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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Homesickness is....

• Homesickness is an emotion that begins in the heart and ends in the stomach.
• Homesickness is the bridging of what was to what is.
• When our son, Paul, moved away from home he defined 'being on your own' sitting in one room alone wondering what is going on at home. Paul also said - "you know you are really on your own when you are sick and weak, you dropped the OJ on the dr pepper empty bottles and there is glass and OJ all over the floor and no one to clean it up but you."
• Homesickness is the interruption of expected continuity and consistency of nurturance.
  • Homesickness is having to say goodbye to a relationship before one is ready.
  • Homesickness is leaving the familiar of the expected to encounter the unfamiliar expectations.
I'm sure there are other more learned definitions, but for my purposes, this is how I define the state of being homesick.

My first encounter with homesickness was going home to spend the night with my cousin, Anna Helen, and her family . In the dark, sitting in the back of the car, I felt so separated from my family. It felt as if we were driving into the unknown in the dark. I tried not to cry at the age of 8. Then I heard my Aunt Alma's voice that sounded so like my Mom's. I closed my eyes and pretended that it was my Mom. Just the sound of her voice reassured me.

My second remembered home-sickness - came at the age of 18. I felt the desire to be away from home - and yet college - 75 miles from home was daunting. My parents wisely told me that I could not come home for six weeks. After three weeks, I still remember the longing I felt deep in my heart until the longing squeezed my stomach, literally homesick. I called home on the pay phone at college (no cell phones then) and cried as I heard Mom's voice re-iterate the six week goal built on financial reasons. Now I know her heart and know that she was probably crying, too. That was the longest six weeks of my life.

My two brothers served in the Air Force and in the Navy during the Korean Conflict. We didn't discuss being homesick, and yet I know they were now. It is a universal emotion when anyone leaves home. My husband, Ed, says his homesickness was on special days while he was in service - Christmas and birthdays.

Recently I read an account of a young man who came to America in the latter 1800's. He returned to see his father, an arduous journey, back to Russia. Soon after he returned to United States, his father died. His comfort was that he was able to see his father and pray with him, one last time. This scenario has been repeated over and over in the passage of time when families separate for various reasons. The names of Separation are myriad. Separation - no matter what its label - affects people of all ages. Natural and man-made disasters cause schisms through life.

While reading my Mother's book, The Lines Are Fallen, I realized anew the pangs of homesickness that comes in so many forms. Jacob Suderman, my great grandfather, traveled to this country as the freedom in Russia eroded. His life was filled with the love of singing and teaching music, besides farming. His life was a busy one. And then the stiffening of his tongue and hoarseness was diagnosed as throat cancer. He soon was unable
to speak or sing. He literally starved to death - unable to be with family around the table - unable to eat. As he neared the end of his life:
He became weaker every day. The family was called and they were amazed to hear him sing, "In dem Himmel is Ruh. In dem Himmel is Ruh" (In heaven there is rest.) When his voice faltered the family gathered round to finish the song for him. Jacob went home singing to leave a heritage of faith behind.
When our grandson, Benjamin, was adopted traveling all the way from Bombay (now Mumbai), India, I can imagine the jumble of his thoughts and emotions. He left the orphanage at the age of 4 years - it was all he knew - his 'familiar '- and traveled to a strange country, a strange language, strange customs, strange food and a strange family. Yes, Benjamin has a home and a family. He is loved. To read more about came to this country Benjamin and his sister - click here. Benjamin and Rebekah were adopted twice - once by Paul and Carolyn, and in giving their lives and hearts to Jesus Christ, they were adopted into the family of God.

There is another homesickness that I feel more and more each day. It is when my spiritual ears hear the lapping on the other shore. One day, my mother declared her thankfulness for knowing what her 'exit lane' from this life would be. She was afflicted with pulmonary fibrosis. Her life here on earth ended in 1998, but her eternal life began when her heart stopped. Mother gave thanks for Jesus and the promises He gives. On earth she was often homesick for Dad and began longing more and more for heaven. Now she is with her Lord, united with Dad and many members of her family who were there to greet her.

