Monday, November 24, 2014

Longing for home


"Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays. . . "

That's always been one of my favorite songs.  I guess it's a Christmas song, but for me it's one that I happily start singing even before Thanksgiving.  I grew up in Tennessee, so I always loved these lines:

I met a man who lived in Tennessee and he was heading for
Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie;
Pennsylvania's folks are traveling down to Dixie's sunny shore--
From Atlantic to Pacific
Gee, the traffic is terrific!

Even the merciless traffic of holiday travel is bearable if you're heading home, right?

Graphic courtesy of Tatertots and Jello
Yesterday was the 15th anniversary.

Not the 15th anniversary of my marriage--our next anniversary will be 30 years!--but the anniversary of one of the most important days of my life.

15 years ago, on November 23, 1999, two days before Thanksgiving, my mother died.

Even as I type those words I struggle to believe them.  I was talking with my sister last night, who said it seems like a dream or another life.

Our mom was 58 years old when she left us.  She had scleroderma and died of renal failure.  She was in the prime of life when she got sick.

And that was it.  "Home" for me was gone.

Of course, I'd been married nearly 15 years when my mom died, so really "home" for me was my own home, the home I was creating for my three children.  I think one of the reasons I'm so deeply grateful for this house where we've lived for 10 years is that my kids think of it as home.  This is where they've grown up.  This is where they know every street, where they know the way to the grocery store and to school and to church, where they notice if an old house is torn down or a new one is built.  That matters to me.

This weekend my husband and I attended the funeral of a friend's mother.  How poignant it was to see our friend weeping over the loss of his mom right at Thanksgiving.

But the pastor who conducted this service gave me a great gift.  His message was one of hope.  In very simple, conversational language, he talked about heaven.

To be honest, we don't really know a lot about what heaven will be like.  Is it a physical place somewhere in the clouds?  Is it a city with walls and gates?  Does it stand beside a river?  I don't know the answers to those questions.

The pastor spoke of familiar verses such as the gates made of pearl and the streets paved with gold (Revelation 21). Is that language literal or metaphorical?  I don't know, but the pastor made a point that went straight to my heart:

Heaven is a place where precious things such as gold and pearls are just common building materials.

I'd never thought of it like that.  Because of the presence of the Lord, the radiant beauty of His presence, everything in heaven is good.  Things are as they should be.

My mother was a saintly woman.  A lifelong follower of Jesus, she nonetheless struggled with feeling any assurance of salvation.  She tried very hard to live a good and holy life, and she stressed over her failures.  I remember once hearing her say that she hoped she'd been good enough to go to heaven.

But early in 1999, my mom's mother died.  My mom was so sick at that point she was unable to attend her own mother's funeral.  But my grandmother's passing made a huge difference in my mom's understanding of heaven.  Although my mom had never felt any assurance of her own salvation, she knew without question that my grandmother, who was also a lifelong follower of Jesus, was bound for heaven.

After my grandmother died, my mother no longer talked about hoping she'd been good enough to go to heaven.  And as the end of her life neared, my mother told us that she was ready to go home. Those were her very words.

So this week, as I consider all the blessings for which I'm so thankful, I can't help but reflect on the fact that we're celebrating an anniversary.  My mom has been at home in heaven for 15 years now.

This is one of my most treasured ornaments. It belonged to my mom; the photo is her as a little girl.
I'm not ready to join her just yet.  I want to live a good long life here with my husband and sons.  God is working in my life to make me ready for heaven.

But as I think about a place so full of the glory of the Lord that even the most precious elements of earthly life dull by comparison, I find myself longing for home.

I think that's as it should be.

17 comments:

Kathy Olson said...

I pray a special touch for you this week from the Lord and that He will make this Thanksgiving especially sweet for you.

Marci Smith said...

As I read this post, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Is there a greater blessing than family? God shows us His love through the deep connections and love He gives us for family. May your heart feel God's loving arms embrace you this week.

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

I too lost my own mother in November. Two days after her birthday she had a heart attack and two days later she was gone. That was over 30 years ago. I was a very young newly wed, and we didn't have children yet. My heart ached that she never knew her grandchildren. But as you are certainly aware, our days are numbered by the Lord's timing, not ours. And I am MOST grateful to know that one day we will be reunited in Heaven, walking the streets of gold with our Lord and Savior.
Blessing to you Richella, as you savor the sweet memories of your precious mother.

