If I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am. --John 14:3

Home for me will always be my father's house--a log cabin nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina with a light in the window, a fire on the hearth, and a welcome embrace at the door. As I make the four-hour drive from my home to my father's house, my sense of expectancy heightens. Three hours into the journey I have the first glimpse of the mountains-a glimpse that never ceases to thrill me as I begin to climb in altitude through the foothills until I'm enfolded in the valleys and peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My journey ends on a winding, one-lane road with hairpin curves and switchbacks that lead me to the door of my father's house.

The old log cabin, the flagstone steps, the nail-studded door, and the well-worn wooden plank floor of the entrance are not what have quickened my pulse or caused me to make the long drive. My motivation is simply the fact that this is home!

Home! What does that word mean to you? For me, "home" is synonymous with love, acceptance, comfort, and security. It is a place where my needs are met. It is a place where I can take my burdens and lay them down. It is a place not only where I can find answers but where my questions no longer seem to matter. When I feel discouraged under the pressure of responsibilities, or overwhelmed by the problems of daily life, or disappointed by shattered dreams, my heart turns toward that mountain cabin and those whom I love who live there. To go home is to be refreshed in my spirit and refocused in my thoughts and renewed in my strength and restored in my heart. How I love home!

The story is told of an old missionary named Samuel Morrison who, after twenty-five years in Africa, was returning home to the United States to die. As it so happened, he traveled on the same ocean liner that brought President Teddy Roosevelt back from a hunting expedition. When the great ship pulled into New York Harbor, the dock where it was to tie up was jammed with what looked like the entire population of New York City. Bands were playing, banners were waving, choirs of children were singing, multicolored balloons were floating in the air, flashbulbs were popping, and newsreel cameras were poised to record the return of the president.

Mr. Roosevelt stepped down the gangplank to thunderous cheers and applause, showered with confetti and ticker tape. If the crowd had not been restrained by ropes and police, he would have been mobbed!

At the same time, Samuel Morrison quietly walked off the boat. No one was there to greet him. He slipped alone through the crowd. Because of the crush of people there to welcome the president, he couldn't even find a cab. Inside his heart, he began to complain, Lord, the president has been in Africa for three weeks, killing animals, and the whole world turns out to welcome him home. I've given twenty-five years of my life in Africa, serving You, and no one has greeted me or even knows I'm here.

In the quietness of his heart, a gentle, loving voice whispered, But My dear child, you are not home yet!

While I praise God for placing me in an earthly home that so clearly reflects my heavenly home, I am aware even now, when I visit that old log cabin, that I am not really home yet because of Jesus' promise to God's children: "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

Has your entire life been a series of struggles? Have you been .More sick than well? More defeated than successful? More tired than rested? More alone than accompanied? More empty than satisfied? More hungry than filled? More sad than happy?

Do you feel defeated because after a lifetime of struggle, all you have to look forward to is death and a cold grave? Look up! The Bible teaches us that God is preparing a heavenly home that "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived . . . for those who love him."

Regardless of our circumstances or condition, we can look forward with hope as we glimpse Heaven, My Father's House, which is being prepared as an eternal home for God's people. For you and for me!

As a young girl, my vision of Heaven was framed by my mother's assurance that whatever was necessary for my eternal happiness would be there. So in my child's mind, that included ocean waves, mountain peaks, a favorite pet that had died, Sunday night Bible games with the family, sleepovers at my grandparents' house, Chinese food, and a smaller nose! Over the years, my requirements for eternal happiness have changed, but my dreams are still big.

What kind of home do you think is necessary for your eternal happiness? Do you dream of a cottage by the sea? or a chateau by the lake? or a cabin in the woods? or a penthouse in the city? or a castle on the hill? or a tent on the desert? or a farm in the country? or a palace in the garden?

Several years ago, the apostle John's words describing the tantalizing vision of Heaven that God gave to him on the island of Patmos came to my mind, sharpening the focus of my "dream home." I was in Agra, India, standing in front of a reflecting pool gazing at the spectacular beauty of the Taj Mahal when I remembered John's initial impression of Heaven: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Rev. 21:1-2). Just as a bride lovingly prepares every detail of herself for her special bridegroom, God is preparing His heavenly home for you and me. This loving preparation is illustrated by the story of the Taj Mahal.

