It Smells Like Love

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“I like the way Grandpap’s house smells,” my eleven-year-old niece told me last week when I was visiting my sister. (And, yes, I survived the trip to and from town. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my blog, That Middle Section.)

Back to my niece…

In my mind, I walked into my father’s home and took a big sniff.IMG_4295


I couldn’t associate a particular smell with his house, except for a few childhood memories of the times I told my two younger sisters and brothers that they stank. But, of course, that was the result of sibling rivalry and the serious need—at their end—of a bath.

They all smell just fine now.

I looked at my niece, curious about her comment. “So, what exactly does Grandpap’s house smell like? I asked.

She smiled up at me as she bounced around the family room. “It smells like love.”

I thought again of my dad’s house. Since my mom passed away almost thirty-three years ago, he has lived alone and doesn’t do much cooking, so she wasn’t savoring the smell of cookies or a pot roast in the oven. My dad also doesn’t wear aftershave, burn candles, or use plug-in scents. I closed my eyes and again imagined myself standing in his house. I breathed in, searching for the fragrance that my niece detected. And besides the slight early-morning aroma of fresh-brewed coffee, I once again came up blank.

smells like love blog pic finalWhat in the world could she be smelling?

Then I thought about my father. A quiet man of integrity. A man who lost two babies and his wife of twenty years, yet raised five children with a steadfast, strong, and loving presence. A brave, brave man who radiates peace and a deep, serene love for his God. A man who is kind, passionate about baseball and hockey, a generous giver, and will do anything for his family.

A man after God’s own heart.

I understood more after I read 2 Corinthians 14-16.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (NLT)

Finally, I realized why my niece, who also loves the Lord, said that her grandpap’s house smelled like love.

Not because of a physical scent, but because of the fragrance of Jesus, which permeates every room.

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Someday, I’m going to live in my Father’s house with my big God. I’ll see Jesus, feel his arms around me, taste his goodness, and hear the voice of a great multitude praising him. And when I breathe in?

His house will smell like love.


That Middle Section

IMG_4111 - CopyI’m getting ready to visit my sister. She lives in the south, her house cradled by mountains. A lovely place to write my next blog, except…

“Don’t forget we have no internet,” she reminded me on the phone last week.

“Oh. Wow. Okay, I’ll use my phone, I guess.”winter mountains

“No cell service either. Sorry.”

“You mean I’ll have to use data, right?”

“Nope,” she said. “I mean no cell service. No data, no internet, no phone. And, by the way, we got rid of our land line. Too expensive.”

Had my sister moved to Mars?

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said. “Wait, aren’t you talking to me on your cell phone now? From home?”

“It’s a cloudy day, so if I sit on my front porch before the trees leaf out, sometimes I have one bar.”

“Must be why this connection is so terrible. It sounds like there’s a hurricane at your end.”

“That’s not the connection,” she said. “The wind is blowing like crazy.”

I squinted into the phone. “And what’s that clicking noise?”

“Freezing rain pinging off my phone. Or it could be my teeth chattering.”

I imagined myself huddled on her front porch, bundled to the hilt, crouched over my phone and trying to type my blog with thick gloves.


I could write my blog ahead of time and schedule it to post next Monday, but I’d still need to check email and call my husband while I was visiting.

“Is there anywhere I can get on the internet?” I asked her.

“Well, sure, we’re not hicks in the sticks, you know. You can go into town.”

I bit my lip, remembering the last time I went “into town.” Driving my pickup along a dinky, icy one-lane road cut into a mountain. Oh, and with no guard rails.

Let me tell you—if you’re not a firm believer in prayer, don’t take that road. The beginning and end aren’t a problem, but that middle section is a different story. And, trust me on this, you don’t even want to start that drive without praying—big time.

Imagine meandering on a thin, blacktopped road. As you drive, you notice that, on onewest virginia road side, the mountain begins shooting straight up. And on the other side—you guessed it—the mountain drops down. Way, way down.

This, by the way, is a two-way road. Which means, while you’re navigating that middle section, you may encounter a vehicle coming the other way. And since we’re south of the Mason-Dixon line, way out in the country, no siree, that vehicle won’t be a Prius or a Kia.

 Everyone here drives pickup trucks. Big ones. With lift kits.

Of course, who am I to talk? I drive a pickup truck too. I live in Michigan—enough said.

So, what happens when two vehicles going in opposite directions meet in that middle section of the road?

Well, someone has to back up.

Along that middle section, the county provided a few outcrops on each side. Very few, since building a turnout spot with a steep mountain wall on one side and a steep mountain cliff on the other isn’t all that easy. And by outcrop, I don’t mean a ten-foot paved section. No, no, no—this is a four-foot-wide space just long enough for a vehicle to squeeze into. And the outcrops on the cliff side? You got it. No guard rails.

Here’s the rule. The driver heading out of town has the right-of-way. That’s because he has the cliff on his right while the driver heading into town has the mountain wall on his right. If the incoming driver encounters another vehicle, he must back up until he finds an outcrop and maneuver his vehicle snugly against the mountain, allowing enough IMG_4292room for the other vehicle to squeak by, often with its wheels on the edge of the road.

And, since both of those scenarios scare the pants off me, I’d pray like crazy that I won’t meet another vehicle. And my big God would answer with a resounding “Yes!” and I’d travel that road without seeing another vehicle.

Except for that one time…

On the way home from town, I turned onto that road. I thought I’d prayed, but I was babbling away with my sister. Maybe I forgot.

Anyway, in that middle section, I came face-to-face with an oncoming vehicle, who stopped about thirty feet away.

I braked and gawked at my sister. “Oh, no! What do I do?”

“He’ll back up,” she said in a calm voice. Nothing fazes my sister—ever.

I gave my horn a gentle tap, but still he idled without moving.

Oh-oh. He didn’t know the rule.

I turned to my sister. “Now what?”

I had always wondered why, if the incoming driver pulls off the road to allow the outgoing driver to pass, the county had bothered to put outcrops on the cliff side of the road. And I found out why—for the people who don’t know the rule.

I beeped my horn again, this time not so politely. “Come on, Dorkball. Back up!”

“That’s not very nice. He’s probably not from around here,” my sister said. Not only does nothing faze her, but she never says anything bad about anyone.

She pointed to an outcrop twenty feet ahead, on my side of the road. “Pull in there.”

“But, but…”

I might have forgotten to pray before, but I definitely did not forget now. “Help, Lord, oh my gosh, don’t let us die.”

With my vehicle crawling along at one mile-per-hour, I eased into the outcrop while my sister hung her head out the passenger-side window and directed me.

“I’m too close—we’re going to go over!” I yelled, terrified.

“You have plenty of room, like five inches.”

I braked and sat shaking while the other vehicle passed. When I finally pulled back onto the road, I took a quavering breath. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so afraid.”

“Think of this way—it’s good for your faith to face scary stuff once in a while.”

I scowled at her. But later, when I thought about it, I decided that maybe she caution signhad a point.

True, God had strengthened my trust in him every time he got me through that road without meeting another driver. But life isn’t always a clear road, even for Christians. Sometimes, we’re going to meet oncoming vehicles in a middle section, driven by people who don’t know the rules. And when our big God sees us through those cliff-hovering experiences, we learn to rely more and more on him.

And build our confidence solely in him.

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. (Psalm 27:3 NIV)