“20 Minutes to Home” According To My Phone

A Bridge Along Hwy 1 by Shelly Osborne Photography


I’m not sure what I did or when the feature began, but within the last 6 months my phone has started alerting me of my drive to home ETA. When it started, I’d be hopping in the car, leaving the grocery store or a restaurant, and my phone would wake up with a notification stating, “20 minutes to home”. I would always chuckle seeing the notification pop up as I was leaving the base commissary–as if I needed that information to drive home to my home ON base. While rolling my eyes I would say to my phone, “5 minutes to home?! Oh! why thank you for informing me that there’s no traffic tonight through base.” I thought it was so funny, slightly weird, and fairly invasive, but I didn’t try to fix it or mess with it because it was kind of nifty to have a quick way to get directions home when I was in a pinch. I had marked our address as “home” almost immediately after we moved in but these notifications didn’t start until this year. When I got in the car at home it wouldn’t try to guess where I was going. No, it would only tell me how far from “home” I was.  “20 minutes to home”. I didn’t think I’d ever feel the magnitude of a four-letter word like I do currently, and have for the last few months.

The notification that tells me how far from home I am.

Back in April, the kids and I moved out of our California home. I made the decision to spend the last month of deployment with family in Washington knowing we would be moving to Tennessee in June. Plus—Caleb was going to come home in June and immediately needed to transition to Tennessee. I wanted to relieve some pressure and stress for both of us and have him be able to just come back to the states and not stress about moving. So, mid-April I turned our house keys in and drove away from our California home. At my first stop up to Washington my phone alerted me that I was 3 hours and some minutes away from home and my heart sunk. I so badly wanted to turn around and go back to that home but I knew that wasn’t an option. We had reached that fun stage in the military where you have to find a new home, but this time I was alone and had no idea where we were going to be living. My kids were waiting for me in Washington with our extended family, my husband was on an island in the Pacific, and I was on a highway driving north to a hotel. I am directionally challenged most days, but I felt more lost than ever before that day.  I had wondered how many more times my phone would try to tell me how far from my California “home” I was, thankfully that was the last. Once I reached Washington and was greeted with family and old friends, I felt steadier on my feet but still home-less. I still had no house to my name, no husband, none of my normal comforts, but I had people who loved me and cared about me and my family, I had a place that felt safe and I started to feel at home. It took about 3 weeks, but one day as I got in the car after grabbing groceries the notification popped up, “6 minutes to home”.  I remember looking at that notification and wanting to cry and laugh. “Certainly feels like home, huh phone?!  But it’s not, prepare to be confused and lost because we leave here in a few days.”  As if my phone would know that we were only there temporarily, I still thought about how crazy life felt in that moment. While the whole situation was laughable, seeing “minutes to home” had filled me with peace, hope, and gave me an anchor.  As Maya Angelou once said, “the ache for home lives in all of us.”  My ache was there and kept me company.


When we returned to California to pick up Caleb, we were blessed to be able to stay with our found family, Paul and Wanda. Paul and Wanda became our “California grandparents” and loved us like we were their children during our time in California. They opened their home to our chaos, strengthened us before our big move, and provided peace and encouragement every moment in between. After leaving “home” in Washington my phone again was confused and stopped alerting me of my ETA to “home”. I wasn’t sure if I’d receive any “minutes to home” notifications while staying at Paul and Wanda’s because we were all over the place and I felt like my phone wouldn’t pick up on the pattern. But, a few days prior to leaving, the notification popped up. I was leaving the base and instead of seeing “5 minutes to home” like I had seen countless times before while on base, this time I saw “24 minutes to home”.  It felt like someone had placed a 45lb weight plate on my chest. Not enough to crush me, but enough to feel the weight. Home. To be honest, that weight is still there when I think of the word home. It was in the commissary parking lot that day when I finally connected my emotions to the word home. I found it so peculiar to not have my phone try to send me to our old house knowing that’s what it had done for months, instead it was having me return to Paul and Wanda’s house. As much as I missed our old house, it wasn’t our home anymore. Minus our dear neighborhood family we built, that house was empty–my kids weren’t there, my husband wasn’t there, and a lot of our friends had moved or were going to be.  Paul and Wanda’s house had become our home because while my name again was not on any of the bills, it’s where I felt peace and security with my family. The pull I felt when I read or heard the word “home” only grew stronger. I was quickly realizing how much I needed to feel at home without the fear of moving lingering on the horizon.

