"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 1, 2015
My mom's oldest sister lived in Hawaii and California for many, many years. Whenever she came to Missouri for a visit, it was a big occasion for the Parton family. We would anticipate her coming, and when she arrived we would all get together at one of my aunt and uncle's homes each night that she was there. I remember the entire family sitting around and visiting for hours; with lots of storytelling and laughter. All of the other siblings all lived close together so saw each other often, so when their oldest sister came, it was a big ordeal.
All of my sisters have lived away from "home" at one time or another during their marriage. Joyce moved to Kansas as soon as she got married and lived there for a couple years. Linda also moved to Kansas for the first few years of her marriage. Shirley and Darryl lived in Texas for several years. Janie and Jimmy attended Bible College in Minnesota, then pastored in Washington.
Whenever any of them came for a visit, it was much anticipated. We would count down weeks and days until their arrival. I would try and take vacation days from work during part of their visit. Our family would spend as much time as we possibly could while they were there. We enjoyed our time together and tried to make the most of the days they were home. It was always a special time for all of us.
This past week I lost an aunt who was very dear to me. Ruth was about three years older than my mom in age. After Mama's death, Ruth loved and cared for me in so many ways. She held a very special place in my heart. Although she was 85 years old, the timing of her death was unexpected for us all. She was well-loved and will be missed by her family and friends.
Psalm 116:15 (NIV) says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants."
Many times, those of us who are mourning the death of a loved one wonder why God took them, wish we could have had more time with them, are never ready to let them go, and question God's timing regardless of how many years we've had with them with us.
Mama passed away at the age of 48 and daddy when he was 78. My niece lost babies while carrying them in her womb. I've lost loved ones when they were children, young adults, middle aged, and older. Death is no respecter of person and can come at any age.
Though we mourn the loss of family and friends, let us look at it from God's perspective. We are His children and His greatest desire is to be with us. The years that we spend on earth is time that He is separated from us, and He longs for that moment when we can be with Him forever for all eternity.
Think of how you feel when you are separated from loved ones who may live in other states and don't get to see often. Although you may get to talk with them on the phone or read letters from them, it's not the same as seeing them face to face and getting to enjoy time together.
We get to talk to our Heavenly Father through prayer and read His Word, which is like His letter to us. We can spend time listening for Him to speak to our heart. But it's not the same as it will be when we will one day see Him face to face.
God waited 48 years for Mama, 78 for Daddy, 85 for my aunt Ruth, and various number of weeks and years for other family members, in order to have His homecoming celebration with them. Our Father is excited when His children make it to their eternal home!
When we are separated by distance from family and time passes between visits, we drop everything when they come, in order to fully enjoy our time together. We may plan special meals with their favorite foods, special activities that we know they enjoy, or time where we can just sit and chat for hours. We want the time to be special and as enjoyable as possible.
I believe that when one of God's children go home, He eagerly awaits them with open arms and is ecstatic that the moment has finally arrived when He can see them face to face. It may be that He excitedly gathers the other loved ones who are already there to greet the new arrival. Perhaps He can't wait to show them the place that He has prepared for them.... all the beauty and splendor that is Heaven. But I truly believe that what He most eagerly longs for is us being with Him, where we will never ever be separated again for all eternity. All the other things are just gravy.
The day will come when those of us who have prepared our heart to meet Jesus will have that moment of glory, when we see Him face to face for the very first time. Being reunited with family and friends will be wonderful, but seeing our Heavenly Father and knowing that we are finally home for all eternity will be the greatest blessing imaginable.
This coming Sunday we will celebrate Easter. What an amazing gift that God gave to all mankind; the gift of His only Son, who came to earth and took our every sin upon Himself. He was willing to die on the cross, knowing that we could never earn or deserve forgiveness on our own merits or goodness. But He rose again on the third day and ascended back to His Father a few days afterwards. He went to prepare a place for us so that we could be with Him forever.
John 14:2-3 (NKJV) gives us this promise from Jesus: "In My Father's house are many mansions; it it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
I believe that our Father eagerly awaits the homecoming of each of His children. Perhaps He is even counting down the days and hours, down to the very second, until our arrival. His heart may beat with anticipation and joy as the moment draws near as one by one His children arrive home.
Perhaps around 3:15 AM on a Sunday morning on February 22, 1981 God peered down and saw Mama taking her last breaths and His heart began beating fast with excitement as He saw her drawing closer and closer to the gates of Heaven. Perhaps as she drew near He shouted, "Here comes my daughter, Bonnie! She's almost home!!" Perhaps Mama saw her Heavenly Father waiting for her and her spirit ran those last few steps into His open arms. Yes, He saw the tears and mourning of her husband and daughters and siblings; but He knew that our separation wasn't final. He knew that one day soon, He would too get to welcome each of us home. Perhaps it was the same scenario when He watched for Daddy, my grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and even those unborn nieces or nephews. What an awesome picture that puts in my mind!! It puts a longing for Heaven in my heart.
I am so grateful for that blessed hope that we have in Christ Jesus. I am so grateful for His promises and the assurance that we can spend eternity with Him. I am so grateful that anything we may suffer or hardship we may endure on earth is just a fleeting moment compared to eternity. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!
I've had a few friends and relatives who got into a habit of stopping by without much or any notice; mostly in college. They might have gotten to look forward to a visit, but I didn't have much time to prepare. Sometimes, it was more of an inconvenience than a pleasure.
It's the opposite way around when we go to meet God face-to-face. He knew when we'd pass on before we were even born. The inconvenience is ours.
Or more accurately, for those left behind. We tend to leave behind family who need us, miss us terribly, and who may have to struggle without us, when we go.
I've heard people say it's wrong to grieve, since the one who is gone is in Heaven and we should be happy for them. That's a bit ridiculous, though. We aren't grieving for their sake. We grieve for our own sake. We miss the company of those we love when they are gone. And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn't consume us. There's also nothing wrong with happily remembering times you've enjoyed.
My point is, each of us need to grieve in our own way when we lose someone.
Strawberry Dream Cake
(This recipe is in honor of my Aunt Ruth. I loved this cake and she make it for me for my birthday a few times when I lived behind them for several years.)
1 angel food cake
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 (2 oz.) packages Dream Whip
1 (8 oz.) Cream Cheese (room temperature)
1 cup cold milk
1 quart diced sweet strawberries
1 teaspoon vanilla
Bake cake (or buy one). Mix Dream Whip, milk, and vanilla according to package directions. Add powdered sugar and softened cream cheese. Reserve part of the mixture for the frosting. Fold in strawberries to remaining mixture. Cut top off cake and remove. Hollow out inside of cake. Cube cake up that you took out and add to strawberry mixture. Put this filling inside the hollowed out cake, then put the cake top back on. Frost with remaining Dream Whip mixture. Refrigerate.
We are so happy and excited to welcome two special little girls permanently into our family. My niece and her husband, Janee' and Jeremy, officially adopted Jemma (age 4) and Jaycee (age 8) last Thursday. It was a special day!! These sisters have been a part of our family and in our hearts for many months now, and we have all loved them as family, but it was exciting to finally have it official.
Let your faith be bigger than your fear. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon