Sunday, October 31, 2010

Making it Home: A Place We Bless

In Garden State, one of the characters say, regarding the idea of home, “Maybe that’s all family really is: a group of people that miss the same imaginary place.”  The name of that “imaginary place,” it seemed, was “home.” When I was twenty, this line resonated with me, and for a time I considered “home” an impossible concept, a site of perpetual deferment, the place I wanted-to-be-but-was-not. At twenty-six, I have far less patience for that kind of angst.  
Of course I still experience disorientation, longing, dissatisfaction, anger, and all the feelings associated with my twenty-year-old confusion. In fact, in many ways my life is far lonelier than it was at twenty, and my idea of “home” is certainly more complicated. At the same time, cynicism has lost its adolescent charm, and I am increasingly determined to fight against disillusionment.  
Are our ideas of home imaginary?  In many ways, yes, though “imagined,” or “imaginative” would please me better. Regardless, I have no shame about committing myself to an imaginary place. In fact, I’ve been inhabiting imaginary worlds my whole life. As a child, I knew my Narnian geography quite well, but couldn’t tell you which street in my hometown led to the grocery store. As a teenager, I decided the world was ugly, and that I preferred to dwell among less trodden ways: poetry, novels, and daydreams. But those were childish ways, and I began to put them aside when I realized a funny thing about being human: we have a habit of imagining things, and then making them real in the material world. We see through a glass darkly, but for all our dim-sightedness, we have strong hands.  
When we are children, our parents, teachers, and others are usually responsible for creating the places and relationships in which we feel “at home.” As adults, not only do many of us leave home (physically and relationally) , we discover that we are now largely responsible for creating our homes. 
I think that it is in the recognition of this responsibility (or the failure to recognize it) that much of the disorientation of young adulthood arrives. 
Especially during my first year of living on my own, the fact that I had complete control over my living space and time was exciting, but it also contributed to my sense of homelessness.  Home was no longer a place with familiar dishes in the cupboard or familiar faces around the table; now it was a place with a certain smell or a set of household customs.  
Once I realized that I was building a home for myself, this freedom became more joyful.  I began making daily resolutions about how my home would operate--everything from how often I would bake bread to how I would spend my money.  One day, when a friend visited my apartment for the first time, she said, “I forgot your apartment number, but then I saw that only one place had the windows open, and I knew that had to be yours.”  At that moment, I realized that I had, indeed, made this particular place home--so much so that even outsiders recognized it as mine. 
In these “Making it Home” posts, I want to discuss the particular, practical ways we can build and sustain our homes. Each post will attempt to demonstrate something about home. Today’s theme, for example, is that home is a place we bless. 
One of the oldest meanings of “to bless” is to consecrate, to set apart, to hallow.  This setting apart is, I think, foundational to establishing a sense of home in a place or season. My apartment, for example, is different from my office or classroom.  Even though I do much of my work from my kitchen table, that kitchen is fundamentally different from my office. It is a place where I act, speak, and dress differently. A place where I cultivate different kinds of relationships, for example, than in my classroom.  It is a place I can both work and rest. 
In the same way, this city is now my home in a way that most other cities are not. I have set Waco apart, consecrating it as the place where I work, live, vote, invest time and energy, and look for ways to be involved in God’s kingdom. 
I did not wait until Waco felt like home before I began to bless it.  I cannot say that deciding that I would set Waco apart as my home immediately banished homesickness. It still took the better part of two years before I really felt at ease here. However, by deciding that I would intentionally cultivate my life here--rather than simply enduring it for the time my degree program lasted--hastened the feeling of being at home.  
