During storms, especially in the middle of the night, I often lie in bed and give quiet thanks for the shelter of my house, and its watertight roof and shingles.

During storms, I also give thanks knowing my family is nearby, sleeping under warm, cozy covers, and we will wake in the morning to the comfort of our own beds and bathrooms in the place where we’ve celebrated birthdays and holidays, taken pictures for prom, wrestled in the living room, done homework at the kitchen table and grown up together over the years.

House and home, they can refer to the same structure, but their definitions differ.

A house is a building, often created with walls and a roof. It provides shelter and protection from rain, wind and snow.

A home is a place. It often consists of a structure, but the walls and roof aren’t what gives it its essence. Home is a concept, a perception, a feeling. It provides a safe haven and protection from the challenges and uncertainties of the world at large.

A house typically has rooms dedicated for specific purposes: a kitchen for preparing and eating food, bedrooms for sleeping, bathrooms for doing you know what and a living space for watching “Wheel of Fortune.”

A home has rooms dedicated to gathering with others or finding peace in a reading nook. Meals together at the kitchen table provide a time to share and reflect on the day’s events and to plan for the future. Bedtime rituals often end in good night kisses.

Building a house requires wood, nails, and knowledge about carpentry, dry wall installation and roofing. It takes time to build a house, anywhere from a few months to a year. A house provides space to complete the necessities of living. At the center of a house is its structure.

Creating a home doesn’t require physical elements, although sometimes throw pillows and a handmade afghan contribute to the mix. It takes time to build a home, anywhere from one day to a lifetime. A home provides opportunities to complete the necessities of loving. At the center of a home is a sense of belonging.

A house provides a place to be, to exist. It meets our basic needs. It is not a bad place; it simply isn’t home.

Home is where we go to be ourselves. If we exist in a house, we live in a home. It’s our own corner of the universe where we can breathe in the sustenance of life and unwind at the end of a long day. It’s where we experience a sense of being at the right place at the right time with those we call family.

A house can be a home and vice versa, but you don’t always get two for the price of one. The lucky among us do. Brick and mortar to ward off the storms of nature. Love and family to ward off the storms of the world. Doors and walls to separate one room from the other. A makeshift growth chart behind the door in the laundry room to tell us who has grown the most this year.

As I look around me, at the walls, ceiling and floor that make up my living room, I am happy and grateful I have a house to keep me safe from storms. But I am happier and more grateful to reside in a home, surrounded by a loving family, semi-loving cats and a throw pillow or two.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. More columns are available at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.