Here is the post I wrote on my anniversary day.

http://justalittlesouthernhospitality.blogspot.com/2014/11/mount-up-with-wings.html

Pat@Life At Lydias House said...

What a touching post. My heart goes out to you. I'm with you on wondering about heaven. I have decided to believe in faith that whatever it is, it will be so glorious that it will be unlike anything we have known on Earth! Just yesterday I made myself a note to send a card to a few friends who will be struggling this week with the first Thanksgiving and Christmas since losing a family member. I'm going to write those cards now. Thanks for the prompt. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Debby Ray said...

What a beautiful post, Richella. It is always sad to lose a loved one but when it happens around the holidays, it always seems to make it harder. I am sure your sweet mother was a precious jewel...it's obvious that she raised her girl right. Both of my parents have been celebrating together since 2010 and I'm sure they are having a time of it! What a day wonderful day that will be when we all will be celebrating forever with our Lord! Blessings to you as you cling to your sweet memories of her.

Paxie said...

A very beautiful tribute to your Mom. You, being you is proof your Mom is in Heaven. She raised you right :)

living from glory to glory said...

Hello Dear Richella, This was a blessing to read. Yes, we find comfort in knowing these truths of assurance. I turn 58 tomorrow and so this hit my heart this evening. Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving and may you have many more years with your loved ones!
Yours, Roxy

Parlor Room Ponderings said...

Thanks for sharing. Mom's hold such a special place. I still have my Mom and cherish every time I see her. I love hearing about heaven. I have a few babies there. I've read books and listened to testimonies on You Tube. It makes it so much easier to bear the grief, cause I know I will see them again and they are well looked after there. Heaven is a real place. We have a home there designed to our likes! God cares about every detail. We will see our loved ones again. That is our hope and joy! Be blessed. Diane

Melissa Smith said...

This was like a little window into your soul. Thank you for sharing a beautiful testimony and tribute to your mother. Big hugs to you as you remember her and how she helped you become what you are today. I can't even imagine -- you were at my stage in life when she went home. I especially still love the magnolia leaf story. ♥

Lynne in NC said...

Richella,
Thank you for sharing this sweet story with us.
You are loved <3. At this time of year I want you to know that I am thankful for you and your words of encouragement, kindness and love reflected through your blog.
Blessings to you and yours.
Lynne

Cindy @ Dwellings-The Heart of Your Home said...

Sweet memories and such a heartfelt post Richella. I still have both my parents and it makes me cry just thinking of the day I no longer them here with me. What a blessing to know your mom knew Jesus and one day you'll spend eternity with her and with our Father in Heaven!

Billy Graham just released a video about Heaven, here's a link...
https://myhopewithbillygraham.org/program/heaven/

Blessings,
Cindy

Shelly W. said...

Oh my dear friend. I loved reading this for so many reasons, but mostly because it showed me that we have even more in common than I thought. My favorite grandfather died just before Thanksgiving; I sang at his funeral on the day after Thanksgiving. I have no idea how I got through that. And also? I had no idea your mom died of scleroderma. Several years ago a dear friend, a young mom from our couples' small group, died of scleroderma, so I know something of what you went through. How horrifying for you. I am so sorry. Your love for your mother is beautiful, and your longing for home is totally appropriate.

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

A very touching and beautifully loving memory of your mother and "home". God Bless and I hope you have a truly Blessed Thanksgiving.

Thistle Cove Farm said...

I don't really care what heaven is like but I know Jesus is there, and that's where I'm going, even though I'm not homesick.
Dave, my husband, went Home 3 years ago and it's been the worst 3 years of my life.
God is faithful and I choose to trust Him.

Patricia Krank said...

Dear Richella - This is a beautiful post. Both my parents are gone too. It is good to be assured of our salvation and to know that we will one day join our loved ones. I'm sure that Heaven will be unlike anything we could even imagine as we enter into God's very presence. Amazing!
Thanks for sharing dear one and have a blessed Thanksgiving,
Patti

Lori @ Dining Delight said...

I will always think of your post when I hear the familiar lyrics to "No place like home for the holidays". Certainly, there REALLY is no place like our eternal "home" at any time! Wonderful poignant post that so many of us can relate to whether we have lost a loved one or not! Thank you!

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Richella, I am so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful post and a wonderful tribute to your mother . My mom also passed away 15 years ago. I cherish every moment I have now with my 89 year old dad.
Hugs,
Sherry

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