Dreaming of Home

It seems that although I feel like I’ve pretty well adjusted to everyday life in France with all its ups and downs, part of me never has. Any expat I’ve talked to relates. There’s a part of you that always misses home no matter how much you love your life abroad.

For me, it’s most apparent in my dreams. Almost every night, I dream of home. Sometimes I don’t remember the full dream, but I always have a feeling that my subconscious went home again and brought up happy scenes. Last night, I dreamed of my return to the church where I’m a member in Indiana. I saw their happy faces full of joy that I was safe and back to stay. I heard Brother Roger in his melodiously slow Kentucky accent tell me to come over and give him a hug. I heard the Forrests asking me if I could stay for lunch while Sister Suzy wanted to know all about where I’d traveled. But then, just as quickly, their faces faded from my view as I awoke to hear the early morning stirrings of my landlady’s young son.

I was still in France.

What a strange mix of emotions I felt both of joy that it wasn’t yet time to say goodbye to my dear friends here and sadness that it wasn’t time yet to return to those I love back home.

How similar this is to our Christian walk. A part of us always yearns for home, our eternal home. It doesn’t matter where our paths lead in this life, what trials we face, or burdens we bear, we’re continuing onward to that one goal: Home. We don’t fully understand what it will be like, but a love and yearning for something we haven’t fully experienced yet tugs on our souls and reminds us where our allegiance is.

“O could we make our doubts remove,
Those gloomy thoughts that rise,
And see the Canaan which we love
With unbeclouded eyes!

Could we but climb where Moses stood
And view the landscape o’er,
Not Jordan’s streams, nor death’s cold flood,
Should fright us from the shore.”
-Isaac Watts

I love how the last part of this hymn I grew up singing just came to mind. If you’d like to hear what it sounds like, I did manage to find the version my mom used to play on her stereo at home:

I’ve said over and over that I would know when it’s time to go back home to the U.S. I know it’s not time yet. I think it will be the same when it’s time to go Home too. This old world is getting increasingly dangerous and decayed, and it makes me wish even more fervently for home in both senses. However, my Captain has me here for now and as long as it’s His will for me to be here, I’ll press on and pray for the strength to be faithful to the end when He does call me Home.

It is sweet though that truly anywhere He sends us is home if only He is there with us. Just as another hymn says “I need not go abroad for joys, I have a feast at home…”

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Home

Just think of all of the feelings and emotions associated with that word.

When things go wrong and we’re terribly lonesome, what do we long for most? Home. While we know it’s not perfect, it’s the place where loved ones are and where one feels at peace. It’s like in the game of tag when you run to home base to be safe and catch your breath before continuing the game. At least, that’s how we played it.

The location and the building are neither of consequence. For, that is not a home that is a house and a place.

"Mother and Daughter" By William Sergeant Kendall

“Mother and Daughter”
By William Sergeant Kendall

No, home is a feeling, it is where dear people are, where love is, where laughter is, where the solace is when sorrow and trials come. At home there is always someone who will hold you when life has gotten tough. There is always someone there who will cheer for you when you’ve triumphed after hard work. There is someone to give you the nudge and encouragement you need when you feel discouraged and down. Home is around the table with smiles and happy aromas. Home is warmth and solitude on a cold winter evening. Home is safety and togetherness. Home is unity. Very often home is with family, but it doesn’t have to be. One can feel at home thousands of miles away from home.

Home is sweet and home is dear. Home gives us a glimpse of an even better Home above. This is why it’s okay to long for home both here on earth and in heaven. It’s okay to long for home maybe even cry a little and yet, feel like you are where you’re supposed to be. It means that you have been blessed and are still being blessed. God made home for a reason. He made it as a refuge, and He smiles upon it.

"Going Home"  By Joe Cartwright

“Going Home”
By Joe Cartwright

To My Big Brother

Dear Justin,

Today is your birthday. I have to confess that I’m woefully behind on mailing out a card, but I wanted to do something special on your special day since too many miles separate me from being able to celebrate with you.

It’s been too long since I saw you last! Nearly two years! It seems rather odd because as kids, we saw each other every single day and many, many times we could hardly stand each other. Well do I remember us putting our cereal boxes in such a way that we didn’t have to see each other at the breakfast table because of yet another argument. I wish now we had learned to get along a little better, but sometimes I think it’s just part of being siblings.

But, I love you, big bro!