A day at one of our favorite beaches in California

One of the last sermons our California pastor preached before we left was on Abram being commanded to leave; to sojourn; to wander in Genesis 12. Abram took his family and set out and obeyed God’s command, but God never told him when he’d arrive or where he was going. Abram didn’t question it, he just obeyed, and he never again had a permanent home. He was constantly moving around, pitching a tent, and wandering from place to place with his family. Our pastor joked at one point about how Abram would’ve had to approach his wife, Sarai, with this plan and how that conversation would’ve gone. “Honey, okay, I’m going to change things on you right now. I know things are going great here in Haran and our whole family is here, and our support structure is here, but this morning we need to pack everything up, we are going to abandon our home, and leave it. Leave the prosperity, leave the land, and we are going to get up and go.” I was sitting next to Wanda that morning and I was just silently laughing in the back because it felt so identical to the situation I was in. (I’d be bold enough to say most military spouses can feel that conversation in their guts.) The feeling of constantly being on the move, always wandering, never knowing where you might go is one of the hardest parts of being in the military. The endless cycle of the military life: getting orders, finding a house, getting settled and making it a home, and right when you feel settled it’s time to leave again. But, we were called to this lifestyle, and we have been blessed to see and experience some truly amazing things. I know God will continue working on me as we live the life of sojourners, especially in the seasons of building communities and creating a home.  This sermon was exactly what I needed to hear as we prepared to leave a place that had been home for 4 years.

A quiet stop along our roadtrip


10 states folks. I had 10 states worth of time to ponder about all the chaos that I had gone through leading up to our big move. I had said goodbye to my husband, said goodbye to a very dear friend, and then said another tearful goodbye a few weeks later. I said goodbye to my things, I rehomed our cats, and I began the life of a single mom sojourner. I spent quality time with family and then said goodbye to my family. I welcomed my husband home after not seeing him for 5.5 months. I said so many goodbyes to friends, said goodbye to the ocean and California, and I said goodbye to our church family. To complete the chaos package, I drove cross country to a state I had never been to that I would have to somehow make a home. I wondered as I initially parked the car in front of our new house how long it would take for my phone to begin notifying me again, how long it would take for this house to become a home. I know now from experience having my name on the lease won’t make this house my home. The relationships and memories we build into the house will create a home. God has refined me in so many ways this year. My heart has widened, and I feel like I can love deeper because I know that the relationships and the love I have for a place will create a home. I know my phone isn’t going to recognize when my heart finally connects to this house, but I look forward to seeing that notification and feeling the way I did about the last three “homes”. A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. It is a time capsule that holds the ordinary and extraordinary moments. The days you wish to freeze and hold on to forever are embedded into the walls. While it’s intimidating to come in to this house knowing how much I loved our last home, I know I will soon begin to see those notifications on my phone and instead of reading “20 minutes to home” I will feel…

“20 minutes to comfort.”

“20 minutes to friends.”

“20 minutes to warmth.”

“20 minutes to safety.”

“20 minutes to peace.”

“20 minutes to love”

“20 minutes to home.”

Previous articleWhen Football Becomes Family
Next articleOur Transition Out of ARMY
Shelly Osborne
Shelly Osborne married her high school sweetheart and is currently the CEO of Home Operations (AKA a stay at home mom). She graduated Eastern Washington University with her teaching degree and soon after became a mom to two wild boys. At their first duty station Shelly decided to pickup her old high school hobby and began photographing military families. She has continued to do photography part time to break away from the mom/wife role and to meet local families. To put her teaching degree to the test she has been homeschooling her boys. So, in the small amount of free time she does have, Shelly enjoys being outside, throwing a frisbee at the beach, camping, exploring, crafting, movie nights, and adventuring with the family