Jealous for Joy
September 30, 2008 | My Jottings
I know there is a big difference between happiness and joy. Like anyone else I yearn to be happy, but I’m also aware that happiness is rather shallow and fleeting compared to deep and abiding joy. The harder life gets, the more I am jealous for joy.
I used to have this drawn into the inside cover of my Bible when I was a teen:
I know that some of what I write might be easily misconstrued – I certainly don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves and should instead run ourselves ragged tending to others’ needs and not to the needs of our own families. I am just beginning to more firmly believe that there is rest and joy in the prescription Jesus gave us in Matthew 6:33.
I know we are seeing the me-first, me-wonderful, me-deserve-it, me-want-it-now generation, but I can speak from experience that self-focus and getting everything you want doesn’t bring true joy. Walking with Christ brings joy. Trusting His purposes brings joy. Hearing Him speak directly to your heart through His Word brings joy.
I don’t experience as much joy as I would like. I do all sorts of things that rob my life of joy (worry being one), but I’m learning. It’s a tall order for a control freak to let go and surrender, but the more I know of Him, the easier it is to relinquish my life and loves to Him.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes on joy.
We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world. Helen Keller
Joy is an inward singing that cannot be silenced by outward negative circumstances. Yes, even when life is seemingly falling apart. Robert D. Foster
Joy is the standard that flies on the battlements of the heart when the King is in residence. R. Leonard Small
Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His truth. Psalm 96:11 – 13
These are some trees in our backyard forest that have recently begun to sing for joy:
And here is the the Hallelujah Chorus warming up right outside our kitchen window:
I believe one day we’ll see that most of God’s creation speaks to Him and of Him at all times. Today as I think on how much I want joy to be the undercurrent of my life, our trees remind me to rejoice.
If trees can sing for joy, so can I.
Scents and sensibility
September 27, 2008 | My Jottings
Isn’t the power of smell amazing? Many of my memories are all tied up to the scents I remember, and I know you relate. One familiar whiff can instantly transport me back to a room I was standing in as a child, or to a recollection of a person I dearly loved. So today I have four questions about the scents in your life.
1. What scents (perfumes or otherwise) do you remember from your childhood? I remember the aroma of baking persimmon cookies from my mother’s kitchen, even though I hated persimmon cookies. I remember the Old Spice on my dad’s jawline. I remember what a new Nancy Drew book smelled like when I opened it. I remember a rarely touched bottle of White Shoulders perfume sitting on my mother’s dresser. She didn’t wear it, but I used to open it and think it smelled very sweet. And the smell of chlorine from all the pools I swam in brings strong and pleasant memories.
2. What perfume or cologne did your mother wear? My mom wore Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew, and occasionally Jean Nate.
3. What perfumes or colognes do you wear? I like Estee Lauder’s Beautiful, and Priscilla Presley’s Moments. I used to wear Jovan Musk Oil as a teen – all the rage in the 70s. I smelled Red Door on a woman at the mall recently (I asked and she told me) and I thought I would like to try it.
4. What do you do to make your house smell good? Take out the garbage, have the dogs bathed and groomed, spray Michael’s cologne on our sheets, simmer water, vanilla, cloves and cinnamon on the stove, and write posts about smells to get other peoples’ ideas.
Now it’s your turn. What are your scents and sensibilities?
If you don’t know Ginny, you are really missing out. She and I have been friends for about eleven years now, but it seems like we’ve known each other since first grade. Sometimes it feels like we were twins separated at birth and then returned to each other’s lives as middle-aged women.
She’s the first to admit that she’s a sanguine party animal by nature, and I believe everyone always has a great time with Ginny. But she’s also quick to remind her friends that “this ain’t the party”, helping us to look past our current hard times and to never forget that untold joys await on the other side.
Ginny is one of the first people I go to if I need prayer. I always know Ginny will pray. And keep praying. I cherish this about her.
If you meet Ginny and become even slightly acquainted with her, she will very quickly christen you with a nickname. Sometimes the nicknames make sense: she calls my husband Michael “Mickey”, and she calls me “Jewel”. I like that. She calls my youngest daughter Sara “Bubba”. Now Sara no more looks like a Bubba than Queen Elizabeth does, but because Ginny says it with such fondness, somehow it just seems right.
