It’s lovely welcoming Jo Swinney to the blog today, and especially to have her write about home. When I was commissioning books for Authentic Media, we met up and bandied about ideas for her to write, and one of them was a book about home. I was delighted to learn recently that she’s placed that book with Hodder, and that it will be coming out next summer. Here’s a taster to whet your appetite.
As someone who has lived in more than 25 houses, five countries and three continents, the concept of home has been a perplexing one for me. There have been times I’ve felt so rootless the most inane of all openers at social gatherings – ‘Where are you from?’ – has been enough to conjure embarrassing tears. As humans, we have a fundamental need for a safe place, a place we belong, where we can be ourselves, a place from which we can offer hospitality.
When I was a small child, I understood home to be wherever my parents were. I was fortunate to have a mother and father who were unequivocally pleased by my arrival and whose love was unchanging from place to place. As my three siblings joined us, our unit only became stronger.
When we moved to Portugal when I was five, I missed England at first. I missed my best friend Joey, I missed the sweet shop, I missed the park and I missed our church where my dad had been a curate. I felt important in that church. Everyone knew me, and in Portugal no one did. Home was my family, but it was also England – and I wasn’t there.
At thirteen I went to boarding school, and I was dreadfully homesick. By then home was Portugal, although culturally I was a strange hybrid of different influences. Living in community in a field study centre, the first A Rocha project, I brushed up against people from all over the world. My faith was a huge part of who I was and as I entered the first episode of the depression that would be a regular, unwelcome feature of life from then on, I looked to God to be my shelter, my refuge, my rock. But I was still homesick.
The next few years were a kaleidoscope of people and places – a crazy, colourful adventure that left me spinning. For a while I gave up on the notion of home altogether, preferring to think of myself as a global citizen on a footloose amble towards heaven, where I assumed I’d finally feel settled. I felt a bit smug about this, and quietly judged the less spiritual who tied themselves to mortgages and joined local government.
I don’t see things that way anymore. I’ve come to recognise home as a God-given idea. My home these days is this house I live in, a house with a wood-burning stove and an apple tree in the garden. It is my husband and my little girls. It is my secure place in the eternal love of the Trinity. It is the memories of all the places I have spent time and carry with me, and it is in this body and this self which is being formed in the image of Christ, albeit excruciatingly slowly.
So where’s home? Home is here. Home is now. Wherever I am, I choose to make it home.
Jo Swinney is a writer, editor and speaker. She is currently working on her fifth book – an exploration of the meaning of home, due to be published by Hodder & Stoughton in June 2017. She blogs at www.joswinney.com.