We moved a lot when I was growing up. So I learned, early on, that home was something more than a house. It was people and a sense of belonging. This weekend reminded me of that truth, when I returned to Gordon College for Homecoming. Smiles and hugs, remembering and catching-up compressed the years and blessed the days. However, not all memories are good, when we come home. But places revisited, people reconnected become sacred second chances, laden with potential for healing, reconciliation and new beginnings.
Coming home began Thursday evening at the Margaret Jensen theater. Under Jeff Miller’s direction, Jeremiah and Vanessa Gamble performed “THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG.”It was a creative, heart-stirring and mind-informing tour of hymn history, acted and sung. Imagine Fanny Crosby, blind from birth, hearing a tune and spontaneously putting words to what it sounded like to her. “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine…this is MY story, this is MY song.” She lived for 95 years and wrote more than 8,000 hymns. The math’s staggering.
As I sang along, (not aloud), I felt, as I often do with hymns, “This IS MY story, this IS MY song.” I thought about times of questioning during my college years and other times of doubt and fear when they sang,
“Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt.
Fighting and fears within without,
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
And I remembered when I responded to those words sung in our small Baptist churches or by George Beverly Shea at a Billy Graham crusade. And I came, just as I was, and Jesus welcomed me. Still does.
Over the weekend, the usual happened: people honored, sports played, meals eaten, chapel attended, retired faculty remembered, class reunions celebrated, ribbons cut. But after all official events concluded, I suspect conversations centered on people not events.
Many years ago, Heather and Chad gave me a small wooden plaque. It read: Home is where the heart is. They knew I loved hearts but hopefully, they also knew home was them and Jud, not the house on Martel road, as much as we loved that place.
But looking back over the weekend, it was an off-handed comment by a student directing parking that God used to tend my soul. When I lowered my window to ask where I should park, he smiled and simply said, “I’ve been expecting you.” Once parked, I sat and wept. It was October 1st and would’ve been Jud’s 81st birthday. Here I was back at a place so familiar to us, a place of service, deep joy and a loving community. To be remembered and welcomed is no small matter. And so I wept at this place we loved to call home for the better part of 35 years. It felt so good to come home.
Someday, we’ll show up on heaven’s doorstep. Imagine, Jesus smiling and simply saying, “I’ve been expecting you.”
This story has been viewed 144 times0 Be the first to HEART this story
Beautiful as always. But especially at Homecoming and Jud’s birthday. It is so good to be expected. And loved.
And it’s so good to be in a book group with you., one of the “blessed sisters.”
Jan, I benefit from each one of your posts, but this one! I was right there in the car with you weeping after that angel of a student told you he’d been expecting you. To be wanted and welcomed and waited for is no small thing. and the ultimate glad welcome is yet to come. Bless you for blessing us with your poignant words.
Well, you dear Maggie (writer, speaker, spouse of a pastor) know the importance of helping people feel like they belong. Which is why your spoken and written words reach so many., including me. Thank you.
Amen and amen and amen. Precious memories, how they linger, how they ever flood my soul! God bless that student for welcoming you home. ❤️ Toni
Yes, and God bless you and all who help others feel welcomed, Toni. It’s especially important in our country, churches and families when politics, viruses, masks, vaccines and other issues leave too many feeling like they don’t belong. Love welcomes.
Thank you, Jan, for these beautiful and hope-filled words that brought tears to my eyes. We are so grateful to God for the deep ways that you and Jud served Gordon as a place we loved to call home. Welcoming, remembering, expecting… this describes the love you filled campus with during those 35 years.
How wonderful to hear from you,Jill. After Jud died, you sent one of the dearest gifts to me. Thank you for your example to those in your residence hall and beyond during your years at Gordon. Homecoming stories were filled with reminders of the influence of Gordon staff and faculty.
A special Homecoming, but the best one is yet to come! This was heart warming, Jan, and deeply touched my heart. Love you, dear friend!
And thank you, dear Marty, for being my friend for so many years. You are a faithful “phil.”
I remember the very same feeling in 1994 when my first-born and I were in line outside the bookstore waiting for his freshmen I.D. Someone eagerly called up the stairs, “We’ve been waiting for you, Christopher Westrate!” It was you, dear Jan…and we too will never forget that welcome. God has blessed so many of us through you and Jud, and continues to do so, even today.
Oh, I’d forgotten that! I’m glad I didn’t scare him off. What a great student Christopher was…and now, a beloved teacher. And your precious aunt, Florence Windsor, set the standard for what is means to be a registrar: Standards upheld, but cushioned with Grace.
I remember meeting you my first time at that sacred place as a freshman. You were the start of many friendly faces and many good meets in my journey at a Gordon College.
