Is there more to life than this?

Renee Ann Smith —  January 28, 2011 — 49 Comments

 

Maybe all of us have asked the question at one time or another, “Is there more to life than this?” One of my favorite country songs says it this way, “You know I’m more and more convinced the longer that I live that this can’t be–No, this can’t be. No, this can’t be all there is!” (from Believe)

A book I read recently brought this strongly to mind. It put me through an emotional wringer (for reasons I might share in a future post) and sent me to my Bible to soak in some of God’s familiar promises. The novel is this month’s book club selection, Crossings Oceans by Gina Holmes.

Since some of you may have the same question in your heart, I’d like to focus on one aspect this significant story brought out: What happens when life on earth is through?

First, a story summary: Crossing Oceans, by Gina Holmes, is the poignant and lovely story of Jenny Lucas, who must “navigate the rough and unknown waters of the new reality in her life when she returns home with her young daughter to her stoic, distant father and her oxygen-toting grandmother.” The story speaks to some of the universal themes we all deal with—moving on from unrequited love, learning to forgive, letting go of the past, becoming a better person for those we cherish, and adjusting to whatever ‘new normal’ life throws our way.

One of the key relationships in the book is between Jenny and her dad. These two can’t even discuss the weather without throwing in digs and accusations.

 

The main source of misunderstanding between them stems from the fact that they’ve both been marked by watching beloved wife and mother, Audra, suffer the ravages of cancer. Since Jenny was a teen when her mother died, she sorely needed the comfort of her surviving parent, but her dad closed himself off behind a wall of bitterness. Only after many heartaches and wasted years, are they able to bridge the gap between them.

Look at how the following lines from the novel describe one of Jenny’s visits to her mother’s grave:

I knelt on the grass, ignoring the lumpy ground pressing into my bare knees. Though some found it sacrilegious to set foot on a grave, let alone sit atop it, to me it was as close to my mother’s lap as I’d get on this side of heaven.

Even as an adult, Jenny longs for her mother. Audra’s death has shadowed her life. We’ve probably all read about the process of grieving and the steps involved, even if we’ve never experienced them. Yet, like Jenny and her father, we’re reticent to speak of it, deal with it, or prepare for it. But we don’t need to be if we’ll simply educate ourselves from a trustworthy source. The Bible says that we were created to live forever.

 

I believe deep down inside, we all know this to be true because God has placed eternity in our hearts. We find ourselves longing for permanence. We try to build things that will last forever: pyramids filled with mementos, towers that reach the sky, unsinkable ships. Yet eternity may only be found in Christ. Through Him, we’re promised a new heaven and a new earth.

Just think of it: all that we love and none of what we detest. No more crying, sickness, death, disease, abuse, power-struggles, tsunamis, earthquakes, unemployment, poverty—you name it!

And I also believe that the more firmly convinced we are of our salvation, of Christ holding our lives in His hands, the more confident we’ll feel that there’s more to life than this. Not that we’re eager to see our happy lives on earth end any time soon! But don’t we all want to know that there’s more to come? That this life is just prologue to an incredible future?

Jenny believes it. After witnessing her mother’s experience with death, she becomes convinced that there is life everlasting for the child of God. While at the grave, she thinks of this:

I looked back down to her headstone. “Here lie the remains of Audra Ann Lucas, beloved wife, daughter, friend. Do not mourn her, for she lives.” As if I hadn’t see these words a thousand times, I stared, amazed at the profoundness of them.

Jenny’s new perspective also gives her an appreciation for the beauty of life here on earth:

I closed my eyes, letting the sun rays soak into my anemic flesh. They felt as nourishing to my soul as Isabella’s kisses or Mama Peg’s touch. The simple joy of breathing fresh air, feeling the sun and being among the green God created filled me with amazement. I scanned the trees with their heavy limbs, the grass cushion under me, and the wisps of white sailing on a sea of blue above. The simple grandeur of it all took my breath away. Placing a hand over my heart, I marveled at such beauty—so familiar and yet it felt new. I’d had all this at my disposal my entire life, but I’d never really appreciated it.

Jenny learns much from her mother’s death and comes to truly believe that she’ll see her again. Her epiphany reminded me of an old story told by Bible teacher and preacher J. Vernon McGee:

 

There is a story of sweetness and beauty which enlightens the heart of every person who has lost a loved one to death. It concerns a custom among the shepherd folk of the Alps. In the summertime when the grass in the lower valleys withers and dries up, the shepherds seek to lead their sheep up a winding, thorny, and stony pathway to the high grazing lands. The sheep, reluctant to take the difficult pathway infested with dangers and hardships, turn back and will not follow. The shepherds make repeated attempts, but the timid sheep will not follow.

