I have always grown up with a strong sense of place. I have very vivid memories of my childhood home, and the places around my childhood home. I remember things such as the small creek in my backyard where my brother and I used to play, the neighborhood “block” and what that looked like, and also the people that lived there. I also remember the places I used to visit in and around my neighborhood where I grew up, like certain grocery stores and shops we frequented.
All of these memories contributed in me a strong sense of place. It also placed a high value on what “place” means to me.
“Place” to me is….where you want to come back to. Where you feel safe to be yourself. A place to come for refreshment, and for love. Memories. Smells. Familiarity.
Now what is funny about all this is that I am about to be moving for the fifth time since I got married 14 years ago. I did not expect to live away from family and from the place that I grew up with so many memories. How can moving this many times create a strong sense of place for my family? This was a question I struggled with many times over the years. Granted, many of the moves we have made have been local and so, we have not had to change too much about our “place.” I have learned a little through not-so- ideal circumstances about how to give my children a sense of place that will stay with them their entire lives.
Here are some of the things I have learned on my own:
1. Create a home. Make your home a sanctuary for your family! Make it a place where memories are made. It doesn’t matter where you are or where you live or what your house is like. It doesn’t matter how long you are going to stay there. Ever heard the phrase: “Bloom where you are planted”? Make wherever you are the place your children want to come back to, wherever they are. Of course this isn’t just about lighting candles and serving good food! (Although those are helpful!) It is the atmosphere in the home. If you don’t know how to create a home, then ask the Lord how. Ask Him to show you ways to create a home in the place you live and how to make it a sanctuary. He will show you personally and lovingly what you need to do in your own personal situation.
2. Which brings me to this point: Make your home be a place where your children can be who they really are. Accept them unconditionally. Emphasize character, not conformity. And pursue them with love and gentleness. Your home is more than just a place. It is a relationship. Let them be free to be who they really are, messiness (in their hearts, as well as their rooms!) and all…
3. Reach out. Be the inviter. Invite their friends to your home. Then love on their friends with the love of Jesus, whether they are saved or unsaved. Your home will be the home where memories are made and where everyone wants to be.
Knowing that our children’s sense of place begins first and foremost in their hearts will not let us lose sight of the real goal in our families: having loving relationships with each other. We will not always be perfect in this, but should always be aiming for their hearts. For that is truly the real “sense of place” they can take with them forever.