So how do we bless something?  Although I treasure the tradition of extempore, sincere and individual prayers of my Baptist upbringing, I often find deep veins of wisdom in the blessings and prayers others have written to set aside certain places as “home.” 
When I was in seventh or eighth grade, my mother gave me a little book called Praying with the Celts, selected by G.R.D. McLean (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988).  I was fascinated by these prayers, which very specifically offered blessings for houses, beds, fires, and kinships. One, entitled “House Blessing,” prays
“God bless the house from ground to stay,
From beam to wall and all the way,
From head to post, from ridge to clay,
From balk to roof-tree let it lay,
From found to top and every day
God bless both fore and aft, I pray,
Nor from the house God’s blessing stray,
From top to toe the blessing go. (105)
I could imagine a young family standing in front of their new cottage, running their hands over the beams and walls as they offered this blessing. I could imagine, in that moment, the structure becoming home for them. 
The Celts seem to be particularly good at blessings of this sort, and I was delighted last year to discover a much larger collection, published in 1900 by Alexander Carmichael, entitled Carmina Gadelica.  This collection offered even more specific blessings, often tailored to the specific kinds of activities happening within the home: setting up a loom to weave cloth , bathing children, sleeping, starting a fire, and many more.  
The example of these marvelously particular Celts has inspired me to be more intentional in the ways I bless my home and the work I do in the places I call home.  For example, I try to begin all my academic work with this  rich prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas.  I pray for bread as I am kneading, collard greens as I am planting them, tea as I am drinking it. Maybe that’s silly, but those prayers remind me that I home is not a place I can wait for someone else to build for me. Other people are important. Community is crucial. Church--in good and bad ways--complicates all of this. But it is both my responsibility and privilege to create a home for myself (and, I hope, for others) by consecrating places and days.  
I think that realizing one’s own role in home-making actually heightens the creativity and courage needed to help others feel at home in their own lives.  I have already discussed the ways in which churches both succeed and fail in their duty to celebrate the important seasons in the lives of young adults, including those outside the traditional categories of celebration (marriage, parenthood, and ordination/commissioning). The same day I posted the second of those notes, I learned that The Simple Way community, in cooperation with many other faithful, creative people, will soon release a book that attempts to guide the church into some of these needed blessings. Shane Claiborne, a founding member of The Simple Way, was the first person I ever heard speak against “the loneliness of our culture’s vision of adulthood.”  From what I've seen, this book promises to continue their fight against that lonely vision.  Entitled Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals,  the book is available for pre-order here, but until it is realeased, you can read the Introduction and several of the prayers here. In addition to prayers for certain days or seasons, this collection has a number of prayers that reveal a deep and thoughtful commitment to blessing all kinds of places and seasons, including the bedroom of a single adult, an adoption, and even the furnace of a house. 
Home is a place we bless. The places and times we bless become home.  
 What time or place in your life would you like to bless? Do you have a certain prayer or blessing you use to consecrate your home(s)?  If you use or create a prayer, please post it here! 
What are the implications of these questions for the idea of “church”? Is the church also an imaginary place?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Making it Home: Musical Edition

