"Wherever we are content, that is our home.
There is no greater curse than the lack of contentment.
Do not open your heart to the grim silent one, guard your tongue before the garrulous fool.
When a man finds no peace within himself, it is useless to seek it elsewhere." ~ L.A. Rouchefoliocauld
I have a confession. Despite that I grew up Catholic and went to CCD classes every Sunday, I never knew exactly what the term sanctuary meant in relation to a church. I just understood its meaning in a broader term. Not too long after I started going to a Protestant church (which if you continue to follow my blog, you will hear plenty about!), the term was used at my church in relation to where a group was meeting for an event. I wasn't sure exactly where that was, although I figured maybe it was the main area of the church. Is it the entrance to the church (come to find out, that is called the Narthex) or the main area of worship in the church (where the altar, pews, etc. are)? I asked someone and lo and behold, my suspicion was right about the location. I have since become more informed about my church!
One definition that Merriam Webster gives to the word sanctuary is "a place of refuge and protection." Well that makes perfect sense to me because my church has served as this for me for several years now. It is my place of refuge and protection. However I have been thinking a lot lately (I actually think a lot about a lot of things but that is another story!) about places in this world that feel like a sanctuary to me at this point in my life. The most obvious place that we would think of as a sanctuary would be our homes. Oftentimes though, this is not the case. For many people, home can serve as the complete opposite in our lives. It can become a place of discord, stress, and sadness. Sometimes the reason is related to conflict and issues with partners, children, parents; the list goes on and on. For me that is exactly what home became during the last few years of my marriage. It no longer represented peace and comfort. Oftentimes, I had to find my sanctuary elsewhere such as at my parent's home or church. I found other sanctuaries as well. There are very few places that I feel as content as in a library, bookstore, or the beach. As L.A. Rouchefoliocauld points out, it is where I find peace within myself. How can we really be content if we do not find peace within ourselves?
When my ex husband and I finally sold out house, things began to happen very fast. All of a sudden, I had 30 days to find a new home. I knew I was going to rent an apartment, but the task of finding a place that would work for me as much as possible in terms of the physical layout (due to mobility/breathing issues at times) was daunting. In addition, I had one of our dogs coming with me and if you have ever tried to find an apartment with a dog, you know what I mean! It was VERY important to me to stay in my same town as I had put down roots here. I had enough changes going on between health issues, losing my job, and the divorce. I needed some type of stability. I needed a place I could call home. I needed a sanctuary...
I was unbelievably lucky (although I do gripe about my landlord quite often-we can't have it all!). I had asked my church secretary to put a blurb in our weekly bulletin about how my dog and I were looking for a place in town. I was blessed enough to have a friend at church see a place for rent down the street from her and I went to check it out.
As soon as I walked through the apartment, I knew it would be home to me. It almost felt like God had set it down in front of me. It is a renovated farmhouse which has tons of charm and despite being on a busy road, has a yard that reminds me how much I love living in a country setting. The way it was set up was perfect for me because if I was really sick, I could access my very comfortable living room couch, bathroom, and kitchen all on one floor but yet it had 2 floors so it felt more like a condo than an apartment. There were some drawbacks. The rent was more than I had budgeted for but after working out my budget, I knew I could make it work. The front stairs might pose a big challenge for me in the winter but that too got resolved once I came up with a plan B. I knew it was a risk, but something just told me it was where I was supposed to be at this critical juncture in my life.
It turns out that the risk was worth it. My little farmhouse apartment has been home for me for nine months. I have definitely had some struggles in terms of getting things squared away (inadequate heating system, etc) but it has all been part of making this my home. Living here, I have found a place to heal emotionally and I am working my way towards healing physically. It has given me contentment and peace during a time where I have never needed those two things more. I know I won't live here for the rest of my life. I may not even live here more than another year or two. However for the time being, I am grateful to have find my personal sanctuary in the world.