April 7, 2009

A Mission Bound for Glory

“God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things…” Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 5

Mary Love, the wife of the seventeenth century Puritan preacher, Christopher Love, is an inspiration to me. Not because she possessed within herself any great and wonderful strength or passion, but because she didn’t.

By her own admission she was a mere sinful, mortal wife. Just like the rest of us, any good or noble character she possessed was a reflection of God’s mercy in her life and not her own merit.

Mary, pregnant with their fifth child (two had already gone to be with the Lord), was a devoted wife who was deeply in love with her husband. Christopher Love was sentenced to death for a political crime he denied. Mary faithfully petitioned parliament four times–requesting a pardon, banishment and, in desperation, begging to be executed in her husband’s place.

With a resolved trust and simple, yet profound understanding of God’s sovereignty, she encouraged her husband and entrusted him into the hands of God. The words that poured from her heart were not focused on her loss but on her husband’s gain:

I dare not speak to thee, nor have a thought within my own heart of my unspeakable loss, but wholly keep my eye fixed upon thy inexpressible and inconceivable gain. Thou leavest but a sinful, mortal wife to be everlastingly married to the Lord of glory... (p. 1)

She understood that God planned the moment of Christopher’s death before the foundation of the world, and the events that were taking place had not taken God by surprise. She quietly trusted Him and focused, not on her loss, but on the unspeakable joy that awaited her husband and the glorious reunion they would have in heaven.

It would have been easy to despair, but Mary looked beyond the moment. She gives us a sobering reminder that God offers the precise measure of grace we need at the exact time we need it most.

On August 21, 1651, the day before his execution, Mary wrote a farewell letter to her precious husband. Although her love for her husband was deep and steadfast, her love for her God was greater. Here is just a portion of what she wrote on the eve of that sorrowful day:

My Heavenly Dear,

I call thee so because God hath put heaven into thee before He hath taken thee to heaven. Thou now beholdest God, Christ and glory as in a glass; but tomorrow, heaven's gates will be opened and thou shalt be in the full enjoyment of all those glories which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither can the heart of man understand…

…O let not one troubled thought for thy wife and babes arise within thee. Thy God will be our God and our portion. He will be a husband to thy widow and a father to thy children; the grace of thy God will be sufficient for us…

…Farewell, farewell, my dear, till we meet there, where we shall never bid farewell more; till which time I leave thee in the bosom of a loving, tender-hearted Father, and so I rest till I shall forever rest in Heaven. (pp. 84-85)

Mary Love, certainly full of grief over the prospect of losing her Heavenly Dear, laid aside her own feelings and fears. With a sinking spirit but a soaring faith, she gazed heavenward for her strength and trusted God.

When we face an impossible situation–loss of income, loss of a loved one, difficult church relations, marriage difficulties, a rebellious child, and more–our strength is drawn from the same well as Mary’s when we trust God and lean on Him.

I can only imagine, from a pale distance, the staggering loss experienced by the families of the Columbia astronauts. Evelyn Husband, like Mary Love, must draw strength and hope from her loving and tender-hearted Father. She must pray and trust God in raising her little ones for His glory, knowing that God will be her husband and a father to her children. Mrs. Husband also has the hope of a glorious reunion in Heaven and the honor of knowing her husband served God and honored His name–right up to the last–on a mission bound for glory.

Be comforted concerning thy husband, who may more honor God in his death than in his life… Christopher Love, Written from the Tower on the Lord’s Day (p 99)

The quotes by Mary and Christopher Love, found in this article, are taken from the book, A Spectacle Unto God: The Life and Death of Christopher Love, by Don Kistler, ©1994 by Soli Deo Gloria. Used by permission from the publisher, http://www.ligonier.com/
Originally Published in Homeschooling Today magazine

March 18, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air

By Stacy McDonald

Is it just me, or does spring cleaning give everyone else goose bumps too? Who needs a trip to the Bahamas when I could be throwing out stuff! In my opinion, there’s nothing quite as invigorating as purging old, wrinkled scratch paper that’s been stuffed behind completed math books or throwing out the one-inch pencil—sharpened to its death and stashed behind the six-month old art project on top of the wardrobe.

