When Does a House Become a Home?

Early one morning I am sitting on my front porch, slowly sipping my mug of hot tea and starting to think about my day ahead.

The noisy school bus pulls ’round the corner with its distinct, diesel-engine sound.

A neighbor opens his screen porch door and lets it bang shut; he turns around to see me sitting there, so he calls from across the road to wish me a good day as he walks toward his work.

The neighbor opposite is looking at her garden and checking on the growth of the tomatoes she planted last week. She waves to me as she goes back inside her house to hurry her teenagers to school.

The house next door suddenly burst into life, as a busy young mom grabs backpacks and loads her kids and large dog into the car for the school run.

The train whistle is just a distant rumble, but I know its going to be amazingly loud by the time my tea is finished, and it passes by the end of our road.

The yellow lab sauntering slowly behind his owner sniffs at everything on the way to the park. He doesn’t seem disturbed by any of the commotions.

While these are just some of the everyday sights and sounds that make up my morning, it’s these experiences that make me feel like I am home.

Mike and I have lived in 14 different houses since we were first married. We have only owned four of them, but with each one we decided that we would invest our time, money and energy into making the house our home for however long we were able to be there. Some have taken more time, money and energy than others, but we departed each one believing we left our home and the community we were living in better than when we arrived. It’s a conscious decision we repeatedly made together, and our most recent move has been just the same.

It means the house, the four walls and windows, and all that’s inside becomes your home much quicker and easier than if you hold part of yourself back. You may be holding onto the thought that it’s not yours or that you don’t know how long you will stay, so why bother. Such thoughts will hold your heart back and your ability to see why God has called you to the place you are now living. It may mean you miss out on fully enjoying the gift of the place He has given you while you are longing for another.

I used to say you only know it’s become a home when you come back from your first vacation or few days away. It’s in that moment when you see your front door and know the comfort and familiar feeling as its opened, and you walk back inside. Sometimes it becomes a home when you have your first friends over for wine and cheese and end up sitting on the back deck laughing ’round the fire pit. Other times it’s finding the perfect spot for the Christmas tree and all the decorations that moves you from house to its being a home in your heart.

For me, I have discovered their are a few things that really help.

I need a table for everyone to gather around.

I need a place for our keys and phones that’s easy to use and find.

I need flowers by the front door.

I need a chair to sit and read and reflect.

I need neighbors and a community to belong to.

I need to be able to see the sky.

I need to find a countertop space for my kettle.

I need a space to hang the 45+ keys that have travelled with us everywhere.

I need my black-and-white photos of the family on my walls.

What do you need? Are you making the place you are in now your home, or do you view it as place you are just passing through?


  • Susan Wells says:

    (((Sally))) – This is a “hug” for you my friend. I love your writing and heart.

  • Claire says:

    Thanks Sally

    the gift of home is one of the most profound works of healing that god has taken me through.

    i need choice, to have moved a wall, to have designed my own kitchen, to have some of my pictures up and to have a veg plot. It really comes alive when I can share it with others either for a meal or to have someone stay and be their home for as long as they need. Like anything god gives us it multiplies when we give it away.

    • Sally Breen says:

      Thank you for your response. Lovely to hear from you and that you are doing well and have really found a home that has brought you healing. Happy Easter

  • Camille McIntyre says:

    Love this Sally. ;D

  • Chris says:

    Bless you, Sally, and your Oikos, wherever you may call home.

  • Clay Danner says:

    That is great, Sally! Rhonda and I are in the midst of this right now. I love the idea of going “all-in” wherever the Father has you. Bloom where you are planted. Thank you for sharing.

  • Grace Jones says:

    As usual, your words are just what I need to hear. Thank you for the challenge to not hold back!

  • Ashley Phelps says:

    I love this, Sally. I wish I had done this in our home we rented while our new house was finishing up being built… I had the “why bother” mentality, and it did affect how I felt there. Our home now is a refuge of peace for my heart and soul

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