Ginny’s passion, I think, lies in the word connection. She’s someone who has a passion to see people connect with each other and with God – she wants people to feel welcomed, included and loved right away, and no one else makes that happen quite like Virginia Kay. She would eradicate loneliness from the face of the earth today if she had the power to do so, and sometimes I think she just might.
She likes to connect with her friends on a deep, sharing level. She cares, she calls, she listens, she laughs, she prays out loud for me and makes me feel loved. She knows how to put people in touch with whatever it is they need, whether it’s a wallpaper hanger, a restaurant, a blazer that’s 32 inches long, or Almighty God Himself.
She has nurtured women young and old in the faith for years. She says she can’t bake and can barely cook, yet each time she invites me for a meal I end up salivating all over the table and begging for the recipe. She loves the “type and shadow” found in the Bible and her huge eyes fill with tears when she learns a new truth. Ginny and I were in a book club together for ten years. We go to the same church. We have husbands with similar interests, primarily food and guns fishing and travel. We love attending Community Bible Study together. And we are very partial to our Danskos.
Ginny has never chosen to have children of her own. I once asked her why and she cracked me up by responding, “I didn’t have kids because I didn’t want to wreck anyone – I was pretty sure mine would end up being the ones who sit on the tops of buildings with rifles in their hands.” Yet she is the most maternal, wise, insightful, nurturing woman you could meet. I recently heard this phrase and it so applies to Ginny: that girl could mother a fencepost.
For my last birthday she took the time to write out fifty of our memories, on fifty small strips of paper. I cried fifty tears and thanked God fifty times for a “jewel” of a friend like her.
Meet Ginny. If you don’t know her yet, you should. Your nickname awaits you.
September 26, 2008 | My Jottings
The house I have lived in longer than any other house will go on the market tomorrow. We moved out of it in March of this year and have been slowly getting it ready to sell for a while. It needed some paint touch-ups and Michael decided to sheet rock closets and paint the basement walls and floor too. Now in the current economic crisis, it seems like it will take a miracle to sell our beloved old house.
My mom was a compulsive mover, and I am not. I am a compulsive stayer. My mom lived in thirty-seven homes in her lifetime, always looking for a place that would make her happy. I, on the other hand, always feel that change will ruin things, and that if I could only stay put I would be content. Nevertheless we finally moved to a different house three miles away, and each day the new place is beginning to feel a little more like home.
I lived in my first house from birth to age three. The next one was from my third until my fifteenth year. Then my mom and I lived six months in an apartment. Then one year in a house. Then one year in another house, when my Grandma moved in with us. Then one year in another house, after Grandma decided to move back to Kansas City. Then at age eighteen I got married and lived for six months in a three room trailer on the banks of Yuba River in Smartville, CA. Then we lived for two years in base housing at Beale AFB, then on to Germany we went, where we lived almost two years in two houses. At age twenty-two I found myself divorced, and my two little girls and I returned to Southern California where we lived in three places in two years. When I was nearly twenty-four years old I married Michael, a native Minnesotan, and moved to American Siberia. Our first house was a cute rental and we were there three years. Then we bought our own home in a quiet neighborhood not far from Lake Superior - a dumpy Victorian, built in 1895, with good bones and lots of potential, and we stayed for just under twenty-four years. I lived in that old house from age twenty-seven until I was fifty years old.
I cried on the day we moved in to that place because it needed so much work and I had no vision. “I can make this a nice home”, Michael assured me. “Tell me what you don’t like and I’ll change it.” And over the course of that twenty-four years, my talented and hard-working husband tore down every bit of old plaster and lathe, and sheet rocked and taped every wall and ceiling. He tore down walls, made two smaller rooms into a huge kitchen. He replaced all windows but one. He put a two bedroom addition on the house. He built a half bath on the main floor. He enlarged the full bath on the second floor. He roofed the house, he sided it. He installed soffit and fascia. He put up crown moulding. He jacked up the two-car garage and tore out the old slab, pouring a new slab and extending the garage to hold four cars (or actually, two cars and all his boy-toys and other stuff). He built two decks. He did so much more than I am listing here. He transformed that raggedy old first house into a place I truly loved, a place where we raised daughters, had our first, second, third and fourth dogs, held Bible studies and welcomed friends for dinner, laughed and cried and rested and home schooled and dreamed and prayed and hoped and lived.