My husband believes (sometimes, much to his dismay) that I am a neat freak. Silly, I know! But whether or not it’s true, he wanted me to share some organizational tips with our readers and hopefully encourage those who are in need of a little spring cleaning inspiration.

It does my soul good to head up to our school area with an extra large garbage bag and an empty box labeled “garage sale.” The McDonald children gasp and clear the way as they try to recall what forgotten gems lay hoarded in their school bins.

Before getting started, it helps to be well rested and have on hand a tall glass of something refreshing to drink. If possible, start your spring cleaning while it’s still cool enough outside to open your windows. Along with broken crayons, bent paper clips and old school work you don’t plan to save, it’s a good idea to remove the stale air from your room with a good cleansing spring-time breeze.

As you sort through the room, ask yourself if the item in question is useful to you. If it is, then keep it and find a way to organize it neatly. If it’s not, then ask yourself if it is something that could be useful to anyone else. If it is, then place it in a “garage sale” box. Having a garage sale is a great way to pay for future curriculum and supplies. Another option is to donate unneeded items and supplies to another homeschool family or a Christian charity. If you determine that it’s useful to absolutely no one, chuck it!

I usually warn my children at least one day in advance, so they can do their own purging first. This helps to insure that I don’t accidentally throw out a treasured half-written novel or an artistic masterpiece in the making or a rock that looked just like all the other rocks in the backyard but was very special to a certain six-year-old boy (don’t ask!).

I have found it to be of the utmost importance to be brave—very brave—before one can properly spring clean. If you’re afraid to throw anything away, you’ll end up with a room where all the “junk” is simply rearranged. My husband does not possess this type of bravery. Although my husband is a true knight and would, if necessary, fight a fire-breathing dragon to the death on my behalf, I mustn’t ask him to part with that broken watch or the goofy looking ball cap in the corner of the closet.

Since we need to keep everything within a biblical perspective, we must always “treat others as we want to be treated.” Remember to be sensitive to the nostalgic pleas of a husband and children who are attached to the strangest things. I know, I know, “Why would anyone want to save that?” My sympathies are with you.

However, as you sort through old school work, you’ll be reminded of how far Johnny has progressed in his math or how much Suzy’s handwriting has improved. You may find a note to grandma that was never sent. Remember to save a few “keepsake” items for posterity. My most recent favorite was a drawing from my son, Caleb. He drew a picture of the castle he was going to build for me to live in (with him) when he grows up. These truly are treasures to keep and a real breath of fresh air.


Spring Cleaning Tools

  • Treasure Box - Allow your children at least one day in advance to sort and organize their own things. Give each child their own box. Warn them that you will be cleaning with a garbage bag in one hand, so if they have any “treasures” they want to save, they will need to put them into their “treasure box” for you to sort through and approve later. Don’t give them a box that is too big. This might encourage some children to save EVERYTHING! A shoe box is a good size to teach children to be discerning about the things they choose to keep. Sometimes exceptions need to be made
  • Garage Sale Box – Anything worth keeping, but no longer useful to you, should go in this (large) box. Ask yourself if you’ve used this item in the last year. Remember, someone else could really be using it. “One homeschooling mom’s junk is another homeschooling mom’s treasure!”
  • Large Garbage Bag(s) – Don’t use a clear one. Little eyes will surely find something that most certainly should never have been thrown away—like that gum wrapper Melissa was saving for her grandchildren!
  • Multi-Sized Containers – Baskets, crates, plastic cups, boxes, buckets, flower pots, cigar boxes, large match boxes—have these handy as you begin your organizational extravaganza.
    Rubber Bands or “Zip” Freezer Bags – Discard torn flashcard boxes or game boxes and bind or contain them anew!

