This Kind of Living

On the sixth day of the eighth month of the thirteenth year of the second millenium (anno domini, of course), I find myself homeless. It’s humbling, actually, to be 35 years old, married with four children, and unsure of your day-to-day living arrangements. You could ask, in the words of country-beauty Shania Twain, “who’s bed have your boots been under?” and I would take it neither as an offense nor an indictment, but rather as a serious statement of inquiry.

This is a disconcerting thing.

The process of homelessness started with a fortuitous phone call from a lanky Texan stranger who was reverse carpet-bagging his wife and three children up to Fayetteville, and who wondered whether I’d be willing to shell off the old Rock House. “Everything’s for sale,” I quipped, which as it turns out were the words that set into motion this great spate of mis-fittedness.

He made an offer.

We accepted.

And then, we did the next logical thing–we contacted the best realtor this side of the Himalayas, shored up financing for a replacement residence, and identified the cutest home with the bluest door in the most perfect neighborhood. Unfortunately, though, through a rather complicated set of facts that would take the better part of the morning to type (and a great deal of editing to ensure that no inadvertent curse words slipped into the mix), the perfect house became less perfect, the Rock House sold, and my family became what can only be known as a passel of vagabond tramps.

Vagabond tramps, I say.

When your brunette starts to silver, you’re supposed to have some things figured out. For instance, it’s nice to know where you’ll live from day to day. I’ve always been a little slow to figure, though, and the graying of my hair beat wisdom to the game, evidently. In any event, here’s the secret pearl in all of thisup-endedness has been healthier than I’d like to admit.

“Healthy,” you ask? What about the man’s castle, the woman’s nest, and all of that?



We’ve lived mighty small for these last 5 weeks, mostly out of suitcases and a few boxes. I’ve found this type of gypsy-living to be a sort of constructive material detoxification. The truth is, we’ve accumulated a great deal of stuff over the years, and all of that stuff has been packed away in (too many) storage units since we vacated the old Rock House. Mostly, save and except for my books and my fly rod, I haven’t missed a lick of it. Sure, I got the shakes once for my Kitchen Aid mixer, but that is neither the point nor a confession. It just is what it is.

I don’t suppose you know how you feel about material until you are without it. That’s the tricky business of being owned by all this awkward stuff of earth. Sometimes I wonder whether we pay for it, or whether it pays for us.


We’ve found the freedom in being a family on the move. We’ve depended on the kindness of friends while our new house is becoming available (this week!). From time to time, this brings a very tangible weight onto the backs of others. (For instance, in our current living arrangement, there are 4 adults, 7 children, 2 cats, one dog, and a snake. See how heavy that is?) In the crescendo of chaos, when the sheer numbers become overwhelming, it’s good to bolt, to give your friends space. And sometimes, this sort of bolting must be done on no less than a moment’s notice.

Spontaneous family vacation? Done.

photo (5)

Last minute camping trip? Check.

photo (6)

Visit to the Alabama motherland on a whim? Whimsical we are.

photo (7)

It’s a good thing to move with the wind, I think. There’s a metaphor there. I’m sure of it.


By the end of summer, I’ll have learned a secret to contentment, fleeting though it may be. Notice that I’m not sure whether I’ll have learned the secret to contentment, but at least secret is a good place to start. Anyhow, I’ve concluded there are only a few things a fella needs to live the good life: a wonderful woman, a few coyote-wild children, a copy of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a decent book of poems, and the company of friends paired with a few glasses of cheap red wine.

This kind of living? It’s simple, communal.

But more than anything, it’s sure-fire.


The old Church-of-Christers used to sing, “this world is not my home; I’m just a-pass’n through.” I used to find this song morose, especially when sung by the gent on the front row of my grandmother’s congregation who kept a hard pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket and sidled up next to his oxygen tank when the preaching started. But as we move from house to house, as I feel a continual lack of “fit” in being on the move, I think about the words to that song. Maybe they form the outlines of a more proper world-view.

Everything is transient.

Everything is passing.

Nothing really fits here–not forever, anyway.

