What Your Heart is Really Longing For

November 4, 2013 | 34 comments

It was All Saints Day on Sunday, the day we pause to remember our church’s dearly departed.

cross and church, graveyard, cemetery


A hush fell over our small sanctuary. Art Stensland cranked open the stained-glass window at the back, so we could hear the church bell ringing like a clarion over the dew-covered fields.

We folded our hands in our laps, and closed our eyes to remember: This all ends someday. 

For most of us in these polished pews, the cemetery across the road will be our final resting place. We walk by our very own grave sites every Sunday morning. A few times a year, we follow sealed caskets out the glass doors, clutching wads of Kleenex in our fists with our coats zippered tight. It always seems like our loved ones are buried on the coldest, dreariest days.

On Sunday, Art kept the window open a while. The cool November morning exhaled into the sanctuary.

I felt drenched in the chill, and in the warmth.
The chill of this windy, wild world —
and the expectant warmth of the next.

I thought about the faces of heaven. And I saw him in my mind’s eye — this one man, with bright, crinkled eyes. He was drenched in light. He showed up there on October 23 at age 77 after a solid run here on Earth.

top of tombstone

Friend, there really are faces. There really is a place called heaven. We get to go, though we may be scared to leave.

And we don’t talk about it like we ought. Maybe if we talked about that Day more, we’d fret about this day less.

Sometimes, Heaven feels like a fairy tale because it’s faraway, but it’s not. It’s neither fairy tale nor faraway.

“Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

Heaven is for real, and you can almost feel its breath on your face if you sit still long enough. It’s not hope-against-hope or a rose-colored-glasses wish. Heaven is an actual address where people actually live

Sit in the pew beside me. Feel the November wind. And then let your soul find the warmer place, down in deep —


Sin will be a memory. Pain will be lifted. Envy won’t have a voice. So much of what we fret about here on Earth is really our heart crying out for immortality. When our earthly hearts beg to be seen, loved, significant and known, this is what’s really happening: our very own souls are stretching arms toward our forever-inheritance.

It’s yours. Keep walking. It’s up ahead, and you’ll be there before you know it.

Here on earth, I have this friend with cerebral palsy, and it’s not always easy for her to feed herself, depending on what we’re serving, so I’ll lift the spoon to her mouth.  She tells me between bites: “When we get to heaven, Jennifer, I’m going to sit beside you, and spoon-feed you your supper.”

Deal, I tell her.

Look, right here  —  

In heaven, you might be spoon-fed by a friend. You will put your hand to the heart of Jesus and feel it thrumming. Feel His breath on your shoulder. Find yourself a hammock. Run barefoot in snow. Spin through fields of Queen Anne’s lace. Wear a feather boa to supper. Put together a 1,000-piece puzzle with the guy who hung next to your Savior. Ride on the back of a lion. Visit your great-great-great-great grandma. Feed a giraffe. Paint your house purple. Never lock the front door. Tell Thomas how you totally “got” all his questions. Walk on water, then through sand, and no one will get made when you put your dirty feet on the throne room floor.

Every good thing we long for is fulfilled in an actual place where your souls’ feet will stand, in the presence of the King.

But for now, we are here for a time, right here, long enough to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with our eyes closed, and to feel the cold wind through the window, and to hear the bell pealing loud and deep–

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”


by | November 4, 2013 | 34 comments


  1. Sarah (theGIRL)

    I’m fairly confident that I think about heaven every single day. My soul longs to see God’s glory, to sing and dance and love with abandon. Real abandon. To sit next to people who do the same. All of us praising God together in perfect harmony.

    Thanks for this word picture today. Brought tears to my eyes and encouraged me to keep my eyes on that day.

    • dukeslee

      Oh you … Cheering wildly for your focus and eternal vision, Sarah.

      Me? Too often, I get so caught up in my tomorrows, then I can scarcely focus on today or forever.

      I want to practice what Martin Luther said: “There are only two days on my calendar, this day and that Day.”

      That takes out the fretting over all the in-between days, and brings clearer into focus the gift of today, and the inheritance of forever.

      Let it be so.

      • Sarah (theGIRL)

        Oh, yes! I get caught up in tomorrows and five-years-from-nows, but the Lord is faithful to remind me where my hope should be! Thank you for sharing that Luther quote. Amen! Let it be so!

