Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Journey Home

We are home!  In Arkansas, that is.  El Dorado, Arkansas to be exact.  Isn't it crazy how we can say "I'm headed home" and it  mean so many things?  It could be the place we lay our head at night or it could mean the place our parents are or it could even mean the place we grew up.  This past week I ventured to all 3 of these "homes."

"...Go home to your people and report to them
what great things the Lord has done for you,
and how He had mercy on you."  Mark 5:19

My first stop on the "home" journey was in Mansfield, AR.  Mom had lived in Mansfield ever since she and my dad divorced.  It is also where she is now buried.  Every season I try to change the flowers in mom's vases on her headstone. I usually put red roses because they were her favorite.  There is still something about walking down to the fence, just down from the tree, on the north side of Coop Prarie Cemetery that brings back memories of "home" in Mansfield.  I can't help but think on my way down there of all the shopping trips we made, ball games she was at, and Christmas treats we ate.   I only lived in Mansfield  for 2 1/2 years, but it was "home."  My mom was there.
2 days later, the kids and I jumped in the suburban and headed down I-40 for the next part of our journey.  I was headed "home."  To TEXAS!
 Headed to the place I lived for the first 12 years of my life.  My hometown. The place I was born and raised.  Amarillo, Texas.   Now that I am older and live away from Amarillo, I realize what a smelly, windy town it is!  I grew up on Morning Street on the North side of Amarillo.  Good memories of being at "home" there.  Our animals out back, playing with my 2 brothers, getting a new baby sister in second grade, and the very emotional move we made in 1989 to Katy, Texas when I was 12.  We had to leave our "home" when my dad's job transferred to Katy.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for calamity
to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

It was during these 12 years I also have a few memories of going to Sunday School and summer VBS.  My parents would drop me off under the covered area and pick me up as soon as Sunday School was over.  I really have no memory of what I learned or what was said during this time, but I consider it to be a huge spiritual marker in my life.  I believe God was using this church to plant seeds in my life for when I would come to the place of realizing I was a sinner, separated from God, and asking His forgiveness from my sin and making HIM the Lord of my life at the age of 16.

"I thank my God always concerning you,..." I Corinthians 1:4

Next, we  drove by the school I attended for all of my elementary school years.  Pleasant Valley Elementary School.  Like most people, my memories of those years are very minimal, but I am thankful for the teachers that did impact my life.  My second grade teacher was my favorite.  Mrs. Janet Dunavin.  She placed in me a desire to learn.  To really enjoy learning.  It was there I learned to add faster than ever before and read books.  It was also where I began my love for writing. I hope one day I can motive children in the classroom as well as she did me.   Precious days.

"I thank my God in all remembrance of you,..." Philippians 1:3

My dad now lives in the Amarillo area.  Since our move to Katy, he has also lived in Kansas and Denver.  He lives in Borger now.  Borger is less than a hour northeast of Amarillo and my dad's hometown.  It is also where my paternal grandparents have lived my entire life.
While I was in Borger visiting and helping my dad with projects that needed to be completed, we took a time out and visited my grandfather.  My Grandpa Speegle is in a Borger nursing home and will be 92 in August.  He is the only grandparent I still have living. 
Going back "home" to Amarillo can well up deep within me so much thankfulness that I can never leave without praising God.   The relationships that He has mended.  The forgiveness that He has provided.  The grace He has shown me is without measure.  I am thankful for where HE has brought me. 

"O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth;
And I still declare Thy wondrous deeds.
And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Thy STRENGTH to this generation,
Thy power to all who are to come." Psalm 71:17-18

But it was at the beginning of the journey this past week, before our vehicle had even left the driveway in El Dorado,  that I was reminded of another "home."  A home that is for a person who has made Jesus the Lord and Savior of their life.  This home is Heaven.  Jesus seated next to the Father.  Streets of gold.   Crystal seas.  Beautiful gates.  Voices being lifted up.  And laughter.  Lots of laughter of joy can be heard.  Johnie Ward is there.

"If I  go to prepare a place for you,
 I will come again, and receive you to Myself;
 that where I am, there you may be also."  John 14:3

We received the call late in the night on Sunday that Johnie had gone to be with the Lord.  I am pretty sure I heard his laugh as he met Jesus face to face that night.  Johnie took such good care of our entire family while we were in Waldron, AR serving for 11 1/2 years.  He would lay vegetables on our back door steps almost every morning in the summer.  Most of the time before anyone would be out of bed.  Elise would run through the house and announce that "Mr. Johnie had brought 'matoes!"  She would ask him in the middle of winter when he was bringing her more vegetables.  That would make him laugh and smile.  He loved sharing Jesus with others and had a deep desire for forgiveness to come and relationships to be restored. 
I am so thankful that we do have a true" home."  Sometimes people ask me, where is home for you?  I always hesitate.  Do I say Amarillo?  My short time in Katy?  Mansfield?  Definitely not our short years in Fayetteville, Denison, or Huntington?  Our 11 1/2 years in Waldron?  In El Dorado with my family?  I guess any of those places could be considered "home."  But God promises me something even greater.  Heaven.  Forever with Him.

"Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him."  I Corinthians 2:9

"...Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."Revelation 2:10b

So I challenge you and me to jump in this vehicle we call life.  Live it to the fullest each day.  Love.  Pray.  Study His Word.  Dwell on the worthy things.  Share.  Serve.  And never stop. 
We are not HOME yet.

When the music fades into the past,
When the days of life are through,
What will be remembered of where I've come?
When all is said and done?

Will they say I loved my family?
That I was a faithful friend?
That I lived to tell of God's own son?
When all is said and done.

Of how I long to see the hour,
When I would hear that trumpet sound.

So I could rise and see my Savior's face,
And see him smile,
And say 'Well done.'

You can forget my name
And the songs I've sung,
Every rhyme and every tune.
But remember the truth of Jesus' love,
When all is said and done
(Geoff Moore)

Mr. Johnie-You will be missed greatly. 
That little girl with pig tails will always remember the 'matoes! 
Welcome "Home."

"and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain, the first things have passed away.....Behold, I am making all  things new..."  Revelation 21:4-5a

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