This playlist has taken me longer to pull together. Home is a raw and tender topic for so many of us. Since 2002, the kids and I have had to move away from our homes in three states in order to follow the path of my calling to ministry; or to put it more bluntly, I’ve had to move away from home several times in order to find sustainable callings to support my children. Thanks be to God, I have found good work with very dear folks in the midst of all the uprooting and moving on. For that, I am deeply grateful, but as one of the songs on this praylist goes, “It’s easy to be thankful for what we have, it’s harder to be thankful for what we’ve lost.” To be honest, these years of uprooting have been a profoundly existential challenge for me as a single mom and woman.
What has saved me, by the grace and love of God, is that I’ve found kindred travelers all along the way who have embraced and loved us as we’ve made our way toward them. I can’t even count how many souls have met us where we are along the Way and enriched our lives over these past 17 years; and to be honest, how many souls have greatly challenged me to keep moving on … or at least get the hell out of their way. I can only hope I’ve extended the same kindnesses and challenges for others, even in the midst of my own bewilderment.
For the first forty years of my life, I was always the one to tie myself to home-places and provide safe harbor to my homies. I was even a Home Ec. major in college, they closed the department the year after I graduated. I did well with that degree. I had no sense of my privilege, nor how much of my life was built upon the luck-of-the-draw more than any good works on my part. I had a good upbringing and married well. None of us deserve our good fortune, nor do we earn it. All we can be is grateful and try hard not screw it up.
Much to my dismay, when I accepted the call to ministry, I never dreamed how much my sense of being Home would be continually stripped away. Anyone who thinks they’re on Easy Street when they follow Jesus must surely be on the wrong road. Jesus makes it clear how much we must release in order to follow him. All the mystics throughout time caution us that this road less traveled is the Way of Love. As Jesus says in all four Gospels, “Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.” Or to put it another way, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Being forced to pack up and say goodbye to loved ones is always just too wretched for me to endure. The very thought or threat of it utterly paralyzes me. We’ve packed up and moved seven times since Max and Chloe were born, three times in Boothbay in search of stable housing. The losses which have precipitated our family moves have been profound as well, out of the ordinary; selling our home/equity in order to afford seminary in another state; death of husband at seminary; fearing bankruptcy, packing up the house and kids and moving to another state within a few weeks of Rick’s death in order to earn a living in ministry; elimination of my job when the economy tanked, or whatever it was that brought on that dark storm; consequent loss of affordable housing; putting all of our belonging in storage… and our kitties in the care of others… while living on the road in a camper van for months… in order to break out of an unhealthy vocational set-up… and escape like refugees to Maine; and then, once finding a new call, living in a subsequent series of three over-priced short term rental houses in a place where the cost of living is way too high for a part-time salary. As the saying goes, I have it on a button which my bestie, Cindy, gave me, “I’ve survived damn near everything…”
It is only in the last few years that I have been able to be a homeowner again, or rather a home “borrower” again, and that is due to the stretchy commitment of my dear church to pay a livable wage as we worked out a creative way to make my borrowing affordable at a reasonable interest rate. We believe that stability is important for parish and priest. It’s been a tremendous gift for me, as one who is continually called to care for others, to be cared for in return. Good calls for single moms are few and far between, the cost of good family medical insurance is too high. This I deeply know because we skimped on family medical insurance when we went to seminary and my husband paid the highest price for want of better coverage. To now be able to plant perennial flowers and put down some deeper roots has saved our lives, even as we all know too well how tenuous any sole source of income can be.
Never do I take for granted the privilege that comes with a mortgage which buys a house, (never mind having a trust fund which is the highest form of privilege and drives up the cost of housing all along the coast.) What a mortgage really buys is freedom from a landlord’s control, tax benefits, borrowing power, and a form of savings for the future. The bank owns the home, but with that legal agreement comes stability, if you can pay your bills. My mortgage is less than my rent was for the very same house. But does the appearance of ownership make it a Home? Where is it that we find our true Home?
My ideal of what Home is has been forever changed by the unavoidable circumstances of my life as a young widow and a single parent for nearly 15 years. What I once took for granted… owning a home… became unattainable for me in traumatic ways for a long long time. It was a profound humbling for years and years which was in fact terrifyingly traumatic. All around me people were quite comfortably settled and I could not be. I could not find any rest in it at all. That is a wall that divides so many of us from right relationships between the haves and the have-nots. I actually had a leader in a church I was serving tell me that if I wanted to own a home I had two options, get married or get my dad to buy it. “Really?” I thought, “and I am supposed to be on 24/7 call to care for y’all?” Thankfully, some much more compassionate hearts prevailed and we found a way for me to own a home and preserve my dignity. Clearly, homeownership was not something I could attain on my own in my vocation for way too long, so all along the way I had to re-imagine what Home is for me and mine.
