Words For a Homesick Heart

April 13, 2015 | 18 comments

I graduated from high school with a class of 37 people. So I was, at once, terrified and ecstatic about heading off to university that fall.

Tears ran down my cheeks when my parents left me on the campus of Iowa State University. I felt lost in a sea of 25,000 faces. I didn’t know where I would fit in. I was terribly nervous about how I’d do in my classes. I missed my family, and I missed everything that felt familiar: my seat at the kitchen table, my pink comforter, the cracked sidewalks of a town where I’d lived my whole life.

Plus, I was burdened with all the “not enoughs” that many college freshmen experience. When my parents drove away from the dormitory parking lot, I could see the worry written on Mom’s face.

There was no such thing as texting back then — it was 1990 — so Mom couldn’t check in on me as much as she would have liked. But every week, down in the dormitory post office, there’d be a letter from home. In those letters from home, Mom would remind me who I was, and what I was made of.

I don’t remember what Mom wrote exactly, but I remember how I felt when I read her words. It was as if she were saying, “You are a Dukes girl. You are gonna make it!” It was her way of letting me know that I’m preapproved.

I cherished those letters from home.

Well guess what? That’s what the Holy Scriptures do.

St. Augustine said it like this:

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from Home.”

Like Mom, letting me know I was a Dukes Girl, God is saying to you: “You are a Jesus Girl. Let me tell you what you’re made of. You are gonna make it.”

It’s all right there in the Bible, for any of us feeling a little homesick. The ancient text holds the mystery and the revelation and the redemption and the grace and the grit and the “you-go-girl” that we need from God. It’s His story, and it’s our story. And the more we get into His word, the more His word gets into us. 

I don’t know where you’re at today. If you’re feeling lost in a sea of faces, if you feel forgotten, if you are missing the familiarity of home, or if you are burdened by the mess in your marriage or the drama at the office. Maybe, as this week begins, you are feeling a gazillion “not enoughs” crashing on top of you.

There’s a word for you, waiting in God’s letters from home. And until you get Home, you can find a Home in The Word.

He is delivering you the news your heart longs for.

Your turn:

Tell me about a verse or a passage that you return to … to remember who you are. Tell me what the Psalms teach you about lamenting. Tell me when the Word first came alive for you. Or tell me how you honestly struggle with the Bible — or with finding the time to read it. I look forward to meeting you in the comment box today!

by | April 13, 2015 | 18 comments


  1. Ally V

    What a beautiful image- the Scripture as letters from home. Lovely.

    I just finished up a study in James- God breathing through James’ blunt, matter-of-fact writing style made Christian living seem like a Cliff Notes or bulleted list. Sometimes we just need to get the facts, jack! =)

    • dukeslee

      Hey Ally,

      I came across the quote while preparing for a talk a few weeks ago. I added it to my talk, and remembered anew how Mom used to send those letters to me when I was a fresh-out-of-high-school kiddo at Iowa State.

      Thanks for reading along.

      Yeah. So I love how your describe James. You nailed it!

  2. Lisanne

    This morning, it hit me that quite possibly a desire of my heart or I guess I should say something big I want for my son might not come to fruition. Time s running out and i see-saw between trusting and believing and trying not to believe…have you ever been there? It’s almost as If the letdown of God’s will not lining up with my desire is what I expect. Then i read and reread, Psalm 65:5, You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O’ God our Savior.
    So, I pray, uplifted, energized and expectant.

    • dukeslee

      Hey Lisanne. Yeah — I’ve been there. I’ve got someone in my life whom I’ve been praying for, for years, and it’s so hard. I keep praying the same prayers, keep treading the same ground, and sometimes, it looks like things are regressing, instead of progressing.

      I am grateful for the Psalms, to help me to know that I can lament, and I can cry out, and I can be straight with God, about how I don’t understand any of it. I am also sustained by the truth that nothing surprises God, and He knows how it all turns out.

      When I get weary of praying, I remember that one day I will be in Heaven. And when I get there and meet God, I want Him to recognize me as a woman who wouldn’t give up, and who was persistent in prayer for those she loved … and even for those who mistreated her.

      I am praying with you today, Lisanne, that God would give you the energy to persevere, and that He would give you the grace you need for yourself when you feel like your prayers are shallow and doubtful. I pray also for your son, and that God would move mightily and swiftly. Please stay in touch. I’d love to hear how God is on the move.

      • Lisanne

        Thank you for these words. More than I can express. You are one of three threads…three women who have given me Godly clarity in past three days. Planning my next post around this.

