Oh friends, you’re in for another treat today – but when are you NOT in for a treat when Tuesday rolls around, huh? Jen Pollock Michel’s latest book just came out a week ago, and even though I’m only three pages in, I’m already enthralled. We all long for home. We all search and yearn and desire for the grandest and simplest of places: home. Hear more about the story behind Jen’s story, and leave a comment to win a copy of Keeping Place.
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? One thing people often confuse about me is my nationality. Since 2011, our family has lived in Toronto, but my husband and I—and all five of our children—are bread-and-butter Midwestern-ers. We were all either born in Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois.
Because my husband and I always imagined ourselves living somewhere outside of the United States, by God’s grace, we feel like we’ve hit a bit of a sweet spot here these past six years. We’re enjoying our work, the city, and our church. We’re not planning to leave anytime soon!
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? Keeping Place is a book about the human longing of home. That’s worth saying, especially because the longing for home often gets relegated to the realm of female desire. But even more than this, I would also say that the book is also about the experience of losing home. As an ex-pat, of course there’s a really tangible way in which home now feels very elusive to me. But in the book, I also talk about the grief of losing both my father and my brother when I was a very young woman—and how this has left me with the feeling that home, for all of us, is irreparably broken because of death.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann has said that our biggest crisis today is our loss of roots. I think that’s true. Home is a story we’re all trying to make sense of, especially in dislocation and loss, and I think Scripture has a great deal of light to shed on why we feel so ineluctably drawn to home and why we feel so devastated when home fails our expectations. There’s a redemptive narrative of home threaded from Genesis to Revelation, and I try to tease it out in the book.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? I think in a very real way, writing my first book, Teach Us to Want, was the inspiration for this book. Since TUTW, I’ve been asking what my deepest longings and hopes say about me, about God, about my life with him. And at the root of all my desires, what seems to be pulsing and aching is this longing for home. Like C.S. Lewis describes in Surprised by Joy, I’ve let myself follow that longing to see where it leads. I’ve grown convinced it leads right to the heart of Christ and his kingdom coming.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words? If we accept this idea that to be human is to long for home, we would have to agree that we’re all running around trying to satisfy this desire. And I think the danger, in one very real sense, is that we might be trying to satisfy it with the wrong things. Maybe it’s that we’ve put too much stock in the material aspects of having a beautiful house. Maybe we’ve idealized marriage and family. Maybe we’re moving from place to place, from church to church, looking for something that will never fail our expectations and hopes. I’d love for this book to help people shape realistic expectations for “home” in the here and now. And probably most importantly, I’d love for readers to discover that their disappointments with this world, in all of its brokenness, has the promise of leading us into better desires for a better world.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? It’s probably the second half of the book, which has been most important for me. It puts this question to all of us: what embodied, emplaced work of love are we doing to “keep place” in the world until Jesus comes?
Writing the book, I went looking for home, but in a real sense, what I found was something I end up calling the “housekeeping.” It’s a term I use to talk about the work of love and welcome and generosity in the world we take up in our most proximate places and relationships.
What’s true for all of us, wherever we are, however settled we feel, is that we have work to do! God is sending us out into the world to love our families, our neighbors, and our cities.
How and where can we find you on the internet? I’m on Twitter, and I also have a Facebook author page. I confess I’m sporadically present there at best. But you can also visit my website. Better yet, look me up when you’re in Toronto!
Yup. She’s the real deal, folks. I’ve been so excited to read her latest for awhile now, ever since Jen asked me to write a guest post on the subject late last summer. So, if you’re also in the “so excited” category, leave Jen some love – also, be sure to type “Pick me!” if you’d like to be entered into the drawing for Keeping Place. Good luck! Contest ends on Sunday, May 21st.
*Post contains Amazon Affiliate links0