My Pictures 037We seemed to be constantly together as small children. As a little sister, I looked up to you and learned from you. I remember all of the games we invented to play together, all of the car cities built out of books and blocks, all of the cowboys and Indians games we played, and all of the stuffed animal wars we had. You taught me how to play with a yo-yo, how to draw funny pictures, how to make silly voices and imitations, how to play baseball (sort of), how to skip rocks on a lake, how to play hard outside, and how to take a hard fall off of a bike….and not cry because, you know, only a big baby cries after falling off of a bike. 😉

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I remember those late night thunderstorms when I wasn’t the only one running to mom and dad’s bedroom. Later on, you taught me how not to be afraid of thunderstorms.

You made me feel safe when I came home crying once because some bullies had threatened to beat me up, but you said that no one was going to hurt me because you’d defend me. No one could make me quite so angry as you could. But then, you had a special way of making me laugh so hard too. Yes, we didn’t always get along and admittedly, we weren’t as close when those teenage years hit, but I still looked up to you and felt that I could confide in you.

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You were definitely never afraid to tell me when I was wrong, and many times you were right even if it did make me angry. Later on, when we were a little older, you taught me about courage when you stood up for what was right in high school and didn’t waiver even when it seemed like nearly an entire town stood against you.

I know after we grew up, difficult, fearful years followed, but none of us ever stopped loving you, and we never stopped praying for you. We believed that God could work a miracle, and He did. Your life is proof of that!

The most important thing you taught me through those hard years was about forgiveness and God’s amazing conquering love. I’ve seen God’s power and His grace in your life. I see a humble and compassionate spirit in you, and bro, I want to be more like you.

I hope you have a very blessed, restful birthday, bro! I’m proud of you!

I miss you and love you!

Your lil’ sis,

Stacey

A New Home

I really do apologize for my silence lately. The last few weeks have been quite a crazy adventure of packing up my apartment and moving across the country to begin a new life in the great state of Indiana. The boxes are getting to be fewer and fewer in number as I sort through things in my new apartment. 

When I first knew that this would be the path I would take, the chorus from this hymn came to mind and it has so far proven to be true: “If Jesus goes with me, I’ll go anywhere!” It seemed mind boggling to leave all that I knew, all that was familiar to go to a completely new place. Before last Friday night, I’d never set foot in the state of Indiana or really anywhere up north for that matter. Yet, God gave me strength and made me ready when the time was right. At the beginning of the summer as I began packing boxes, I didn’t know how I was going to leave. I love my family, my church, and my friends in Texas. How could I leave? I knew I wasn’t ready just yet.

About a week before the move, I was walking in to my last day of work at the restaurant where I had my summer job and met one of my coworker friends coming out. He gave me a hug and asked me if I was ready to move. Before I could open my mouth to answer he said with a smile: “Of course you are! You’re ready to begin a new life using that brain of yours!” I got a little choked up as he said that because right then I knew that I was ready to do this.

Was it hard to drive away from my parents’ house and my hometown not knowing when I’d be back? Indeed it was. Tears ran down my face, and I got a lump in my throat as mom looked at me and smiled that knowing smile which essentially said she knew I could do this. The last morning my parents and younger brother were here in Indiana after having helped me move in, we four hugged each other in a group hug all of us choked up as Dad prayed for God to protect me and to be with all of us as I began this new life. It was hard to drive away as they prepared to make the long trip back to Texas. It was also weird not going back with them, but I knew this is where I am supposed to be.

This is home now.

A friend of mine as she was saying goodbye a few days before I moved told me that to be joyful is a choice. She told me that some days coffee just won’t cut it, and it will seem so hard to be joyful, but that we have to choose how we will react to our circumstances. Monday morning was tough, but I had to choose to be joyful in the heart even through the tears because I knew God would be with me and would make this my new home.

What have I experienced so far?

Well, in the last few days I’ve located Comcast, Walmart, Target, the bank, and Starbucks without getting lost. That’s saying a lot seeing how easy it is for me to lose my way before I’ve learned a place well. I don’t really get what is up with installing so many roundabouts in the area either. It’s nearly like it’s not already confusing enough to find one’s way around, one must throw in one of those to keep you second guessing yourself if you just missed your turn or who’s yielding to who and “Oh, wait! THAT was my turn!” There’s my venting session about the roads around here.

I’ve also experienced my first out of the blue Indiana rain with one of my windshield wipers trying to fly off and escape back to Texas… literally. That’s enough to make one’s heart skip a beat while sitting at a red light! As a result, I was frantically trying to find the switch to turn off the windshield wipers to keep my wiper from flying off and hitting another car (Can you imagine that insurance damage report!?) while trying to find a place to pull over. Instead I turned it on a higher speed causing the loose windshield wiper to start making an even louder screeching noise on my windshield. Sounds like the start of a Pixar short….

