I have been searching for a sense of home for a long time now. After my husband and I got married 6 years ago we moved to big city Chicago several hours from where our parents lived in small town USA. Since our move up here we have lived in two different apartments and one house and none of these places has ever felt like home to me. Whether because we have always rented and never owned, or because I haven't lived in a room with anything but white walls for many years now, or the fact that all our family lives other places, I have always struggled to find that sense of belonging in Chicago.
I always thought the reason I did not feel connected to Chicago was because my family was not here with me. Over the years plans to move closer to family have come and gone, with each attempt fizzling out for a myriad of reasons that always leave me wondering "what are we still doing here?" I often feel as though the universe is playing some kind of joke on me because every time we resolve to make the move, we somehow become more entrenched in Chicago, this place that we try so desperately to leave.
Most recently I have begun to have this sneaking suspicion that Chicago is our home at least for now whether I like it or not, so I have made efforts to create an atmosphere of "hominess." I tried redecorating, I talked and talked about painting at least one wall, we have had numerous conversations about actually buying a house, and I have used all the mental imagery possible to imagine a life settled here. Meanwhile, in the midst of my valiant efforts to trick myself into feeling at home, something else happened, gradually and without any intention on my part. Our friends invaded our home.
Matt and I have never been very big on having people over or hosting pretty much anything. I would definitely call myself an anxious host, who stresses over every small detail and spends every gathering wondering if everyone is having a good time, getting enough to eat, is there enough light for everyone to see, and on and on to insanity. However, since the munchkin was born we began hosting our weekly small group, and what started out as a convenient set up turned out to be something much more. While initially I was so timid and awkward when having people over, it seems the more often I open the doors to my home the more often I want to.
I think hospitality might be contagious, not necessarily to other people, but definitely to yourself, kind of like that cold you keep getting over and over, all winter long. Opening the doors to your home opens up a part of yourself too, and that is at first scary and vulnerable and intimidating, but the more you choose to open your door, the wider open you yourself become, and I have found as I become more open that I have connected with others in ways I never expected. I love that my friends don't knock when they come to our house, that they know which cabinet my glasses are in and they help themselves, that our living room has been the scene of so many meaningful conversations that have challenged and stretched me.
While I still hope that someday soon we will find ourselves living in a place surrounded by our family, for now I am learning to be content with the surrogate family God has blessed us with here. And with each gathering of our friends I am finding that our house, which we do not own and which will likely be white walled to the day we leave, has become a home, not because of the things I have done to it, but instead because of the people I have welcomed into it.