Home and Choosing Joy

It’s been over a week since Tim and I returned from New York and I’m still recovering – less from jet lag (though there was plenty of that) and more from the emotions of leaving a place and people I dearly love.

Every trip to my now beloved Central New York leaves me more and more bewitched by a certain little lake and the rural landscape that seems to shout simplicity. Now more than ever it’s a place to relive good memories, spend time with family, and relax.

After spending 8 days in my happy place, I was hard pressed to keep my return flight. I’m convinced that if I wasn’t returning in a month, Tim might have been flying to Idaho by himself. Well, and the fact that I would miss him terribly… Despite the fact that I am returning so soon, the end of this trip was bittersweet.

I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t consider Southern California home only to have it supplanted, not by Idaho, but by New York. Our trip wasn’t just a vacation, it was like going home – and leaving home is always difficult for me.

Dueling Lakes

The first couple days back in Coeur d’Alene were tough. I was wrestling with desires I knew couldn’t become reality at present and a present reality I thus had a bad attitude toward. I’m still wrestling with the former, but the latter was improved by a realization, and resulting choice, I had last Friday.

Tim was preaching at our church’s Father Daughter Camp. The 45 minute drive to Camp Cocolalla (great name, right?) is rather lovely. As Tim remarked on the pretty sky and the setting sun shining through the copious pine trees, I found myself not wanting to agree. I actually did find the landscape quite pleasing, but didn’t want to admit it for fear it diminished my appreciation for New York’s natural beauty.

I was purposefully holding out on the truth in order to make a point.

Where did that get me? Nowhere except for Sulkville. Despite the fact that Sulkville was initially soothing to my bruised desires, I knew it wasn’t a place I could live indefinitely. God and Tim know my desires without me being pouty to make a point.

My choice was obvious: I could remain gloomy or choose joy. Though I am not always successful, I am trying to choose joy. For me this means seeking and acknowledging the little treasures around me – the scent of Fall in the air, pine trees and thunderstorms, new friends and building community.

Just because I acknowledge the things I really enjoy about the present doesn’t mean I have to abandon my desires. It DOES mean that I surrender those desires to God and continue to give thanks for His many treasures.

A Spiritual Third Place?


My brother worked for the Big Green Machine (Star-biz-ucks or just The Bucks in our family’s vernacular) for years.  We would laugh at the lengths to which Starbucks would go to create the perfect coffee shop environment.  Tim (yes, brother and hubs have the same name) is by no means a corporate kind of guy so he found the “third place” concept a bit eye-rolling.

Starbucks’ goal was to be the place people went when they weren’t at home or at work, the place people chose to meet and hang out, the place you felt most comfortable. His vehemence at the third place protocol was definitely amusing and I, too, rolled my eyes at the effort Starbucks put in to being people’s home away from home.

Then I began to travel and realized just how comforting a little slice of familiarity can be when you’re in a different state or a different country. In a sea of quaint English tea shops or Italian cafes, sometimes you just need a green mermaid on your to-go cup.

I was working in Massachusetts this past week and after a few days alone in a new city, eating PB&J made in my hotel room, I yearned for a sense of home.  I let my iPhone lead me to the nearest Starbucks. The familiar scent of freshly ground coffee struck me the minute I pushed through the doors.  Computer open, Vanilla Spice Latte in hand, I was less aware of being 2,700 miles from home.

Starbucks isn’t my third place because I’m some sort of coffee snob, it’s mostly because I’ve built memories around being in a Starbucks.

Isn’t that what comfort derives from? Familiarity. Good memories. A sense of reassurance.

My Spiritual Third Place

As I was reflecting on my third place experience from the past week, I realized Starbucks wasn’t the only thing I turned to for comfort when I felt out of place.

God is a consistent presence in my life and has been a very real source of peace as I’ve traveled the globe.  On a train, in a plane, or in a lonely hotel room, I find deep comfort and reassurance from reading Scripture.

The Psalms are my spiritual third place. Within the Psalms, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness to me and generations before me. Those memories make my heart feel at home.

My emotions find companionship in the Psalmists who let their songs flow with honesty and intensity. Whether born out of fear, joy, strife, or praise, the Psalms are melodies made of very human feelings. They are feelings I can relate to and the very fact that the words are there, printed in my Bible, draw me closer into God’s arms.

So, when I am slipping between the sheets of a strange bed, wishing the vast space to my left wasn’t empty, I can read a Psalm and know that I’m not alone.

Where is your third place?

A spiritual third place has been more important in my life than a physical third place.

Do you have one a spiritual third place? What about our Lord makes you feel at home?

When unpacking is an exercise in thanksgiving.

I watched Tim vacuum our living room with a mixture of anticipation and agitation.  Our vast expanse of uncluttered carpet was going to be piled high with furniture and boxes in a matter of hours.

Twelve days ago, we had watched our possessions being loaded on to a large van. Those boxes and pieces of furniture would later be transfered to an even larger freight truck, then hauled North on its way to Idaho.  The next day, we made a much more direct and speedy journey to our new home.  Blueberry, my trusty Honda Accord, was packed with clothes, bedding, and a few other items we had deemed necessary for survival during a week (or so) sans the majority of our stuff.

joy is my best offeringEven after a trip to Target yielded a cart full of items to make our apartment functional, the empty spaces around the place were a bit startling – at first.  I quickly got used to eating frozen pizza on an upturned laundry basket and sleeping on an air mattress.  When we got a couch, I was shocked at the amount of space it seemed to occupy.  In reality, it was just odd to have a large object amidst the nothingness.

After reading Organized Simplicity a couple months ago, God has been reshaping my attitude about living intentionally.  Tim and I went through a great purge before we moved and I’ve enjoyed the beginning stages of pairing down our belongings.  Though this week of simplicity has had challenges – no oven mitt to take out aforementioned pizza, not wanting to buy hangers when we have some on their way, colder temperatures than we were prepared for in the clothing department – I realized I was growing attached to our stark apartment landscape.

So, on one hand, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of our coffee maker (yes, I am a caffeine addict), books, and real bed (oh to be at least a foot off the ground…).  It will be lovely to cook for new friends in an operational kitchen and hang family photos in the living room, but I know that with the delivery of our possessions comes a healthy dose of distraction. I am wary of being consumed by the task of unpacking, by the desire to make things perfect.

My prayer is that the process of unpacking would be an exercise in thanksgiving, an act of praise for His provision.  As we create a home out of our apartment, it is my desire to give joy as an offering to the One who has given to us abundantly in life and love.

Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the LORD your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring.  {Joel 2:23}