by Vanessa Stimmel

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2

We’d made five major moves over the course of six years. By the time I approached my late twenties, I was beginning to feel like somewhat of a gypsy. Due to my husband’s line of work, each summer we face a decision – to stay or to go. I longed to put down roots, and yet I became unsettled at the thought of living anywhere for too long. It had actually become a beautiful adventure for us. Then we got pregnant with our first child, and the desire for more permanence crept into my soul faster than I could have ever imagined it would.

My husband and I had both grown up with consistency in our environments – one house throughout childhood, grandparents and extended family nearby, and the same school district from K-12. The desire to provide at least a similar experience for our children subtly turned into something more covetous. We’d see friends, siblings, and even acquaintances on social media buying houses, and it would further intensify our drive to have a place to call “home.” Slowly, it became an idol – a must have in our minds – and discontentment creeped in.

The beautiful condo we were renting on the Connecticut Shoreline began to feel too small. It felt less like home than it once had. The imperfections and dated decor stood out more than ever as we searched Zillow night after night. I recall such a strong sense of dissatisfaction and restlessness in that season of house searching. We wanted what we wanted, and that was that.

We did find a home – an imperfect one but one that felt like it suited us. We prayed throughout the process, we had peace, and we moved forward. Little did we know what awaited us during that first year of homeownership, and that it would provide perhaps the biggest challenge we’d faced to date. Monumental repairs, major issues, and financial burden marked our first 10 months in the house. The freedom, joy, and excitement we felt at first were replaced by anxiety, sadness, and anger.

There were moments of panic, tears, and remorse. I remember crying several times over the phone with our parents. I said to my mom repeatedly, “it’s so unsettling when the home we’ve been waiting for actually doesn’t feel like home at all.” I wanted to run away from it. I had this nagging feeling of regret and simply wanted to get out from underneath it.

One day during the winter of last year, after a series of mishaps reminiscent of The Money Pit (if you haven’t seen this movie, you should), I felt the Lord’s sweet, gentle, yet powerful whisper in my spirit:

You can feel home anywhere, when you find your home in Me.

A light bulb went off in my spirit. I stepped back spiritually and saw a new part of my heart revealed – all these years, I was finding far too much solace in my surroundings, whether consistent or unknown. Of course a safe, warm home is a blessing from the Lord, but the comfort, design, and style of my Earthly home had become a major idol in my heart. I needed this experience to illuminate that for me. God already knew it.

As I sat in our home, which was feeling more like a prison than a paradise, I let those words sink deep into my spirit. I was searching for the feeling of home in all the wrong places. I was looking for a space and a certain aesthetic to experience this, but Proverbs 24:3-4 (AMP) states, “Through [skillful and godly] wisdom a house [a life, a home, a family] is built, And by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation], And by knowledge its rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

Turns out that all along, it wasn’t where we were that mattered. It’s whose we are. And it’s who lives inside of our four walls and ceiling that matters, too. The sense of warm belonging and being at home is far more than the house itself – it’s about what is being discussed, cultivated, and built within it. Teaching our children and encouraging one another by example through His generous outpouring of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge is paramount. In this way, our earthly homes truly will exude a taste of eternity – a glimpse of heaven on Earth. Size, location, decor, and the like are secondary when compared to the spiritual design of our household.

Inside each of us is a drive to feel at home. It’s natural, as God has placed this desire deep within us. We get tastes of it throughout this life – a warm family gathering, sweet fellowship within the Church, comfort and enjoyment amidst friends – but the only place our deep desire for Home will ever be fully met is in Heaven, when we’re face to face with God, our Maker. May no other imposter, idol, or trimmings convince us otherwise.