'There's no place like home,' whispered Dorothy as she clicked her sparkly red shoes together in her bid to escape the strange land of Oz.
I may not have the sparkly red shoes (boy, do I wish I did!) but I can certainly say along with Dorothy, 'There's no place like home'.
However, I'm a bit lost now. You see, my little family has just been on a big move, relocating from Melbourne, Victoria, to Toowoomba, Queensland. We have a new (to us) house to live in, a new town to get oriented in, new people to get to know and a new church to go to.
Unlike Dorothy, I'm not wishing to escape Toowoomba (nor would I call it as strange as Oz!). But there is this feeling of 'there's no place like home.' The task now is to make this new place feel like our home.
Settling in to a new home
We are often asked the question: 'How are you settling in?' It's a kind question, asked with the hope that we would be finding our feet quickly and easily. Yet I'm contemplating what it actually means to 'settle in'.
Practically, it has meant unpacking boxes and finding places to put our possessions. It has meant getting a sense of direction and which way the streets run; learning when to put the bins out; where the nearest park is located; changing our addresses with the huge number of organisations that need to know; changing our driver's licences and number plates to show we now reside in Queensland. And maybe ... just maybe ... figuring out what rugby is all about. We'll see about that last one!
Emotionally, there's a bit more to settling in, I think. It's about saying goodbye to the old home in a million different ways while slowly etching out a familiar and comfortable existence in a new space.
We've been making our house feel like we live here: putting up photos, setting things up to suit our circumstances. Settling in means making new acquaintances and building our interactions so that people will no longer feel like new faces, but become familiar friends.
It's also about finding ways to keep in touch with our friends and family without looking back and wishing for our 'old life'. Creating new rituals rather than missing old ones (although I must say, this sleep-deprived mum deeply misses having a coffee shop just a block's walk away!).
Settling in is about making your life and space feel like home. But what is home? I think home is about familiarity with people (relationships) and with your space. Home is where you can relax, rest and invite others into your life. A big part of settling in is being made to feel welcome—something we've certainly experienced and treasure. Having felt welcomed and included, it will be a pleasure to be able to welcome and include others who come after us.
We shouldn't get too comfortable
As lovely as it is to feel at home and settled in, I have some reservations about this. While I want to be comfortable here in Toowoomba, or wherever I live, I don't feel I should ever get too comfortable. Because feeling at home is not the goal of life for a Christian. We're told, in many ways, that the Christian life is a journey, a race. We're not to feel as if we've reached our life's goal by feeling at home in this world.
Jesus himself pointed out that he did not consider earth his home, as recorded in Matthew chapter 8, verse 20; 'Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."' Following Jesus means going where he goes and having the same destination in mind: to be with God the Father.
Israel experienced a period of being exiles—foreigners in a strange country—as a result of their disobedience. While they were in exile, God told them to settle in, live life fully, marry, work, etc. (see Jeremiah chapter 29). But they weren't to get too comfortable because this wasn't their final home. God promised to bring them back in his timing, according to his good plans.
And so it is with us Christians. While we are here, we settle in, live our lives, marry, work, etc. But don't get too comfortable. This isn't our final home because we are on a journey to something far better. As Paul says; our citizenship is in heaven, not on earth. God will bring us to our final destination in his timing, according to his good plans.
So if you ask me now, 'How are you settling in? Do you feel at home in Toowoomba?' I have a mixed response. Yes ... and no. While I enjoy living here and making my space feel homely, my eyes are fixed on a different goal. I believe that I will not be truly at home and settled until I am with my Lord and God and his good plans to reconcile and renew the heavens and earth are complete.
Sarah Urmston lives in Toowoomba with her husband, Stephen. She loves God, her family, writing, colouring in, crochet, and creating lists. Sarah works full-time at home and seeks to faithfully serve Jesus in many different ways using the time she's given.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html