What makes a house a home?

I live in a beautiful little guest house on the side of a hill overlooking a valley to tall mountains across the way. The guest house is not my own place, but it is home.


Photo: Marlys


I’ve been away from home these past two months — at a cabin in Idaho; with my brother and sis-in-law in West Palm Beach; with the kids and grands in Florida’s version of the Happiest Place on Earth …


Photo: Summer Conn


… and at a niece’s wedding in Northern California.


Photo: Marlys


I love venturing out—I’ve seen a total of 63 Mallorys, Johnsons, Conns, Wordens and assorted other family members in the past two months.

And I absolutely love coming home. Because there’s no place like home.

One of my nieces posted this to my Facebook page a while back:

She was an adventurer at heart; but oh how she loved drinking this tea from this mug in this chair. Oh how she loved to be home.

My niece knows me well.

So if God created the institution of family—and He did—then He surely must value the place where family congregates and builds memories and learns the most important of life’s lessons.

Home surely is a sacred place, but what is our part in creating that space?

Consider these three practices:

1. Offer full love and acceptance.

I think if we invite relentless, unquestionable acceptance and love into our homes—knowing there will be disagreements and irritations and messiness—then our family members will want to be there. And when they venture out, they’ll want to come back.

This quote from Robert Frost:

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

2. Choose nurturing habits.

I had a recent conversation with a young friend who came from a dysfunctional family and happened to marry a man from a similar upbringing. Somehow they managed to have a strong, loving marriage and a delightful child.

I asked how she and her husband escaped the chokehold of alcoholism and brokenness and chaos they grew up in.

My friend said they talked early on about what they wanted in their marriage and how they wanted to parent. They made conscious choices to practice healthy routines and traditions. And their combined determination and work paid off.

3. Guard our words.

There’s an ancient proverb that goes like this:

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

We build (or tear down) our houses by building (or tearing down) the people in our households. And this is mostly done with our words and tone of voice.

Ask the question: “Do I want to be known as a wise or a foolish person?” which should be a no-brainer.


One final thought …

I once had a home filled with husband and children and their friends and our friends and international exchange students and extended family. And yes, that home saw the occasional lack of patience, and arguments, and teenagers who weren’t speaking to us (until they wanted to borrow the family vehicle), and the sorting out of misunderstandings.

But mostly it was filled with love and laughter and open conversation and interaction.

These days, my cute little home contains only me. But I can still invite people in, and fill it with hope and encouragement and grace and calm and a make-yourself-comfortable-because-you-are-welcome approach.

I’ve heard it said, “Home is not a place, it’s a feeling.” As Gary was dying of cancer, I wanted him to have that feeling.

Candles were lit frequently. The flames of our fireplace danced as snow tumbled down. I kept fresh flowers in the middle of the kitchen counter that looked like a mini-pharmacy.

I set aside my to-do lists and picked up things that could be done in the same room with the guy in the hospital bed. Books grew in tall stacks on our coffee table. A basket of woolly, colorful yarns and bamboo knitting needles set nearby.

All was peaceful in our home — that place laced in love and, like a dandelion, when you blow on the words and the laughter and the memories, they burst and light on walls and carpet and cupboards, increasing the property value beyond what any assessor could ever place on it.

Home. That most sacred of spaces.


P.S. My niece is an audiology tech, her new husband is a skilled cabinet maker, and they will be living on a farm that’s been in his family for a few generations. So of course they would get a miniature donkey as a wedding gift. Smile.



Have you hugged a nurse this week?


Crew, posse, network: Do you have one?


  1. marlene alexander

    Great story, good message. Thank you! ?

  2. Beautiful, Marlys! Always good to be home. Yours looks so cozy!

  3. Peter

    So good to receive this blog, you touch many areas of ‘how it is, how it can be, what we need to do to make it right’… we’ve gone through some trying times and you know this… especially just recently, so it’s good to read you words, to get back on track and come to terms with ‘handling the problems’….. Love is the answer…. Thank you, take care, Our Love, God Bless, Bx P & family.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, Peter, as you’re wearing the caregiver mantle. Are there specific things you do for Barbara to make home as cozy as possible?

      • Peter

        Marlys…. It’s such a little thing, but keeping a warm glass of lemonade and honey… just there for her, seems to mean so much. I’m not one for bringing flowers… on a regular basis, BUT I do now and they please her so. Thanks for asking, God Bless, Peter.

        • I love that – flowers and warm lemonade with honey! It’s the small but thoughtful things that count, right? Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

          • Peter

            It is the old adage, ‘take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves’….and so it is, so true.
            Our love Bx & P

  4. Cheryl White

    This is beautiful. You describe the feelings of home so well! I remember when we lived in Alderpoint a little boy wandered into our home unannounced. Steve walked into the living room and found him sitting in a chair – he asked him if he could help him and he said “No, It feels so good here, I just want to sit for a while.” Out of the mouth of babes. It wasn’t the home – or the chair – it was the peace of God. So grateful to have not only been raised in a home filled with peace, but then continued to create a home with Steve in a home filled with peace. This is PRICELESS! I’m sure all those famous people we read about or see on TV, movies, music venues, etc., would give all they have to have a home with this kind of love and peace. They just don’t know how to get it. We are rich beyond measure – no money can buy that kind of peace!

    • Well said, Cheryl. And I love the story about the little boy wandering into your home! “It feels so good here, I just want to sit for a while.”

  5. Pam Story

    This really made my morning! My husband and I just purchased an older home last month and I have been up to my eyeballs in renovations ever since! With only 8 weeks to demo AND completely rebuild this place I have been in a whirl of activity and decision making, with Home Depot becoming my second home! Your article was a reminder to me that while the decor is a large part of creating an atmosphere, it is really the “intangibles” like love, joy, peace, kindness, laughter and fun that will turn this house into a welcoming home that honors God and others. Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts with us.

    • I’m jealous, Pam! I love older homes! You said this well: “ …it is really the intangibles like love, joy, peace, kindness, laughter and fun that will turn this house into a welcoming home that honors God and others.” Thank you!

  6. Fawn Pratt

    Good morning Marly, your words are always inspiring. Not to get so busy that you forget to stop and remember to make our place “home sweet home”.

  7. Peggy Carey

    Feels good Marlys.

  8. Nasus

    I’m so thankful for you, Marlys, and that you had this precious time to spread the love which you must incubate in your Bend home and elsewhere. Then you spread it around on your travels and visits, plus a lot weaves into your words while you write. When you return home, more love which you have cultivated, is waiting to engulf you there! What a blessing you are! I hope that you are awesomely well in all ways. Love you!

    • Thank you, Nasus! I’m curious to know what you did (do) to make your house a home, especially when you had little ones underfoot.

  9. Kim

    What makes a house a home?
    Love, caring, devotion.

    Home is a where you hear laughter, tears and joy.
    Home is where memories are made and lessons learned.
    Home is in your heart.
    Home is not a place, a house, a buliding.
    Home is what you do to build your house into your
    Home, your unique space where;
    “It feels so good here, I just want to sit for a while.”

    You might also feel at home with your church family,
    or anywhere you are loved and cared for, eg: school,
    work ………..

  10. Pat

    Sweet and inspiring!

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