And now the for sale sign will go up in the front yard tomorrow. Today I spent a few hours at the old house getting it in ready-to-show condition, doing the final paint touch ups, cleaning the bathrooms and scrubbing the floors, snipping off the stalks of the old hosta blooms in the yard, and carting out the final few odds and ends still there. It felt like such a momentous closure to lock the door and drive away.
The twenty-four years we spent in that charming house with the round window on the third story, were years that shaped my life in ways I’ll never forget. Thank you, Lord, for all that you blessed us with there, all you helped us with. Thank you for giving us a home.
The Key to Something
September 24, 2008 | My Jottings
I just read a book I loved called Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. It’s a series of topical essays by a very funny, candid Christian man whose political beliefs are not my own, but that doesn’t matter to me. I laughed out loud and cried a lot while reading this book, and one section moved me so profoundly I knew I wanted to share about it. I was going to actually quote one paragraph from the book, and naturally give credit to Donald Miller, but when I emailed Thomas Nelson Publishers just to make sure I was doing it right, they promptly wrote back and said I couldn’t quote the paragraph at all. Even though it would have been a glowing blog post, I can’t quote it word for word. So that means I have to convey what the paragraph in the book said, using my own words to retell it, and, loquacious person that I am, it might not be as concise. But it’s worth the telling, I think.
Apparently a friend of Donald Miller’s, a man named Alan, decided to go around the country and interview the heads of big ministries, to find out why they were doing what they were doing, and what made their ministries so successful. This didn’t sound very interesting to the author of Blue Like Jazz until his friend started talking about the part where he sat down with Dr. Bill Bright, former head of Campus Crusade for Christ. Alan said that Dr. Bright met with him to answer questions, and always looked him in the eye when he responded. At the end of the interview, Alan concluded by asking him, “What does Jesus mean to you?” And he said that this large, powerful man who sat behind a large desk as the founding president of a huge and effective ministry, couldn’t answer. Dr. Bright’s eyes filled up with tears and he began to cry.
Donald Miller was deeply moved that someone would love Jesus so much, that just to hear the mention of His name would make him weep. He wondered if Dr. Bright was either a fruit nut or someone who knew Jesus so well that it was all he could do to keep it together when he thought of what Christ meant to him.
Donald Miller wrote that he would like to love Jesus like that too. He mused that knowing Jesus so intimately and loving Him so utterly might just be the key to something.
I can’t get this out of my mind.
Virginia Sooter’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting
September 23, 2008 | My Jottings
When I was little my mom made cakes. No bars, no tortes, no really fancy stuff. Maybe she would make an occasional pie or some cookies, but cakes were her thing. I’m sure she must have made scratch cakes now and then, but mostly she swore by Duncan Hines cake mixes. No Pillsbury (too airy) or Betty Crocker (too spongy) for Mom. It was Duncan Hines or nothing. And since bigger was always better, Mom always made a double batch with two boxes of Duncan Hines, and used a giant, deep cake pan that could have doubled as a sled if Southern California had ever gotten any snow. I don’t ever remember her making a layer cake.
So while she always used cake mixes, Mom shunned any kind of ready-made frosting. She always whipped together her made-up version of Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting, and it went on yellow cake, spice cake, devil’s food cake, white cake and marble cake. She liked it because 1) it was extremely yummy, and 2) it didn’t require cooking in a saucepan like many frostings do. My brothers and I loved that Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting, and like any other kids, we wanted to lick the beaters and the bowl and the spoons after she had frosted the cake.
My mom died fifteen years ago, but I still make Virginia’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting today. So do my grown daughters. I think it could be renamed Reese’s Frosting, but that would take away all the sentimentality, so when I share it with you here, I’ll keep calling it Virginia’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting. If you make it and like it, feel free to pass on the recipe, but try your hardest to call it Virginia’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting. Thank you.
