Off the coast of North Carolina lies a stretch of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks. The banks are little more than sandbars breaching the surface of the Atlantic Ocean while the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds flank their western boundary. Those who have discovered the magic of this coastline return year after year to enjoy the natural beauty and isolation.
Fishermen and other seafarers who traverse these waters call them The Graveyard of the Atlantic. There are good reasons for this. The enormous numbers of shipwrecks lying on the seafloor testify to the ever changing shoals and channels that have menaced ships at sea for centuries. It is here that the Labrador Current collides with the Gulf Stream creating a chaotic, unpredictable expanse of churning seas.
In the midst of these treacherous waters and precariously balanced threads of land, there is a small island that is the permanent home to fewer than 1,000 people. Due to the beautiful beaches, charming village and unique atmosphere, visitors come in droves to cycle or stroll along the back roads and enjoy the shops and restaurants. It is Ocracoke Island; and it is only accessible by ferry.
How did an isolated speck in this dangerous part of the Atlantic Ocean ever become populated at all, let alone a haven for tourists and residents? The answers, of course, are complicated and vary depending on who is telling the story, but all agree on one fundamental fact: Ocracoke Island has a safe deep water harbor. It is large and deep and has a history of great importance for naval defense since colonial times. Infrastructure left behind from the naval base built here for World War II can still be identified, and the American Civil War was brought to these shores as well.
The harbor at Ocracoke provides sanctuary to fishermen, sailors, itinerant pleasure cruisers, scuba divers and all manner of boaters today as it has done for centuries. Even the notorious pirate Black Beard famously sought refuge here before he was caught and killed in November of 1718 by British naval forces in the waters surrounding Ocracoke Island.
Ocracoke’s harbor, called Silver Lake, has a sheltered cove that curves generously into the island providing a substantial land barrier from the wind and waves. The ocean floor drops away at this point providing deep water with room for very large boats to come in without running aground. Many boats are moored there, and they rock quietly even as the offshore waters are too rough to safely navigate.
Ocracoke also has a feature that is rare on the Outer Banks: a deep and stable inlet which allows safe passage from the travel lanes of the ocean into the shelter of the harbor. Year after year the Ocracoke Inlet remains; it is consistent and dependable. It has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Mariners can depend on the Ocracoke Inlet to accommodate the boats that enter the harbor from the ocean.
Hatteras inlet, only eighteen miles northeast of Ocracoke, provides access to another harbor and some villages along the banks. But in stark contrast to Ocracoke, Hatteras inlet is treacherous, unreliable, and challenging for even experienced boaters to navigate. The channel, a ditch in the sea floor in which the water is deep enough for boats to travel, is not predictable and is sometimes barely even there. The safe route that you passed through six months ago may be far too shallow today. The intense movement of the waters shift the ground and the rocks almost constantly making the crossing of this inlet a challenging endeavor. It is not safe like the Ocracoke Inlet.
The harbor at Ocracoke Island has a charming white lighthouse that shines out on the ocean. During the day the fat, round, white structure with its off-set light gleams on the shore and can be seen and recognized for fourteen miles. By night its steady light marks the harbor and beckons all to safety. Tourists love to walk along the wood sidewalk past the lightkeepers’ houses and just look at this small but mighty light. The structure is not open, nor are any of the houses on the lightstation property, but it still attracts visitors. There is something about a lighthouse that seems secure and reliable. Steady. Unchanging. Safe.
So what do all of these facts, as interesting as they are, have to do with creating the peaceful home you have always wanted? The answer is simple: God desires our homes to be like harbors. God yearns for our families to find protection and safety from the chaos and danger of the surrounding culture within the harbor of our homes. Home should be a place in which shelter from the storm outside is assumed. Although harbors are influenced by the dangerous currents and storms beyond, they remain a place of relative safety. The same is true in a Harbor Home. There is awareness of the chaotic culture outside your door, but a Harbor Home is not changed by it.
A Harbor Home can be compared to a working harbor such as the one at Silver Lake on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.
Think about what it is that attracts mariners from the far ends of the ocean to this and other deep water harbors around the world. Why are these places so sought after, why so longed for, why so carefully protected and maintained? More importantly, how can we give our homes these harbor-like elements and provide safe spaces for our families? On this site and in these blog posts we will look into the features that make harbors so welcoming and how to incorporate them into your home.
A harbor is a busy place. Just like your home. It has many elements that must work together for the community to function. In addition to the structure of the place itself, there are the people who live and work there. There are workers, managers, helpers,learners, monitors, supporters and people in other roles found in a harbor. Mostly, the work and the community function smoothly as all work together and there is peace. In a Harbor Home there is a place and a role for everyone and practical ways for everyone to contribute to the sanctuary of a harbor home. On this page, in all the content offered here, we will talk about these roles and routines and all the other elements of how to make your home a Harbor Home.
Perhaps you are striving to create a Harbor Home for your family but don’t really know how to do it. You may feel as though you are drowning in an ocean of chaos and demands and can't even imagine that a safe harbor is within your reach. The purpose of this space is to help you find a way for your family to function as a harbor. You can do this with a few practical, small changes. We will look at what those changes are and discuss how your home can become the harbor you are looking for.
Right now, where you are, rest and know that Jesus, the one who calmed the rough seas by speaking to them, is speaking to you. The harbor is near. The harbor is safe. There is a safe space for you and your family in the harbor, and perhaps you will find something in this space that can help your family work together to find it.