Settling In

An invitation to allow God to work within your home.

By Michelle Stiffler

Last week, I happened upon unexpected traffic on my way to the gym. Three lanes were being funneled into one, bringing every vehicle to a dead stop. I was in the middle of returning a Marco Polo message to a friend (I may have been rambling) when a successive slamming of metal caused me to look in my rearview mirror. A work van was squealing toward me, swerving hard to avoid colliding with my rear end. There was nowhere for me to go, and all I could do was brace myself and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I was spared. I took a deep breath. But a deep breath couldn’t undo those few seconds of tense anticipation. I was so unsettled my bones ached. The Barre class I’d been looking forward to didn’t matter anymore. As soon as I could manage, I made a U-turn and headed home, taking notice that, had the work van not missed me, I would have been the fifth vehicle in a nasty pileup.

My instinct to return home surprised me. We were renovating bathrooms, and I had tolerated dust and drop cloths, toilets and tubs in places they do not belong, ladders and contractors, and all manner of noise for weeks. Being at home and working from home had been challenging, but despite the temporary disorder, it was still home.

This was an important realization, because I have a complicated relationship with home, even when it’s in order. I love my home, no question. The rooms are situated and styled for both beauty and utility. Each room has an intentional palette suited to accommodate the room’s purpose. The furniture—my great grandma’s writing desk upstairs, the repurposed table in the foyer that used to be a sideboard, my standing desk that was rescued from an office dumpster by a friend who knew I’d use it—has history or story, form and function. Home has all my things, all my comforts, all my interests, each of them in order. Home has all my favorite people. Home is endearing.

But home is also where tasks cycle through states of finished and unfinished by the hour. Home is where I work and where I’m frequently interrupted. Home is where the schedules and lists are posted and must be given attention. Home is where the delightful belongings of comfort and convenience are also my burdens to clean, sort, prepare, or repair. Home is where there is always something that needs to be done, where I’m most likely to multitask myself into too much at once, unable to differentiate between hopeful and delusional. A friend once joked that I’d wash my hair while washing dishes if I could. He wasn’t wrong. Home is endlessly demanding.

And yet, so is life outside my four walls; nothing like the shakeup of a near collision to remind me of that. Home is not a perpetual vacation, devoid of problems or toil. It is not always peaceful or quiet, easy or clean. There are seasons in which home feels unfamiliar, uncomfortable, rushed. But it is still home—my home. God has a purpose for me here.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to the Israelite people, telling them how to respond to the place and time in which they found themselves. It was a simple list of ordinary “make a life for yourself” instructions. The message was clear: settle down and settle in. God would be right there in the happenings of their homes, preparing them for the larger purpose of working peace and goodness outside their doors.

Settle down, settle in. How often do I hear God whispering the invitation to settle down? Instead, I restlessly live around the comforts of home, restlessly attend to the routines while the illusions of social media tell me everyone is drinking lovely beverages on the back porch and no one is scrubbing toilets. The endearing comforts, the endless tasks—there is purpose in all of it. Home is where God intentionally works his peace and purposes into my daily, ordinary routines. I’m invited to settle in. Will I accept?

I returned home after my brush with danger and was greeted by the sound of tools. Rather than grabbing my laptop, I grabbed my journal. Dodging home improvement debris on my way to the kitchen, I made myself a cup of coffee. Then I headed out to the back porch, cozied into the chair with the best view, and settled in.

Michelle Stiffler is a victim’s advocate, married mother of four, sunrise admirer, and fitness enthusiast. @onemoretruth

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