When I was 19 years old, Mother taught me this song. In life, the music written on paper is tattered, but the words sing in my heart. It is a crossing over in my heart from being homesick for earthly things to being homesick for the heavenlies. Life is a journey. God places a longing in our hearts for Him with a sure destination when we travel with Jesus.
I'm a pilgrim, and I'm a stranger
I can tarry, I can tarry but a night
Do not detain me, for I am going
To where the fountains are ever flowing

I'm a pilgrim, and I'm a stranger
I can tarry, I can tarry but a night

Of that city to which I journey
My Redeemer, my Redeemer is the light
There is no sorrow, nor any sighing
I long have wandered, forlorn and weary

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Sweet Secret Place

A secret place is a place of safety, a place where we can just 'be'. No matter how young or how old, we have a secret place. A five year old told her Mommy that she has a key to her Secret Place, and she wasn't telling...and don't you tell anyone on Facebook. This five year old is wise to know that telling Facebook, obliterates secret-ness.

My mother shared her memories of secret places with me. One evening she pointed to a star twinkling in the west as we sat on the back porch in Oklahoma, "That is my star!" she declared. Mom chose the Evening Star when she was a small girl in central Kansas as she prayed at her window upstairs. I was astonished to think she 'owned' a star. Later I understood, it was her secret place.

Mom often put us, her three children, in a car, and drove in search of The Tree For a Picnic. She did this to provide quiet time for Dad to sleep when he worked at night. As she drove, it seemed for hours, she pointed out the trees and declared the pro's and con's of the tree to shade our picnic. Later in life, as we whizzed by trees, she pointed out a Picnic Tree. If we drove a well-traveled road, she said, "Do you remember when we had a picnic under that tree?" A secret place of joy and remembrance.

As I grew up, I found secret places. When I reached the tender age of 7, the sandpile under the Elm Tree, was a place of comfort and dreams. When I was sixteen, and loved to sing, I found another Secret Place, in the swimming pool - staring at the sky and singing - watching the clouds float by. I don't know when I found my favorite secret place, but remember that teachers often wrote on my report card, "She would do better if she didn't day dream and tried harder."

Then I discovered that my Secret Place was my mind - thinking what I wanted to think about - no matter what the forces around me demanded I think. It wasn't a deep thinking, but as I grew in my relationship with Jesus Christ, the secret place became soul-deep as I pondered truth, life, death, love and all manner of concepts that make up our world.

In our Ladies' Retreat one year, we picked up objects - a stone, a stick, anything we found - and relate how it reminded us of God. Now in the secret place of my heart, I find that a sunset, standing in the ocean, the thunder and lightning, majestic mountains, rushing water in a stream, flowering trees and the sound of bird's songs take me to the foot of the cross in praise for salvation and the promise of eternal life. I wondered why these things are so pleasing to me, and become my secret is because they are God-created.

My secret place is in the shelter of the cleft of the rock.
Psalm 20:1-5
I run to you, God; I run for dear life. Don't let me down! Take me seriously this time!
Get down on my level and listen, and please—no procrastination!
Your granite cave a hiding place, your high cliff aerie a place of safety.
You're my cave to hide in, my cliff to climb. Be my safe leader, be my true mountain guide.
Free me from hidden traps; I want to hide in you.
I've put my life in your hands. You w
on't drop me, you'll never let me down.
We all look for safety, for security. In this life, we will survive is our Secret Place is our Lord. Why is it that we long to ski, fish, canoe, hike, climb mountains or just observe a falling leaf fall from the sky? Why does the innocence of a child, a smile, watching a colt frolic in the sun, or kittens tumble and play gives us so much joy?

Just as God created us in His image, He created our world about us. He is our Secret Place. When we find joy in His Creation - we are searching for Jesus.

