🤷‍♀️

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      Thanks for the encouragement Lynn. That water adventure sounds ambitious and more complicated than visiting an art museum!

      Wishing you happy holidays whatever comes….

  7. My family lived in multiple houses and communities. As a result home is literally wherever my family is all together (think Airbnb’s and road tripping!).
    Although I’ve never lived outside my passport country, I am a Third Culture Kid*. Among my peers I appear very conservative, but in reality I am most comfortable in a multi-cultural setting. TCKs are ‘my people’. They understand a complex part of my story like no one else, and it doesn’t require much explanation.
    I am still exploring what it means to be an adult-TCK and thrive in a rural, conservative Menno Church. Any other adult-TCKs with advice?

    *Wikipedia provides a fair definition of Third Culture Kid

    1. Katrina Hoover Lee

      That sounds like a fascinating perspective, Elise. I’d love to hear more! Blessings as you explore and thrive.

  8. Oh Katrina, I think your adventurous spirit will carry right over into parenting and into your kids. Sure, it often looks a little different. Maybe you’ll find outdoor art walks instead of museums as we did ;). I don’t think I have commented before but I’ve been reading for a long while and love love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for sharing them.

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