    Spring Cleaning Tips
  • Old baskets can be found at garage sales and clearance shelves. Old picnic baskets are a great choice since they have lids and can be left out while hiding the clutter. This is a great place to stash boxed flash cards or small toddler toys for easy access any time! If desired, baskets can be spray painted to match your room.
  • A wicker laundry hamper, small wastebasket or vegetable bin is useful for organizing larger, clumsy objects. This works great for blocks, play food or Legos®.
  • Large plastic cups, shoe boxes, or plastic bowls are ideal for storing pencils, markers, crayons, math manipulatives, rulers, calculators, cassette tapes, erasers etc. Involve your children in decorating them. Supply them with old wallpaper squares, wrapping paper, paint, lace etc. This will give them something constructive to do while you’re organizing and will help them feel involved.
  • An empty drawer from an old or broken dresser can be painted or covered with pretty wallpaper and used to store books, glue, videos and all sorts of school supplies. Show children that one way to be a good steward is to take broken items and make them useful.
  • Cereal boxes can be useful tools. Cut, at an angle, the top 1/3 section off a cereal box and cover with wrapping paper (another decorating opportunity for the kids). This is a good place to store workbooks, coloring books, answer keys, thin study guides or anything else that is flimsy and hard to store.
  • Use empty metal bandage containers to store thumb tacks, paper clips and other tiny items.

Originally published in Homeschooling Today® magazine.

March 9, 2009

Safely Sailing the Literary Seas

THERE is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

— Emily Dickinson

I am not sure how it happened. Surely the “I Love Reading” posters in my elementary school classroom had nothing to do with developing my passion for books. The puppet show at the library that sang the praises of the newest children’s book made me yawn. Alas, the majority of the paperbacks I bought from the book club catalog in my junior high English class did more to pervert my taste for good literature than develop it. Nevertheless, somewhere along the way, I learned to love reading. My only difficulty as a budding book enthusiast was learning to love the right kinds of books.

Although I preferred reading silently to myself, I always eagerly anticipated the time of day when my fifth-grade teacher would read aloud to our class. I remember laying my head on my desk and weeping over Billy’s dogs as she read Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. It didn’t matter that I didn’t like dogs. I became part of the story. I experienced this young boy’s grief and—at least for a few moments—I loved his dogs.

I still recall the blood rising to my cheeks as streams of indignation surged through my soul at the thought of Wilbur, the pig in E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, being turned into bacon. I cheered for Charlotte, the beautiful spider who successfully saved Wilbur’s life. Never mind that I love bacon and hate spiders.

That is the power of books. Although we may have nothing in common with the character, and in spite of the fact that we have never been to the location described in the story, we are—at least temporarily—transported. What is more, we often find ourselves taking on the philosophies, tastes, opinions, and emotions of the author. That is why we can so easily sympathize with a character with whom we may not agree at all.

Yes, that is the power of books, and just like a tumultuous ocean, sometimes power can be dangerous. An undiscerning or young reader may be caught off guard by a well-written yet morally damaging piece of literature.

He may find himself being molded and shaped by the persuasive words of an author who has an ungodly worldview. This is where parents must protect and guide their children on their literary voyage. We must choose books that will establish and strengthen the child’s Christian worldview—either by the character’s strong and wholesome example or by the story’s honest depiction of sin and its consequences. Prayer and God’s Word are our compass to guide our children across the ocean of words that make up today’s titanic selection of reading.

A book can influence a child’s behavior. After I read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, my speech was temporarily altered. I rejected my junior high dialect (probably a good thing) and flitted about speaking in a much exaggerated and dramatic nineteenth-century vernacular. I became my beloved characters. It soon wore off—much to the relief of friends and family, I am sure.

Watching my own children respond to certain pieces of literature has been a reminder of how a child can be affected. I recognized my past behavior in my daughters after they read L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Maybe it’s a “girl thing,” but I had to smile when I heard them using outdated language and exaggerated manners, and then planning their next sewing project from http://www.sensibility.com/, a website with patterns, sewing helps, and information on creating beautiful, feminine clothing from times gone by.