What is the Key to this Secret Place? Prayer, submission and recognizing Jesus as our Lord.
Where is my Secret Place in this wide world?
Where can I hide from the turmoil ?
The Secret Place - where no one can see.
No one can take my Secret Place away
It is where the essence of me will stay.

Deep in my heart, I belong to Him.
Re-decorating my heart, my Secret Place...
In colors of faith and hope, pictures of love and gentleness
And with cushions of patience and kindness.

Moment by moment, I sweep away jealousy and hate
And dust away gathering anger and lust.
For my secret place is where my Lord dwells!
It is that bubbling of laughter and joy
And giving thanks for the blessings of life
That welcomes others to the Sweet Secret Place
Where the Lord Lives and stays.

Each life, each heart, has a secret place where God can dwell.
Where the spirit of joy grows through tears and hurts.
Look about you, into the hearts of those around
Rejoice when you find a kindred spirit...
Who reflects Jesus Christ in their Secret Place.
GloryHole, AR photo by Emily Ironside

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Rainbow Promise

The rainbow stretches across the sky....

Where the birds do fly.

They witness God's promise on high

Do we renew our Covenant, a rebirth?

Or cast our eyes down on earth.

As the rainbow stretches across the sky

(Photograph taken by Rebekah Combs in Omaha with the twitter: Wind gusts up to 40mph blowing snow and cars everywhere. And with all that a rainbow. Amazing!)

  • That one twitter from my granddaughter, driving to work early in the morning, began my thoughts racing with many questions:
  • How many messages does God send that are not received?
  • Is there a time in our lives when God knows we need a rainbow, a promise of hope and a reminder of trust in the everlasting God?
  • Why does a rainbow go away?
  • Where does the rainbow go?
  • Is the color or the scientific reasoning all there is to a rainbow?
  • Since God has a storehouse of hail, does He also have a storehouse of rainbows?
  • Are there different ways of seeing a 'rainbow' in our lives just when we need it?
  • When we see a rainbow, do we see it with our eyes or our hearts? Do we see the individual colors? Or do we remember God's promise to Noah? Or is it just a symbol to be glanced at with no thought.

Since the rainbow is sent from God as a covenant - I went to the source, God's Word and found six references to the rainbow:

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Genesis 9:13

Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between

God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:16

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking. Ezekiel 1:28

And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Revelation 4:3

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. Revelation 10:1

The descriptions in Ezekiel and Revelation are vivid because we know how we see a rainbow. Is there something about the radiance of the rainbow that we miss when we see the rainbow from our vantage point? When we will see the rainbow from Heaven, will it have more brilliance and the essence of our Heavenly Father that we cannot see from earth? A hidden brilliance...

A rainbow is a message from God for Noah and all people since it was first created. Each time we see a rainbow, we rejoice. When scientists see a rainbow, they dissect its colors, the way that the rainbow was created through natural laws of our earth. Even someone has given the meaning of each color in the rainbow:

  • Violet - infinity. It also symbolizes wisdom and self-mastery. The indigo color is known to be the bridge between the finite and the infinite.
  • Blue - the color of Divinity - peace and openness
  • Green - symbolizes harmony, balance, growth and good health.
  • Yellow - clarity of thought and energy.
  • Orange - thoughtful and creative.
  • Red - passion, energy, vibrancy and success.

These are designated by man. When we walk with God in our life, all these qualities become a part of who we are.

When I was a child, Mother pointed out a rainbow one day, and told me the story of Noah. Now I wonder if my ancestors, being farmers always spotted a rainbow in the sky. They kept their eyes on the skies, waiting for clouds to bring rain to water the crops. A promise from God.

Now when I look into the skies, I look for clouds. Clouds are considered harbingers of rain, hail, snow, but I see clouds as promises....God's promises of hope and His love for us. And more than that....clouds, the holders of rainbows has another promise: The second coming of our Lord and Savior.
"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." Matthew 24:30

Yes, I look into the skies searching for clouds to see God's promises....and in life, clouds can be harbingers of trouble, discomfort and disruption. But I prefer to see in life the rainbows of hope and joy and know that the rainbows p

ainted in the sky are promises of eternal life with my Lord Jesus.