As George MacDonald says, “ […] home, as you may or may not know, is the only place where you can go out and in” (Lilith, Ch 1). As my other posts and your comments have already suggested,  “home” can mean a particular place, a season of life, a relationship, a church, and often all those things at once. The journeys into and away from those places, times, relationships can be both joyful and disorienting.  With those meanings of home--and the journeys associated with them--in mind, I started a playlist several years ago entitled “For the Journey Home.” It is filled with songs that speak in some way to the experiences related to home--feeling away from home (or journeying toward home), being at home, and leaving home. 
I have much more to say about home in the coming weeks and months, but for now, I’d rather listen. I hope you’ll listen with me. 

* Feeling away from Home / Journeying toward Home

"Homeward Bound" by Simon and Garfunkel

"Heimweh" (Homesickness) by Edvard Grieg

"Much Farther to Go" by Rosie Thomas

* Feeling at Home

"This is Home" by Switchfoot (one of the few good things to come from the film version of Prince Caspian!)

"The Lakes of Canada" by The Innocence Mission

* Leaving Home

"The Trees of the Field" (This is the song my church sang for me on my last Sunday before leaving for college)

"The Trees of the Field" by Sufjan Stevens (Inspired by the same passage, Isaiah 55, as the song above).

Question: What are your favorite songs about being away from home, enjoying home, or leaving home? Post a link or description below!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Life Undivided: Frigidaires and Failures of the Imagination, Part II

In my last post, I argued that many churches fail to celebrate occasions that aren’t “fridge-worthy”: marriage, parenthood, missionary service, and other traditional events in the lives of adults.  Many of your comments anticipated this more cheerful conclusion to the tour of the fridge.  Today I hope to complete my inventory, suggesting along the way that many churches, men, and women are stretching their attention and imagination to include other milestones in the lives of men and women, young and old, single, married, widowed, and all in between.
Alongside the wedding invitations and birth announcements, one of my favorite fridge-adornments is a picture of my lifegroup, the small church group I participated in during my first three years of graduate school. As my wise friend Lindsay noted in her comment on Part I, small groups tend to be much better at recognizing and celebrating the sorts of events don’t make the big-church headlines. My experience in a lifegroup certainly confirmed Lindsay’s observation. In addition to our weekly studies, conversations, and prayers together, in addition to our committment to walk alongside one another through trying times as well as easy days, we celebrated the important passages in one another’s lives. Sometimes that meant a baby shower. At other times, it meant a special time of prayer and blessing for a young woman leaving for graduate school.  Once, a group of my lifegroup friends even helped me christen a spinning wheel I had just purchased. (Yes, that’s right: a spinning wheel. I’ll write more on the importance of this eccentric hobby in a future post, but for now, you might want to check out the poem I mentioned in my last post.)  This celebration, complete with prayer and pink champagne, was, in its merry little way, an affirmation of the values I was attempting to establish as the foundation of my life and work. 
More important that the affirmation I received from my lifegroup, however, was the way it challenged my understanding of what qualified as an “important” life event. I began to realize that when we celebrate weddings and babies  and ordination, we not only acknowledge a holy choice someone has made, we also recognize that a person’s fundamental relationships have changed. A man and woman who have had a baby are changed. They have new names--”Mama,” “Daddy”--and the birth of those new identities is part of the celebration. 
My time in a lifegroup taught me that my fundamental relationships can change even without a dramatic choice or event.  As I watched my friends seek ways to support one another, I realized that this group was more than a study group, or even a prayer circle: it was a gathering that modeled relationships unlike any I had seen before. We became friends, to be sure, but not casual friends, not friends linked by common interests or background.  We were, in a sense, like a family, but with freedom--many members came and went over those three years-- and an ever-fresh (sometimes painful) awareness of our kinships with one another.   

There was no ready word to describe the kind of bond I experienced in that group. Instead, I found honesty, kindness, wisdom, sorrow, and laughter enough to push my imagination beyond words and into love.  

I wish that group could have thrived for my entire season in graduate school, but even in its quiet dissolution, my lifegroup taught me that if I only think in terms of “romance,” “blood relation,” or “formal ministry,” I cheat myself out of countless, yet-unnamed bonds of love. 
And so the picture remains on the fridge. It reminds me of my first night with that group--the night I walked into a room of strangers, and found they had saved a chair for me. The memory of that night is as precious to me as the memory of my baptism, and nothing--no wedding feast, no baby, no ordination--could ever mean “You are home” in quite the same way.

The next important token on my fridge is a picture of Nelson, the boy I sponsor through Compassion International. Like the grins of my lifegroup, Nelson’s shy smile reminds me that a holy imagination can create strange but beautiful bonds of love.  I am new to sponsorship, and so I am still marveling that I now have a relationship with a little boy on the other side of the world. I may never see him face to face, but I know he wants to be a policeman when he grows up. I know his mother--just a year older than I am--has four children, and was abandoned by their father several years ago.  I know he receives the letters I send. I know that each time an envelope with the Compassion logo arrives, I feel like it is my birthday. I know I love Nelson, but, again, not with a love that has a name in the world’s hasty, narrow vocabulary.

Sponsor a Child


Finally, my fridge boasts a blessing from one of my favorites, Julianna.  When I moved into my current apartment, she penned a blessing for my new “lighthouse” perched on the Brazos river.  This dear friend believed that setting up household in a new place was worth a blessing, and because she believed, I did too. Her words are not from any known ceremony or liturgy (“May you have warmth enough for bare feet and chill enough for baked goods…”), but when I read them aloud in my kitchen, the place felt a little more like home. 

Can you share a time when someone celebrated an event, decision, or relationship which was important to you, but which was not a traditional cause for celebration? Have there been times in your life when the ordinary labels (e.g. daughter, sister, friend) have been insufficient to describe the relationship you have with a person or group? 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Life Undivided: Fridgidaires and Failures of the Imagination, Part I

I did not intend for this blog to become a spiritual inventory of my kitchen appliances, but after last week’s post on my crock pot, my thoughts have turned to the refrigerator.  (And for the record, I’m in good company discerning spiritual truths from domestic machinery. You can read my favorite example here). 
When I moved into my first, and then my second, apartment, I did not intentionally consecrate the front of my fridge as a place of honor. However, after spending time in the kitchens of friends and acquaintances, I realize that the items on my fridge are typical among other church-going young adults. Almost all the items fall into one of three categories: 
1) save-the-date cards and/or wedding announcements  
2) birth announcements 
3) prayer cards for women (or, less often, families) who serve as missionaries

I put these things on my refrigerator because they represent decisions worth celebrating, blessing, and sustaining.  When I see Jenn and Grant’s save-the-date card, or Casey and Caitlin’s wedding invitation, I remember that a holy choice--the choice to make one from two--can renew our tired language about love. When I see Jordan’s baby boy smiling above my grocery list, I catch my breath, amazed that my friends have produced this entirely new person.  And the beautiful woman with the rich brown eyes? She has just left the US to begin her career as a Bible translator.  Even in a secular context, these decisions and events (especially the first two) would be deemed worth celebrating, but they all have deep, beautiful roots in the faith of Jenn, Grant, Casey, Caitlin, Jordan, and all the rest who smile from my fridge door.  Most of the time, churches do a very good job of supporting people as the enter new seasons of marriage, parenthood, and ministry. 
At the same time, my fridge sometimes makes me sigh a little.  Having no wedding to announce, baby to boast, or foreign mission to claim, it would seem I have not yet made any decision worthy of the refrigerator door. I don’t really mope much about my lack of spouse or child; I would very much like to have both one day, but for now I am content knit and sew for other people’s babies.  Nor do I think I missed my calling by not following Lottie Moon to a distant land.  
Instead, I have begun to reflect on the way Christians celebrate (or fail to celebrate) the decisions and events other than marriage, children, or traditional ministry that shape our lives.  
Whether or not you have followed the recent debates about the changing milestones (or lack thereof) among young adults, you have probably noticed that many adults--young or otherwise--have built lives that look rather different from their parents’ lives.  Maybe they have married later, or not at all. Maybe they have stepped into careers which, though “secular,” they see as vocations in which we can love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with our God. Maybe they have chosen or have been unable to bear children, and exercise their love in a thousand daily, hidden ways. 
Unfortunately,  Christian communities often fail to bless, celebrate, and sustain these seasons and choices if they do not fall into a few traditional categories.   
This is a failure of imagination, and it endangers the life of the church. 
When I visited my home church after a semester of graduate school and half a year of living on my own, I felt this failure keenly. I was one of three young people who came home that Christmas--in fact, the three of us had once constituted our church’s entire youth group--and I was thrilled to talk to these friends, as one looked forward to the birth of her first child, and the other to his upcoming marriage.  Then, during a church-wide meal (which, in my home church, meant a gathering of fifty or so people), the three of us sat next to each other as men and women shared things they were thankful for. One woman, who had known all three of us since our cradles, stood and said, 
“I just give thanks to see our young people back with us at Christmas. We’ve known them since they were babies, and now they’re all about to start such exciting new times of their lives: I mean, just look--she is going to have a baby, and he is getting married!” 
Then she sat down.  
I was stricken. Her silence confirmed exactly what I feared: that all my work, all my anxiety, all my hopes about vocation were in vain. So what if, in the privacy of my heart, I had dedicated to God my decision to become a professor? 
Clearly, it wasn’t worth putting up on the fridge.   
Admittedly, this failure was largely my fault. I was still so mopey and miserable after that first semester that I didn’t do much to explain why I saw my decision to pursue teaching as so important, so sacred.  I didn’t try to help them understand why that year of school felt so different from every other school year.  A few difficult months had shaken my confidence, and I didn’t have the energy to convince anyone else that I had made a wise decision. 
A few weeks later, however, when a complete stranger asked me what I did, and, hearing my answer, exclaimed, “What a beautiful thing to do!  God’s kingdom needs scholars and teachers,” I nearly kissed him. My church's silence had made me think, "Well, my fears were right. My choice wasn't holy--school is simply something I'm doing because I'm not starting a family."  This stranger's words, however, infused me with some fiery tonic of hope and indignation. 
I want to be, like that kind man, the sort of person who can celebrate any decision a person makes for the sake of that Kingdom. 
Now, despite my pitiful story, it would disingenuous to suggest I’m really starving for affirmation.  Especially in my current church and social circles, my choices have been respected and encouraged. And at the end of it, I will  at least earn some fancy robes and a funny hat.  But as I write this, I have to ask myself, do I have enough imagination to see even less obvious times and seasons to bless and celebrate? Am I brave enough  to stand up in church and say, “Bless this man as he goes to his office each day, honoring God in his integrity as a janitor”? Or, “Thank you, God, for this woman who has returned to live with and care for her aging parents. Sustain this beautiful, difficult, joyful service she has begun in your name.”  
I am not arguing that we should celebrate the weddings and babies and missionaries any less.  In fact, I would be in favor of celebrating them even more jubilantly (three-day-long wedding feasts! fireworks after the baby dedications!). I challenge you, however, to think in very practical terms about when and how a church can bless, celebrate, and sustain other seasons and decisions.  What about a young man beginning his career as an attorney? What about the woman who has just purchased her first house? What about the childless couple that has decided to become foster parents? If these decisions--like marriage or the mission field--can be offered to God,  I believe they deserve a place of public consecration during worship. I believe they deserve prayer and solemn words of commission, songs and testimonies and at least one bold “Amen!”
And a party.  I would love to see the day when these new seasons carry their own traditions: 
“Oh, is tomorrow the day for Katie’s home-dedication?”
“Yes! I’m giving the blessing. And I’m so excited about the sparkling cider and pear tart! I haven’t had any since Andy set up his household….” 
“Do you know the address?”
“Sure. The announcement is right here on my fridge.” 
In my next post, I will finish my survey of the Frigidaire, offering some hopeful signs and suggestions about imagining new reasons to celebrate.  In the meantime, tell me what seasons of life and/or decisions you have seen or would like to see your church bless, celebrate, and sustain. What do or would these celebrations entail? 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Making it Home: How a Crock Pot Saved My Life