1 stick soft butter
3/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy – whatever you like best)
1 teaspoon good vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
Cream the wet ingredients together well, then add the dry ingredients. Stir vigorously by hand with wooden spoon, or use hand mixer if you prefer.
Then slowly add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is the consistency you want. These measurements can be approximate. Taste and savor and decide what you think it needs. If you want it more chocolatey, add a bit more cocoa powder. If you want more peanut butter, go ahead, try another dollop. Sweeter? More sugar then.
The milk at the end, added a little at a time, can help control how smooth it is. Sometimes I’ve added too much milk and it’s too thin. I just go back and add a bit more powdered sugar and/or cocoa until it’s just right.
This frosting doesn’t have the sheen that a cooked frosting does, but it’s quick and delicious and freezes beautifully in a lidded Tupperware container.
Sometimes I make a cake with a Bundt pan, and use Virginia’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting for that, warmed slightly and then drizzled with a spoon decoratively over the cake.
I love and miss you Mom.
This is my dear friend Carey. She and I met about 24 years ago at a young couples’ small group gathering through our church. We were in our twenties then and still pretty naive about so many things. Now we are middle-aged and hopefully a little wiser. We giggle about how in another 24 years we’ll be clacking our dentures and cackling together on the phone like we always have. Cackling and clacking. We won’t look as cute if we cackle and clack, but the love will still be there.
Carey and I have seen each other through a lot in life. Or you might say that we have clung to our friendship while we’ve waited and watched for Jesus to see us through. We have cried to each other too many times to count, carried one another’s burdens as the scriptures encourage sisters in the Lord to do, and laughed and lunched and longed for higher things together.
My husband and I were eating dinner with family the night we got the horrible call that Carey’s husband Gary had died suddenly at age 26. I spoke at Gary’s funeral and wondered how God would show Himself to a young widow who had experienced less than two years of marriage. Then God brought new love to her life, and I rejoiced when she and David were married. I also remember the phone ringing in the night and Carey’s soft voice saying, “We have a girl!” Now that little babe is doing wonderfully in college. I will never forget the night their third child was born. I went down to the hospital to be with their two sleeping young daughters, while she and David waited to welcome their son. I couldn’t help bursting into tears when I heard his healthy cry, and when I drove home I pondered: death, life, tears and tragedy, health and happiness. I’m so glad God gives us friendships to help us hurt and to help us celebrate. Carey has certainly done this in my life.
Carey isn’t just a loyal friend. She is a real-life version of Wonder Woman, if you ask me. There are so many things she does well it’s astounding. She can cook and bake delectable meals and treats, and the desserts she makes look like they’re off the cover of Bon Appetit. She can expertly fish for walleye, bring down a deer with an accurate shot, then gut it with a knife. She can butcher the deer and then make her own sausage from the meat. She can properly tear apart an outdated room in an old house all by herself. She can install ceramic tile. Carey can sew beautifully, and used to have a business doing just that. Then she started making the most unique and gorgeous dried florals, and couldn’t keep up with the demand. Today she makes jewelry and when she eventually has the website I think she needs, I’ll update this post and you can see her gorgeous creations. She can read a how-to manual on just about anything and then do the job well. She handily changed a flat tire for me once. She has sewn incredible Halloween costumes. She sacrificially and cheerfully did all the flowers for the wedding of one of our daughters. She can pour concrete and she can create a breathtaking English flower garden. She can canoe, portage and set up camp in the Boundary Waters and she can put on a fabulous English tea. But even though she’s strong and can meet a physical challenge, she’s very feminine, tender, beautiful and kind.
Carey is smart, too. Really smart. She has two college degrees and could probably get a third while building a garage, altering a wardrobe and feeding the multitudes. But she wouldn’t like me telling you that, because she’s humble. She has a quiet servant’s heart that always wants to make people feel cared for, listened to, and helped in a practical way. Not too long ago she came to my house and helped me put a bed together, move some furniture around, prime the kitchen walls, and fold some clothes. She made me feel like this was no big deal to her, yet it meant so much to me.
We were in a book club together for a decade. We have read and discussed and recommended books to each other time and again. I can imagine we’ll be talking books while we’re clacking and cackling. We’ve even talked about visiting some of the places we’ve read about. Our most recent travel dream is the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. Up until now the farthest we’ve gone together is Minneapolis, but we had so much fun on that trip I think we could handle Guernsey someday.