Finally a shepherd reaches into the flock and takes a lamb and places it under his arm, then reaches again and takes another lamb, placing it under the other arm. Then he starts up the precipitous pathway. Soon the mother sheep start to follow and afterward the entire flock. At last they ascend the torturous trail to green pastures.

The Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, has reached into the flock and He has picked up a lamb. He did not do it to rob you but to lead you out and upward. He has richer and greener pastures for you, and He wants you to follow. For as He promised:

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I [Christ] go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” ~John 14:2,3

Now that’s a promise you can build your life upon!

If you haven’t read Crossing Oceans, follow this link to purchase a copy for yourself.

Follow this link to contact the author, Gina Holmes, at her website.

Lydia at The Overweight Bookshelf has written a great review of this novel and is hosting a linky list of book club reviews for you to check out here.

How about you?

  • Can you relate to Jenny’s experience?
  • What are your thoughts on eternity?
  • How should our view of eternity affect our lives today?
  • Any words of hope to share?

There will be a day . . .

Renee Ann Smith

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I teach literature in a Christian high school by day and write inspirational fiction by night. I love to share heart-touching quotes and stories here on my blog. So glad you stopped by!

49 responses to Is there more to life than this?

  1. This is a really in depth look at the toughest realities we all face. I enjoyed reading your take on it and will visit again soon. I’m a new follower from the Spotlight blog hop.

  2. Christine Luzzi January 29, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Very beautiful, Renee. Another view of the Great Shepherd……thank you.

  3. This sounds so sad and beautiful. What a gorgeous review.

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Great post!

  5. I am looking forward to reading this book. I’m sure it will teach me and make me think through things.
    Thanks for painting this picture of Christ and giving a different spin on how to accept those who leave us in this life and go on before us. It is a refreshing way to think about it. Very touching.

  6. First, I want to thank you for commenting on my blog about the book The Search. Second, I want to applaud you for the amazing job you do reviewing books. My eyes grew wide as I read thinking “now this is how a book review is done!” Great job! I can tell you truly have a passion for reading books, writing on your blog and mostly for the Lord. I will be back often and “like” you on Facebook. My 13 year old just started a book blog with a friend. I want her to visit this blog for inspiration. 🙂

  7. Love how you did this post Renee! Hopefully it reaches those who need to hear it today. Also, I LOVE J. Vernon McGee. He still comes on the radio in my area.

  8. You managed a book review, a testimony and a beautiful sermon all in one post. I am so blown away I think I should go back and rewrite my review! Yours is stellar.

    I am new to your line up and thank you for allowing me to participate.

  9. I am following you through the blog hop. Very nice site. Thanks
    http://thecryptocapersseries.blogspot.com
    http://www.reneeahand.com
    Renee

  10. The way you composed this book review really ministered to me. Preach it Sister! The picture of the woman lying on the grave is PERFECT. That scene carried such poignancy, especially when Jenny was reading the epitaphs.

    • Thanks, Lydia! I prized your review because you pulled so much out of the story that I loved. I could really relate to what you shared. I enjoy visiting your blog–even when I haven’t read the books you’re discussing. Blessings!

  11. I am back for the second time today. Your comment on my blog was very thoughtful. It’s not very often that I find a writer/teacher’s blog like yours and so it was a very special discovery. Also I think it’s brave to write about spiritual things online. So many people have so many different personal interpretations that it’s tough to elicit a reader’s spiritual inklings. I think some of us have developed a Jesus shield when we see Christians praising and quoting. Sorry if that offends anyone, I’m a faithful believer…my point is that I too have at times carried my Jesus sheild when meeting new bloggers but today I did not click away. Perhaps it was your treatment of loss and compassion that did it. In any case I appreciate the message and will visit again.

    • I’m glad you didn’t click away! Thanks for your transparency here. The interaction in the comments and among bloggers–“meeting folks like you online–has made blogging so enjoyable for me. Can’t beat that!

  12. Hi! New follower! Love your blog 🙂

    Brea
    http://www.becomingbrea.com

  13. Love this post. The book looks like one that I would like to read. And your thoughts were just perfect. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Ah, yes, this subject has been on my mind of late as we have lost several family members. I have today. Am I making the most of it? That’s what I keep asking myself.

  15. This is why I envy my daughter’s faith. Death doesn’t make her sad, she trusts so completely that we’ll all be together in Heaven. I want that. I can feel eternity printed on my soul as you say, but still there’s doubt. I’d love to be free from it.

