It was a cold December day, I was traveling with a girlfriend to another city for a meeting, just for one day. We had a contact of a married couple who were living in that city, happy to host us for the night. My friend had met them briefly before while I hadn’t known them at all. Right after we arrived at the city train station, we saw a man waiting for us by a car. My friend went up and greeted him. Thus I knew he was the husband whose home we were going to that night. Tony was his name. We got into his car as he was to drive us there. We were chitchatting on the way, asking about each other’s work and life. About half an hour later, we came to the front of a tall building. We took the elevator to a rather high floor-level. After we arrived, Tony opened the door on one side of the elevator. As the door opened and the light switched on, I saw a lovely well-decorated living room. A long couch with many cushions. A big dining table behind the couch. On the table, there were beautiful dinner sets laid out, as well as some hot rice and curry dishes.
Tony apologized to us that his wife had some other engagement, therefore, she couldn’t be there. And himself had to leave us as well because he had to lead a bible study group that night. It looked like it really wasn’t a good time to have guests, I thought, but still, they opened their home for us. Then he showed us our rooms. I had planned to share a room or even a couch with my friend, but to my surprise, they prepared two guest rooms for each of us. There were clean sheet and beddings on each bed as well as a set of clean towels. He wished us a good dinner and a good night sleep, as he and his wife would be returning late that night. Then he left.
My friend and I had a delicious meal with some fine china and silverware. We both were content and grateful. Where cold sandwiches and a simple sofa bed were expected, we found a hot meal and our own guest rooms instead. How delightful!
On that cold winter day, in a cozy room of my own at a stranger’s home, looking through the frosted window, seeing the busy skyline of the city and many golden panes mounted in those skyscrapers behind which I had yearned to belong, I strangely felt at “home”, a home which yet to be created in my life.
That was about 8 years ago, and I was working with a non-profit where I normally shared room with other girls. Back then I rarely had a room just for myself, let alone my own apartment or home. However, that night, when the simple yet lavish hospitality was shown to this tried, cold, single girl, who in fact felt unworthy of all these efforts, something was sparked in her. It seemed that she had caught a vision, a vision for a nice, cozy, welcoming home which showers love and care to whoever found there, reminding of or affirming their value and worth.
It required having a home first.
The older I got, the stronger my desire for a home forged. In my 20s, I had traveled much for work, moved countless times from cities to cities, countries to countries. The initial excitement of traveling the world had slowly been replaced with tiredness and restlessness. Until just recently from reading a book, I started to realize what couldn’t be met in those crazy busy years, was my need for belonging. Home is where you belong.
A place of belonging takes time to cultivate and create. It doesn’t easily happen especially when you only stay in one place for a couple of months or up to a year (which was usually my case in my 20s ). The engagement in a local community and a church, the making of friends, the development in relationships, the sharing of tears and laughter, the sense of togetherness, the creating of home… all these are carving art out of time. Like any other long-lasting good things in life, it takes much effort and intentionality. Nevertheless, this was the critical piece that’s missing in my 20s, until the aching for a home sunk in.
I wish I could have learned this earlier in life so that I would have been more intentional with the meals I shared with people or the community I had lived in. But I guess everyone’s walking at their unique pace. As for me, it’s not until my life settled down through getting married that I finally started to put my hands on creating a home for myself, my family and friends around.
With my husband and now my 14-month-old son, I have been living in a small yet lovely apartment for nearly two years now, which has been the longest time for me to live in the same apartment since I graduated from university. What a gift that I finally got to create my own home, with the one I love! What a joy to be able to design the space and pick the furniture like someone who owns her life!
So just the other night, when we were having some friends over for dinner, amongst the candlelight and soft jazz in the air, the food, talks, and laughter, I remembered that cold winter night 8 years ago…I felt so glad that my vision kindled since that day has been slowly on the way to its full realization. I’m praying and hoping for a bigger place one day that I will be able to have comfy guest rooms for people to sleep in.
And maybe one day, some guests of ours would catch the same vision for their dream homes. Who knows?