The Shelf

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. (Psalm 77:11 ESV)

There is a shelf in our dining room. It first appeared in our second mission house on Guam. It’s a simple Shaker design made from pine and stained some shade of brown. Since its first appearance it has moved from mission house to mission house. Although it’s just a shelf it holds a special significance in our home.

I built the shelf on Guam. I am not a cabinet maker but this was carefully crafted. As careful as this amateur can craft any cabinetry. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t spectacular. In fact it’s rather plain. About four feet long it provides space to set things and pegs underneath, on which to hang things.

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The Shelf

You might wonder; why did I build this shelf? I built the shelf because Beth asked me to build the shelf and I’m a good obedient husband. It was also cheaper to build than to buy! Why did she want the shelf? To put things on of course!

It’s important to understand that not just anything was to adorn The Shelf. This was to become a sacred place, a reminder, an Ebenezer for our transplanted family. We were no longer in the land of our ancestors. Now we were living as strangers in a strange land.

Through the years, and more than once, we revealed some childhood memory to our children. We wanted them to identify with us and us with them. They would sit with perplexed looks on their faces as we talked about Fourth of July holidays, Thanksgiving feasts and gathering the extended family at Christmas time. These were foreign concepts to them. Just the thought of snow boggled their minds while we lived on a tropical island.

Our children grew up on a small island that seemed light years away from the quiet little towns where Beth and I grew up. Our boys also enjoyed a number of years in Austria, a far cry from the red clay of Georgia I remembered as a child, or the forested fields of New York state from Beth’s youth.

We wanted our children to understand something of their homeland while living on foreign soil. Beth, the ingenious person she is, used The Shelf as a reminder, a marker stone for our family. Throughout the year it’d be redecorated according to the holidays, or special events of our motherland, which we wanted to be our children’s motherland.

In the spring there were Easter eggs and daisies perched on The Shelf to remind us of the missing seasons and our Savior’s sacrifice. In July the red, white and blue would adorn The Shelf with other patriotic memorabilia of the USA. November would find a cornucopia, turkeys and pilgrims looking down from The Shelf over our dining room table. There were decorations for New Years, Christmas, Saint Patrick’s Day and other holidays we remembered and our children never experienced.

They didn’t experience them the way Beth and I remembered them. But, they did experience them as we celebrated in our little home in a foreign land with a visual reminder on The Shelf. When I wanted a reminder of the land of my youth I just glanced up from my meal and surveyed The Shelf, and smiled.

It’s nice to have a reminder of things easily missed in the rush of day to day ministry. God does the same thing. He reminds me through circumstances, friends, family and the beauty outside my window that I have an eternal homeland. I’m looking forward to that land.

Austria, where we lived when I wrote this, was not my home and when I forgot my homeland I lost something of who I was. The world is not my eternal home and when I lose sight of Heaven I lose something of who I am and who I will become. When I need a reminder I glance up, see God’s wonder around me and smile. How do you keep touch with your homeland?

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