One special memory is when we met for a movie one evening – a film about chocolate. Or maybe it was just a movie about life, with lots of chocolate thrown in, which isn’t that far from the truth of our own lives, actually. Carey and I couldn’t simply sit there and enjoy the movie together. We hunkered down in the theater seats and ate huge, freshly baked and still warm, gooey, appropriately chocolate cookies as we watched, and washed them down with jars of cold, smuggled-in milk.
We know what brings joy to each others’ hearts. We well understand what brings pain and fear. But we also know how to point each other back to the Lord, and that is what I cherish about our friendship.
Carey and I have been in many Bible studies together, marking each summer with a different Beth Moore study, and each fall, winter and spring we attend Community Bible Study. We have learned so much about God and His goodness together, talking things out and praying for each other. I think that’s the main thing that comes to mind as I think over the years we’ve been friends – God has grown us up together, in Him. He has instructed us about life and eternity, and about His inscrutable ways; He has shown us what we can live through as we walk with Him, and in His kindness He has given us our friendship, which is truly rooted in Christ.
After all these years she still warmly says to me, “Julie, it’s so good to hear your voice.” I feel the same way about her.
I want you to get to know Carey. It’s so good to have her as a friend.
The Full English
September 20, 2008 | My Jottings
This is a typical breakfast at any inn or bed and breakfast in Great Britain. We ate approximately 10 of these when Michael and I traveled to Ireland, Scotland and England in January of 2007. There is bacon, ham with thick white fat around the edges, a very moist mound of unsalted scrambled eggs, a grilled toe-mah-toe, a deep-fried triangle of bread, a giant sausage, and the black blob in the middle of the plate is Yorkshire pudding. Missing from this particular meal at The Nag’s Head Inn in Pickhill, Yorkshire, England, were the grilled mushrooms and the bland beans that were served with breakfast everywhere else we stayed. Toast is always served cold in little racks (see top of photo), and there was usually yogurt, fruit and occasionally cereal if we wanted (we didn’t). Don’t forget the porridge (oatmeal in the little covered white bowls), the ubiquitous Typhoo tea, orange juice and coffee. We drove a leisurely 1004 miles in 10 days in a rented Vauxhall Vectra and had some memorable adventures. But because we were almost daily served a Full English breakfast, we were never hungry enough to stop for lunch.
He doesn’t say so, but I think Michael would like me to make him a Full English breakfast every morning (without the tomato). I’m not planning to do this anytime soon, because I love him and would like him around for as long as possible.
Meet Mrs. Nisky
This is my beloved granddaughter, E. If you look closely you might be able to see the light beaming from her face. She is the second child of my oldest daughter Sharon and her husband Chris. Auburn-haired and copper-eyed, Miss E. has always looked to me like she could have been named Penny.
Although we learned when she was in utero that E. was going to be a Long-Femured Woman, this sweet four year-old is a peanut. Uncharacteristically petite (for our family, anyway) and thoroughly feminine, she reminds me of a pixie: gracefully flitting here and there, quieter by nature than her older brother and younger sister, yet fierce and feisty when she’s bossed around. She has a unique quality about her that is hard to put in words, and it’s apparent whether she is with you in person or just talking to you on the phone; she has this luminous essence that shines out from her and beams right inside of you and wrenches your heart. She has a whispery voice that, when accompanied by that pure and disarming smile that no one else on the earth has, just sort of melts me completely.
Miss E. loves to draw and paint, color and create. If her brother, Mr. McBoy, isn’t often trying to engage and direct her in playtime, it’s likely she’ll be found stretched out on the rug, chin resting on one hand and legs behind, intensely concentrating on the small figures she’s drawing.
E. has a penchant for collecting things. It started way back when she was a mere toddler. She always wanted to be carrying a purse or basket of some sort, and all throughout the day she would select small things to put in it, and then treasure and guard them carefully. If she was playing with a saucepan, little bits of things had to go in it. If she chose a decorative basket to put over her arm, hair bows and crayons and pennies and beans would be added. For a while she said her Rs in the endearing way so many young children do, and one winter when visiting Grandpa and Grandma she proudly announced, “I’m the collecto of the family.” Little does she know that she has collected and carries around our hearts as well.
This summer her parents gave her the best present for her birthday, one totally in keeping with her personality. She attended a week of “Cinderella Ballet Camp”, where this group of little girls were taught the fun basics, and got to be ballerinas and princesses at the same time. It culminated with a darling recital at the end of the week, and the photos of E. doing her broom dance show a little girl truly aglow with satisfaction and excitement.
E. loves music too. Sharon says that she loves to sing and is always making up her own little songs, and she wants to know what the title is to every song she hears on the radio. Sometimes when the music is instrumental and Mama doesn’t know the title, she’ll explain to E. that it’s classical music. So now E. thinks that the name of all instrumental songs she hears is “Classical”.
Miss E. likes being a big sister, and evidently thinks that very exaggerated baby talk is the best way for her little sister to understand her. “Are you the cutest baby in the whole wide world, you big girl honey? Yes you are! YES YOU ARE! You’re the cutest little sweetheart!” I wish I could be there to hear it, and to see little sister M.’s delighted reaction.
When I was about three or four years old, I used to grapple verbally for ways to tell my parents how much I loved them, and apparently I used to declare, “I love you two chibben and fee!” which was my way of saying the biggest number I could think of – two, seven and three. This bent for hyperbolic expression must run in our family, because Miss E.’s parents tell me that when she expresses affection to them, she says things like “I love you twenty-four six hundred!”, meaning, of course, lots and lots.
Over a year ago when her parents were talking with her and of course, using her first name, Miss E. interrupted and said firmly (and out of nowhere), “Don’t call me E.! My name is Mrs. Nisky!” They never knew where that new moniker came from but had to restrain themselves from laughing because she was so serious. So while other families have nicknames that make sense, as in Bobby for Robert or Jenny for Jennifer, our little Miss E. wants to be called Mrs. Nisky.
When I talk to E. on the phone I often ask her when she is coming to our part of the country to visit us. “How ’bout Saturday?” she always cheerfully answers. Oh, how I wish it were so. We live far away from each other, so twice a year visits will have to do for now, along with frequent phone and e-mail updates.
When I look at E.’s sweet face and deep into her eyes, I think of the song, “This little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine!” because that’s exactly what she does. It’s who she is. She has this wonderful and steady little light inside of her, full of innocence and love and spirit, and she lets it shine, and shine, and shine. Our family is so happy and thankful that God has blessed us with the luminous Mrs. Nisky.
Eternity in our hearts
September 13, 2008 | My Jottings
I remember getting up to go to the bathroom right before dawn about a year ago. The reason I remember this particular morning is because as I was sitting there in the dark, looking out of the bathroom window toward the eastern sky, I saw a very bright light. Everything is a blur without my glasses, so I thought it was a large plane, close to flying over my house on its way to the airport. I waited for the plane to come closer so I could hear it go by, but it stayed put and I never heard a sound. The light was huge and low in the sky, so I retrieved my glasses and went again to the bathroom window, where I could then clearly see that it was a star or a planet like I’d never observed before. I went downstairs to look up online what I was seeing, and learned it was the planet Venus, at least 26 million miles from us. Standing there at five in the morning and gazing at this heavenly sphere, my thoughts turned to God. And I felt something I’ve been experiencing more often as I get older: a longing, a difficult-to-describe yearning, an intangible ache that comes in an instant, like a stab, and then it’s gone.
There are other things that have brought on this longing, and I wonder if any of you will relate.
Certain music, with haunting melodies, brings a subtle yearning. Wind chimes barely touching in the breeze. The way some authors can put words together has made me feel that pang. Brilliant autumn leaves. God’s Word, prayerfully and humbly read. Looking at the night sky and meditating on its vastness, and knowing God is so much bigger.
My grandchildren often evoke an indescribable sweet ache in my heart. It feels like wonderful joy, and it feels like pain.
When my husband and I visited Scotland a while back, the ancient heather hills and the lonely sound of bagpipes seemed to call to something deep inside me; I wanted to fall to my knees and weep, but I didn’t know why.