I realize how a book can engulf you. I know what it is like to take a precious volume to the bathtub because I can’t bear to part with it even for a moment. I understand the urge to finish “just one more page” when I know very well that it is way past bedtime. Whether my daughter realizes it or not, I am also fully aware that she is not storing the flashlight under her bed so that she can find her way to the bathroom in case of a power outage in the middle of the night. Good try.

Unfortunately, I also know the damaging affects of fluffy fiction and trashy romance novels. I was trained too many times by my paperback tutors. Directly from the school library shelf, I read about drug use, bathroom humor, insanity, child abuse, molestation, toilet slang, and “growing up” themes. Like it or not, I remember many of these books in detail 25 years later. They left scars that have been cleansed and healed, but they are still there nonetheless. That is the power of books.

We must understand this power and carefully steer the precious souls entrusted to us through the murky waters of book choices. When I was in junior high school, a student had to have a signed permission letter from a parent to check out a book by Judy Blume from the library. Now public school and local libraries freely offer books about homosexual families to children barely out of diapers. Books like Heather Has Two Mommies (written for two-through-six-year-olds) by Michael Willhoite and the newest outrage, King and King by Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland (written for six-year-olds and up), are clear attempts to brainwash our children into believing a lie about the sin of homosexuality.

Most Christian parents are wise in guarding their children from obviously damaging books like these, but they may allow their children to partake of literary junk food that may harm them in more subtle ways. Much of what is offered as literature to Christian children today is nothing more than a hardbound commercial for the latest “Christian” video series or sanitized twaddle seemingly written for a rebellious, illiterate teen rather than for an intelligent, godly young person. It certainly should not be considered suitable reading for a young, developing Christian mind.
Remember that just because a book is labeled “Christian” does not make it good quality literature. And just because a work has been touted as “classic” does not automatically make it appropriate for the average Christian reader.

We each have to make important decisions regarding literature choices for our own children, while remembering that appropriate titles may even vary within the same family, from one child to the next. You will see that inside Homeschooling Today® magazine the standards will differ among our own writers as well. The goal for us as Christian homeschooling parents should be to raise godly children who are discerning, well read, well prepared, and well educated; with pure minds, a strong Christian worldview, and a healthy appreciation and command of language—whether written or spoken.

So as you help your child steer that frigate through foggy waters and sometimes rough seas, be sure to take the time to inhale the salty air, let the wind blow through your hair, and enjoy the stars overhead, all the while respecting the power and wonder of the written word and glorifying and thanking the One who created it.

Tips for choosing good literature for your child:

— Invest in a good book list. Look for one that gives you a detailed description of each story. There are several book lists recommended by various writers in this issue.

— Ask trustworthy friends for guidance or suggestions. Remember that each family has different standards and that you will still need to exercise wisdom and discernment.

— Read aloud to your child. Discuss the characters, conflicts, and plots of the literature you have chosen. You will soon be able to discern how well your child understands certain themes and what he is able to handle.

— Choose classic literature to read for yourself. Though your time may be limited, set a reasonable reading goal for yourself.

— Pay attention to the attitudes of the characters. Pay special attention to the hero of the story. Although most Christian homeschoolers would not allow their child to become close friends with a child who is disrespectful to his parents, makes fun of authority, or lies, they may inadvertently do just that by allowing their child to read books with characters who behave sinfully with no consequences.

— Utilize our Living Literature section in each issue of Homeschooling Today magazine. We offer reviews of good literature along with a teaching/discussion guide for different reading levels.

— Pray for wisdom. Most importantly, ask God to show you what your child needs to read to be properly educated and equipped for the job He has chosen for him.
Originally publishd in Homeschooling Today magazine 2005
Artwork from Allposters.com

The Myth of the Perfect Family

By Stacy McDonald

Paul says in Titus 2 that the aged women are to teach the young women, among other things, to love their husbands and children, and to be “keepers at home.” If we decide it’s true that we as women are called by God to love and serve our families and keep our homes, then we as Christian women should do it wholeheartedly, because we’re also told in Colossians that, “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

It’s true; some days seem overwhelming. There are times when child rearing is just plain old “hard work.” Try as we might, our houses never stay perfectly clean, and each of our children is disobedient at least once every day. We could throw up our hands on those difficult mornings and claim for ourselves a day of defeat and failure, but God has a higher calling for us and sanctifies us through the day-to-day challenges.

