October 1, 2020
by Karly

I lived in Asheville, North Carolina for a few months working at a safe home for young teenage girls coming out of sex slavery right here in the US. I lived in the house with the girls working as the night shift mama. This was the best job I’ve ever had. It was also the most challenging, as you can imagine. These girls were coming to us straight out of their worst nightmare and were carrying trauma they were never meant to endure. Often, these girls got to either choose jail on drug charges or come to us. These girls are forever the strongest, most resilient people I know.

My day started around 3:00pm as the night mama. The girls were finishing up school so I would assist with homework, make snacks, prepare dinner and drive the girls to their after school activities. Most days I felt like a taxi driver, but the car dance parties made it worth the while. I enjoyed having all morning and early afternoons to rest, adventure, work out and enjoy the small town filled with such vibrant souls.

At least three times a week, I would go to the same coffee shop. This coffee shop became my place of rest and refuge. It became my home away from home. Each week, I would look forward to sitting at my favorite table in my favorite room. My lavender oat milk latte kept my fingers warm as I would journal. I needed somewhere to place the weight of the trauma I was carrying with the girls, so my journal was that sacred place, writing holy and broken words before the One who is able to hold it all. This coffee shop quickly became my safe haven, the safe house was far from that for me. What made it feel so safe were the baristas smiles when I walked in, they chose to know me by name. It was the essential oils misting peace in each room. In the back room there was an old piano waiting to be played by whichever daring guest was willing. The most colorful canvases were hung on each wall and were painted by local artists. The couches had comfy pillows ready to be squeezed. The coffee table had mug stains all over it, creating a canvas of its own. In the bathroom there was a mantra of encouragement hung on the wall. It would get stuck in your head for the day, constantly reminding you that you are doing the best you can. Every room had a different paint color to match whatever mood you may be in. Some were bright while others were more dull and solitude. There were hanging plants in every room, adding life in each corner. There was a little library where you could take a book and leave a book, I always enjoyed seeing which new ones arrived to bring home. There were either oldies or indie music playing which reflected the old and young faces sitting around. At a few tables were often fresh cut flowers from the owner’s garden. My favorite were the sunflowers, they made any room feel bright. The owner would even sometimes let me take them home at the end of the week. The flowers provided such warmth in the safe home.

I didn’t realize how much I took away from that coffee shop in Asheville until I was decorating my own home. In my family room was a similar piano, waiting to be played. A passed down coffee table with coffee stains that we restored. A record player spinning Frank Sintra as we unpacked. Plants placed on our mantle and fresh cut flowers in vases throughout. We made seven house keys to give to friends so they too could call this space home. We find this to be the best way to ensure an open door policy in our home.

In the same way that the Asheville coffee shop inspired and rejuvenated me, your home can inspire and rejuvenate anyone who enters. If I had not spent the time that I did at that coffee shop, I honestly think my home would look quite different than it does now. I am thankful for that sweet little shop. Unfortunately it no longer exists. A new coffee shop replaced it. When I went back to visit a few years ago, I nearly cried as I walked in. As I sat inside I began to remember the way it once was and my heart became grateful. I was grateful for what once was and thankful that it was still with me and reflected in my own home.

Home should not just be a place, home is also feeling. It’s a feeling that you breathe in when you walk through the door. Honestly, it sounds weird, but it feels like a warm hug. It does not matter if you live in a mansion or a trailer park, on the street or in an apartment, you can create a home anywhere you go. Home really is where the heart is.