It was just past 7 am when I slid behind the wheel to spell my husband who would be driving most of our trek home. Already a few hours into our trip, we still had a long day stretching ahead of us – a full 18 hours from the Pennsylvania hills to our south FL home.
The sun was up but we still hadn’t seen it. Honestly thankful for some cloud cover while driving through 90 degree heat, I was also thankful for a low-hung, misty morning. The envelope of cloud and drizzle seemed to hide me away as I wrestled a fresh round of bittersweet emotions.
The fog began to lift, giving a sneak peak of the stunning valleys as we cut our way through the mountains. I could see the higher peaks, standing tall and majestic in my rear view mirror. In the early morning light they were the softest shade of lavender. With a car full of sleepers, I treasured this solitary moment to soak it all in as long as possible! I glanced toward the broadening expanse of sky in front of me and took a deep breath.
“Lord, You know my heart. You know how it breaks every time those northern hills are the ones we are leaving behind. But I open my hands to You, I open my heart to Your designs, I lift my eyes to the skies and ask for one more reminder that Your thoughts are so much bigger than mine! Help me reach again for Your hand to lead us to the place You have for us.”
This is not a new ache. Just 12 hours before we lifted our voices in a wood and stone building in the middle of the woods to sing the opening hymn for an evening service of the family conference we had enjoyed for a week. I swallowed hard and tried to sing through the tears … and ended up only mouthing the words:
“Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed,
finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.”
– Frances R. Havergal, 1876 –
His promises are true and faithful! They are! But sometimes, we NEED to be stayed by Him, because it is hard! In that moment, the tears welled up and the lump in my throat grew as I remembered a similar moment a decade ago. We were days from leaving Pennsylvania, my home for 37 years, to move to Savannah, GA. I stood with dear friends to sing the opening hymn of our Bible Study Fellowship class. It was the last one I would attend in that place with those dear friends. I swallowed hard and tried to sing through the tears, but only mouthed the words:
“what He says we will do, where He sends we will go…
trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
– John H. Sammis, 1887 –
If I had know the years (years!) we would spend far from the only home I had ever known, I might have held on a little longer before we pulled out of town on that February day over a decade ago. To this day, this far along in that God-ordained journey, I fight those tears and that mega-lump in my throat. BUT really… I can’t help but smile too! … that deep down smile of the grateful and blessed! What a gift to have treasured faces and places that I still ache for after so many years!
The story I’m living is that we had a stronger tug on our heart 10 years ago and all the years since… to follow our Savior wherever He leads us. His best IS best even when it breaks my heart and loss is real. I would choose all over again to love deep (deeply enough to really feel those losses)… and to follow Him into the scary and unknown and often lonely… again and again. For He is faithful… always!! And His purposes are exact and eternal!
He also knows my heart. So on that morning, driving south again with the northern hills behind me, He was so tender. I sensed His nearness, reassuring me. And when we crossed the border into Florida another 12 hours later, I caught sight of the setting sun dancing off the St. Mary’s River in all its resplendence. I couldn’t help but smile again. He knows what will grab my attention, what will bring me a fresh wave of joy. It was beautiful! He is beautiful! And the place He has for us is beautiful too!
I thanked Him for the extravagant gift of being able to travel back to the northern hills that have such a pull on my heart, for the two weeks we have spent there three summers in a row, for the treasured times soaking in all of those favorite faces and places! And despite the lump in my throat, I genuinely thanked Him for leading us so faithfully, and for seeing us safely home to the space He has carved out for us here – 1100 miles from those northern hills! There may be loss, but there is so much more to gain when we choose Him. When we follow Him, when we offer more of ourselves to Him in love and trust, He gives us more of Himself! And that gift – more of Him – is beyond priceless!
May my Savior hold the strongest pull on my heart – always!
Jesus said, Come, follow Me! Matthew 4:19
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him. Psalm 37:23
Blessed are those who hold His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart. Psalm 119:2
For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My loving kindness will not be removed from you. My covenant of peace will not be shaken, says the Lord who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10
Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it growth deeper all the way.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed,
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand,
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Son of Love;
We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.
– Frances R. Havergal, 1876 –
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He does richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for those who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
– John H. Sammis, 1887 –