  2. Matthew Kreider

    Yes. Luther’s quote. Thanks for sharing that. I don’t want to miss today’s gift. In fact, I want to be part of it, too. Bless you, friend.

    • dukeslee

      Matthew! Where are you writing these days? You are still writing, yes?

  3. Christie Purifoy

    Such beautiful, inspiring words. You’ve written so well about something that’s been on my heart and mind a great deal lately. Thank you.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Christie. So glad you’re here.

  4. Elizabeth

    Such a beautiful picture of the glory awaiting us. Thank you for the sweet reminder of what I’m truly longing for every day. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

    • dukeslee

      What do you imagine Elizabeth to be like? Would love to hear your thoughts, Elizabeth.

  5. seespeakhearmama

    This was lovely. I exhaled, literally felt my shoulders drop as I considered the beauty of heavens reality. “Heaven is neither fairy tale or far away” …..yes. And amen, and selah.

    • dukeslee

      So, it may sound morbid but I love cemeteries. I walked through the cemetery this morning at 7:45 in my pajamas and tennis shoes. (The cemetery is in the country, about a mile from our house, so no one saw me. Was just me and Jesus.) … It was such a chilly/warm feeling, knowing that most likely, my body will buried in that spot, and in the “twinkling of an eye” we’ll be in the presence of our Savior. The more I remember that — the more I walk through cemeteries and think about Heaven — the less hung up I get about all the stuff I get hung up about. You know?

  6. Megan Willome (@meganwillome)

    I’d never been to an All Saints service before this year. It was just what I needed on that day. God knew. I’d swear he put a holy day of obligation in there just for me, this October 31, 2013.

    • dukeslee

      How does your church remember the day? We have candles lit at the front for our dearly departed, a moment of silence and the bell ringing. Always brings me to tears.

  7. Kris Camealy

    yes. heaven is real. some days, I physically ache for it.

    • dukeslee

      Me, too, Kris…

  8. lynndmorrissey

    I needed to read this Jennifer…especially because my beloved father is with the Lord, and so many loved ones I’ve lost. How I miss them, and I can get so discouraged, because there are more there now than here. When I go through doubts (not really so much doubting that heaven exists), but groping to understand what it means to be absent from the body, present with the Lord (because I know our bodies were not originally meant to die), then it is good to read such good news as this here, put in vernacular that is palpable and real. Your description is beautiful. God will redeem the earth and we will live in the new heavens and the new earth, where all will be made bright-shining new and breathtakingly beautiful.But for now, it’s good to be reminded of the hope that is in us, and of what is yet to come. Thank you for one of the loveliest posts you’ve ever written!

    • dukeslee

      Oh Lynn! You are so kind. Thank you, friend … and thank you, Jesus…

      I used to write about heaven quite often, and it’s been far too long. I walked through the cemetery this morning — still in jammies, mind you — and it struck me all over again how when we think on heaven, the things on earth really do grow “strangely dim.”

      I didn’t used to believe in any of it. Not Heaven. Not Jesus. Maybe God. I hoped He was real, but wasn’t quite sure.

      But now, on this side of belief, my heart aches for Home, and for those thin places where it feels as if Heaven is nearer.

      • lynndmorrissey

        Jennifer, such beautiful responses to Michelle and me. Thank you for letting u s share our hearts sans criticism. (Well, I can’t imagine that you would *ever* criticize). But it’s hard to share doubts or questions publicly. I appreciate your comment about liberties, but I understand what you are trying to capture. It’s beautiful. Randy Alcorn wrote a neat book called heaven, and much of it’s biblically based. It might be a good resource for your readers.

  9. Michelle DeRusha (@MichelleDeRusha)

    I love your picture of heaven, Jennifer. I admit, it doesn’t feel that real to me. I can’t get my arms (head?) around it. But I like that you painted a picture of it for me – that helps.

    • lynndmorrissey

      I totally get this, Michelle.

    • dukeslee

      I wish the Bible said more about what Heaven is like. So many of our impressions of Heaven are based on fuzzy, cloud-filled, harp-filled, cartoonish interpretations from culture. I realize that I took great liberties here in creating a picture of heaven. Of course, I have no idea if we’ll have houses or purple paint or ride-able lions or hammocks or jigsaw puzzles. But I have to believe that the best parts of earth are but an earlier heaven, and that we can look forward to some of our favorite parts, magnified, when we get there.