Another musician put it this way, “nobody tells you when you get born here, how much you’ll come to love it and how you’ll never belong.” Hopefully, and with a little bit of luck, I’ll remember that from time to time.

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  • Fiona

    Awww Seth – I love this. Those song lyrics – they are spot on, yeah?
    We’re about to live out of suitcases ourselves for 8 weeks, and then look for a rental in a new city, in a new country… give me hope!
    All the best for your move.

    • Seth

      New country? Where? You’ve written about this lately? Link? (Man… that was a lot of questions… right?)

      • Fiona

        Haha! Shall I talk about the weather then? Or politics? Nah, I’d get lost in that one. And as for the weather – wildfires have stolen our summer. Too smokey to be outside. I’ll change my tune :-)

      • Fiona

        (And yes I’ve written about it – both in this blog and our family blog)

  • http://n/a Brian


    It just means you lack a permanent place to store your sh.t

    A story that feels like it’s been going on for about a decade for my troop. I think you get used to it in good and bad ways.


    • Seth

      True, B. Always you say what’s true.

  • Mike

    Sounds like freedom & we have much open space to be next in line for a expedition with the Haines clan. Come on and explore the little city (plus there’s a little house available down the street)

    • Seth

      Send me the link to the house, already!

  • Don Sartain

    I love this, Seth. I’ve had to learn that lesson many times, too.

    And as long as your moving with the wind doesn’t become reminiscent of Dust in the Wind, I’m all for it, sir.

    Grateful for God’s giving you grace in this. Really.

    • Seth

  • Janel Andrews

    Seth…I don’t know if I can put into words what this post means to me. One, I’m sure it has definately been a growing time for you and Amber as this ‘adventure’ of being homeless vagabonds has played out in a way in which you most definitely didn’t foresee. Thankfully HIs hand was available for holding…er, clinging to. The reflections on what we really need to live and hold community and family together is such a breathe of fresh air for me. Reminds me of the conviction in reading Jen Hatmaker’s “7”

    • Seth

      Mrs. Hatmaker has quite the gift for conviction. Thank you for drawing any sort of comparison whatsoever.

      And thanks for stopping in, Janel.

  • Mallory


    • Seth

      Thank you, Mallory.


    Storytelling is your gift, just floated along with this tale like tubing a lazy river. Delightful engagement. On another note, having moved at least two dozen times in my life, this sent deep chuckles through my memory. Further, I have to wonder how Amber (the mom’s point of view) will write about this same saga….

    • Seth

      Thanks, Lisa. As for Amber’s side? She’s been more cooped up with the wild bunch than I have, so it’ll likely be a bit more tersely worded. That’s just the truth of it.

      And… two dozen times? Holy smokes!

  • Kris

    Dang, Seth. This is so good. I just love this.

    And “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” oh. oh. oh. I used to sing that one loud and long.

    Praying you guys can get settled in quickly–but not too settled, after all, you’re just passin’ through. … 😉

    • Seth

      Thank you, Kris. And thanks for the confession re Shania Twain. I knew I was not alone.

      I’m walking away now, whistling a passin’ through tune.

  • Tsh Oxenreider

    Seth, this is wonderful, and I know this transitory lifestyle oh so well. You described it beautifully and succinctly…. thank you for that.

    • Seth

      Thanks, Tsh. Of all people, perhaps you know this transitory lifestyle better than most.

      And speaking of being transitory, have you made your way to Branson, Mo to see the Big Chicken, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, or to eat some salt-water taffee?

      It’s about as riveting as it sounds, and something in me says you could write a series about these modern marvels.

      • Tsh Oxenreider

        You’re convincing me.

        Actually, I have been to Branson, but I was about 9. Haven’t returned since.

        There’s a chance I’ll be in your neck of the woods this spring… I’ll keep y’all posted!

        • Seth

          Hope you make it this way. Convince the powers that be that a Haines dinner party is a “must do” while you’re here.

  • Erika Morrison

    I love all your sentences.

    Additionally, let me tell you this: we lost our home to foreclosure (along with a $30,000 investment) a few years back. We had nothing left to our names – not even our [formerly] good credit, but we would both tell you that losing it all was the best thing that ever happened to us.

