where the heart is.

‘home’ is the thread that tied up my weekend so i was already planning on writing about the subject for today’s post.

but then this morning, rain pouring outside on this fall day, i created a ‘lucy kaplansky‘ radio station on pandora and ‘this is home’ was the first song to play.

when i got in my car to run errands for work, blake shelton and miranda lambert were singing ‘home’ on the radio.

as i continued listening to pandora, i was aware that ‘home’ seems to be a recurring theme in folk-ish music.

so, i’m sort of thinking i was sort of right in thinking that today’s post ought to be about ‘home’. what do you think?

a few years ago, i was struck with the onset of the ebola virus. (do you remember that? when everyone got it? and you just threw up for days and days? there are few things i enjoy less than vomiting. like eating glass. or poking my eyeballs out with a fork.) it was christmas eve and my sister and i had made our traditional spaghetti dinner at the Big House for my dad and his best friend’s family. and the crackhead.


later that night, i woke up sick and spent christmas day running between my couch and the ceramic throne. alone. i drove to my mom’s the next day. (that part of the virus lasted only 24 hours and then, about two weeks later, THE DEVIL MANIFESTED IN MY DIGESTIVE SYSTEM FOR TEN DAYS.)

i decided then that i never wanted to wake up on christmas morning again and be anywhere my mom was not. in our home growing up, we would start listening to christmas music in july. by labor day, we had watched ‘white christmas‘ only about 76 times since the fourth of july. our house was already decorated for christmas by thanksgiving, which was only our deadline because uncle lindy & aunt trillis didn’t start selling christmas trees at amity church until then but you best believe that that is the only reason we didn’t have our tree up by the first day of school. the day after thanksgiving, my sisters and i would play hide and seek for about 2 1/2 hours while my mom and dad looked for The Perfect Tree, which they always managed to find year after year. my mom has frequented and knows well every christmas shoppe along the eastern seaboard.

christmas is one of my favorite things about my mom. she is home to me on christmas morning. my mom is christmas.

this weekend, my sister and i took hanners to tweetsie railroad in the mountains with a childhood friend and her little girl. we drove up to our hometown of chapel hill to spend-the-night with them on friday before leaving on saturday morning. upon crossing over from i-540 to i-40, i suddenly had more energy and sat up straighter in my seat. it felt to both of us like we had crossed the threshold toward home.

hg, and therefore i, woke up at 5:44 the next morning. when i realized i couldn’t convince her that, in fact, it would be a sunny day but, in the meantime, it was still dark outside and ‘everyone in the whole world is still sweeping‘, we decided we would love our friends well and went to get breakfast for everyone from across town. on the way back to our friends’ house, i rode down the street where we grew up to show hannah grace the house where ‘mommy & kk & aunt mah-yan’ lived when we were her age (which, incidentally, is on sale now for the very low, low price of a gajillion dollars which evidently means it was sitting on an artesian well we apparently didn’t know about. that or they renovated. whatever.)

i have ridden through that neighborhood a hundred times since we moved out over 10 years ago. i have long since grieved that loss. but that house is very much home to me; also, the Big House.

and i guess those places are still home to me because they are the location of my memories (the ones i still have, anyway – i have forgotten so much as i have gotten older!) it’s where i associate my grandparents and christmases and taking prom pictures and creating barbie villages in the creek and double dare obstacle courses and making forts and haunted houses in the playroom and where our cats and dogs are buried and where i accidentally put the car in reverse and almost drove into the creek when i was three and where i learned to ride my bike and play the piano and my dad cooking out on the front porch and my mom truly making our house every bit a home for us and all our friends.

when the girls and i journeyed up to the mountains on bad brakes on saturday morning, i with my cowboy boots on, it was definitely fall. it reminded of how each fall when we were little, we would go to tweetsie railroad and then stay at the swiss chalet in little switzerland where sarah hope thought clouds were really ghosts coming in on our veranda and into our room to get us. this is probably my favorite vacation spot of my childhood memories. and even though we didn’t make it as far as little switzerland this trip, i don’t think tweetsie railroad will be an adventure soon forgotten by hannah grace, either. we had The Best Time Ever. (sh said she thinks hg loved it more than disneyworld…which one is forced to wonder if it’s not because her Favorite Aunt was there this time. just saying.)

another one of sarah hope’s childhood bff’s lives there in the area, so she met us in blowing rock yesterday for lunch. there’s something about old friendships that continue into one’s adulthood – you just know each other, there are no pretenses, no false ‘heeeey! how arrrre yooouuu!?‘s’. you don’t have to spend too much time catching up because, even if you don’t talk all the time, you know their grandma recently died and you can’t believe how big their children have gotten even as they themselves look exactly the same as they did in the third grade and whatever happened to so-and-so? you just know each other. you get one another. you are home for each other.

we went into a shop in blowing rock four a few times and it was very much…us. artsy, ecclectic, homemade, grassroots but still very fine. the door stayed open, there was a sweet autumn breeze, colorful leaves the backdrop outside the windows, folk music was playing, the girls were free to play on the floor while we tried on. i felt so alive in that little space (and, no, sadly i didn’t buy anything). we agreed that this little store located in the resort town where we were visiting felt like our home. our hometown, that is.

