The Joy of Coming Home – 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18

Do the emotional videos of soldiers returning from their deployments and greeting their children tug at your heart like they do mine? I’m a glutton for happy endings.

The little girl screams, “Daddy!” and in seconds she is launching into his arms. I have watched dozens of stories like this, wiping tears from my face in wonder at a family’s joy.

They make me think of the ultimate reunion we can experience for ourselves, when Jesus comes to take us home.

Many years ago I watched my Grandma Kocher rub a dot of hair dressing in her hands and spread it through her long, thin hair. She pressed the side combs in behind her ears, making her hair puff slightly. She proceeded to braid it all the way down to her elbows, wind it into a bun, and pin it at the back of her head.

I could never figure out how those skinny hairpins could make her braids stay put all day.

For as long as I can remember, she never wore her hair another way, except when she was working in the strawberry fields or stirring jam over a hot cookstove. That kind of labor warranted she cover it with a knotted scarf, tucking the corners at her forehead.

After enjoying Grandma’s steaming chicken and dumplings and a bowl of her home-canned peaches, and yes, warm jam on freshly baked bread, we patted our stomachs and moved to the living room. One of the stories I could anticipate hearing was about how she received comfort regarding the future of her children.

She started her story by explaining it was more real than a daydream, that it certainly had to have been a vision. She slid her glasses up the bridge of her nose, lowered her cheek into the palm of her hand, and looked past us to re-play what she’d seen.

Grandma had worked hard to support her family during Grandpa’s illness and death. Two of their sons were fighting in WWII, and there were still children at home to raise. She worried about them as they reached adulthood and left home, going their separate ways.

One day, while Grandma was praying, she saw herself leaving her mortal life and rising up to heaven. She felt incredible joy and anticipation about her coming arrival, but then remembered her children. She wasn’t sure they would all join her there.

She always stopped her story at this point to explain that she didn’t know if Jesus told her to look below her, or she just did it. Maybe she thought it remarkable that she could take her eyes off her incredible destination. At any rate, she felt compelled to look down.

With her eyes sparkling, she pointed to the floor around her feet and said, “. . . and there were my children all around me, going up with me.”

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 ESV

The person who posted the soldier reunion video warned that it was a tearjerker. I’d already watched it a couple times, but it touched me to the core again. All I could think of was how I will greet my heavenly Father when I see him in heaven. Like her, I just might let loose with an exuberant “Daddy!”

Kathy Sheldon Davis

Note: the artwork in this post is a commissioned piece created by my son, Joshua Davis, which depicts our family camping trips when you’ll find me in my old red jacket. I’m not planning to wear it when I meet Jesus, but, as Grandma would say, we shall see about that.

When More than a Football Game Brings us Together – Isaiah 60:4

I pulled the Blockhead box off the shelf when the kids were getting antsy. I understood their restlessness. Football doesn’t hold my interest very long either, although I do cherish the times when four generations of my family come together for Duck games.

Spreading the pieces on the floor where we wouldn’t interfere with the football game, I explained a few Blockhead rules. Use one hand to place your block, and don’t let go of it until you’re sure it’s where you want it. Try to play so that blocks will topple during the next player’s turn. That way she’ll be the blockhead and not you!

I don’t have anything against watching football, but participating in a game instead of being a spectator, even at risk of being the blockhead, is WAY MORE FUN. It’s also a great way to connect with the kids.

While the girls got more comfortable with each other, I realized I’ve been seeing a lot of healing in relationships lately. It seems every time I turn my head someone I’ve been concerned about is doing better.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Psalm 133:1 ESV

I know this coming together season might not always be so encouraging. These are human relationships, after all. But for now I’m enjoying a glimpse into the kingdom of God where nothing separates us.

That’s pretty sweet.

Lift up your eyes all around, and see. They all gather together, they all come to you. Your sons shall all come from afar, your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult . . .

Isaiah 60:4-5a ESV

You might call it the Ultimate Family Reunion in the Sky, that day when we see God’s people come together forever. Since Jesus paid our entrance fee we’re all invited to his place, not just to watch a game, but to see all that’s broken united and whole again.

Are you in?

by Kathy Sheldon Davis

The fantasy portrait in this blog post depicts me (in my red camping jacket) and my family heading toward the kingdom of light. If you’re interested in seeing more art like this check out my son’s work at AJoshofAllTrades.com.

How One Woman Left Her Mark – Job 23:12

Have you thought about your influence continuing even after you’ve passed away? My grandmother’s legacy lives, her existence leaving a lasting impression that still speaks to me today. 

Grandma Kocher left her mark in many ways. Her first husband, my grandfather Chester Sheldon, taught school in Prosser, Washington in the late 1920s. One of our family heirlooms is a photo of him with his students lined up on the schoolhouse steps. Two of the children have x’s penciled above their heads, my aunt and uncle. Years later Grandma deepened the x’s with a ballpoint pen. 

Grandmother's treasured Bible from 1950 with separated, torn, and heavily marked pages, to illustrate how well used it was.

 

We also found Grandma’s marks on used envelopes, receipts, paper bags, and in the margins of ancient Grit newspapers. It seemed whenever she found enough white space she’d fill it with verse, sharpening her pencil stub with a dull kitchen knife. She added a poem to her recipe for making soap which attests to its ability to remove dirt from most anything—the last sentence pointing the way to Jesus for cleansing from sin.

Until I searched through her Bible, I didn’t know she’d marked it so much. This surprised me. Grandma was careful with her possessions, a habit she learned from living decades with scarcity. She saved everything, clipping zippers and buttons from worn out clothing to store for later use. Empty, hand-washed peanut butter jars lined the shelf on her back porch. One of the few toys she had in the house was a plastic surprise from a cereal box, which we played with for years. As much as Grandma loved God and learning, it’s incredible that she would add wear and tear to her beloved Bible.

But now I understand. I, too, study the most wonderful of books, applying what it’s saying to my heart, underscoring the parts I most want to remember. 

 

I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth
more than my necessary food.

Job 23:12 NKJV

 

Did Grandma know that her Bible would be appreciated by others after she was gone? Probably not. I do know that I never felt more closely related to her than when I pored through her Bible, seeing which scriptures she dwelt on the most, finding a love note and a photo of my father.

 

Here are her thoughts in her own words (taped on an opening page):

I know the precious old Bible is just about outworn. For many words are dimmed, and many pages are torn.

But to me ’tis very precious. It came from friends most dear; when days seemed dark and cheerless, has bro’t me hope and cheer.

God says to read his word, to store it in the heart. Then thro’ life’s long journey He never shall from us part.

So I thank God for my Bible, and for the dear class friends who presented this Book to me. We shall be reunited when this present world shall end.

Ina E. Kocher

 

Grandma’s Bible is also full of unreadable scrawlings, dimmed with age like the x’s in the school picture. She wrote new notes over the top of them, always learning, probing for understanding. There are tears encircling the book, probably from being bound by a rubber band to hold in its detached pages and other treasures. Her last picture taken with Grandpa is one of them. She wrote on the back, “Sam and Ina Kocher. Our last one taken together, in 1972. It is very precious to me.”

It’s sad to think of pages and photos deteriorating, Grandma’s story lost from memory. But her legacy lives on, not of paper and leather, pencil and ink. It lies in the words she hungered for, giving her strength to live as she did, leaving marks in my life that will not fade. 

Kathy Sheldon Davis

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