“A Place to Call Home,” Oct. 15, 2018

What does the word “home” mean to you? My mother’s parents lived on the main street of a small town in North Carolina. My dad’s parents lived on a farm in the mountains nearby. I spent a lot of time in both places and always felt at home in them.

I can describe in detail every room in those two houses, the furnishings, the food on their tables, the flowers that grew in their yards, the birds that nested in their trees and the creak of the swings on their porches. I loved both places. But mostly I loved my grandparents, and the way they made me feel: Safe and whole and at peace.

It was the same way that I felt on Sunday mornings at the big Baptist church in town, or the little country chapel in the mountains. Some church folks dressed better than I did. But we were all children of God. We all belonged, rich or poor, saints and sinners alike.

I liked that feeling a lot. Thanks to my grandparents, and a lot of good church folks, I learned to carry it within me, to recall it when I needed it, to be at home wherever I might be.

Home is not a house. It’s a shelter inside of you where your soul feels safe and whole and at peace. And a house is not always a home. It’s a building with a roof to keep out the rain. But it shelters the body, not the soul. We need both, a roof overhead to keep us warm and dry, and a shelter within for our soul.

For most of my childhood, my mother and stepfather moved us from one rental to the next, hoping to find a place that was affordable (for a waitress and a textile mill weaver) but a little more livable than the last.

Then, my junior year of high school, they bought a house: a big, sprawling, freshly-painted place on the edge of town with 12 beautiful acres of land.

I don’t know how they did it. My mother said it was a miracle, and I agreed. Miracles can happen, even if you think you don’t deserve them.

I didn’t always feel safe or whole or at peace in that house. But I loved it like a friend — the kind that isn’t always easy to be with. When I went off to college, and later to California, I missed it. But not enough to move back.

I remember when my first husband and I bought our first house in California, a two-story bungalow in Pacific Grove, a half-mile from the beach. I told my mother it was a miracle, and she agreed. It seemed like an incredible sum of money, yet it was a fraction of what a house would cost our children today.

These walls are nearly 100 years old. If they could talk, they’d tell you about all the families who’ve lived within them over the years. Mostly, they’d tell you my story. I’ve lived here longer than anyone. I was 21 when we moved in. My husband taught high school and coached basketball. We raised our three children here, and welcomed others who needed to feel safe and whole and at peace.

After the Coach died, I remarried and moved with my new husband to Las Vegas. We spent 12 years in a new house with a view of the mountains.  Then my husband retired, and we moved back to the old house where my children grew up. When our grandkids knock on the door, I say, “No need to knock. This is your home, too.”

How long will we stay here? As long as my knees can take the stairs. For now, it’s a place where we feel safe and whole and at peace, an old house we are blessed to call “home.”

Lately, the news has been filled with stories of neighbors, near and far, who’ve lost loved ones and homes to wildfires or hurricanes or floods.

While our minds find it hard to fathom such a loss, our hearts  reach out to those who have no choice but to face it.

We pray that soon they will have a roof overhead and a shelter within for their soul, where they feel safe and whole and at peace … and, most of all, at home.


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    Was thinking about all those thousands of dear folks on the panhandle of Florida this morning. I sat at my kitchen table, sipping coffee with cream – long enough that the coffee needed a reheat- watching the magpies and blue jays fight over the feeder in the backyard…..and thanked God for those simple things. Just offered a little prayer that those souls would soon have a table and a coffee pot. Sometimes I forget how blessed I have been. Thanks for reminding us ?.

  2. Our grandchildren told us that our house is the Best Place On Earth….and it must be true, because they have been to Disneyland! We love living close to them-being able to attend their events, keep them when they aren’t feeling well when Mom and Dad aren’t able to take the day off, eating meals together several times a month. We treasure this time and do not take a moment of it for granted. And we are hopeful that the memories we are making will be something that they can carry with them when they remember “home”.

  3. Beautiful thoughts…Thank you!

  4. Betty McNall says

    I relate! My childhood farm house was next to my Mothers mother, of whom I’m named after, and I think of both homes with lots of love! They had cows, pigs, and chickens! Then there was my Dads parents! I was the first grand child, and a girl to boot, they had 5 boys, and I was born 1 day before my beloved grandpa! Always sugar cookies in the cupboard! Oh how I remember all the good times at all homes. Tks for letting me share.

  5. Genelle Engle says

    My 4 sisters, brother and I had to sell our family home last spring after the death of our mother. Yes, it was just a structure with a roof on the outside. But it had a heartbeat on the inside. This will be the first time in 59 years I will not spend Christmas day in this house. It will be an emotional day for all of us. Fortunately, a beautiful young family moved in and are bringing new life to “our” house. Time marches on. Thank you for sharing your stories of family, life and love,

  6. Victoria Jessup says

    Beautiful. Home is in a little country township in NC. Home is where the ❤ is.

  7. Pamela Dailey says

    I love your stories. Your writing always touches my heart and makes me feel blessed to have known some life moments like you describe in your stories.

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