What makes a house a home?


December 17, 2019

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Hitherto the Herb of Grace had been to them a summer home; they had known it only permeated with sun and light, flower-scented, windows and doors open wide. But now doors were shut, curtains drawn to hide the sad, grey dusk. Instead of the lap of the water against the river wall they heard the whisper of the flames, and instead of the flowers in the garden they smelt the roasting chestnuts, burning apple logs, the oil lamps, polish – all the home smells.

This intimacy with the house was deepening; when winter came it would be deeper still. Nadine glanced over her shoulder at the firelight gleaming upon the dark wood of the panelling, at the shadows gathering in the corners, and marvelled to see how the old place seemed to have shrunk in size with the shutting out of the daylight. It seemed gathering them in, holding them close.” (Elizabeth Goudge, Pilgrim’s Inn)

I was recently drawn back to a favorite childhood novel that I hadn’t picked up in years: Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge. It’s the story of a family who moves from London to the country after World War II and restores an old house, the “pilgrim’s inn”, which ultimately renews and heals the inner brokenness within each of them. 

The house is the central character of the novel and is the thread that holds them all together. 

I’ve always loved how this story makes me feel safe and secure, and seems to fill me with a warmth and familiarity like nothing else does; when I picked it up again a few weeks ago, I was more struck than ever by this pinnacle idea of home represented so powerfully by the pilgrim’s inn. 

I love to see glimpses of other people’s homes, especially their practical, budget-friendly tips and tricks, and the ways in which their personalities carry over into their spaces. 

Interior design and decorating can be an incredibly powerful avenue of self-expression. Whether we’re drawn to rich colors and textures that are bold but inviting, or we gravitate more towards bright whites and neutrals with touches of warmth and permeating natural light—the freedom that is born from homemaking gives life to this real and authentic expression of ourselves.

When we discover the true meaning of making a home, it illuminates not only our personal style, but the very things that bring us peace, make us come alive, and call us to love more fully.

It’s far too easy, though, to look at someone else’s house and feel like our own is somehow lacking. More often than not, when I’m constantly scrolling through fabulous home renovations or reveals, I’m left feeling like I need this or that to improve the state of my own house.

Rather than fully appreciate the individuality and beauty of a particular home, it’s tempting to believe the home in which I live won’t be complete without certain material things.

I think what I’ve been lacking, though, is an understanding of why we pour ourselves into our homes. And as I’ve thought about that why behind homemaking and creating and keeping a home, I’ve realized that, like the characters in my favorite childhood novel, we are also pilgrims who aren’t meant for this world alone.  

Home plays an important role in each of our journeys as there is something in the home that ought to point us towards the eternal, not keep us rooted in the here and now.

When we discover the true meaning of making a home, it illuminates not only our personal style, but the very things that bring us peace, make us come alive, and call us to love more fully.

It is the warm and welcoming atmosphere, the meaning behind different physical objects, the sense of belonging; above all, the feeling of being held in love, by our family, friends, and our Maker Himself; the feeling of being wholly ourselves. 

Perhaps Pilgrim’s Inn spoke to my heart so clearly because it draws on this idea of home as so much more than a physical space. It is a place of creation, a place of redemption and healing, of respite and renewal.

The house takes in broken people and strengthens them on their journey toward God. Broken relationships, desperate longing, dreams for the future…it takes it all and wraps it in love, reminding those who enter of their earthly calling and their journey toward heaven. 

Like most of us, I love to dive into DIY projects and design to keep improving each room in my house over time. There is a certain practicality that goes into that; a certain planning and thoughtfulness that is needed to achieve the vision we hope to create.

But there is something far deeper and more meaningful that goes into homemaking than good deals or pretty things. 

The beauty we wish to cultivate and radiate in our homes should point us towards a deeper reality than the things themselves, one that is invisible and lies beneath the surface. 

For example, there is a small Celtic cross, hanging in my kitchen above the sink, and it was given to me by a dear friend. Not only does that cross connect me to my friend, but it often reminds me to pray throughout the day as I go about my tasks.


Similarly, I have a silver serving tray displayed in the dining room that my Grandmother gave me as a wedding gift. She received it from her own mother, and I love that it represents generations of women who came before me as keepers and creators of the home themselves.

And so, we pour ourselves into our homes through renovations and endless house projects not merely to make a good Instagram post, but to breathe real life into it so that it can welcome the stranger and embrace the lonely.

The gift of our homes begs to be shared, not kept to ourselves for its own sake. We are called to open it up with generosity and hospitality, so that it can become a real instrument of love to our own families and to those we have yet to meet. 

I sometimes imagine my house with arms open and extended to each person who walks through its door, ready to take him in with a warm hug and remind him of how much he is loved. I want people to come into my home and feel loved and cherished; I want them to leave feeling deeply nourished.

The gift of our homes begs to be shared, not kept to ourselves for its own sake.

I think once we come to see our homes and the things we fill it with in this light, our creativity and freedom to express our true selves flows more naturally than ever. We no longer purchase things to simply keep up with trends or to replicate another’s style. 


Instead, in an atmosphere that encourages us to be our true selves, we carefully and thoughtfully think about the vision of our homes as an expression of love. And from there, we are naturally more intentional about what specific things help accomplish that vision, and avoid making frivolous and compulsive purchases too.

So I encourage you, mama, in the midst of the Christmas decorating and holiday sales, to think more consciously about the meaning behind your home and the things within it. We likely have everything we need already beneath our roof, despite what the never-ending ads may say.

Think of your home as the thread that holds you and all who live in it and enter it together. It is a living, breathing reminder of a deeper reality and our heavenly Home.

Comments +

  1. Jane says:

    I found this post via Theology of Home and it deeply spoke to my heart. I, too, love Pilgrim’s Inn and how that book (and several other of Goudge’s works) spoke of the home as a source of healing and restoration. I pray every day for the grace to be God’s instrument in making my home the same source of warmth, comfort, and peace in my own family’s life. Thank you for writing so beautifully what is in my heart.


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