I’m honored that my dear friend, Alysia Yates, agreed to share some of her fascinating brain with us. She’s a stay-at-home mother of four and somehow still manages to make me jealous with her reading life. I’m always impressed with how creative her home is…it’s full of stories and imagination and sword-welding pirates saving princesses. And I love the hospitality of her home. She’s the ultimate Mama Monk, living as the wife of a beloved pastor (ours in Philly, and still a pastor to us though we’re far away). When I first met her husband, he said, “You need to meet my wife. She has two passions: Theology and Literature.” I immediately asked her to be my friend.
Here she is…
* * *
I’ve been thinking a lot lately of what it means to be ‘home,’ pondering the significance of that phrase in my heart. As a mother of four little ones (ages seven and under) and the wife of a pastor who has an academic streak, I have spent the last ten years in three different homes on two continents. Twice we have packed up our things with no certain destination in mind: once with a newborn and once with two children in tow and one more on the way.
Our path has not been, by any stretch of the imagination, predictable; it has not been particularly easy, either. But it has been exceedingly good! I get teary when I think of the sweetness of these unexpected homes, the kindness of strangers, the remarkable and particular provision of God for our every need. I marvel that we have always had brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers who encouraged us on our way, even when our own biological families were hundreds or thousands of miles away. John and I have had the privilege of needing others, and we have experienced the goodness of Christ-centered community.
The temptation in the face of such richness is to be too comfortable, too attached to the “who” and the “where” of any particular place, to try and substitute a location for the deeper longing below it. When we lived in England there were constant tangible reminders of our status as strangers in a foreign land, and I felt the tug across the ocean towards our geographical home.
What I would like to say that I learned from those wandering years (though I can’t claim the lesson completely yet) is the discipline of living into my identity as a spiritual “stranger and exile,” of recognizing my own status as one who (in the words of Hebrews 11) “desires a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” Because I think when it comes right down to it, no matter where we live and how close we are to those oldest and dearest to our hearts, I will always have a longing towards a home that I will not know this side of heaven. Or at least I should have that longing, that niggling suspicion that my life here, even in the best of circumstances, is not complete.
Frederick Buechner describes this holy restlessness well in his book The Longing for Home: “I believe . . . that the home we long for is finally where Christ is. I believe that home is Christ’s kingdom, which exists both within us and among us as we wend our prodigal ways through the world in search of it” (Buechner, 28). John and I are not finished wending our way through the world, and I guess we never will be in this life. But I am grateful for the longing behind the searching to remind me that we will one glorious day be fully and finally home.
* * *