At one point I was dating a guy who might’ve been a good guy to love and buy a house with, but something just wasn’t right about our life together. I began to make excuses for what was dysfunctional in our relationship so that I could find some security in our housing and home finances. Finally one of my dearest friends pulled me into a gentle conversation and simply asked me, “Do you rest in each other?” That gentle query was what I needed to ponder that summer as the passions raged within my own home. The answer was No, we did not rest in each other. I did not feel “at home” in my own home with this guy, not at all.
Even though everything else about our outward relationship seemed to check off all the boxes to the satisfaction of others, inwardly it was all wrong. I knew it, but I thought if I could just get this house, I’d have a home for my family. But that was not true, to truly be at home, we must be able to rest in each other. The kids and I had created that safe harbor long before this guy ever walked into our home and attempted to tear it all down. So, with great sadness I sent him on his way, knowing it meant I’d probably lose my house; but it became crystal clear to me that keeping him around wasn’t worth losing our Home. In letting him go to find what he needed to find on his own, we found our Home again. We kept the house too, with the help of our true friends in Christ.
Of course, I knew the answer to the question my friend asked. I knew what it meant to rest in each other, I was already at home with my children. I deeply knew love at home with my late husband, Rick. No matter where we went together, we were at home with each other. We deeply rested in each other. I haven’t rested that deeply since. But as it is with life, people come and go, people die, things change, then what? Sometimes we forget what Love feels like. Where is our Home in the midst of Loss and Letting Go?
It’s still so hard to believe that my late husband, Rick Hoecker, has been gone from our sight for 14 years now, for nearly as long as we were married. Because of our uprooting, I’ve not had much energy to do much else than keep myself and the kids moving forward. I composed this poem at Rick’s graveside in Kansas on the first anniversary of his death. It was 110 degrees outside on that unbearably hot and windy day. The desolation of my bereavement was intensifying, I could not see how the kids and I could make it another day, let alone 14 years. All we could do was keep moving forward, across several states over the years. When the nights get dark, I still wonder how we’ll ever make it through.
i am here
always it seems
only illusive love endures
here i stand
head bowed to the wind
to dust i return
always it seems
for now i am here
So, what is Home? Where do we find our rest in each other? After all of these long years and countless miles have gone by, I’ve slowly learned that our truest sense of home isn’t anchored in one place, nor in any one person. Our true home is with God, resting in God’s undying and abundant love. This Love moves with us and through us in all places and in all times. Mostly we forget that this abundant Love continually surrounds and carries us. We have the luxury to forget this undying love is all around us until we are blessed to mourn our losses.
Home is found wherever we can let down our pretenses and rest in the Love of God which never dies. It is always my calling to make home and church into safe harbors for all who seek it; so many others join with me in this life-giving calling. It is our work to build up safe harbors for each other where we can find our rest in God’s love and in each other. As the song goes, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like Home.
It is in our resting that we gather the strength to spring into action. Do you find rest with your homies? I pray that the answer is yes. I still wonder how we’ll all keep going, but after all these years of wandering out in the wilderness, this I can proclaim: It is only Love that endures, indeed true Love grows as we keep moving toward our Home with God. Will we ever get there on this side of heaven? Yes, but only if we make restful spaces with love for each other.
Day by day, year after year, we keep moving forward. Across countless miles traveled, in letting go of our beloveds and our belongings which we cannot bring with us, finding shelter as we go along, unsure of what will happen next in our callings… surely we do find our rest in each other by the grace of God. We are guided by the outpouring of love shared along the Way with kindred friends and family, those near to us and those far away.
The Way of Love brings us Home.
Home: Songs for the Way of Love+
Be it ever so humble
Audrey Assad – New Every Morning
Cloud Cult – To the Great Unknown
Cloud Cult – No Hell
half·alive – Pure Gold
Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits
Lake Street Dive – Neighbor’s Song
Boombox Cartel – Whisper (feat. Nevve)
Paul Simon – Proof Of Love
Roberta Flack – Bridge Over Troubled Water
U2 – Every Breaking Wave
Coldplay – Fix You
Bird York – Have No Fear (Bird York)
Audrey Assad – I Shall Not Want
Norah Jones – Peace
The Little Willies – No Place To Fall
Norah Jones – The Long Way Home
The Avett Brothers – The Perfect Space
Mary Chapin Carpenter -Jubilee
The Avett Brothers – Life
Carrie Newcomer – Learning To Sit With Not Knowing
Paul Simon – Homeward Bound
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Teach Your Children
Sufjan Stevens – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Bill Emmerson – Home Sweet Home
Phillip Phillips – Home
Bonnie Raitt – Home
Carole King & James Taylor – You’ve Got A Friend
Lake Street Dive – We All Love the Same Songs
(28 songs: 1 hour and 59 minutes)
Links to Home: Songs for the Way of Love+
Be it ever so humble