From the day I was born, until the day I went off to college, my home address was 1414 Lafayette Ave., Pascagoula, Mississippi. My parents lived in the same house for nearly fifty years. After dad died, we sold the house. For the first time in fifty years, the house is not owned by a person whose last name is Catt.
I have the papers in a file somewhere, but I can’t recall the name of the people who live there now. I know they have small children and this is their first home. That in itself brings back memories. I’ve spent many an afternoon in that small yard playing army, baseball and football. My climbing tree is gone now. I wonder if their kids will have a climbing tree?
I still go by the house, and drive slowly. Over the last few years of their lives, my parents weren’t able to take care of the house or the yard. This new family has made some needed repairs, planted flowers and made other improvements to the property. I enjoy driving by and seeing what they are doing to make it their home. I’ve even gone on a satellite web site and located the house on a satellite image.
Before we sold the house, we had an estate sale. Terri organized it and set it all up. It was a little too much for me to see people going through my parents’ “stuff” and trying to get a deal. Things my parents treasured were sold on a first come, first served basis. Items once a part of my family made their way into the hands of collectors, friends, and people who run a flea market. We gave a substantial amount of their estate to the “Home of Grace” – a place for recovering alcoholics.
Terri sold some of my old toys to a local restaurant. The restaurant is run by one of the guys I went to high school with. Now my electric football game graces the wall in his establishment. He and I used to play that game together, now it has become a conversation piece for people as they eat. Terri went above and beyond the call of duty. She and my sister-in-law, Paige, cleaned out the utility building – including six or eight dead rats. I still owe them big time for that. Terri was the last member of our family to be in the house. She saw it when it was completely empty.
I remember my last walk through. My mind was flooded with memories of Christmas past, roast beef dinner every Sunday after church, coming home from a date and making scrambled eggs. I walked through the house, room by room, one last time. When I finally closed the side door and walked out, a chapter in my life was over.
My parents bought that house for $6,000.00. They added a den, bedroom and bathroom in the late 60’s for another $7,000.00. We lived one block from the Tastee Freeze, the National Grocery Store, and three blocks from my dad’s store. It’s not much of a house by today’s standards, but it was home. Today, people buy enormous houses but they can’t make them feel like a home. People might live under the same roof, but that doesn’t mean they are functioning like a family.
The only things I have left from that home are a few antiques and a lot of memories. The antiques came from my grandparents. My grandfather had a sawmill and cut several giant oaks from his land. He sent them to Chicago and had them made into furniture in the early 1900’s. The shipping labels are still on two pieces. In our house we have a large wardrobe, a chest, a cane back sofa and two cane back chairs, a buffet and dining room table (that will seat ten people comfortably), all made from wood from my family’s land. Since 1918, that furniture has only been moved three times. There’s not much that we value – that we couldn’t give away or do without – but we value that furniture. Every family memory, on my mom’s side, is tied to those few pieces of furniture. Family reunions, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas at grandma’s, all happened around this furniture in a home long since torn down.
When you think of home, what do you think of ? We’ve all heard the statement, “Home is where the heart is.” J. Howard Payne wrote, “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” In the Wizard of OZ, Dorothy woke up in her bed, clutched Toto and said, “There’s no place like home.” When the prodigal son came to his senses, he thought about his father’s house, about home.
Over the last seven years, Albany has become home to us. In our marriage, we’ve lived in Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas, but we’ve been here the longest. If you were to ask our girls, they would consider Albany to be their home. Although Erin was born in Marietta, Georgia, and Hayley was born in Ft. Worth, Texas. They have lived in Georgia, Texas, and Oklahoma, but they’ve grown up here.
I’m not sure they will ever think of a house the way older generations will. When we were thinking of selling our present home a few months ago, they weren’t very happy about it, but they got over it. Although we decided to stay, someday, someone else will live in our home. Another family will take up residence. They will have their own memories to make. Life goes on. Homes change.
For the believer, there is only one permanent home. Our elder brother, Jesus Christ is preparing it for us. Some think it will be a mansion. Others more accurately interpret that word as a dwelling place. It really doesn’t matter does it? What makes heaven a blessed place is not the streets of gold, or gates of pearl. Heaven will be heaven because Jesus is there.
The Bible doesn’t tell us what we will have in our heavenly homes. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that our homes will be in the presence of Jesus. For those of us who have loved ones who have gone before us, we need to remember. The home place may be gone, but then, we’re not home yet. There’s one more family reunion on the horizon in the place of untroubled hearts and eternal joy. One day, we will all meet in the eternal home and ever be with the Lord. Heaven is the home where we belong. All the other places we call home are insignificant in comparison.
©2001 MCC This article is copyrighted by the author and is for your individual use.
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Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.