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For 53 years I have used my parents’ mailing address as my home address. How on earth do you get to the age of 53 still using your parents’ address? After college I moved to Appalachia and stayed for two years living among the nation’s poorest of the poor, but maintained my parents’ address as my home base. Then I was home for a brief two years as I worked as a Youth Minister and lived with my brother Kevin in our grandmother’s house. Then I was off to the seminary where every year I moved into a different church rectory. When I was ordained in 1990 I moved ten times in my first 13 years, from one institutional living situation to another. Maintaining my parents’ mailing address saved me from having to fill out decades’ worth of change-of-address cards!

“Home” was my parents’ house. Living in housing provided by an institution never quite felt like a true home. Of course, I did my best to live in each institution as if it were my home, even if it was going to be temporary. For the 20 years I lived in church rectories, my heart knew that “home” was my parents’ house where we grew up and learned to live and love and fight and forgive and laugh and cry and grow. I never expected to have a home of my own. It just never seemed to be in the cards for me, and I made friends with that.

And then I was called as rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church and discovered that there was no institutional home. No rectory. No parsonage where the parish priest lived with his or her family.

I would have to find a place to live. A home.

I didn’t know quite how to do that. But I am my father’s son, and Dad loved looking at homes, especially open houses where he would take all seven of us kids on a Sunday afternoon, open up the car doors and let us loose on some poor unsuspecting real estate agent. I guess Dad thought what better way to test a house’s strength than to let his own children run through it and give it a good once over!

Two of Emmanuel’s parishioners are partners in real estate. For six months I received listings of hundreds of houses for sale. I would mark the homes I wanted to look at and either alone on Sunday afternoon open houses, or with either Dayna or Kerry, we looked at one house after another, one neighborhood after another. My requests were that the house be within five miles of church, have air conditioning, have a driveway, a fenced yard and maybe a carport.  A screened porch would be nice during our hot summers when mosquitoes have their way with us! (I’m a human pin cushion for mosquitos! Hate that.)

Dayna and Kerry found a nice neighborhood where the homes are all modified Cape Cods – my father’s favorite model! – and in my opinion they found me one of the nicest houses I could ever hope to call home. Thank you, Dayna and Kerry. I love you dearly. Thank you for making what many people describe as a nightmare a truly special and growthful experience for me. (I promise to stop bugging you as soon as I acclimate into my new home!)

I am within five miles of church, I have air conditioning, I have a drive way, Brock has a fenced yard. We don’t have a carport, but we do have a run-down garage and no screened porch … yet! But we have a home.

So, what is home?

The staff at Habitat for Humanity are blessed to hear answers almost daily to the good question, “What does home mean to you?”  HfH staff hear statements such as these:

  • A partner family in the State of Georgia says, home is a foundation for their future.
  • A teenager in Las Vegas remembers when he was 9 and his mother put in hundreds of hours of labor in a home that would create a “fresh start for my family.”
  • In Madagascar, incrementally building a safe, stable home led to a couple’s “new beginning” and a rediscovered “hope to have a good life.”
  • For others, home means comfort. Security. Favorite family memories. A place for sleepovers. A place of refuge.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers, supporters and partner families have told us many ways they think of home. What about you? Please share a comment below and let us know “What home means to you?”

I think I may be about 90% finished with the home transactions. I have to firm up my home insurance and auto insurance policy. I have to bring a checkbook to closing and pay for all kinds of things we have to pay for in this process (title work, termite stuff, new crawl space sump pump, etc.)  And bring a cashier’s check for the down payment. I hooked up all the utilities recently. I was fortunate to have a friend visiting from Philadelphia while I made all those arrangements, and we had a lot of laughs in the process. I think I spoke to sales individuals in the Philippines (Washington Gas), India (Cox Cable, who I did not choose), Puerto Rico (Verizon FIOS which I did choose), and South Carolina (water / sewerage!) Does no one actually from Virginia actually handle these utilities in Virginia?! Thank God Steve was here to help me (and even make the experience fun). I think I am as ready as I can be.  All I’m waiting on now is to find out if the lender is actually going to lend me the money. (BTW, do you have any idea how much I will actually be paying for this house if I stay in it for 30 years? Shocking. Truly shocking!) I’m a long way from where I used to be; and God is here too. My education continues; but do I really need 376 channels?