Do I exaggerate? Of course. There’s no way a crockpot could have saved my life. A bread machine was also involved.  A bread machine, a lamp timer, a mother, a father, and a church, in fact. 
Let’s see if I can tell this story properly.  In the summer of 2006, I moved to Texas to begin graduate school. I had always loved school; after my first week of kindergarten, I cried when I wasn’t allowed to go back to school on Saturday. Thus, while  I was grieving for the loss of my undergraduate friends, teachers, and world, I was excited about beginning my PhD in English Literature. I was even excited about living by myself; I had very good roommates all through college, but the idea of setting up my own household, with all my own pots and pans, my own curtains, and my own cleaning schedule was very satisfying. 
I rented a little garage apartment, and soon I had all my worldly goods (including over 900 books) arranged in my little nook. As I stocked my cupboards with food and dishes, I prayed that my nook would be a place where I could practice hospitality, where others could come to feel at home. Everything seemed perfectly arranged for a bright, companionable, studious little life. 
By November, however, my nook had not become the home I had imagined.  Nothing about my life, in fact, felt like home.  My new friends, though lovely, were (at that point) let’s-grab-lunch kinds of friends, not the let’s-drive-out-and-see-the-stars, let’s-study-around-this-common-table kinds of friends I had made so quickly in college. My classmates at school were kind and interesting, but my courses seemed designed to convince me that my sense of vocation was naive, and my work as a scholar either impossible or futile. 
And then, every night, I would come home to a dark apartment.  I realize that it takes little effort to flip a light switch on, but somehow that darkness seemed to condense all my anxieties, dissatisfactions, and fears into one terrible mass. 
It was usually at this point--after trudging up the stairs, dropping my bag, and fumbling for the light--that I would cry. I know it sounds excessively pitiful to say I cried every day my first semester here, but they were honest tears.  In part, I was crying for myself.  2006 had been a difficult year even before moving: I had broken up with a very serious boyfriend of several years, my grandmother had died,  I had graduated from and left my beloved college, and I had once and for all moved out of my parents’ house.  An only child and an introvert, always quite happy to be alone, I was, at 22, really and deeply lonely for the first time in my life. 
However, I wasn’t crying only for myself. Of course I knew that there were lonely people in the world, but until that fall I had never had a sense of what it actually means to come home, every night, to an empty apartment.  To darkness. No one to ask about your day, no one to tell about his or her day, no one to eat with. Some times I would become almost frantic for these unknown others. I wanted to find them, to knock on their doors and grab their hands and hand them a handkerchief. I wanted to keep them from feeling as wretched as I felt. 
These desires to find “homeless” people usually roused me from self-pity, but then I would look down at my supper of tepid tea and granola bars, I would remember the dingy look of my apartment when the light first came on, and I would think, Do I even have a home I can offer to others? Granola might be okay now and again, but why should I bring people into a home that is dark and cold? 
More troublesome than the granola, however, was my spiritual and emotional life. I had no contentment, waning joy, little hope--how, I thought, could I be of any good to anyone? 
Enter the crock pot. I cannot claim that I was actually thinking about spiritual concepts of “home” when I decided to start using the crock pot my mother had given me.  Really, I was just tired of cold and scanty suppers. I knew how to cook, but when I would come back from campus at 8 or 9 PM, I was either anxious to begin my night’s studying immediately, or I was simply too tired to cook. The crock pot solved this problem. Before leaving in the morning, I could put in all the ingredients for a stew, or a bean ragout, or a soup, set the pot on “low,” and return eight hours later to a warm and ready meal.  
It was heartening, to say the least, to come home to the smell of warm food. A few weeks later, when my parents came down for Thanksgiving, I mentioned how depressing it was to come back to a dark apartment each night. My parents offered a very practical solution: a timer for a lamp. The timer my father bought me is the same kind people will use for their Christmas trees, or radios when they are out of town. I could set it to turn the lamp on just before I arrived home each night. And then, at a yard sale, I paid $2 for a bread machine. The bread machine also has a timer, so I could synchronize  a loaf of bread, crock-pot stew, and the lamp.  
Light, soup, bread: I had never realized how precious they were. For the rest of that school year, I blessed that timer and crock pot every night, prayed that their inventors had lived long and happy lives.  
What then, did this salvation-by-crock-pot teach me about home? about church?
First, I realized that I could not wait for someone else to make a home for me. When I was a child, my parents created a safe and delightful home. As a teenager and college student, I was shy, so my more outgoing friends usually initiated our friendships; planned our parties; called (sometimes carried!) me away from my books to supper or a spontaneous road trip.  For years I had been saying that my wholeness came from my life in Christ, and for the first time, I was testing the truth of that claim. If I was to be a person a hope, a person of peace, a person of love, I needed to find that personhood in God. If I wanted to invite people into a bright, welcoming home, I needed to realize that I had the power to make the lights shine. 
Second, I realized that one way the church (not just the local congregation, but all the saints) makes a home for me is by reminding me that I am already “at home” in Christ. My parents knew that I had electricity, a lamp, and light bulbs. They simply gave me a tool that helped me use what I already had.  Calvary Baptist Church rescued me from darkness by showing me that I was already at home in Christ;  by affirming my decision to become a teacher and a scholar; by saying, “We see Christ’s love working in you. Would you use this love to serve the church in such-and-such a way?” 
My crock pot and my timer reminded me that my nook was beautiful, and that I had something to offer others. My church reminded me that my wholeness was in Christ, and that until I recognized that truth, I would never feel at home in any church or calling.  

