I was built in 1983 on Primrose Lane, on a corner lot, in a sleepy small town. Just before my builders hammered in the final nails, a lovely young couple and two children walked through my doors, bubbling with excitement; shortly thereafter, they became my family.

The father used his woodworking talents to give me beautiful new rooms. The mother baked scrumptious-smelling treats in my modest kitchen. The granddad planted a glorious garden on my adjacent lot. The daughter shot basketballs through a hoop on my drive and did gymnastics in my front yard. The son rode his bike around my neighborhood and littered my carpets with lego blocks. A couple of cats and a dog roamed my grass.

I watched as the father and mother left for work every morning and returned each evening to join the children for family dinner, no matter how busy they all were. Cheerleading pom pons, musical scripts, choir sheet music, history textbooks, lifeguard towels, track and football cleats, and video game cartridges were regularly flung hither and yon. I never minded. Every night the four of them sat in my kitchen, talking and laughing. Friends were always welcomed through my doors.

Every year they put up a beautiful Christmas tree, and strung old fashioned lights on my face. Every Christmas Eve we all sat together, savoring the light and the love of family and home.

Until one year, when everything changed. The children had left for college, but this year when they came home, instead of putting up the tree and lights, they packed boxes. The father had gotten sick and they needed something I could no longer give them. So on a dark, gloomy day in December 1997, as rain turned into sleet and snow, they loaded a truck and turned off the lights when they left. I saw the daughter crying as she gave me one last look.

I’ll never forget my first family, my first time being a home. But since then, I’ve had the privilege to offer that same love to many other families. My first family taught me that a home is more than a house; it’s a feeling, an emotion, a dream, a wish, a hug and a warm memory. It’s love.

I’ll always miss that first family, though. And I know they think of me sometimes too.

Gracious God, May your love be a home for all the world. Amen.