I awoke in the night, and cried myself back to sleep. I was six years old and living in the River House dorm in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was my first year at boarding school, and I had just had a vivid dream. In the dream I had been lying in my parent’s bed in our home in Lopburi. My mom was tucking me in and saying goodnight. A sad song with a line and a tune that I will never forget left her mouth as she faded away into nothing. “I’ll always be with you wherever I go.” I have never wanted to be home more than in that moment.
4 Minute Read
By Melody Martin
Moving to America
Next to that moment, the year my family moved from Thailand to Pennsylvania brought me the most homesickness. I was twelve at the time, and feeling the insecurities of a seventh grader while also trying to acclimate to a foreign culture.
After my first day of school, it was clear that there was no place for me in America. I ached for the place I called home, but was facing years of searching for my place in a strange land.
The Pieces to My Puzzle
I desperately needed a home base and I concluded that home, for me, could not be a place. It had to be something that I carried with me. At the time, it was my parents and siblings.
When I came home from school, the inner-struggle of identity melted away and I could relax around the people who felt the same as I did. They were the ones who understood what it felt like to be a puzzle piece trying to fit into an already completed puzzle. So, I abandoned my idea of a “place home” in favor of a “family home”.
A New Home, Again
When I married my husband Eric, my “family home” shifted again. In the first several years of marriage I struggled to accept Eric as my new home. As much as I loved him and wanted to be with him, I still found myself feeling insecure and out of place.
With the growth of love, passage of time, and arrival of kids, my sense of belonging grew and Eric became my third home. The blessing that I wasn’t expecting was our place also becoming a home to me.
The reason I’m telling you about these parts of my life is to illustrate the different ways we can find home, and how it can shift throughout the seasons of our life. Although I’m a third culture kid who has moved more than most people ever will, I know this is true for people who stay in one town their whole life.
I have recently made a small business out of painting custom house ornaments for people. Many of the people who order these ornaments, are preparing to say goodbye to a house they have lived in for decades. As I spend hours painting each house, and as I think about my clients throughout the day, I think perhaps my biggest question is if they thought they would be there forever.
Many of us know that no place on this earth can promise to be a lifetime residence, but it doesn’t stop us from trying.
Finding a Place to Belong
I have struggled with the idea of home and belonging for decades. Where can I find belonging? Is home a place or a family? Or is it a feeling, as some say? Has anyone been able to say that their family home or place home never changed?
I’m not sure I’ll ever have the answers, but my greatest peace has come from the acceptance that the struggle for home and belonging is a mortal struggle.
Heaven is my “place home”, although I’ve never been there.
And God is my “family home”.
We carry each other in our hearts and we will never have to leave. As someone who hates changing homes, that is a tremendous privilege and comfort.
In my childhood dream, my mom said “I’ll always be with you wherever I go.” Maybe she faded away in the dream, because no human can make that promise. There is only one who can promise that. Jesus said it best in the book of John. “Abide in me, and I in you.”
If God is our home, our desire for a place of belonging will be fulfilled in heaven. Until then, we can be grateful for where we are, how God has provided for us, and excited for what’s to come.
Melody (Niphakis) Martin was born in Thailand and lived there until the age of twelve. In 1999 her family relocated to Pennsylvania, where she has remained for the last twenty years. She married her high school sweetheart Eric and is a stay at home mom to their three daughters. Her favorite things are painting, spending time with family and friends, and watching movies or TV. She is a homebody.