The bell on the doorway clanged as I ducked out of the rain and into the shop. It was an unassuming place, but brightly decorated. Small window displays advertised new clothing arrivals, and neon signs told the sales of the day.
“Hello there!” cheered the woman behind the counter, smiling up from her calculator and stack of receipts. An old cash register clicked rhythmically beside her.
“Still wet outside?” she asked me, eyeing my raincoat.
“Only a little,” I said, following her gaze apologetically to my dripping sleeves. I took my coat off gingerly, and she extended her hand to hang it on a rack nearby.
“Well you picked a good night to come in,” she said, her warmth characteristic of the people I have met throughout the Englewood community. “Everything with a yellow sticker is 20 percent off.”
“Make yourself at home.”
I exhaled into her words, and her invitation. Home. If only she knew the weight those words held.
The week before I visited her small second hand store in Englewood, I had said “yes” to an opportunity to move into the city. I was preparing for the change. I was in the process of packing boxes and reflecting on the memories made in my previous home.
As I browsed the racks of sweaters and shoes, I thought about what the adventure of moving would bring, and what home would mean to me after I was in a new one.
When I was growing up, my definition of home was grounded — safe. I had the blessing and privilege of a stable home environment, reinforced by the fact that my parents never moved from the house they brought me home to as a newborn. Throughout my childhood, we attended the same church consistently, not to mention the same grocery stores, parks and Mexican restaurants as well. Home was steady.
As I explored faith for myself in college and beyond, my definition of home became more fluid. I observed how other people built their homes — some adventure-seeking, some frugal, some family-oriented — and started to form my own values.
As I have looked at the life of Jesus and the way of the early church, my definition of home has been influenced by the description of homes in scripture. Although Jesus’ life was transient, he gathered in homes and around set tables in small groups. He seemed to value place, knowing that it anchors our bodies and souls in tandem. The homes of the early church were characterized by warm invitations (Luke 10:8), shared resources (Acts 2:45), and bread broken (Acts 2:46). I want my homes to honor these simple yet powerful examples.
Today, my definition of home is more like a scrapbook than a set of ideals. With each new roof I gather under, each new roommate I call friend, and each new season of life, I am collecting stories and values that get added to the volume of the many homes I will occupy this side of heaven.
Today, my definition of home is largely influenced by the rhythms of our church community at The Sacred Grace. Our church is a home to me.
Because we as a church meet and eat together regularly, home means a warm and welcoming place to gather.
Because we as a church pray universal and ancient prayers, home means participating in the traditions of our faith, believing they are as powerful today as when they were first practiced.
Because we as a church are vulnerable with each other, home means space for honesty and truth-telling.
Because we as a church practice generosity, home is characterized by sharing and sacrifice.
By saying “yes” to moving in to Englewood, I felt I had the opportunity to literally and metaphorically live out these pillars of faith that have become so central to me and to our community.
More than ever, I believe that home is both where we hang our hat, and where we express what we believe. It is an extension of our heart as much as it is a space for our stuff. It is choice as much as it is circumstance. It’s who and where and what you make it. And I’m proud to make it here.
I handed the clerk my thrift purchases, and asked her if she lived in the area.
“I live in Denver, but not far,” she replied. “And you?”
“I am about to move to Englewood!” I answered.
Englewood. Warm, honest, welcoming, generous. Who and where and what you make it.
“Welcome to the neighborhood,” she said, effectively marking a new chapter in my faith and in my life.
This post originally appeared in our church’s weekly journal.