    • I remember feeling that way for so many years, Joey. I would hear people talk about being born again and knowing Jesus and label them fanatical or childish. Then I decided to ask God to show me what was true so I could find out for myself. (A great book to start with would be something like The 3:16 Promise by Max Lucado: http://www.amazon.com/Promise-Loves-Gives-Believe-Live/dp/0849919193 )

      I read through all four of the gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–until the truth sank into my soul. (Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” John 11:25)

      I finally knew what it was to believe and gave my heart to Christ . . . It’s a journey of discovery worth taking! I’d be happy to send you a book or two that helped me 🙂

  16. I love this post. And absolutely there is more to life than this. I completely agree. Hope springs eternal, and we seek eternity. The epitaph made me think of Twelfth Night when Feste asks Olivia why she is mourning, and she says for the death of her brother. She believes he has died and his spirit has gone to heaven. So the fool says “The more fool, madonna, to mourn for your brother’s soul, being in heaven.” Oh, Shakespeare. Thank you for this insightful post. And you are right, that is a beautiful promise. We have so much to look forward to!

    • Thanks for that great line from Shakespeare, Elysia! Such beautiful language. I love being reminded over and over of all God has in store for us . . . I saw that you’d been ill. So glad you’re feeling better. Love the pics of your little one on your blog. Blessings!

  17. Thanks so much for this post. Ive been reading a lot this past month and your post has made me want to check this book out. I am so thankful for Gods gift of eternal life. The Jeremy Camp song you have posted, I just heard last night , love it.

  18. Wow, what a lovely review and testimony. I’m so glad the book got you thinking and that you shared that thinking! Very touching.

  19. awesome post! nice to meet you on seekerville today! 🙂

  20. Hi Renee Ann!
    Another beautiful review about a great book that I once again have never heard of! Gosh, I wish I had more hours in the day to read all the great books you review. This book sounds so touching and amazing! I saw my husband’s cousin battle and “lose” the fight with Stage 4 lung cancer. I say she lost the battle, but really she has won her heavenly reward, but we have lost an angel here on earth that faced all the trials she faced with grace, humor, and love. I remember one of our last phone conversations together: she was telling me that despite all that she has been through she was looking forward to kneeling at Jesus’ lap and telling him “thank you” for all that He has done for her. I’m getting choked up now recalling this beautiful conversation and at the time I was 7 months pregnant with my 4th child so I was REALLY touched by her words and fighting back the tears. It wasn’t until I got off the phone with her that I let it all out and balled my eyes out knowing that she was going to leave her earthly home way too soon. God knows best and it is this fact that helps me get through all the times that our family misses her. Knowing that all those who suffered on earth are now pain free, care free, and rejoicing with our Lord makes me thankful that I have been given the grace to know that the purpose for life on earth is to prepare our souls to meet our Savior in Heaven! Renee Ann, just your lovely review brought back so many memories of my husband’s cousin. I can’t imagine how much this book would affect me emotionally if I ever had a chance to read it cover to cover 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing about your husband’s sweet cousin. She sounds like a lovely person. I’m so glad the Bible talks so much about eternity. I love knowing that God’s children never really die! Her story reminds me of a dear friend who left us to be with the Lord a year ago this month. I’ll probably write about her next week . . . I’m glad my review brought back memories for you, Tracy. It’s good to remember those who affected us so deeply and to comfort ourselves with the promise that we’ll see them again. I’m always encouraged when you stop in and share a story here! Blessings!

  21. Oh, Renee. I love that Jeremy Camp song. What a beautiful post! Have you ever heard Jeremy camp’s testimony? Gives new meaning to some of his songs.

    This book hits close to home for me, I’m unsure of whether or not I will read it.

    I’m reminded of these verses in 1 Peter 1:3-5:
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ unto the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    Thank you for blessing us with this review, Renee Ann!

    • Oh–I love those verses, Julia! Thanks for sharing them here. I’ve never heard Jeremy Camp’s testimony. I’ll have to look it up later . . . I’ve urged lots of people to read this book, but you might want to wait . . . (My apologies to the author!) . . . I’m always glad to have you share your comments on my posts! Thanks.

  22. Following back! I need to come back to read this later. But right now, duty calls!
    michelle
    http://www.heartfeltbalancehandmadelife.blogspot.com

  23. This book sounds incredible. Your questions are poignant and I will ponder them each as I go about my day.
    You have a lovely site.

  24. I LOVE your site. Such a blessing!

    I found you through the blog hop.

    I’m following. 😉

    ecwrites.blogspot.com

  25. Absolutely love this review! Cannot wait to read this book.

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  1. Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes | The Vessel Project - April 21, 2011

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