It was on Day 6 of Advent, back in December, when this little family read about Jacob who slept on a rock and dreamt of heaven. When he woke, he was afraid and in awe at the same time.
"How awesome is this place," he said. "Surely God is in this place and I was unaware."
My oldest girl drew Jacob's ladder that day, the stairs to heaven colored red and blue with the angels ascending and descending. Wings bright yellow. God hovering at the top. She folded it up, put it in her pocket like Ann told us to do-- to remember, throughout the day, that everywhere is a house of God.
Later that night I pulled it out of her pants pocket, was reminded of its truth before tossing denim into the wash. How had I forgotten so quickly? I was certain I had missed Him that day ... because some days I just don't know how to make a home.
Some days home can feel elusive.
And Todd and I have always named our years, faithfully together on January 1. For years now we have performed this New Year liturgy. We sit close on New Years day, communion between us. We eat bread, drink wine. We remember the twelve months behind us, ponder the twelve to come. We confess, ask, laugh nostalgic, offer up this next trip around the sun. We ask for grace and courage. We give thanks.
And recently we've witnessed the passing of years named COURAGE, FREEDOM, MATURITY. And it sounds audacious, I suppose, to name a year that hasn't yet happened. But the naming has become, for us, more of an asking ... a recognition of a need mixed with humble anticipation.
Becasue He has worked on this family's behalf.
But this year, we sat together with the calendar wiped clean and we had no name-- 2012 glaring at us like a newborn swaddled tight. Infant hope all wrapped up in endless possibility.
This nameless babe has haunted me for nearly a month. I haven't been able to move on, figuratively speaking. For the first time in years, the weight of a name is weighing me down.
But on Day 6 of this new year, one month after my oldest put that ladder in her pocket, my littlest one stirred something in me. On the day of the Epiphany, I had one.
We were talking about church and how it is a building and how it is also God's people, inside four walls and outside as well. This concept is difficult and I wondered if she was tracking. Then she asked me if it was the same as "that story." "You know, mama? The one with the rock pillow and the stairs and the angels? Not just church, but everywhere is God's house."
I remember how Jacob woke up afraid that morning. And amazed. With fear and wonder mixed together, he got up and declared that place God's house. Awe at what he had seen, fear at what he hadn't understood, wonder at God's presence and the promise ahead of him. All the while, he had a knowing that he was on holy ground.
God there in the mystery.
And I wonder if fear of the unknown (un-named) could be holy wonder too? God here, sprawling across empty calendar space, taking up residence in my nameless days ahead.
I go back and read Jacob. And when he woke he went on his way, but not before making a proposition:
"If you'll be with me and watch over me, if you'll provide for me then you'll be my god. And all that you give me? I'll turn around and give it right back. And this place of rock hard sleep will become your house. If you'll get me home, I'll declare this place a house of God."
Only this: God had already told him, "I will bring you back to this land. This is the land I will give you." Jacob wanted to get home and God said, this place you named 'House of God' will be your home.
Your home will be wherever I am.
And in the first four weeks of my nameless year, I've been thinking on this idea of home without even knowing. Conversations and books and prayers and encounters, all pointing not to a place but to a reality. "You have been our dwelling place..."
It's nearly February now and Christmas is lingering under my skin; this God who came down to dwell among us, within us, is reminding me again and again that home is wherever He is.
And so it is one month late and right on time that I'll declare this year The Year of Finding Home.
Because there's a stirring here within these walls and we're sensing that home is far more than where we lay our heads. It's a mystery and it's lovely and the welcome embrace is safe, sure and strong.