Well, dear Vera, your comment is a good gift. Thank you for reading and responding. I’m grateful that you felt welcomed along your “journey at Gordon College.” And it is a journey. Keep on. Faithful to the finish line.
Wow! How moving and how true! Of course Gordon College is expecting you, and more importantly, so is our Lord! Kathy and I were moved to tears for this expression of love for our former First Lady and for this anticipation of all of our ultimate homecomings. Welcome home, Jan!
Thank you, dear Russ and Kathy. It’s always good to hear from you in Colorado. If you come back to visit, I’m sure there’ll be a BIG welcome for you. Your years and contribution at Gordon mattered. So do you.
Thanks Jan for putting life into words. Later this month our church has scheduled a Hymn sing. I think this is to appease the old folks, but still it will be fun. Please pass along any requests. I am taking some Kleenex in case I spill my coffee. 🙂
Well, my list is long, so I’ll spare you, brother Dale. But who doesn’t love or need “Amazing grace”? As Jeff Miller, the theater director wrote in the program notes.”So many of these hymns emerge from suffering–emerge is the key word. They look at pain and despair and loss unflinchingly and, infused by God’s grace, merge text and music to fight, wrestle and push through to the larger reality of a costly but lavish joy, one I need to be reminded of constantly. It’s not where I live but where I hope to one day.”
So sing on with or without the Kleenex, my very dear friend.
Dear Jan, such brilliant writing. Such a beautiful welcome. Such bountiful love–you and Jud’s for each other and for all of us who love you and who hold love for the place you called home for 35 years. You made it our home, too.
With eternal gratitude,
And what a treat to hear from you, precious Theresa. You were always one of my favorite “Gordon girls”…still are! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and send a response. You are a writer, and a gifted one, so your affirmation means even more. So happy you’re in a writing group with Kristina. I’m sure you are good for each other…two bright minds and tender hearts.
Jan, what beautifully written memories! You and Jud touched so many lives. Only eternity has calculated that total. Every time you mention his name, I have a memory of Jud’s smile. I will never forget the way he’d look at you with that smile that said it all. I can imagine him reading this and smiling that “I’m-so-proud-of-you” grin.
You brought back some warm memories just now. I’m smiling…
And I have many tender and fun memories of times with you and John VNE Congress in Boston! Yes, Jud’s smile hooked me a long time ago and never let loose of me. I’ve stopped wiggling. Sometimes it’s good to be caught!
Thank you, Jan. Moving. I just turned 81 on August 27. Wrapping my mind around Jud leaving so soon is not easy. Good memories of being at your place on the ocean when you first went to Gordon. Many others. Years ago, our son, Eric, told me of the time Heather
led him to the Lord when they were both children!
What a shock to see your name pop-up, Roger! Well, I turned 80-WON on June 2nd , so it looks like I’m older. Congratulations! You are a fisherman, like Jud and our mutual friend, Dale. Sometimes I picture Jud fishing with St. Peter. Maybe Eric’s making custom flies for them. He was gifted. Thank you for sharing about Eric and Heather. I didn’t remember that story but have many fond memories of our years in East Lansing and Owosso, Michigan. Your story of Eric and Heather reminds me why it’s not just a Sunday School song. “Jesus loves the little children…ALL the children of the world.” Sending hugs to you, Sharon and your family.
Sounds like Homecoming was a success again this year! Heart tugged sufficiently, Jan, in your sweet words. <3 I hope that you know how much your memories and your view of the world touches and inspires us all! I always feel like I have a glimpse of "Home" when you write. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, dear Jeri. You and Ron are a special part of our years at Gordon. I’m grateful something I’ve written gave you a “glimpse of Home.” Hold onto hope and each other.
And dear Jan, not only will you be greeted by Jesus at heavens door, the thousands of lives you’ve touched through the years will be there to welcome you as well ( with more to come!). I know they will be overjoyed to see you!
Oh, dear Linda, it gives me joy, always, when your name pops up. All those years together doing Christmas events with the amazing and talented women and men from your church in Chelmsford. And then the times we were both part of events at other churches or retreats. You’ve mentored and blessed many women through your unique By Design ministry, Linda. And your daughter,Megan made my hair look better than it ever has. Say hi to her and give a hug from me, please. So many heart connections between us. I’m so grateful
I was already crying from your post, and then I read all these beautiful comments. So glad you had such a tremendous welcome to the campus Jan – I love it! And I know Jud was smiling big up in heaven too! What a trooper you have been without your beloved Jud – and a blessing beyond words to so many. (Even though your words are quite a huge blessing – 🙂 ) Steve and I would have loved to have been able to come to Homecoming, and hear that beautiful hymn sung, and especially hug you. <3
Well, I’ll look forward to next time you’re up here so we can connect. Hugs heal, as do words like yours and so many who responded to this blog..
Love to you and Steve.