There are certain things about summer in Ohio that will always transport me back in time to the long, lazy days of my childhood.
Driving down country roads with the windows down, the gentle curve of row after row of crops passing by, proud-though time-warn barns, and white fences, to name a few.
Sometimes returning home can be tough. You have to face your old demons, complex family dynamics, the person you used to be, all the old tattered parts of your story you were content to leave behind. Satan loves to rob us of the joy of coming home. Last year was really tough for me emotionally and spiritually. I was really afraid to come home for various reasons, but something beautiful happened. Nostalgia won over my heart and rescued me from the grip of fear. The Redeemer did what He does best, and that trip home ended up being so beautifully redemptive and healing. I was transported, not to the hardened plaque of the past, but to the sweet whisperings of the Sacred Romance of days gone by. I left the brutal heat of Louisiana to feel the soft, Ohio breeze on my face, watched it dance and sway with laundry hung on the line, and felt the much gentler, honey gold rays of the northern sun on my skin.
I received a gift from heaven as I watched my boys reenact one of my favorite childhood memories. One summer, when I was in elementary school, our whole family went out to the woods and picked buckets and buckets of black berries. We helped mama make jelly and pie filling and oh my goodness, it was so decadent! You can only imagine the intimate and soul specific blessing my heart received when we discovered a treasure trove of juicy, sweet blackberries growing along the hedge row at my sisters’ house. It was a glorious moment of clarity. In that moment, I knew that my Abba’s heart is good toward me, and with each berry picked, I knew He was offering us all the gift of His JOY.
It was so good for my soul to receive that offering because it was a much needed affirmation that I am loved and seen and taken care of by a good and loving Father. I had been so afraid that I had screwed up so royally in my life that I had surely fallen from His favor. It’s crazy what assumptions we make about God and the resulting godlessness. “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:20) Thank you Abba, that you are greater than our hearts! Praise you Abba that you love us too much to leave us in our wallowings and self-pity. Thank you for salvation from self contempt. It turns out that Jesus knows what he is doing and truly works all things together for his good purposes. Every time I travel, and particularly in this case in the midst of my misery, Jesus seems to seize the opportunity to stretch me…to grow me up and mature me. Maybe even challenge me to trust Him and see that He will meet me in my complete and utter dependence on him. My returning home became a means of rescue.
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)
Driving from Louisiana to Ohio is quite a feat, to say the least. It is a looooooooongggg trip…15 hours to be specific. I also really, really hate to drive in the rain, but of course, every time I make the long journey home, it seems I must drive through rain. Each time I hit those literal and proverbial rain clouds, I have to choose to trust Jesus. This trip was no different, but somehow he always makes his presence known to me. I’ve driven that long route solo many times now, but never on my own.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
This summer I will be returning home once again. Once again, I will have to face all those same old demons…a lot of water under the bridge…but my hope is that I will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to look on it with grace, mercy and sanftmutig, which is a German word that my sister Sierra shared with me when I was over-powered with accusation and the bitter chill of rejection. It means “gentle strength.” I know any time I need it, I can call on the Holy Spirit to give me His super natural, “gentle strength,” and He will rescue me and redeem my returning home!
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15)