      And I believe we’ll get there.

  10. Nancy Ruegg

    For a long time my fear was not what awaited me in heaven, it was getting there–traversing across the expanse between heaven and earth, alone. Then it hit me. (Took awhile. Thick head.) Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20), right? That means he’ll still be with us as we breathe our last. All we’ll have to do is put our hands in his, and let him lead the way!

    I loved all the images of happy, heavenly activity you created with your words, Jennifer. I smiled to contemplate eons of time with family and friends–from previous centuries! And to think of Jesus presiding over us all? Fellowshiping with us all? No words to describe!

    • dukeslee

      Nancy, I have a friend here in my offline life who has expressed grave concern to me about the “getting there” part — the traversing the expanse. I am going to share your thoughts with her. Very helpful.

  11. Anita

    Hi Jennifer,

    Holding onto the grip of grace as I feel the pull towards heaven, where my soul sings, where there is pain no more…

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for sharing, Anita.

  12. Mia

    Dear Jennifer
    My oldest son, the surfer, and I were talking a while back about the fact that it seems there will not be a sea in heaven and he was a bit disappointed, but I told him a sea will not be necessary for they will be able to surf between the planets. His only words was, “COOL!”. I think as we learn to abide in Jesus and He lives in us, our spirit already live in heaven in our God. I am thinking now of that verse that says we are seated with Christ at the right Hand of God! I know I will be totally healed of my Fm/CFS and I.am already planning to go for an early morning run once I go home. I have learned here on earth due to my illness to draw deep into the life of Jesus and He takes me sometimes away from the pain. Sort as if the pain is there and the two of us are just hanging there.
    Blessings XX

    • dukeslee

      What a fascinating picture, Mia.

  13. ro elliott

    Beautiful…and I love the Luther quote…I must say…I live with an ache in my heart…a longing and an anticipation for our eternal home..my kids accuse me of losing my will to live

  14. ephale

    Oh, Amen! Yes. I’ve just had the privilege of being with a friend and her mother as her mother passed away, and oh…you could see it, in her face and in her eyes. She saw heaven, was reaching for it. The hospice nurse said, that’s often the case. And oh, wouldn’t it change everything if we lived with that in mind? I keep thinking, even the most beautiful things in this life we are seeing through a dim mirror…what will it be like to see Him face to face? Thank you for this beautiful piece!

  15. Diane W. Bailey

    JB and I love to wander through graveyards. We read the stones, and some are meant to have humor, and then there are the tiny ones – the babies, and I wonder how a mother survives.

    We take pictures, of the unique beauty of memorials, and some hang framed in our home.

    Our job here is to transverse this island surrounded by a sea of darkness. To travel from one side to the next being light, being salt – and then arrive Home.

    I love this post Jennifer. I love the thoughts it provokes as I read. Thank you for this beautiful word picture. Love you!

  16. Lorretta @Dancing On The Dash

    Yesterday, we heard a sermon on the “Behold I am making all things new..no more tears nor dying” passage in Revelation..and the minister said that he’d read them to his daughter (aged 6) and when he asked her if she understood what they mean she said, “Yes Daddy. It means no more name stones”. It struck him that she was referring to the grave markers..and how simple a thought to imagine there will be NO graveyards and cemeteries in heaven! Lovely and true!

  17. Elizabeth Stewart

    I believe this! Yes, I do…and I’m longing for the day when sorrow and mourning flee forever!

  18. Kelly Greer

    Oh yes Jennifer, no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering, no more death. O death where is your sting? Love the picture of your little country church with the cemetery on the grounds. Reminds me of the place where my grandma and her momma are buried. Out in the countryside beyond the bend in the road down the way a piece. I can’t wait to be united once again with all my loved ones, young and old. I reckon we can stay in our pjs all day if we so desire!
    Heaven! Blessed day!

  19. Deidra Riggs

    The closer I get to heaven, the less I fear it. Heaven used to keep me up at night. I’d try to wrap my head around it all and scare myself…well…practically to death. But, years have passed, and I’ve stood beside those gaping holes in the ground more times than I care to count, and I have seen heaven in the eyes of people who walk much closer to it than I and I can tell you fear is losing its grip.


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