Now I want to hear from you.  If you have ever lived alone, what were some practical things you did to feel “at home” in that place? Have you ever been a part of a church that recognized and named the good things in your life?  Have you ever been part of a church that has made you feel incomplete? 

                                              My nook, lamp-lit. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Introduction: Letters from Home?

Last Friday, as I sat at a “S’mores and Sex” Sunday School party, I realized something was terribly wrong. The party was not the problem: despite the provocative name, I was enjoying the tame but happy gathering of other graduate students and young professionals.  Our Sunday School class has recently welcomed a new couple as our teachers, and they had suggested our class should have social events in addition to our regular Sunday-morning Bible studies. So far, so good. After mingling over s’mores, cider, and snickerdoodles, one of our teachers introduced the night’s discussion topic, “Singleness,  Marriage, Sex, and Everything In Between.”  He asked a number of questions about what it means to be a young adult--especially an unmarried young adult--in today’s churches.  As I listened to my peers’ answers--which ranged from dating to family, hermeneutics to vocation, and beyond--I realized that my own concerns about how churches treat young adults were not merely idiosyncratic worries. The lawyer sitting next to me, the sociologist across the room, the seminary student--they also had realized something was amiss. 
Even if I wanted to, I could not transcribe Friday’s long conversation. However, the refrain of our questions and stories was this: very few of our churches had taken an active interest in the spiritual formation of young adults, especially if they are unmarried.  
Ours was not a bitter conversation, nor a session of complaints.  We all lead meaningful, satisfying lives. Some there are involved in serious relationships, others who attend our class but were missing Friday are married.  However, I heard many substantive, moving questions about how our churches train young adults to be part of the Body of Christ. I came home thinking about many of my own (usually-unvoiced) concerns about what it means to live the life I am living: the life of a teacher, a scholar, a daughter, a deacon, a friend, an unmarried twenty-something.  Questions about what it means for you to live the lives you are leading. Hopes about how these lives are meant to come together. 
On Saturday, I decided to start this blog. Admittedly, I am a little late to the blogging bandwagon, but my mother taught me to keep quiet until I have something to say.  
I have a few things to say. I think you probably do, too. Somewhat to my surprise, I think I intend to write a blog about relationships, and about how life in Christ upsets many assumptions about our  friendships, marriages, parenthoods, and more. For years I have been pondering the idea of “home,” and I want to use this electronic chronicle as a place to work out questions about what it means to be at home--with one another, with ourselves, and within our churches.  
 Many of the things I have to say come from my experiences and observations as a single person in a church culture that tends to worship the nuclear family, but I am not writing this blog only for single people, or for young people, or for women.  Many of the things I have to say have been gleaned from my generous, and wise married friends.  Indeed, much of what I hope to do here is pose questions that you, my friends, can answer, extend, and complicate.
I thought about several titles for this blog, including
“The Single Person’s Guide to Abundant Living” (too narrow in its audience, and it sounds like something from the self-help aisle at Barnes & Noble)
“The Married Person’s Guide to Keeping Single Friends” (again, too narrow, possibly snarky, and it sounds like a pet-owner’s manual)
“Radical Hospitality” (better, but “radical” is becoming dangerously trendy)
I have settled on “Letters from Home” because it best captures the sense of both sadness and hope I feel when I look around my church, my city, my country, and this world, hoping to glimpse the Kingdom of God.  We have been promised a home, but we are not there yet.  A letter signals both presence and absence: I can cherish the envelope in my hand, knowing that the sender also held it, but  holding an envelope is not as sweet as holding someone’s hand. Letters are sent when distance interferes with complete communion. Letters provide our records of the early churches.  I’m attempting a to send and receive a few letters from this promised, obscured, real, imagined, holy, humble home. I want to gather ideas, questions, and meditations on how we can create home for one another.  Like my other ideas, this title has its dangers. To some, it probably seems sentimental.  So be it. I don’t mind thinking of this blog as a kind of cross-stitched sampler I am hanging on the internet’s cluttered wall, and if “home” has become a sentimental word, I would rather fight sentimentality with honesty and laughter than with cynicism. 
With all these hopes and questions in mind, I intend to post entries in the following categories: 
Abundant Lives: Profiles of people whose lives overflow with grace, love, humor, strength, and courage
Making it Home: Ideas about what it means to practice hospitality, ranging from the lofty (Sabbath-keeping) to the mundane (bread recipes)
Life Undivided:  Questions, thanksgiving, complaints, and meditations on what it means to walk alongside each other as fellow pilgrims

To review: I hope to use this blog as a forum for questions and thoughts about how life in Christ affects the way we live as friends, children, spouses, parents, siblings.  Because of own stage of life, many of my posts will relate to my experiences as a young adult and an unmarried person, but I am interested in hearing from all my readers, even (especially!) if you are in a different season of your life.   
Coming up next time…..”Making it Home”: How a Crockpot May Have Saved My Life
You have patiently listened to me thus far, and now I want to hear from you:   1) What does the word “home” mean to you? 2) Does your current church provide a sense of home for you? If so, how? If not, what could your church do differently?