(Thank you, Rebekah Emily-Manjiri Combs, for helping me to think thoughts I did not know before. You are one of my 'rainbows'!)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"Putting Away Christmas"

The phrase, "Putting away Christmas" jumped out at me on Facebook yesterday. The phrase reminds me of the small artificial green tree that I set up one Christmas in the back of my classroom. I enjoyed the twinkle of the lights that reminded me of the Joy of Jesus, for He is the light of the world. I reminded me of the celebrations past. The year that we dug up a tree when I was 8 years old. That tree was planted to grow tall and proud at 330 South 14th Street in Clinton, OK.

That tree reminds me of the tree Mother told me about - when they lit candles in the tree (with a bucket of water nearby). It reminded me of the first Christmas of my parents. Mother was so homesick for her family and their Christmas celebration, that Dad found a tree in the panhandle of Oklahoma, placed it outside the living room window. He found electric lights, and used ingenuity (no electricity in the house in 1928) to hook the lights to the car battery.

The Christmas tree reminds me of a blue-bird light, until it burned out, and became an ornament. It reminds me of the tempting smell of fresh popped popcorn and cranberries that we strung on the tree instead of tinsel. It reminds me of the laborious hanging of silver icicles, one by one, that sparkled in the light.

That Christmas tree reminds me of the Siemens Christmas celebrations - and the foot long 2 inch diameter peppermint sticks that Grosmom (Emilie) Siemens bought her grandchildren for Christmas for a nickel each. (A huge price in 1930's) One Christmas Dad was delegated to purchase the huge peppermint sticks. Dad asked if I wanted to go to the candy store where they were made in Clinton, OK. I remember yet the smell of hot sugar that hung in the air and watching the making of the stripes around and around the peppermint sticks.

It reminds me of the trips to Corn, OK. Later, in the 1950's, the 10 miles of dirt road were paved, but during our early tr
ips - that 10 miles of dirt taught me faith. The narrow road with deep ruts rocked us from side to side, threatening to catapult us into the ravines that bordered the road. My two brothers, Jim and Gene, and I felt like popcorn kernels being shaken in a hot skillet. No seat belts then, and I often sank to the floor of the car praying for safety.

The tree reminds me of the one year we drove to Grandpa and Grandma's for Christmas in deep snow. The trouble driving was when we turned off the highway to the 10 mile road. The snow obliterated the fence posts on the side of the road in a world of white. Dad drove off the road and we were stuck. No cell phones then, but Mom's Dad became concerned as it became dark and sent Uncle Jonas and Uncle Eli to look for us. We were huddled in the car wrapped in blankets. Then came the ride in the wagon pulled by horses to complete our trip.

Another car, another year, 1949, and we again made the trip to Hillsboro. No tree with lights in the car, but it wasn't needed as Luke 2 was read. Carols made the miles fly by, and prayer. Dad kept his eyes open as he drove, and listened to us pray. We were together and we worshipped our Lord. Christmas.

My classroom tree, sitting in the back of the room, was not returned to the dark box to hide for a year. No, it was re-decorated by my 6th graders each month and the lights twinkled....with snowflakes in January, hearts in February, shamrocks in March, rain drops in April and flowers in May. Those Christmas lights twinkled and created a remembrance of peace and good will in our classroom.

If Christmas is gifts/decorations/vacations to us, then we miss the essence of Christmas, which is Jesus and Who He is. Jesus cannot be stored away, for His life creates goodness in us that cannot be hidden away in a box, just as light cannot be put away.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

For the second year we have enjoyed our Christmas Cross. The lights on the cross remind us of Jesus and his birth, his death and resurrection. He is the light of the world. The lights on the cross will remain shining through the celebration of His resurrection.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:4-5

Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts. ~Janice Maeditere