Ellen Mongan describes her Christmas-season journey home and the two years of soul-searching that preceded it.
The best Christmas gifts are not always found under a tree; rather they are discovered along the journey. This Christmas season, Deacon Pat and I found ourselves homeless and alone. Our home in Viera, Florida, sold miraculously in just one week without a realtor. Thirty days later, we closed on our Florida home and that chapter of our life.
Picture this: two seniors with the help of their son Tyler and wife Tomoko, packing up three truckloads of possessions. We were homeward bound. Pat was driving the lead truck with Tyler close behind.
“Home is where the heart is” proved true. These two years of enjoying the Florida sunshine, meeting new people, and going new places gave me ample time to soul search. The pandemic was the final sign God used to help me discern. Or maybe it was spending Easter and Mother’s Day just the two of us that grew a seed of homesickness in my heart. It became quite evident that I had left my heart in Georgia. I had to remind myself why we had moved to Florida in the first place, as a health choice. However, my arthritis did not get better -- but unfortunately worse. “God’s ways are not our ways.” I accepted the cross God had given me but longed to go home.
I began asking myself: what is really important in this life? The words of an old pastor stayed in the forefront of my mind and would not delete. “You do not want to save the whole world for Christ and lose your family.” My vocation as mother and wife was for life. The signs God was quickening in our spirit were beginning to become more vivid. Our once-scattered adult children situated from sea to sea, that is from Japan, Hawaii, and Bethesda, had moved back home. Six of seven children were now living in Georgia with three in the same neighborhood. The promise of Isaiah 43 had become a reality, “Your sons will come from afar.”
I will never forget the words of my best friend Anne, “God will teach you the easy way or the hard way.” Unfortunately, we had chosen the hard road, but God is faithful when you are off the mark. He directed our path and made all things new. Unbelievable as it may seem, we will close on a new home this January in the same neighborhood. It helps to have a realtor for a daughter.
Have you ever taken God for granted, asking “Where are you?” Then as if an angel had given you corrective lenses, you realize that He was there all along. Have you ever taken family for granted, and then your heart swelled with joy when you saw them and longed to reside with them forever? Have you ever taken friends for granted, and then realized that you need someone who has your back way more than you need the sunshine on your shoulders? God provided a different kind of Christmas this year with family.
I did not get to plan Thanksgiving, or a family feast for Christmas, or a New Year’s celebration this year. Long ago I had passed the baton to the younger generation. Instead, I enjoyed the fruit of raising children who loved to celebrate, build family, and cook together. It is always a feast above and beyond what you can imagine.
This year my best Christmas gifts were those opened on the inside. They were not wrapped with pretty paper or purchased at the store. They were gifts of joy, filled with love, and delivered with peace. God Himself deposited these gifts within me. My heart overflowed, surrounded by family and friends, as I silently thanked the Lord for a journey only He can orchestrate. I came to realize that God began our journey home the day we left Georgia for the Sunshine state. What was the journey all about? Gratefulness- Sometimes you do not know what you have until it is gone. It takes a journey.
Do not lose heart if the journey you are on seems way too long, unbearably hard, or extremely lonely. Set your heart on Him alone. I can assure you He will lead you home. Where is home? Home is where the heart is. The journey of the heart is a work of God. You may not be able to see it yet, but one day you will. Be assured that He is working in the silence of your heart where only He resides. One day He will unveil it to you. Wait for it, look for it!
Copyright 2021 Ellen Mongan
Images (top to bottom): Ketut Subiyanto (2020), Pexels; copyright 2021 Ellen Mongan, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Ellen Mongan, a Catholic writer and speaker, has been married more than 40 years to Deacon Pat Mongan. They have 7 children and 12 grandchildren. Ellen is a host of WOW Radio Podcasts, a religious columnist for the Augusta Chronicle, and has spoken on both radio and television. She is the founder of Sisters in Christ, Little Pink Dress Ministry, and Women-Fests.