Thankfully, I got it turned off and found somewhere to pull in to look it over while standing in the rain. So, my dad the fix-it man got a call before he was more than five hours down the road heading back to Texas with a plea for advice on how to tighten a cantankerous rebel windshield wiper into submission. With his help I was able to pull some pliers out of my toolbox to get it fixed, I hope. I have to say though there’s nothing like some car trouble like that in the rain to really make you feel lonely in a new place. So, yes, I had a nice cry back to the apartment and then was fine again. Quite pitiful indeed, but it’s all part of adjusting, so I’m okay with it. I just took it easy that night and worked on some crocheting to relax. Things will get better the longer I’m here and the more I get used to this new life and new home. Plus, I’m never truly alone, you know. Jesus is with me!

Plenty of stories and adventures to come, I’m sure!

Why I Love My Dad…

I’ve been wrestling the last few days about how to exactly put this into words. I even missed getting it posted by Father’s Day because of a trip, and well, I’m still narrowing down my thoughts. So, here goes!

In today’s society it is not uncommon to see fathers put down or made fun of as dumb and always failing. One only has to simply flip on the TV to one of today’s popular sitcoms to see classic examples of this. We so often get caught up in what is wrong with fathers that we forget to encourage and honor those who are truly trying to be a good husband and father to their wife and children.

I know of some who have lost their daddy. They talk about the things that really meant something to them that their dad did and who he was. Amazingly, it wasn’t always those big events he went to like graduations or weddings, the things that meant the most were the everyday things. I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little about who my dad is often through everyday things. He is a special, quiet man. Well, that is, he’s rather quiet until you begin talking about cars… 🙂

His name is Samuel though everyone calls him Sam, and those who’ve known him for a long time call him Sammy. He’s not as outgoing as some are, but he’s Dad. It’s amazing how those three letters can come together to mean so much. Here’s a few things that those three special letters put together mean to me:

My dad is a hard worker.

Before I could really remember, my dad lost his job. He had lost jobs before I was born too, but that particular time it was hard from what mom told me. He had six kids still at home and mom had to work for a while until he found another job. It was a tough time for my parents that I didn’t really understand until I grew up. The thing about dad was that he was willing to work any job and do it well in order to earn money to support his family. He delivered pizzas, tiled floors, did repair jobs, any work he could find. He never complained either. Both mom and he taught all of us kids how to work hard and how to do a good job although their tool was household chores and a summer garden.

My dad loves my mom.

Mom and Dad

My mom and dad married really young. Mom was 18 and Dad was 19. I know some speak negatively of marrying young, and in many cases they’re right, but it was not so with my parents. How did I know as a young child that my dad loved my mom? Well, for one, my dad always came in from work and kissed my mom as soon as he walked inside the kitchen where she was usually preparing dinner. He loves to tease her and make her laugh. Usually you know he’s succeeding when you hear a half-laughing, half-exasperated “Sam!?” from mom.

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Aren’t they cute?

He honors her and takes care of her. He’s a handy man around the house, so he fixes things and makes improvements on the house as part of taking care of her and providing her with a comfortable home. He’s provided an excellent example of what a husband and father should be for all of us.

My dad is the “Tickle Monster”

You see, my dad loves to laugh. He tells corny jokes and LOVES it if he can find a pun in a sentence. However, one of his favorite ways to laugh when we were kids was to make us laugh. Hence, he would keep us laughing until we could hardly breathe in his role as the Tickle Monster. Even some of my little cousins and nieces and nephews came to call him this. Being a chiropractor, he especially knew the perfect ticklish places in particular about squeezing a place just above the knee which nearly makes you collapse in giggles because it tickles so much. Oh, the little games we invented some Sundays after church waiting for lunch to be ready just playing and laughing with dad as he sat on the couch!

I think my favorite memory of him as the Tickle Monster was one time when my older brother was about 11, I was around 8, and my little brother was probably 5. Dad had been chasing us through the house tickling us, but as he ran down the hall, he knocked a picture off the wall which made a loud *WHACK!* . Mom was instantly at the door of the kitchen wanting to know what just happened. When we were in trouble, we always ran behind this pink recliner that was next to a wall in the living room. The difference this time was that dad was standing with us three kids behind it looking like he knew he was in trouble but was struggling to contain his laughter. Mom thought it was one of us, but Dad just looked at her and grinned.