        Thank you. Thank you.

        • Lori Hill

          Lisanne, I, too have concerns (worries) about my son. I’m not sure exactly if mine and yours are similar, but I was pulled to your post, feeling like we had something in common. May God give us and our sons peace, comfort and blessings from the palm of His mighty hand.
          Love, Lori

          • Lisanne

            I’m so sorry I’m just seeing this. Thank you for this reply. It’s timely in a God way because now I’m preparing him and me for his first semester abroad.

  3. Loved As If

    I return to Psalm 139, particularly verses 9 – 12:

    “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee.”

    Psalm 139 reminds me that no matter how frightened I am and how much I may try to run away, I will always run smack into God. Sometime I’m a little child who is lost, but God finds me. All the Psalms (and Job and the Prophets as well as other books) remind me that I must come to Christ as I am even when I’m cranky and cantankerous.

    Scripture came alive to me when I first read it on my own, at the age of five. I was thrilled to find a big book about God. And though I didn’t understand it all, there was much that spoke to my heart.

    • dukeslee

      I love how God came to you so tenderly, at age five, through His word. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Laura

    Thanks for the encouragement of your writings, Jennifer! One of my favorite verses is I John 3:1 “See what love the Father has lavished on us in letting us be called God’s children! For that is what we are.” CJB Whether I feel that I am His dear daughter or not at a given moment, this is reality, “For that is what I am.” Amazing! About the Scriptures, I originally learned them while part of a very controlling, negative church. God has been so good by giving me images in my mind, and then the Scripture. This is helping me heal day by day from an abusive interpretation of Scripture. He gave me an image yesterday of my being seated on the back of a huge eagle with beautiful white wings as we flew over beautiful lands. Then He paired the scripture “But to you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings;” Malachi 4:2 The image helps me to receive the Scripture and believe it. Praise God!

    • dukeslee

      Hi Laura,
      Thank you for sharing your testimony here in the comments. I have a very dear friend who had an experience similar to yours, and who still has a very difficult time reading Scripture, because it was continually used as a weapon against her, instead of as a means of God’s grace. I’ll never get over how church leaders can wallop people over the head and heart with the most beautiful message ever, but it happens. Your words give me hope for my dear friend, and I will be passing them along to her as well. How do you manage to return to the Scriptures, after all those abusive interpretations?

      Thanks for sharing, Laura.

      • Laura

        One day I realized that I didn’t look at Jesus as being my Savior and friend, but rather accuser, as if He had a list, pointing out with Scripture what hadn’t been done “correctly.” I didn’t read the Bible for over a year because whenever I would try, the hurt and anger welled up quickly and I wasn’t ready to deal with it. One day I decided to begin reading a different version (The Message or Amplified), so that the familiar phrases used to put down or control would be stated a bit differently, this was amazing helpful! As I read, I prayed to see with new eyes, and He brought to my mind a deeper understanding of His love, and I could see that the manipulations had been from people, not the heart of God. I eventually took a look at what it was in me that chose to trust people like that. I pray that your friend finds her path to the heart of God and allows Him to heal every hurt.

        Thanks for writing, and thanks for your articles. They have lifted me spirit many times. I so appreciate your vulnerability and hope.

  5. karen

    Philippians 1:6. I have a pretty “big personality” and I have claimed this verse over and over again on days when I wished I could “fly under the radar!” 🙂

  6. Martha Orlando

    Scripture does indeed contain love letters from home. I especially like Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Nothing is impossible with the Lord!
    Blessings, Jennifer!

  7. Holy Vacation Queen

    Jeremiah 29:11 helps me remember who I am, a child of God in God’s hands who has a great future for me, one of hope!

    Beautiful, nourishing post!

  8. Julie

    Thank you for this encouraging article, Jennifer. The verse I have posted in my kitchen is, “Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.” (Psalm 56:9) Whatever is opposing my good, whether it is the world, my own flesh, or the devil himself, I cling to the fact that God is FOR me.

  9. Debbiesk

    I made a commitment to God to read my Bible and pray everyday before I did anything else about 8 months ago. Coupled with that I made a commitment to read my Bible all the way through. I did it in an unorthodox way, starting in James and reading through Revelation, then Matthew through to James and finally Genesis through Malaki. What an amazing experience and blessings I received by honoring God with that commitment! I learned so much along the way too! Praise God for His word and how it touches us just where we need it!

  10. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you, Jennifer, for that smile-inducing quote of St. Augustine. Comforting truth in so few words! My go-to chapter is Romans 8, where I find much reassurance and strength.



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