We’re not to serve God by pretending life is easy for us or that we have it all down perfectly, because it’s not and we don’t. The world needs an honest depiction of real down-to-earth people living out real life to the glory of God. Unbelievers will see God in us when we demonstrate contentment wherever He has us, when they see the peace He gives us in trials, and when we give rather than take.

Don’t Blame Your Idols for Your Idolatry!

Don’t make the mistake of elevating anyone else to perfection status either. The family you’ve put up on a pedestal more than likely didn’t ask to be put there and won’t be very pleased when they feel themselves crash to the floor after you discover for yourself they are fallible humans, just like the rest of us. No matter what it looks like from your vantage point, the people in the family you’ve idolized still sin, the children aren’t perfect, the mom sometimes says unkind things, the father speaks in sinful anger from time to time, and their family creates messes that have to be cleaned, just like yours does.

Instead of wishing you could have a “really godly family” like that spit-and-polished family at church, consider the great gift of your own family and pray together that God would use you to serve one another, and others, to the glory of God. Each family has its own flavor or scent, spiritually speaking; and your family is no exception.It is imperative that we live out the gospel consistently in every area of our lives, especially in our families. Not because it will make us happier or more fulfilled; our primary purpose is not to have children who will turn out smarter or godlier; or marriages that will be more satisfying; though all of those things may happen.

“Our primary purpose is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever!”* We must display to the world an honest depiction of Christ and His Bride; we must prove to the heathen that God is real and that He is awesome, good, just, merciful, powerful, pure, holy, and magnificent! Our purpose in doing this must be to bring glory to God. If we have selfish, prideful motives in what we do, we’ll be left empty and won’t wind up “enjoying God” at all.

All of your family’s talents, personalities, and gifts work together to bring a unique offering to the church and to others. Instead of focusing on your blemishes, thank God for His grace and mercy and pray that your own family scent would be a sweet aroma to the Lord. And rather than coveting what God has done in another family, praise God for our differences, remembering that they too have their own blemishes that God must deal with.

As you live out the day-to-day as a wife and mother, nurturing your family, helping your husband, training your children, being industrious, creating a God-scented home, I pray you learn to be more than a content and happy homemaker—I pray you become a passionate housewife!

*In The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question number 1 asks, "What is the chief and highest end of man?" The answer is, "Man’ s chief and highest end is to glorify God, (Rom. 11:36, Cor. 10:31) and fully to enjoy him forever. (Ps. 73:24–28, John 17:21–23)
Artwork from Allposters.com

I Am What I Am: Growing in Thankfulness

By Stacy McDonald

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain....” (1 Corinthians 15:10, NKJV)

Every once in a while, when I am feeling extra sorry for myself (we all do it sometimes), I wonder why God wasted His time on me. In fact, it seems He still does it. Every day He gives me the grace I need to get through the day. He blesses me with food, shelter, clothing, beautiful children, and a husband who loves me. He has blessed me with health, a lovely home, a wonderful church family, and immeasurable joy. But why? Doesn’t He know who I am?

It happens at night. All my sins, undone projects, fears, childrearing failures, and secret flaws invade my thoughts. I think about the cellar I have wanted to clean out for months now, the garden that just didn’t quite make it this year, and the fact that William still isn’t potty trained! (You didn’t expect me to tell you my worst fears, did you?)

Then I idolize my friends and their families. I think about others who seem to have it all together and I dwell on how I will never measure up—then anxiety comes. I don’t know about you, but I find it impossible to be thankful when I focus on my failures, or when I compare myself to others. In fact, when I focus on myself this way, I am more likely to give up, become depressed, or grow angry and bitter toward those I have idolized. And when I compare myself to others, I either blame myself or I blame others for being so…so perfect! The nerve!