Before I close this post I wanted to share that I owe a debt of gratitude to my good friend Erin, whom I have lived with for the past three years. I moved into Erin’s house in the summer of 2011. I planned to stay one year until I knew where I was going next, and now nearly three years later I am moving on. I first met Erin in grade school. We’ve been friends for over 40 years. When I was planning to transition out of the Catholic church and begin a formal transition into the Episcopal church and priesthood I shared at dinner one night with Erin that I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going to live next. Erin shut that down in a second by stating, “You’ll live with me, of course.”  And that was that. Period. Erin has been home to me. Erin is one of the most loving and generous souls you could ever meet. Her kindhearted wisdom continually inspires me. I feel I have been blessed to live with and learn from one of God’s greatest creations. I’ll never be able to pay you back, Erin, but I’ll spend the rest of my life trying.

We’ve had a lot of fun together. And I admit at times we’ve been amused by the speculation and confusion people have about our arrangement. There have been occasional rumors that we are partners, lovers, or perhaps even married. (If I had one dollar for every time I heard that Erin and I got married, I’d be able to build that screen porch!) Curiosity seekers just found it  hard to accept that two people can be truly close friends – soul mates. But that’s what we are.

I don’t really want to leave Erin’s home. She’s made it easy to be there; but one of the many things Erin does well is “launch people” – kids, friends, other family members, and now me. I am about to be one of Erin’s most recent launches, and for that I am forever grateful. Thank you, Erin. I love you.

Thirteenth century German theologian Meister Eckhart says, “God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk.”  I’ve been walking for a very long time. It’s time to sit. Time to stay. Time to pause. Time to rest and root and be. Just be.

Please keep Brock and me in your prayers and know that you are in mine as well.

Peace friends,

Chuck

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26 Comments

  • Ben and Jerri Pogue says:

    Chuck!So happy about your beautiful ” home ” happening!
    A roof over your HOSPITALITY is grace to
    All that knock at your door! What a peaceful
    Dwelling place it will be!! Ben and Jerri

  • Kathy Davies says:

    Fr. Chuck I am so happy for you… What a long way you have come… Your Good Shepard family loves and prays for you …

  • Nancy says:

    May your home be too small to hold all the people who love you.

  • Rachel says:

    That place rocks! Can’ wait until it is warm and we can hang out!

  • Tom Gerard says:

    As a career Army officer, Beth and I have learned that home is where the Army sends us. Beth has been great in making each new location our home, for however long. We bought our very first home here in Stratford Landing across Little Hunting Creek from Good Shepherd where we can hear the bells on the hour. I am sure you’ll make your home a happy and holy place.

  • Susan says:

    Wow – congratulations! I love that house – so adorable!! And I know exactly where it is – can’t mistake that curb appeal! Welcome neighbor! Lots of love and luck from all the Clubbs and Bauers.

  • joan Skiscim says:

    Der Chuck: LOved reading of our adventures finding a new house. We did this often during our 26 years in the Air Force. Either buy a home or find a place that was suitable for 6 people, near schools, get a pediatrician, a baby sitter and a dentist in that order. Home was where we were all together. Durning one move our 4 year old upon entering a motel room inquired “is this our new home”? some places were nicer than others but they were “home”. Best of everything in your new “digs” – it is an adventure.

  • michael mcmahon says:

    Hi Chuck:

    Congratulations on the new house! As a landscape architect, I think that its important to plant a tree when you buy a new house. I’ll buy you a tree this spring and help you plant it…what do you think about a dogwood?

