Embracing the Gift of Life with a Heavenward Heart
by MANDY SAELER
In a swirl of packaging tape, styrofoam peanuts, and cardboard boxes, nearly a decade of life had been swiftly packed up and stowed into a moving truck. After years spent in the sunshine-flooded foothills of Colorado, I was preparing to journey back to the green hills of Pennsylvania to be a hometown girl again.
Before the packing began, I asked a dear friend to capture snapshots of my little home that overlooked the corner of 5th Street and Main Street in the charming town of Windsor, Colorado. I had loved my home. And I wanted to remember the sweetness of that space and, in some small way, bottle the essence of life lived within those walls.
Now that life on 5th and Main is but a memory, as my eyes pass over those photos, I am brought to realize that each capture offers a retrospective peer into not only my home and life, but my heart and walk with the Lord.
On the corner of 5th and Main, I sat at Jesus’ feet and, there, began to learn the art of living … there tasting the rich beauty to be found in embracing the gift of life with a heavenward heart.
The Art of Living
In recent years, as I’ve savored the writing of Corrie ten Boom I discovered the use of this phrase — the art of living — used in her books. It has intrigued and inspired me. So often, she references this expression in a discreet way causing you to lean in and wonder … just what does she mean?
As I’ve searched the pages of Corrie’s writing, I’ve realized she doesn’t plainly define the art of living in simple dictionary terms as the reader might naturally appreciate. However, just as a painter sets his brush to a canvas and begins to build layers of color, stroke upon stroke, fabricating the vision in his mind’s eye — this is exactly what Corrie does through her writing. Stroke upon stroke, she communicates a vision of the art of living.
Enjoying Life with a Heavenward Heart
The ten Boom family beautifully exemplified the art of living as they built their lives upon the solid foundation of God’s Word. The words of the Bible, prayer, and living in the reality of His loving presence were central to the daily existence of the ten Boom home.
The day began with God, the day was shared with God, and the day ended with God.
For many years, Corrie worked closely alongside her father in the family watch shop learning valuable principles for life and work. Together they prayed over the day’s tasks, committing their work to God and asking Him to help them solve the problems they did not understand. Father taught her the value of integrity and earning honest money, as well as genuinely caring for each person who came into the shop. They were Christians … always.
And yet, in all the serious business of earth and Heaven they tended to each day, they also saw it fitting to deeply enjoy life and the blessings God bestowed!
Corrie illustrated this by sharing a memorable occasion which took place in the ten Boom home. One day, her beloved sister Betsie came into the workshop saying: “Father, Corrie, give your watches half an hour’s rest. Mengelberg is playing a Bach cantata over the radio. Come into the living room, and in the meantime you will enjoy a cup of soup such as you have never tasted in your life.” Corrie noted this as a happy interruption saying, “Father and I never refused. We enjoyed life.”
Enjoying the good things of life had value because they loved the Creator of life and enjoyed Him. Their hearts were filled to the brim with love and devotion to the Lord and, because of this, simple pleasures stirred them — delight and praise splashing over the brim of their full hearts! Father ten Boom would exclaim that such rich times were “a foretaste of Heaven!”
The good gifts God gave did not steal the affection of their hearts from Him — but led them to Him.
Life was enjoyed … with a heavenward heart.
Living with Eyes on the Sky
The ten Boom family understood that life upon this earth is temporary and sought to live with eternity’s values in view. Embracing God’s Word as a heavenly guide to daily life, they diligently sought opportunities to show God’s love to others. And while the blessings of life were richly enjoyed, all was savored with open hands; for their hearts were anchored where true joy is found … in God alone.
Each dinnertime prayer offered at the oval table in the ten Boom home ended with these words: “And, heavenly Father, let the day come soon when Jesus, Your beloved Son, comes on the clouds of heaven.”2 These soul-deep words resounded throughout their home and calibrated their hearts to the tune of eternity’s song.
While quite different from Father ten Boom, King Solomon offered profound and heavenly perspective for life upon the earth. From the man who had tasted every earthly luxury and accomplishment comes the surprising exclamation — all is vanity!
The wisest king of all time observed two views throughout his reign. The first being that life itself is fleeting. By the sweat of his brow a man lives. All that mankind labors for will soon be passed into the hands of another. Vanity, all is vanity! (See Ecclesiastes 1:1–18; 2:1–23.)
And yet, he also held to the fact that life is a beautiful gift. It is a good thing to enjoy the life we have been given … to appreciate the reward of our labor and the blessings of our heavenly Father. (See Ecclesiastes 2:24–26; 3:9–15.)
King Solomon concludes this book of wisdom by expressing how to live a truly meaningful life:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13–14).
Certainly, these are words to live by.
The ten Boom family embraced this biblical wisdom and their example shows us that this truly is a beautiful way to live! Loving God, loving His Word, loving people, and embracing the gift of life with eyes on the sky!
Learning the Art of Living
As I reflect upon the photos my friend captured of my little home on 5th and Main, I am brought to remember the precious lessons my heart learned in the art of living through the years spent in that place. I have much yet to learn, but as my heart has mingled the joy of living with Jesus and the anticipation of eternity with Him — life has become increasingly sweet.
I could share story upon story with you, detailing the meaning that each of these photos hold to my heart and the life lessons they represent. However, it will suffice to share a summary of the lessons in this simple way…
The Lesson of the Brown Sofa:
Those chocolate brown cushions were a place of retreat. There, I sat long with the Lord in the mornings with coffee close at hand, and closed many evenings there with Him, too. It was also the place where kindred-spirited friends gathered to converse, celebrate, laugh, fellowship, pray … and to simply enjoy the gift of life.
Life is short — loving God and loving people are what truly matters. This world is fading, but His Word never will.
The Lesson of the Townie Bike:
I’d saved coffee house tips and gifted money for quite some time to buy this beautiful bike I’d long waited for. One of the first times I rode it and used the kickstand, a gusty wind caused it to fall … and the paint was scratched. Naturally, I cringed — but I learned a valuable lesson.
The things I own are just “things.” While I will gratefully care for that which is mine, I must not treasure my possessions as though they have eternal value. I must hold earthly things with open hands.
The Lesson of the Sequined Pillow:
Mattresses and box springs are expensive — this I learned! If I’d had the money in my pocket to just go out and buy what I needed, I wouldn’t have experienced the adventure of God meeting my needs — one piece of a bed set at a time, complete with a beautiful sequined pillow! God provided for me as a loving Father, shaping my heart through His wise lessons and perfect timing.
The seeming vulnerability of dependence upon God alone is a safe thing; and the joy of answered prayer cast out from a needy heart is unmeasured. A wonder-filled life awaits for all who will venture out on faith in their God!
The Lesson of 5th and Main:
Life will change … we may pack up boxes and find ourselves in a new place and adjusting to a new rhythm, learning that the art of living takes on different forms from one season to the next. But this one central truth must always remain the same: Jesus is Life, and the art of living begins and ends with Him.
There is absolutely nothing more precious or beautiful than living in holy harmony with Him — His nearness is the sweetest foretaste of Heaven!
Dear sister, in all our ways, may you and I be found faithful to the One True King: living and loving well, with our eyes on the sky … for Jesus is coming soon!