The Green Hills of Heaven

“Grandpa! I had a funny dream last night!” I exclaimed while my grandmother prepared my breakfast. 

“What kind of dream did you have, sweetheart?” 

“I dreamed I was at the top of a hill where the grass was so thick and dark green it felt like plush carpet.  The sky was as blue as one could imagine, and just as I started to race down the hill in my bare feet, I grabbed your hand.  

Grandpa listened intently as I continued, “But, Grandpa, when I looked at you, you were my age!  Your hair was the color of amber, and your hands were youthful, showing no wrinkles or spots!” 

A wry smile illuminated my grandmother’s face as if she knew something I didn’t, and with a twinkle in her eyes, she explained.

“Sweetheart, you just were given a glimpse of Heaven.  And, one day after we leave this earth, I will meet you there, and we will race down that hill barefooted.”

Grandpa never lied

I was in my teens when I sat in Grandpa’s kitchen describing my dream.  And to this day, I believe with all my heart that I will see her again in a place where there are no weeds, no storm clouds, and no age. 

A man name Jesus suffered and died on a cross 2021 years ago.  He rose from the dead to tell the world there was a Heaven where sin is gone, and folks run down grassy slopes with no fear of falling.  And Grandpa and I believed Him.

Some pave the way for us to see a glimpse of Heaven.  Those precious family members, friends, and teachers take our tiny hands and guide us toward faith.  I was one of those who learned of Christ before I could write my name.  I had no doubt there was a God or a Heaven because I watched my family pray, read a Bible, and trust the Lord. They sent me to Sunday School and made me sit still in church.    I thank God every day for them and the grandmother who assured me I would see her again.  Grandpa never lied.

We need Easter

This Easter, there are well over 2.5 million people who long to see the face of a loved one who succumbed to COVID.  Countless others left families because of age, disasters, other illnesses, suicide, and murders.  Hearts broke, tears fell, and the world’s people have suffered immeasurably since the spring of 2020.  If ever we all needed to fall to the feet of the risen Lord, it is now.   If ever we need to rely on our faith, it is today.  Now is not the time to turn away but to run to the open arms of God.  We desperately need Him to forgive us our selfishness, stubbornness and remind us that we are His children. 

Grandpa lived 97 years, and during those years, I did see her suffer, but she had no doubt that one day the pain would end and living would continue.

 When my brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in his early fifties, he noticed my sad face one day and tried to cheer me. 

“Guess what, Lynn!” He said with that same wry smile our grandmother exhibited.  “I am going to Heaven before you and eat all of Grandpa’s biscuits and homemade jelly before you get there!”

Faith is a blessing

Today, when I think of my departed family, I imagine they are laughing around a breakfast table eating Grandpa’s amazing biscuits and jam along with Jesus, who would never miss such goodness.  This vision always makes me smile because I also notice there is an empty chair waiting for me.

Faith is the blessing the Cross left us.  We have a choice as to whether we pick it up and carry it forward or not.  If we want to really heal and help others along the way, it might be a good idea to embrace its power.  A belief in the Lord has encouraged me to climb from many valleys of despair and grief.  The hand of God has pulled me from many an abyss and given me hope and an unbridled determination to press forward.  

Just before my father died in 1999, I walked toward the head of his bed and whispered, “Dad, are you scared?”  Without missing a beat, he answered, “What is there to be afraid of?”  Then as if they heard him, the angels took him home without a shred of fear in his soul. 

That is what Easter gave my father.  Christ rising from death and walking among those who lived on earth assured us all that we will run on grassy hills with those we love once again if only we believe.

Run into the Arms of Tomorrow

As I sat in the lobby of a hotel recently while visiting my daughter and granddaughter in Florida, I had the pleasure of seeing a family reunited.

The grandmother was sitting near me when her three small grandchildren rushed through the lobby doors.  The little girls ran as fast as they could, jumped into her arms as tears formed in her eyes.  Her daughter followed the racing girls and embraced her mother for far more than seconds. 

Their happiness overwhelmed me, and I found myself smiling from ear to ear underneath my mask.  Who knows how long it had been since their last embrace, the last sound of children squealing as they ran to Grandma’s open arms?  However, as of that moment, the distance and longing for a family finally ended.

Sweet memory

I recall years ago when my now 16-year-old granddaughter was young and flew to Atlanta for visits, she would run as fast as she could into my arms.  There is no better feeling in the world than to know you are loved by an innocent child.  The exuberant affection little children proudly display is a beautiful moment in time that we all too often do not appreciate. 

Before we know it,  the grandchild is grown, and the grandmother is gone. What remains is the memory of a love that has left an indelible mark within our souls.  Perhaps, our COVID isolation taught us to be more thankful for our time together, our reunions, our hugs, laughter, and our loves.

The virus took away so much for so many.  I have always said when we go through challenging times in our lives, we come through hardship one of two ways.  Either we will be filled with resentment that we endured such pain, or we are filled with gratitude and relish the fact we survived

Our love is intensified when we choose to forge forward with hope.  Our faith becomes more crucial if we choose to see God in all things.  Living becomes more joyful if we choose to not succumb to bitterness.  We become like the child whose love is racing into open arms without fear of rejection.

The Gatekeepers

Those who put others first during this crisis instead of personal ideology teach others to persevere through adversity.  They are the ones who will lead us to a healthier tomorrow and put us in touch with our better selves.  These unselfish souls should be heralded as the light of the world, the gatekeepers, and torchbearers for our children.

I do not know about you, but I am tired of the anti-this and that, the egos, the selfishness, the fights, the nasty anger, and the hate.  What good is it to welcome a new day when we are still stuck in the anguish of yesterday?  What innocent child would rush to such behavior?

We, instead, must be grateful we are still here to savor a tomorrow.  There are 2.7 million people in our world who will never greet another day, yet only a year ago were embracing their families.   Instead of complaining about how horrible life is, maybe we should be applauding the ability to simply breathe.

A Grateful heart

As I drove home from Florida, tears welled in my eyes as they always do when I leave my family.   Since my children live in other states spread across the country, I often feel sorry for myself that I cannot see them more often.  While other grandparents complain about their children not coming for Sunday dinner, I just pray to soon see mine again on some unknown future day.  

After we traveled a few miles, the tears quickly dried.  This time I relished those moments with the 16-year-old who no longer runs into my arms and the daughter who is in the busy, difficult time of life caring for a teenager.   Before COVID, I would cry for a whole day; now, why spend a day in tears?  I would rather not waste any days.

I feel I owe it to those who do not have another day to make my days count for good.  It is better to choose a better tomorrow instead of a bitter tomorrow.  I will ask God to forgive my errors as I forgive others and pray for the guidance to forge a path for those who once ran into my arms.

Hugs, smiles, touches, family, and friends are the joy of my life, and how blessed I am to live another day to treasure them all.  After a year of difficulty, I choose to be like the child who runs with wild abandonment towards tomorrow with open arms.