One characteristic about the fleeting sense of these longings, is that you can’t duplicate them if you try. Maybe tomorrow the same drive up the shore of Lake Superior or the same view of Venus won’t bring that same feeling back.
Have you ever longed for something, for someone at times, and you can’t quite put your finger on what you’re yearning for, and then it’s gone? Do you sometimes grow restless even when everything is going well? Do you ever get the sense that something you’re hearing, something you’re observing, has a meaning much bigger than the moment, but you can’t say exactly what it is? You’re not alone. And if you’re a Christian – if you have surrendered your life to Jesus – I believe that ache, that longing, has been put there by God. It’s a reminder from Him to us, that this earthly life isn’t all there is.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
My Bible notes on this say “this verse means we can never be completely satisfied with earthly pleasures or pursuits”.
He has set eternity in our hearts. There’s something always there, something that feels like we’re being strummed by a huge, unseen hand, some sort of chord that’s being struck in our souls. Like a distant bell is being sounded, and a tiny bell in our own soul answers. At times it’s a thrill, and often it’s a little painful.
Sometimes it’s the passage of time that makes us aware of this pang. We run into an old acquaintance after ten years and are shocked that her children are ten years older and that her hair has begun to turn grey. How did this happen? Why are we surprised at time and why do we feel that longing as the years go quickly by? Could it be because we are eternal beings temporarily confined by time?
C.S. Lewis describes this phenomenon in one of my favorite quotes:
“If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it you don’t feel at home there? Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures? Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (‘How time flies! Fancy John being grown up and married! I can hardly believe it!’) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something about us that is not temporal.”
I’m convinced that some people feel this longing deeply, but try to quiet it or squash it because it can be uncomfortable. I think I’ve tried to silence this vague yearning or to fill it in ways that have not served me well. Some might choose alcohol or busyness or spending money or control to silence this longing we all feel. Or we might pressure our friends or spouses to fill that yearning in us, which of course is futile, because a human or a substance or an activity can’t ease a yearning that God has put in us to remind us that we’re pilgrims here, only passing through.
Psalm 63:1: O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I think our whole beings long for what only He can give us. Even when God has lavished us with kindness and blessings untold, deep inside we know there’s more. And we long for it. Even those who haven’t acknowledged God, have felt this yearning and can’t identify what, exactly, they’re aching for.
My husband and I bought a new house recently, and I have endeavored to pick just the right paint colors for the kitchen, three of the bathrooms, five of the bedrooms, the living room, the garage door, the laundry area, the office and even the outside shutters. Many times I spread out the entire fan of several hundreds of paint chip colors and still thought to myself, “This can’t be all the colors there are – there have to be more colors than this! I just can’t find the colors I want.” And then this verse from 1 Corinthians 2:9 came to mind:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
I believe there are colors in heaven that we don’t have here – colors no eye has yet seen. I think there will be musical notes and sounds in heaven that we don’t have here – songs no ear has yet heard.
And once in a while, God seems to part a veil to give us a momentary glimpse of those beauties and joys that await. And then in a flash it’s gone. And we feel that longing, that yearning, that deep ache.
He’s a loving and generous God, and when we consider His creation and His Son, we can know this about Him: He loves beauty, and He is generous and patient and merciful. But in His wisdom, I don’t believe He allows us to be completely satisfied here on earth. He gives us just enough of what we need to learn to love Him and depend on Him while we’re here, but He often gives us those transient glimpses of eternity to help us to set our hearts on minds on Him, not on the things of this earth.
While He’s pouring out His abundance and help and correction and grace and instruction on us here, He frequently reminds us of what is yet to come. While we can have His peace through Jesus now, deeper peace is coming, and while we can know His joy today, more joy is around that eternal corner. We live in mere shadows of what will someday be true and glorious substance.
So even though I still sometimes sob when that veil is pulled back and I sense that horribly wonderful and ephemeral ache, I’m beginning to rest more in what I believe it is. I will never be truly at home here. My Lord is good to remind me of that. He helps me to live in this very beautiful and painful place, and lifts my chin now and then and whispers to me of the Place where all boredom, confusion and pain will forever cease, and my longings and yearnings will be completely fulfilled.