The word “dwell” has stuck with me recently. I heard it the other day and paused. Its sound seeped into my soul and has taken root. The sound of the word itself brings comfort, doesn’t it? Dwell makes me want to be by a fire surrounded by people I love and sharing real conversation with the sound of spoons scraping the bottom of our bowls of soup. It’s warm, it’s cozy, it’s home, but it goes so much deeper.
Here is how Dictionary.com defines “to dwell”.
verb (used without object), dwelt or dwelled, dwelling.
- to live or stay as a permanent resident; reside.
- to live or continue in a given condition or state: to dwell in happiness.
Reside, live, stay…these are all words that have been absent from my vocabulary until very recently. For the first 1.5 years out of college, I lived in four different towns all over. I rented a mountain home that was so nice it’s a joke I was allowed to live there, lived in a tiny beach hut in Haiti, shared a bunkhouse on a ranch with 5 other girls, and the ever popular: moved back in with my parents. Life was a whirlwind where living out of a suitcase felt more normal than having a closet. But in the midst of adventure, my heart longed to stay. I got a taste of the sweetness that comes with dwelling where you are in the months I had in each place. As soon as I felt myself build a foundation, it was time to leave.
“Dwell” holds importance to me because it has felt far out of reach. I looked forward to the day I could get involved in my church, have game nights, and host dinner parties for a community of people. I desired time to dwell together; after all, no one is created to live life alone. Dwelling means investing, pouring out, as well as receiving.
When I became a wife, I moved to another new town, but this time I knew it was to live, to stay and reside. Now, months later, I admit I have not taken full advantage of it. I leave most weekends, spend nights as an introvert with my dear friends, “The Gilmore Girls,” or stay inside when I long to go out. I think I underestimated the courage and strength it takes to invest in where you are, but I also underestimated the power it has to create change.
In this holiday season and the New Year, I am challenging myself to dwell. I want to welcome it with arms wide and squeeze it close. Whether we know it or not, our souls crave it because we are created by a Father who lived it out and still does today.
I think we desire a time and place to dwell deeply because Jesus dwelled on Earth, and now his Spirit even dwells in us. In his time on Earth, everything he did was intentional and purposeful. Looking back, I wish I learned from Jesus during my “nomad phase.” He did not let his length of stay keep him from residing and living. It was not dependent on time, but it was a way of living for him. Even if he was in a town for a matter of days, he left people changed. I think that is the purpose of dwelling, to change people. When it is done whole-heartedly, as with most things in life, it has the power to be a catalyst for transformation in ourselves and others.
So, how does one “dwell well”? It takes time and diligence, as I am experiencing now. I think the first step is to be present, however that may look for you, and then you grow from there. I want to see the world and experience different cultures, but more than anything I want to answer the call on our lives: to dwell in each place the Lord takes me. He dwells in me, so I may dwell with others. This means loving, showing up, soaking up moments, and simply squeezing every bit of life you can get out of where you are in that moment. Dwelling looks different to each person in each place, but when we answer its call in our lives, we can rest knowing we are doing exactly what we are made to do.
words by Lauren Grindstaff and photo by Hannah Jin