But deep down I know the truth. You know the truth. They are not perfect. Jesus is the only perfect One. Don’t do it! Don’t compare yourself to others. No matter what it looks like from your vantage point, the people in the family you have idolized still sin: the children are not perfect; the mom sometimes says unkind things; the father speaks in sinful anger from time to time; and their family creates messes that have to be cleaned…just like yours.

Regaining a Right Focus

So how do you take your eyes off other people? How do you break the habit of comparing and placing burdens upon yourself—burdens that God didn’t put there? How do you keep from having those late-night anxiety attacks? First, repent. Turn your eyes away from your own works and off your feeble idols and turn them toward your Lord God—the only perfect One!“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:37, ESV)

Focus on Jesus and His grace toward you. As I reflect on God’s redeeming power and providence in my life, I stand amazed. I’m so undeserving of His grace and so deserving of His wrath. But then again, it is not about me.In my weakness, I occasionally forget that God’s mercy toward me has nothing to do with me. It is all about His grace. And I must remember that “His grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:10). This is where I must be in order to truly be thankful for the work He has done in my life and for any blessing He gives me.

God is Faithful, Even When We Are NotI am reminded of His faithfulness toward me when I recall that He has never left me nor forsaken me—even during those times when I thoroughly deserved it. As unworthy and insignificant as I am, never once did God forget me.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV)

As I sat in a foster home as a baby, awaiting a family to adopt me, God was there with me. He was my Comforter.When He put it on the heart of my parents to adopt me, even though they knew it would mean many future doctors’ bills, God was caring for me. He was to me a “Father to the fatherless.”When I endured my first major back surgery at five years old, God guided the surgeon’s hand, keeping me from being forever paralyzed. He was my Healer.

When I cried out to God as a young teen, “Why did you make me this way?” He heard and He answered; though He had not yet opened my ears to hear Him. He was my Creator.When I left the home of my parents and rebelled against the good things I had been taught, He shielded me from total destruction (1 Corinthians 5:5) and taught me hard lessons I would need later. He was my merciful Protector.

A few years later, God pulled me out of the pit. I didn’t “find Jesus.” He found me—kicking and screaming.Looking back, I don’t believe I have a “salvation date.” I think it took me a good two years before I surrendered my life to God and truly trusted Jesus for salvation. It was a process. I was spiritually broken, bruised, and bleeding. I was like the bird with a broken wing—trying desperately to fly away on my own (Obadiah 4).

Even when God brought me to my knees, I would have fled if I could, but God had me where He wanted me. As I lay struggling, He bandaged my wounds, healed my hurts, and won my love (Psalm 147:3). He forced me to see me my sinful stubborn heart, and I repented. He forgave me and life finally truly began.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, ESV)

It was during this time that I realized God had been with me all along. His handiwork had been woven into the very fabric of my life—even before I was born.Although I was called to walk through many painful and difficult things, most of which I brought upon myself, God guided and protected me in the midst of it all. I live with many consequences of a sinful past—consequences that are daily reminders to me of His grace in my life; but God has redeemed it all and is using it for His glory. That is what it is all about—His glory.

His providential hand in my life has never slowed or weakened. There's no way to deny it—God leads and protects us, ordaining our steps from the very beginning.Before I ever knew Him, He knew me, and set me apart for His own purpose (Jeremiah 1:5). Every one of His children is set apart in this same way. How awesome is that?

Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving

“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, NKJV)

And every one of us, each of His children, is a work in progress. We may be in different places on the path of sanctification, but we are to be one in Christ, as a testimony of God’s Truth to the world (John 17:22-23).

If we rely on our own miserable works or blind ourselves by idolizing the imagined “perfect” works of others, we will never be thankful, only hopeless and covetous.

Remember, by God’s grace, we are what we are. He has redeemed our past; He is sanctifying us now; and He has secured our future. His grace toward us is not in vain. For that, we should all give Him thanks and praise.

