This is our last night in the Smokys. My mom, dad, sisters and their families left for Texas this morning. The rest of us leave for “home” (Alabama) in the morning. Seeing our family this year in December for Josh’s graduation was a special treat. We don’t normally see each other until the spring or fall when the 1000 miles of roads between us are less likely to ice over.
Have you ever thought about the connection to Jesus’ birth and the “longing for home” theme in so many of the Christmas songs? I’ve worked hard at ignoring the “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” songs over the years and taught myself to be thankful for just us.. the six of us.
For many years I was able to ignore the bad.. the hard.. the sad.. and the lonely and work at cultivating a thankful heart by focusing on the good. I was able for the most part to be a blissfully happy and thankful version of myself. I was that blissfully happy and thankful person that last day between Thanksgiving and Christmas before everything came crashing down. I was standing beside Joel in the kitchen just a few hours before, admiring the person he was becoming and expressing to the Lord with a thankful heart, “I like him so much. I feel honored just standing in his presence.”
Shortly after losing Joel, I had what I called a “Pollyanna” anointing and was overflowing with thankfulness. I was thankful that my son was the only one who died at the birthday party.. that my other children were okay, and so on. I had guarded my thankful heart as one of my most prized possessions for many years and had almost envied Pollyanna’s thankful view of the world in spite of the losses she’d suffered. I didn’t realize I’d have to suffer so much to experience that same anointing.
A few days after losing Joel, my shattered heart ran out of thankful juice and I lost all sense of hope. How could I hope when there was a possibility that everything could come crashing down again? This bad/hard/sad/lonely was too big and painful to ignore. I worked constantly at keeping my focus on Jesus and being thankful that He came, but I’d lost a part of me; the blissfully happy part. I was now broken and so wounded; vulnerable and lost. Mike and I chose to stand together in trust and obedience in the midst of it all.
Our first Thanksgiving without Joel, I earnestly searched for something “safe” that I could be thankful for. Something that wouldn’t crash my world again, if lost. I finally decided on my KIA Soul. It’s my first car. Before it, I drove the family van. I really do like my little car. It’s fun to drive. It’s become my safe place to express all my deepest sorrows. I picked the green one because it’s easy to find in a parking lot. And now that Joel lives in Heaven, it reminds me of him. Green was his color. Green is the color of everlasting life, and I like being reminded of him and our eternal reward. If something were to happen to my KIA, it wouldn’t be big deal. It is “safe” to be thankful for. I wouldn’t be crushed if I lost it.
I am slowly finding other “safe” things to be thankful for in the reality of this broken world that I am being forced to live in. Things that God is using to slowly heal my heart:
Being thankful for my “Soul” was the “vehicle” that helped me find a way back to the anointing that bubbled up from my thankful heart those first few days. I don’t believe I will find that blissfully happy self here on earth again. I’ve been smitten with a homesickness that can only be cured by my real home. I can no longer push aside the groanings that now resonate in my inner man, but I can be thankful for the things He gives me grace to be thankful for in the midst of the longing.
Romans 8:22-24 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”
I am hopeful that learning to lean into the longing and stay connected to my still wounded – slowly healing – cautiously thankful when it comes to the temporarily temporal heart will yield lasting fruit. Hopeful that facing the bad/hard/sad/lonely here will lead to a firmer grasp on our real Heavenly hope to come.
1 Corinthians 15:53-54 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
The “longing for home” theme in the Christmas songs has struck a chord in our hearts this season like never before. The “Home” we really want to be in is the one where our family will be whole again. It still feels “unsafe” to say I am thankful for my family (although, secretly in my heart I am). So, this week I chose to be thankful for what I was able to be thankful for: “time with my family” knowing it would come to a temporary end either when they drove home to Texas today, went back to work and school, or when another one of us goes to our real home in Heaven.
Maybe this verse is why Christ’s birth is connected to so many “longing for home” songs.
John 14:1-4 Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And since I’m going away to prepare a place for you, I’ll come back again and welcome you into my presence, so that you may be where I am. You know where I am going, and you know the way.
6-7 I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.