when we got back to chapel hill on sunday night, we met molly and john who had come home on a whirlwind trip. we met them at the carrboro music festival to hear one of our hometown celebrity bands play (which, incidentally, john co-founded with another native son with whom i went to preschool turned high school crush – see? home.) we ran into people we hadn’t seen since high school and it was like we had seen them just yesterday. hugs were exchanged, kisses on kids’ heads, we danced in the rain and were free because we were at home…in that place, with those we love most who know us best.

it is always that way when i visit our cute little town.


we didn’t even care how late we got back, we were just so happy and our hearts were so full to be in the place that raised us alongside those with whom we were raised. it just felt right and it felt good. we were just. so. happy.

do i want to end up back in my hometown? oh, man. yes, very much so. at some point. i have no idea when that will happen. for now, with the exception of john & molly, my immediate family (and then some) is within a 30-mile radius. home.

and i have to confess that i have to fight hard for my creative, gypsy spirit to stay inspired here in my ‘new’ town (‘new’=going on three years). but i am so, SO thankful for this place because it has given me the best community i have ever had ever, particularly with my wednesday night bible/book study girls. there is not one thing in this world i would trade for the friends i have made and the community i have found here, and there is a whole lot to be said for that even when found in a not-so-stimulating environment.

home for me is also among The Favorites – each of us with different backgrounds and beliefs, but who know and get and adore each other and who can make me laugh harder than anyone i know. home is the stage where i found my place and discovered my voice with these girls fifteen years ago.

{home is when or where i can sink back in love like a big, comfy couch and transcend time and space and just…be there. with you.}

because i guess the truth is, i am at home wherever i am if i am comfortable in my own skin and resting in god, resting with you. when i trust the lord and his heart for me and don’t try to run too far ahead of him or too fast.

when i can just be still and feel my feelings and listen and am surrounded by folks i love whom i know love me, i am home.

for me, home is both the people and the place, the dwelling and the indwellers. the place where my heart is free and my spirit soars.

and where there is lots

and lots

of laughter.

and really good music.

and, always,

dancing in the rain.

where or what is home for you? who dwells there with you?

but i digress.

so, ever since my dad died, i really haven’t been back to church. at least not in full force. i have visited some churches here and there but i have only been back to my own church twice. in the beginning, it was because i didn’t want to be looked at sadly or hugged or asked, ‘how are you doooiiing?’ really, i just wanted to be invisible. between you and me, i also haven’t been because i’m afraid of how much it will hurt. i just haven’t felt like completely losing it in front of god and everyone. and i’m okay with this (the whole not going to church thing, i mean).

but i guess you would really have to know the home i grew up in to completely…or even sort of…get it, where as children we would have ‘prayer group’ in our home every week where we would basically have hymn-sings with my dad at the piano and love-fests and laugh-ins, followed by homemade ice cream my aunt merle would bring…and i have this vision of huge slices of bundt cake on paper plates, too, so i’m sure those were present. and at aqueduct every few weeks, we would spend long weekends relaxing in the holy spirit and being intentional about getting to know the people around us.

certainly not a glamorous life but we had community and fellowship and it was real and intentional and we were known and we were loved, all of us.

and i would not change one single part of how i was raised in this way because i knew god. i was shown god this way. i can’t remember a time in my life when i didn’t know the lord. i never asked if god was real or questioned things like the gifts of the holy spirit. of course i believed. i just…believed. i knew those things were true (even if no one else  knew i knew those things were true…)

i can’t expect you to understand unless you shared that experience -which many of you did- and i totally get it. i realize the way my sisters and i grew up is very unique, and sometimes i forget this and take for granted that most folks really cannot relate and therefore probably don’t understand why i’m just. so. un-religious, even about things like (not) going to church.

because church for me has always looked like a living room. and it looks like you and me sitting in a coffee shop talking about life. and it looks like a house full of young zealots who, about 10 years ago, would stay up night after night praying on our faces and crying and singing to god on bolin heights. the same group who fasted and prayed every single night for specific friends to meet god and for my dad to get help – which they did and he did. (do you hear me? GOD MOVES on our behalf when we pray and believe.) and, to me, church looks like the bpw clubhouse at 7 am every morning because brennan manning says, ‘church should look more like an aa meeting’. and church looks to me now like 10-12 precious, beautiful, strong and soft women who are all in different places on the journey who just show up on wednesday nights and really get to know each other and love each other deeply, even if it means we skip our lesson for the week because there is no agenda other than simply loving on each other. and it always ends in a kindergarten-circle on the floor praying for each other and everyone we know (even if i’m the enforcer of the brevity. :)) this is the church where i experience god. this is the church i know and love.

i get it if it offends your sensibilities or if you have questions about my spiritual disciplines and practices. but you can’t tell me i don’t love jesus or his people, just like i would never try to convince you to meet me for brunch instead of going to church on sunday morning. i know why it’s important to you. i get it.

i thank god for his church. for our church. because it takes both your church and my ‘church’ in order to love and reach those who are lost and unloved -and to best take care of one another. it takes both of us to really listen to our brothers and sisters and not judge where they are on the journey or try to get them saved and to still love who jesus is in them because that is who jesus loves.

would you believe this isn’t even the point of the message i set out to make today? i am thankful.

tomorrow (and by ‘tomorrow’ i mean ‘maybe monday’ and by ‘maybe monday’ i mean ‘if i am inspired to put it together’): layer two of the onion, which has something to do with both this message and my whole ‘look at me, i’m single’ platform.

love you guys. hope you have a great weekend!



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