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” (Psalm 107:8-9, NKJV

Copyright 2008 Homeschooling Today magazine, November/December 2008

Old Times

By Stacy D. McDonald

My hand traced the door frame of the nursery one last time. It was true; we were really moving away. The scent of fresh paint reminded me of our first days in our “new home.” I blinked back tears as the memories from eight years of special family moments replayed in the rooms around me.

I closed my eyes as I recalled the aroma of Thanksgiving turkey roasting in the kitchen, the sounds of singing from the parlor (our piano room) and the excited squeals of our children bursting through the back door for a glass of cold water on a hot day. I recalled with fondness my older daughters working together, between giggles, as they faux painted our dining room and parlor. Now, someone else would enjoy these rooms. This house—our home.

Our two youngest children were born in the master bedroom. Five of our little ones don’t remember any other home. I know God has orchestrated our move for His ultimate glory; nonetheless, the pain is real. We leave family behind—parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even one child. Our twenty-three year-old-son son will stay behind for a time before joining us in Illinois. We bid farewell to precious friends and a beloved church family. The tender ache in my southern soul will follow me up north—“Old times there are not forgotten, look away, look away...”

Not only are we leaving behind those we love, we are leaving our “own little world” for a new one. A world where y’all is not a common contraction and people who are surrounded by fields of golden corn don’t realize that grits are not only edible, but also an exceptionally delicious morning meal!

When God calls us out of familiar territory, as exciting as that call may be, it can make us uneasy. The older we get, the harder it is to adjust to new habits. We seem to get set in our ways and we sentimentally attach ourselves to things. Many times we lay claim to things that do not matter. We see the beginnings of this attitude in children who are attached to a raggedy old blanket. We marvel that something so frayed and insignificant could seem so important, yet, what happens if a family heirloom is stolen? How do we react when a favorite piece of jewelry is lost? What is our response to leaving a beloved home?

Those who suffered the heartache of losing not only their homes and their city to Hurricane Katrina, but also their loved ones, have learned that things do not really matter. When we invest in things we can expect to eventually lose them—if not in this life, then in the next. If we invest in God’s Kingdom, if we invest in training up our children in the way they should go, if we share the Gospel with everyone we meet by living it out daily in love, then we can expect to see those living treasures in our true, imperishable Heavenly home for eternity.

I must remember that Rose Hollow Drive was not my “home.” Our new house will not be my true home. As a Christian, my home is in Heaven and if I focus more on investing in (and filling) that eternal place, rather than attaching myself to a rotting, fallible dwelling here on earth, I can be content wherever I live.

I can and should enjoy the gift of my earthly home while here on earth, for all gifts are from God. However, I must remember that these walls are temporal. Our carpet will eventually need replacing, our pipes may burst, our wood will rot, our garden will die, and our house may even burn to the ground. I will not need to worry about any of these things happening to my real home.

Those things that we held so dear in this life will seem to us like the “raggedy blanket” cherished by a stranger’s child. As we discover the beauty in streets made of gold and explore the wonders of our Eternal Home, we will marvel at how we could have been attached to solid surface countertops, perishable hard wood floors, or a whirlpool tub.

Additionally, if I am separated from Christian family and friends by death or by a distant move, I can remember that our separation is temporary. I must remember that in our true home, we will eventually be together forever in a home where sin, sickness, and death are eternally forbidden.

Our reunion in glory will be sweet and the celebrating and rejoicing will be unimaginable! The laughing, the embracing, the feasting, the singing! The petty arguments and offenses that seemed so painful and significant on earth will be beyond our memories, as we rejoice in our Savior and finally learn to truly love our neighbor.

Since we will finally be forever separated from our sinful flesh, we will at last see through that glass clearly. When we gaze into the eyes of our beloved brothers and sisters in Heaven we will not see things and worldly cares, we will instead behold the bright shining likeness of our Savior. We will experience love incarnate in the presence of our Lord, and we will praise and enjoy Him forever alongside generations of precious brothers and sisters.

Originally published in Homeschooling Today magazine 2006