What was priceless was her change of expression from rather severe to surprise as it became clear who was the real guilty one, and she responded, “Well, Sam! That beats all I’ve ever seen? It was you? You’re like one of the kids! Well! I sure hope it’s not broken!” Thankfully, the picture was unharmed and put back on the wall, and we were off the hook as long as we agreed to not play that game again that day. So, Dad sat on the couch and thus ensued the next game of seeing how close we could get to the Tickle Monster without succumbing to the giggles of being tickled.

My dad plays HORSE!

Dad didn’t always play games with us outside since he didn’t always get off in time to do so and was often tired. But,there were plenty of Saturday afternoons when we’d get a basketball out and play HORSE at the basketball goal. Except for one time as a teenager when I actually beat him just barely, Dad ALWAYS won! This usually had the reaction of:

Me to a brother who’s already out: “Great, now I have H-O-R-S? And, it’s Dad’s turn to shoot…again.”

Dad: *chuckle*

Me: “Do you think he can make it from there?”

Brother: “He did last time.”

Me: “Well, maybe he won’t this time? Maybe?”

Dad throws the ball, and it bounces around and then goes right in the hoop.

Dad grins.

I grab the ball and try to shoot it, and it bounces off of the hoop and out of bounds.

Me: HORSE….again….

Me and bro: “We call for a rematch! This time let’s shoot from over there…”

I don’t have a picture of us playing HORSE mostly because we were so busy playing, we didn’t always take pictures of such games, but it never ceased to amaze me how Dad could shoot those hoops so well when he rarely ever practiced. As a kid, I just figured that was just one of those things dads just inherently learn to do much like cutting grass and working on cars or some of those other dad jobs.

100_5493Actually, Dad’s pretty much good at any game he plays. Most of our family get-togethers involve large card or domino games around the table. This particular picture is of dad and my oldest brother during one of our traditional domino games at Thanksgiving a couple of years ago (My brother’s a dad too, and well, as you can see in the picture, there’s a whole other story there). Well do I remember the many Saturday evenings spent playing cards or Parcheesi. Dad loved Parcheesi and seemed to consistently win that game too.

My dad is there!

The other thing I love about my Dad is that he’s there. If I have a question, a car problem, something I don’t understand, etc, I can always ask Dad. It’s his way of taking care of me. For example, right now, I’m getting ready to move away for graduate school. He’s pretty much taken over planning the road trip, looking up costs of moving vans, and giving me an estimate of how much the gas and truck are going to cost. He started working on this before I’d really completely figured out exactly where I was going to school although by that time, I figured it would very possibly be Indiana.

Sometimes we didn’t have to necessarily talk. When I was a teen still in high school, he and I would often sit in silence in the den just watching a crime investigation show or football game. We’d make comments now and then or laugh at something. Sometimes he’d have to explain some of the rules of football, but we’d usually watch games in which we didn’t particularly care which team won. This was because we were often more just interested in relaxing and seeing how a game would unfold. At other times we just sat at the island in the kitchen sipping coffee on Sunday evenings while he snacked on cereal and cinnamon bread. He always has his one sweetener and ice cube in his coffee. I think I get my like for not too much sugar in my coffee from him actually. By the way, Dad makes the best cinnamon bread a kid could ever want! At least, it’s always been the best to me.

Aside from those practical issues though, Dad is calm. If I’ve ever had a question about something Biblical, he’ll think a minute and then tell me what he knows or what he has studied. He’ll also bring up what he’s heard in sermons, from preachers, or Bible studies to help answer the question. Dad seems quiet, but he has quite a deep understanding of the things of God. It’s good to have him there to answer questions and provide solid advice.

My dad loves my siblings and me!

Being a dad takes time as any good father will tell you. Dad was often busy working, but as I mentioned above, he took time to play games with us as he could. One often hears about love languages and what kind of love language one uses and what kind the other dear ones in your life use. Based on how I know my dad, his way of telling you he loves you is not necessarily verbally but through his actions. I can’t even begin to name the many things he’s fixed around the house, on our cars, or just that little thing that broke that I couldn’t figure out how to fix. I still take things to dad to see if he can fix them, and if he can’t fix it, it probably means you either need a new one or you don’t really need it anyway. In sum, Dad’s way of expressing love to us has been through his acts of service to us. He even was brave and taught the younger three in my family how to drive. :/

So, maybe I didn’t cover everything I wish I had time to about my dad. I’ve thought of so many things to write over the last few days of working on this post! However, I suppose, the best way to wrap up is to say that I am very thankful for the blessing of having my dad in my life. Each child is given to each parent by God for a reason and a purpose, and I’m so thankful to be able to look back on my young life and see where God has so often molded me and made me who I am to serve Him through my parents.

Thanks, Dad!

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