One night the other week as I walked west on Van Buren approaching the flyover bridge at the Route 90/290 interchange, readjusting my messenger bag for what felt like the thousandth time, I thought to myself, “Hooray! I’m almost home!”

The truth of the matter is I was nowhere near “home” as defined by the United States Postal Service. I was in Chicago to attend my first class at Meadville Lombard Theological School, one of two Unitarian Universalist seminaries in the US. The home I was approaching was a hostel in Chicago’s Greektown. My small room on the top floor had an intimate view of a brick wall, a twin bed with small bedside table, a plastic chair and a chest of drawers that looked untrustworthy at best. The air conditioning blasted at a merry chill, the wooden floor was a shock to my feet every morning, and the wifi didn’t make it all the way up the stairs. But it was home, and I loved it there, and felt safe and assured once I reached it every evening.

The night I labeled that place “home,” I sat down (in the common room on the first floor, where the wifi worked) to write an email to a dear friend and noted my own observation. How quickly this new space and new circumstance felt comfortable to me!

Was home, I speculated, so easily made? Or was it, perhaps, more portable than I’d realized?

Home is a complicated concept for many of us. We may have moved a lot. The physical or emotional circumstances of our earliest homes may have been unsatisfactory in ways that left us wanting something we could not yet name. We may have spent time and energy to build a home that did not or could not support us in the way we planned or desired.

For myself, in the last year alone, I have left a job I held for nearly fifteen years, have moved back into the home of my childhood (with attendant complications), traveled to quite literally the other side of the world, and enrolled in a degree program that will take me to Chicago at least three or four times a year. Yet the more I travel, the more I appreciate how easily I can settle in and make a home for myself. It’s a skill I hope to continue to practice and improve upon, and that will continue to serve me well as I navigate all the years of change, growth, and learning ahead. And on that path, I hope I learn to pack a little lighter – that messenger bag seemed to weigh a ton by the time I climbed the stairs to the top floor!

If you are traveling this summer, I hope you are safe and happy in those travels, and that you find new ways of feeling at home wherever you are! If you’re staying closer to what the Postal Service would call your home, I wish you the chance to grow a more full and complete appreciation of that place. And I hope to see you around UUCC, a spiritual home to so many of us.

In faith,


  1. Betty Jackson

    Jen–Wonderful to hear how you are “settling in” to your new routine–work here and study/work in Chicago. I wish you the very best of times at both locations and all those locations in between!

  2. Carol Zika

    What we all need to hear and think about and appreciate. You’re going to be a wonderful sermon writer! Blessed journey.

  3. Norman Hazzard

    Congratulations, Jen, on having the courage to listen to the urge to change your vocation and your home in mid-life! You write very well, and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us about what home means.

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