Once a year, I get the chance to go away by myself to speak at a church conference for teenagers.  The novelty still hasn’t worn off.

Rarely do I get on an airplane without a bag of toys, drive a rental car without a car seat in the back, eat at a restaurant without ordering a kids’ meal, or stay in a hotel and sleep whenever I want!

It sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?

In many ways, it is. Having a chance to take on a new adventure does something for the soul. But I’d like to share what I’ve learned in the process about the power that lies in a home.

At Home, You Never Wonder if You’re Needed

At my very first conference, I was one of five speakers addressing a group of more than 800 teenagers (each teacher taught simultaneously in separate rooms).  I had prepared to teach eight classes over the course of two days, and the conference participants got to pick which classes they wanted to attend.

One teacher there was hilarious.  I heard all the kids talking about her in the hallways.  They packed her class first.

Then they filed into the class next door, where another great teacher held his classes.

Finally, they filtered into the three remaining rooms, looking for the class that had the most exciting title.

I know I shouldn’t have cared about the lack of excitement for the classes I had worked on for months, but the entire drive back to the airport, my internal dialogue sounded like this:

Why did I even come?

Why didn’t they just make the funny teacher’s classroom bigger?

What was the point in me traveling this whole way and leaving my family?

I know.  It was very immature thinking on my part.

I have gone back to that conference, and the experiences have been progressively more wonderful (I’ve totally come to accept the fact that I’m not the funny teacher), but the feeling at the conferences doesn’t even touch the feeling in my home.

When I am home, I never wonder if I’m really needed.  It is painfully obvious every minute.

“Mom, will you put my hair in a bun?”

“Mom, will you take me to the library?”

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

“Mom, can you call Kate’s mom and see if she can come over?”

“Mom, want to see my Legos?”

I sometimes long to sleep in or just sit in a quiet house, but there is no doubt that someone needs me.

At Home, Everyone Notices When You Leave

When my speaking assignments are finished, the teenagers rambunctiously file off to their next activities, and I quietly pack up my things and head out to the parking lot.  There are some nice hugs and thank yous, and I really do develop a love for these teens, but I can easily slip away and go wherever I wish.

At home, everyone notices when I leave.

“Why are you wearing lipstick, Mommy?”

“Why are you holding your car keys?”

“What time are you going to come home?”

“Can I go?”

When my children were little, I never left the house without at least twelve kisses, several hugs, a plea to stay just a little longer, or maybe even a little sticker to put on my shirt.

Now my daughters make me special jewelry to remember them by:

And I can’t tell you how many times my husband has had me slip out through the backyard and side gate so no one would hear the front door close.

Home has a magnetic pull. We ache to keep each other close. And it’s a privilege to be noticed when you walk out the door.

At Home, Your Returns are Celebrated

I love having the chance to connect with new friends and visit new places, but there is nothing that compares to the love a mommy gets in her home.

When I pulled up to my home after my very first “disaster conference,” this is what I saw on the door:

They’re all “Welcome Home” signs, in case you can’t read them very well. My eyes welled up with tears, relief washed through my whole body, and I finally understood what my mom has been telling me all along: You can look everywhere else for happiness, but you’ll find it right in your own backyard.

QUESTION: Have you had similar experiences? Have you ever looked for validation elsewhere and been disappointed?

CHALLENGE: If you ever feel like you’re in competition with those outside your home (for one reason or another), turn your thoughts back toward your family and learn to recognize how much you mean to them.

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