When does a house become a home?
Is it over time?
Is there some sort of event that has to take place that somehow transforms a building into a place of refuge?
What does it take for an ordinary place of residence to turn into something more?
I’ve been pondering these things throughout my last few nights in a house that has been more than a house. With roommates that we’re more than bill payers and a dining room table that was more than a collector for the mail.
We have lived in this house for two years, and for some reason, something about this house was different.
And I think it’s more than time and settling in. It’s more than decorating and unpacking. It’s even more than curtains and paint and what is hung on the walls. I think it’s about the people you live with and how you do life in that house that turns a house into a home.
When four walls are more than functionality–those walls hold peace and rest, and become a sanctuary.
When you fill the house with laughter and invite guests just stopping by to grab a plate and join you for dinner. When neighbors don’t knock, and friends stop by just because.
When you welcome a friend to live on your couch for a week (read: a month).
When you pack as many people as your downstairs can hold around a conglomeration of tables and place settings, with smells of pumpkin and hot cider dancing throughout the entire house. When friends gather in Thanksgiving over the abundant blessings the Lord has sprinkled throughout everyone’s lives over the past year. When you take a look at everything and everyone surrounding you and feel nothing but gratitude.
When you learn to extend the love of hospitality in a way that tells people “you are welcome here.”
When you give life and love and nourishment around your dining room table. When feeding people becomes about more than the food, but instead about what it does to their souls. And when Saturday morning pancakes have the power to heal, to mend a weary week and bring neighbors and friends closer together.
When you survive catastrophes, break ups, family trials, and heartache of all kinds. When you come back at the end of the day to a support system and a safe place of understanding. When you receive flowers and cookies and a note of encouragement left on your pillow that gives you just what you need to make it through.
When you learn how to embrace the season of life you’re in, and live out that season well. When the grass is greener on this side of the fence, and instead of wanting whatever is next, you’re enjoying what is right now.
When selfless living is put to the test, and those dirty dishes that aren’t yours won’t clean themselves. When you take on tasks of the house simply for the good of everyone living there. When you no longer separate out jobs but learn to work together.
When you celebrate together. Engagements, holidays, birthdays, fall festivals, Christmas parties and dinner parties just because. When the exhaustion of the clean up was worth all the effort, just to bring people together.
When 1 bathroom brings 4 girls together in a way nothing else can….for better and for worse….
When college students are packed in, shoulder to shoulder, sipping coffee and enjoying the largest spread of muffins you’ve ever seen while talking about spirituality and the deeper things in life.
When mornings are quiet, coffee is strong, and you have the freedom and space to be at rest with yourself.
When life changes, the house stays the same. When things feel uprooted and uncontrollable, you come home to steady sweetness. When tears are welcome, and hugs are given liberally. When you feel a loyalty that is a close to family as you can get without actually sharing the same name.
When you make it through the fights and the disagreements. When you take four people who live very differently and somehow produce harmony. When the battle of anything becomes less important than the relationships at stake. When learning to work together is not optional, and you know that you’re learning valuable life lessons that will extend beyond the walls of the house.
When you go to pack up and you have no idea whose stuff is whose because over time, you used the word “our” instead of “mine”.
That is when a house becomes a home.
And while I will miss that house, I will keep the parts of what made that house a home with me forever.