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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

What We Leave Behind (Guest Post by Hannah Anderson)

Stephanie Amores

To be human is to long for “Home is where your family and your stuff is.”

My friend—with her long black hair, olive skin, and eyes so dark that the pupil and iris merge—she would know.  She’d moved enough: the Middle East, the United States, Canada. She offered it as a comfort, a way to reassure me that my own constant moving couldn’t keep me from being at home.  Because when you move eight times in eleven years, you begin to worry. Will we ever be settled? Will we ever be “home”?

“Home is where your family and your stuff is.”

I decided to believe her because really what option did I have. But there was one problem: every time we moved, we left stuff behind. A moving truck can only fit so much, but you never know exactly how much until it’s nearly full and you’re standing there, hands on your hips, looking from the truck to the pile in the front yard and back to your husband. You don’t say it, but you wonder why he chose to rent the 20 foot truck instead of the 26 foot truck.  He doesn’t say it, but he wonders why too.

If home is where your stuff is, what about the stuff you leave behind?

Once we took the kitchen table and left the chairs. Once it was the gas grill.  Another time a piano. But not the books, never the books. They always went on the truck first.

My friend was right in her own way. Moving has a way of making you take stock, of deciding what’s really worth carrying with you, what stuff is really necessary to make a home. Do you take the extra dishes? Do you really need that pile of magazines? What about the tent that you haven’t used in 5 years?

In all my years and in all my moves, I’ve never missed a single thing I left behind. If anything, home became better because of what we abandoned. Moving forced us to sort through our baggage.

I wonder if God intends the movements of this life to do the same thing, to force us to decide what’s necessary to our final home. Every shift, every uprooting has a way of stripping us of things we don’t need, making us to decide whether it’s worth packing cynicism and resentment along with us. Because if home is where your family and your stuff is, you better learn the difference between the stuff you really need and the stuff that’s best left in a pile in the front yard.

“Home is where your family and your stuff is.”

We’ve finally stopped moving, at least for now. For the past five years, we’ve been in the same house, the same church, the same schools. And we have the stuff to prove it. In the absence of the moving truck, we’ve simply accumulated stuff—a lot that doesn’t help us make a home. So last week, my husband and I decided to have a Not Moving Sale. We cleared out the closets and the attic and the basement. We made piles in the front yard and kept only what we should.

When home is where your family and your stuff is, you better know what to keep and what to leave behind.

Hannah Anderson lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She is the author of Made for More and the recently released Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul (Moody). You can find more of her writing at, hear her on the weekly podcast Persuasion, or follow her on Twitter @sometimesalight.


keeping-place-11Welcome to a guest series I’m calling, “Home: Musings and Memories.” I’ve invited writers from all over the Internet to share their stories from home—in part, because I’ve just released a book called, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home (IVP, May 2017). I believe home is our most fundamental longing, homesickness our most nagging grief. Most of all, I believe that the historic Christian faith has something to say about that desire and disappointment.

The story of Jesus is a home story.

Thanks for joining me and these other fantastic writers in our search for home—and the God who makes its hope possible.