    Peace,

    Mike

    • Austin Acocella says:

      Mike & Chuck,

      I love Mike’s idea about planting a tree and would love to help. In case you didn’t know it, I’m the son of men of the soil (gardeners) and I’d be happy to contribute my gifts of skill and back–creaky though it is these days. I’ll even contribute a plant or two, perhaps azaleas or hydrangeas. Plus it would be great to see both of you.

      Austin Acocella

  • Annie Mackey says:

    We have been reading your blog over the past few months and we feel so blessed to “hear” you preach again. It takes us back to Holy Family days. We are so happy you have found a wonderful home! Congrats:)
    God Bless,
    Annie and Dan Mackey

    • Joyce Franklin says:

      Annie and Dan,
      How delightful to see your names! So many wonderful memories! ‘Ditto’ to your comments. I couldn’t have put it better!
      God bless!

  • Mary Sinnott says:

    I am so happy for Chuck! He deserves a lovely place to call home. Hello to Steve Leva! Congratulatuions on being mentioned in the blog…you are a celebrity now! I hope you are well!!!

    • Steve Leva says:

      Hi Mary Sinnott,
      Great to hear from you. I hope all is well with you and your family!

      Steve Leva

      • Austin Acocella says:

        Steve – I hope Chuck’s new kitchen is up to your standards? (I remember how much you love to cook.) Austin

  • Dave Bundren says:

    Congrats Chuck!

    May your chili always be warm and your beer always cold!

    BTW, home is where Springsteen is playing just a bit too loud…

    All the best,

    Marianne and Dave

  • michelle sullivan says:

    Chuck, I am so happy for you and Brock! Your post brought such a big smile to my face 🙂

    I don’t think I could state it any better than you did: home is where we learn to live, love, laugh, fight, forgive, cry, and grow. This learning is a lifelong process. Again, I am so happy for you!!

    Michelle

  • Barbara C. says:

    Congratulations on this exciting step on your journey. Thank you for sharing the blessings of what can be a difficult and dry business transaction and making the spiritual side shine through. It’s a re4minder that you may buy a house but you make a home. Blessings to you and your new home!

  • Yvonne Beck says:

    Congratulations. It almost looks like our first house in Alexandria. Best of luck.

  • Martin Ried says:

    Congratulations Chuck!

  • Rose & Bud says:

    We confess when you shared the address we drove by one night on the way home; stopped the car in the middle of the street (thank God no one was behind us) and were overcome with glee pointing out, the garage – for the truck – the fence for Brock and this perfectly wonderful house for you. We are so happy for you. Having purchase two houses ourselves in our nearly 25 year marriage the best advice we can give you is to close your eyes when you sign the papers at settlement – you are spot on exactly how much you will owe if you live there 30 years; we’ll be paying for our present house long after we have both died.

  • Barbara says:

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story of caring friendships. You and Brock will thrive. Blessings as you proceed to the ever daunting but interesting closing. We refinanced two years ago for 30 years which means we will be 102 when the house is ours. Guessing someone will be happy about that but doubt it will be either Ned or myself.

  • Judy Davis says:

    Chuck,
    Congrats on your new home. I know you will be happy there. Home is where the heart is and your heart is always in the right place. Warmest, Judy

  • Michele says:

    Chuck,
    We are so excited and wish you well in your new home! To us, a house is four walls … Home to us is where family and friends gather. Enjoy your home!
    Love,
    Michele, Chris, KD and Karli

  • Steve Leva says:

    Hey I made it into the Blog! Thanks Chuck for allowing me to be involved a bit in the house process, it was very interesting. Congratulations and I cannot wait to come down and cook in your kitchen.
    Steve

    • michelle sullivan says:

      Steve,
      Hello from RJ and Michelle Sullivan! So happy to see your name on the blog!!! We hope you are well! Peace, Michelle

      • Steve Leva says:

        Hey guys! Great to hear from you. WOW it has been forever. I hope you are well. All is good for me, loving life in the burbs of Philadelphia but missing my friends in VA! Happy and holy Lent!
        STeve

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