Prepared with Love

The Taj Mahal was prepared as a monument of love. It was built between 1632 and 1653 by Shah Jahan for his wife. Constructed of white marble, it glistens like a jewel on the bank of a wide river. It is framed by four minarets, each one placed at the corner of the red-sandstone platform on which the entire building sits, pointing like long, white fingers to the sky. The exterior of the white-marble structure is inlaid with black onyx in flowing script depicting quotes from the Koran. The interior, including walls and ceiling, is inlaid with semiprecious stones in floral designs that are symbols of the Islamic paradise.

How can one imagine the painstaking craftsmanship involved in completing a project that required over twenty thousand skilled workers and took more than twenty years to complete? How can one imagine the love that conceived such a project in the first place? Even more remarkable is the fact that the Taj Mahal was intentionally designed not as a palace or as a summer residence or even as an elaborate boathouse. The Taj Mahal is a tomb! It was built by the lavishly romantic and wealthy shah for his beloved wife, to whom he'd been married for only fourteen years when she was overtaken by the great equalizer--death. It's sad to think that although his wife was buried in this exquisite edifice, when the shah died, he was not allowed to be buried with her.

If one Indian ruler could prepare something as breathtakingly beautiful as the Taj Mahal as a tomb for his wife of just fourteen years, what must God be preparing as a home where He will live forever and ever with His people whom He loves?

Prepared in Detail

John saw My Father's House "prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Rev. 21:2). I doubt that there is anything more detailed than a wedding. I know! All three of my children got married within eight months of each other! My mind almost exploded with all the details! My daughters spent hours selecting just the right dress. Then they had to find the right headpiece to go with the dress--and whether it would be shoulder, fingertip, or chapel length.

Next they searched for the right shoes to go with the dress, and after that they picked out just the right jewelry and the right hairdo and the right flowers and the right church and the right music and the right bridesmaids and the right bridesmaids' dresses and the right groomsmen and--praise God!--the right grooms! Then there was the selection of the place for the rehearsal dinners, the menus for the rehearsal dinners, the place for the receptions, the menus for the receptions, the bride and groom's cakes for the receptions, and the decorations for each event. And I haven't even mentioned the hours and hours of poring over the invitation list after deciding on the color, size, print, and style of the invitation itself! Preparing for a wedding can be a full-time job for months preceding the actual day. And all of this was just to prepare my brides for their husbands!

Of all these elaborate plans, no part of the preparation received more attention, thought, planning, and care than the appearance of the bride herself. And despite all the planning and attention to detail, both of my daughters at one point on the day of their weddings became hysterical over their appearance!

I remember the morning of my own wedding day. My mother brought me breakfast in bed, serving it on the new china and with the new silver I had been given as wedding gifts. After breakfast, I stayed in my bedclothes, resting and taking it easy, so I would be fresh for the marriage ceremony and the reception that would follow that evening.

Several hours before I was to leave the house to go to the church, I began to get ready. I started with my makeup, carefully applying it in order to enhance any physical beauty I might have and hide the many flaws I did have! I worked on my hair, sweeping it up so it would stay under the veil yet be visible enough to frame my face. Finally my mother came to my room and helped me get into my wedding gown, fastening the dozens of small buttons up the back and adjusting the chapel-length veil. When I had done everything I knew to do to get myself ready, I just stood in front of the full-length mirror and gazed at the young woman enveloped in ivory silk and lace who was reflected in it. I was tense and eager as I wondered, after six and a half months of preparation, if I would be beautiful and desirable to my husband.

As elaborate as my preparations were as a bride seeking to be beautiful for my husband, they were feeble in comparison with the Lord God's preparations for His bride, beginning with the very first earthly home. The first book in the Bible, Genesis, gives us an unforgettable picture of the Lord God. After at least five "days" of intensely creative work, He "planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground-trees that were pleasing to the eye."3 In my mind's eye, I can see Him on His hands and knees, grubbing in the dirt, planting trees and flowers and shrubs and grass, watering and pruning and landscaping.

God Himself was the first homemaker, preparing a place for His children, Adam and Eve, that would be pleasing to the eye. We can only imagine the joyful eagerness of the divine Gardener as He presented Adam with his lovingly prepared home that was not just adequate or sufficient to meet his needs but extravagant in its lush beauty and comfort.

But the preparations made for that first earthly home, like the preparations I made for my wedding, or my daughters made for their weddings, or like the shah made for his beloved wife's tomb, are nothing compared with the preparations being made for our heavenly home!

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