    The only thing y’all shoulda done different was take a road trip to New Haven and PHD (pile higher and deeper) at our house. :)


    • Seth


      Good to see you! And, I’d love to hear why it was the best thing that ever happened to you and A-$ (as in, feel free to leave an extended comment). You have my curiosity piqued.

      As for New Haven? Yeah… we biffed on that one. Maybe one day soon.

      Peace, Lady.

  • Mel

    No where to lay my head. Yup. Love it Seth.

    • Seth

      You know… you know…

      You should probably meet Tsh (above).

      Peace to you and your family.

  • Laura

    There is something so beautiful about being displaced isn’t there… beautifully painful, and beautifully revealing.

    God does some amazing and holy revealing in the space between two places and it is always in that space between that I am reminded that this world is not my home… and I look in the rear view mirror at my 7 year old, all elbows and knees, and my 5 year old, all chubby squishy cuddles, both with hands raised to the sky singing at the top of their lungs,

    “All I know is I’m not home yet… this is NOT where I belong… take this world and give me JESUS… this is not where I belong!” and I know, that the longing we have in our hearts for home, for belonging and settling is God given and I cannot wait for the day that it is redeemed!

    Praying God’s richest blessings over your next stop along the way to your most perfect home alongside the master homebuilder :)

    • Seth

      Thank you, Laura. We’re hanging on the best we can. (And tell you’re old ball and chain that I said, “what up.”)

      • Laura

        That old ball and chain of mine is hangin in there too 😉 so hard to transition from full time mission work to corporate america! We’re trying to figure out where we fit 😉 always toying with the idea of AR again 😉

  • LoraLynn

    Still wish you guys had come and camped at our guest house this summer. Woulda been a ball… But you would have needed to board the snake elsewhere. I have my limits. 😉 Glad you won’t be homeless much longer..

    • Seth

      You don’t LOVE snakes? True confession–neither do I.

      Would love to pop down your way sometime and head to church with you, Andrew, and the rest of your clan.

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  • jdukeslee

    You do NOT have a s-s-s- . Please, no… (I cannot bring myself to type out that … word.)

    I can’t even watch those reptiles on TV. I hide pictures from my Facebook newsfeed. I lift my feet from the floor of a dark theater during any Harry Potter movie. And I can’t even make a coherent comment after reading this otherwise-brilliant post by Seth Haines, because of that five-letter word.


    • Seth

      It’s terrible, JDL. It’s long and albino and eats little white mice. Ike views it at science. I view it as creepy.

      I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. I’ll try to refrain from much more snake talk. 😉

  • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

    Best piece of writing on the Internets in a good long while. Have you heard Ladysmith Black Mambazo sing “Homeless”?

    • Seth

      Have I heard it? Have I heard it?!? I love it. This is for you, LJ (and I hope it reminds you of home).

      • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

        Diamonds on the soles of her shoes is still my hand’s down favorite :)

        • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker
          • Seth

            Yes, I like that.

            Amber and I have been spinning “The Graduate” album like it’s going out of style. Next time you’re in town, you’re invited for a listen.

  • Bronwyn Lea

    What a fantastic post. Redemptive, true, funny, and brimming with LIFE. May the things you have learned while homeless fill your new home with even more joy.

    • Seth

      Thanks, Bronwyn. Your blessing is taking root in our new house.

  • Robin Dance

    “I don’t suppose you know how you feel about material until you are without it.”

    My favorite sentence.

    Living in a small German apartment last year, headed to a small Macon apartment, well, tomorrow…I’ve learned that less, while not necessarily m o r e, is good. Do I own my stuff or does it own me? Ever since I asked myself that question, I took charge. Sorta.

    I still have stuff–I’m a sentimental gal with attachments to old things–and I have an awful hard time saying Good-bye to people, places and things I have loved.

    Your writing voice is simple but lyrical. I’m still cryin’ a river that I didn’t push a little harder for that face to face meetin’!! :)

    • Seth

      Robin, next time there will be dinner, and wine, and readings. MAKE IT HAPPEN!