The Road Home ~ a Christmas Miracle

We have an annual tradition of opening up our Christmas gifts to one another at the same time … over the phone. She lives in northern Ohio. I live in eastern NC. We’ve been friends for over twenty years, and every time we talk or get together, it’s as if we’ve never been apart. Yesterday was no different.

Her package arrived at my doorstep with the afternoon post. My gift to her arrived in Ohio earlier in the week. I called her after supper, and the unwrapping began. I went first and was immediately struck by the sentimentality of her gift to me.

(How did she get the artist to paint that picture … the one I took three years ago when I was up for a visit and we went out for a ride through Amish country? Amazing work. She must have paid someone to paint this.)

I voiced my joy and my obvious gratitude for such a sentimental treasure. My friend was perplexed.

“Elaine, I know you like Amish things, and I remember us taking that drive out in Amish country, but there are hundreds of paths and roads with that exact scene. I don’t even remember the picture you took; I just happened upon this man’s shop in Navarre, liked his work, and selected a print I thought you would like. There were dozens and dozens of scenes to choose from, but I kept coming back to this one. It just spoke to me, and I knew it was the one to get for you.”

Coincidence? Never. To prove my point, I scoured through the pictures on my computer and found the one that closely resembled the scene in the painting. I sent it to my friend. She began coming around to my point of view. We discussed the similarities, but it wasn’t until I pointed out the curve of the tree in the front left corner of the picture that I knew we had a match.

What are the odds? Of all the gifts she could have given me this Christmas, she gave me this one. She never made the connection between her gift and the picture I’d taken three years ago. She didn’t need to. God did it for her. God did it for me. Maybe … even God did it for the artist.

After we finished our conversation, I did some research on the painter, Billy Jacobs. He’s a local resident in Navarre, OH, and lives within a couple miles of my friend’s home. His work is stunning. I’m not much into paintings, but his work could easily become my new favorite addiction. While visiting his website, I connected with his facebook page and left him a message about my God-incident. I even posted the original picture I had taken three years ago to his wall. Within an hour, he had responded to my post, confirming what I already suspected and asking me if I remembered the location where that photo was taken. The scene was the inspiration for his artwork, but he’s never been able to find that exact location again in all of his travels throughout Amish country. My friend and I racked our brains, trying to retrace the steps we took back in 2011, and I was able to give Billy a general vicinity of where I think he’ll be able to rediscover … wait for it …

The Road Home.

Yep. That’s the title of his painting. Coincidence? Never.

And so to this Advent season and to my thoughts and my heart that are full tonight of memory, of yearning, of hope, and of expectation for …

the road home.

Isn’t that the Christmas road? Isn’t that the sum-total of the Bethlehem search … the pilgrimage to the manger? A step or two back in time in order to take a step or two forward in faith. To find that which is longed for and that, with the finding, comes fresh inspiration, fresh resolve to keep moving forward in expectation of home.

It’s but a few steps from here. Not as far off as we think. For Billy, his search might lead him down the Jericho Road toward Kidron, OH (the latest, best pinpoint for the location – I’m not kidding …). For me, well, my search will take me a bit further. To the Kidron Valley (the valley on the eastern side of The Old City of Jerusalem and that separates the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives) and beyond. This is where Jesus finished his earthly life; this is the place where he exited earthen sod to be at home with his Father forever.

Jesus Christ. The Road Home. My beginning. My now. My next. He is where I’m headed this Christmas. How grateful I am for the Christmas miracle that found its way to my front porch to lead me to the manger so that I might, once again, behold the Savior in all his glory.

Blessings, friends, as you travel the road to Bethlehem this year. May the miracle of Christmas renew your faith, strengthen your resolve, and quicken your search for the road home. And as always, may God grant you his abiding peace for the journey.

Merry Christmas,

PS: If you have some time, visit Billy’s website and tell me your favorite. As for me, I have my eyes set on A Light in the Stable! (Hint, hint – my Billy Olsen – wouldn’t it look great over our mantle next Christmas?) Also, another interesting detail – my friend’s name is Juanita. Billy Jacob’s mother’s name? Yep. Juanita. Isn’t God cool?

15 Responses to The Road Home ~ a Christmas Miracle

  1. God is unbelievably cool – and He always finds ways to delight us with His “coincidences”! I have a few wonderful stories myself!

    I love the photo, and I love the painting. I will check out Billy’s website – I’m sure I’ll find something I can put on my gift list for next year!

    Elaine, my very best wishes to you and yours for a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! May your home be filled with His love, joy, peace, and hope. And may we be blessed as we look toward 2015, anticipating the journey and the adventure that God takes us on!


    • You too, Sharon! I know I’ve been MIA for a while now. I hope to visit you this break. Let me know what you like of Billy’s. Just wonderful work.

  2. Greg and I have been in Kidron, Ohio on several occasions. We have Amish friends who live in Dundee, and the campground we stay at when we are there is in Dundee. Chances are good I have been down that very road. I’ve certainly been on the ‘road home’ to the manger. I walk it again this year, eager to see that babe, my King, my Lord. Such a beautiful post, Elaine. You bless me, friend. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  3. I love when GOD Himself engages us like this! He loves to show us things about how much He sees and knows everything about us and His desire for us to know Him intimately never ends! The road home will never be the same again for you or for us as we have been privileged to share this with you! I love God’s special gifts like this — just to reminde us of how very much He loves us! Journeying with you and always choosing JOY on the journey! XOXO Stephanie

  4. Oh how I love to hear stories like this. We have a VERY personal God who can touch our lives in ways NO ONE else can. I love that He touched yours in such a way. Totally awesome story. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

  5. Love this!!! My nephew took some steps to “The Road Home” yesterday and we all were together for Christmas dinner for the first time in years. This has been a huge answer to prayer. Continuing to ask the Lord to bring my nephew’s heart back safely to be home with God.

    I have one of Billy Jacob’s prints in our bedroom..”Headin Home”:

    Sweet day after Christmas my friend, as you treasure the blessings of yesterday as well as anticipate the ones in store today,

    • Very cool, Joy! Love the print and love the steps of grace that lead a heart home. Celebrating with you as well.

  6. Isn’t that amazing? Our God is amazing! I love the photo and the painting. The setting is almost surreal. I love that you connected with the artist and helped him pinpoint the location. I will check out his website.

    I pray that you and your family will get healthy quickly. And may 2015 be a year filled with love and energy. I know you need that in your classroom!

    Blessings and love,

  7. Happy New Year Elaine, and to preacher Billy and your family! I miss chatting with you, what happened to the end of 2014?? I think I dropped out of the blog world for a time, but so happy to catch up with you tonight. Off we go… right into 2015, and what does God have in mind for each one of us? Blessings and much love my friend!

  8. I love that I get frequent updates on your life & times via Facebook, Elaine. But I love this larger perspective.

    As 2015 unfolds, I wish you & yours great joy, much passion, incredible health and much godly wisdom. Oh … and I add a few hugs as well.


  9. Elaine, I read this story on your FB updates, and it struck me even then. To read it in full here amazes me all the more. The painting is beautiful. but I think the photo you took is even more beautiful, with the milk cans and the fall scenery. Late fall really is my favorite time of the year… when the trees are almost totally bare. I also love country road scenes… your story makes it really personal. God did it for you, Elaine. He loves you and cares for you so much, He knew how much you needed to know that… a blessed 2015 to you, dear friend.

  10. Hello! I was wondering if I could share this on the Billy Jacobs Art Gallery Facebook page?
    Your friend stopped in again today and mentioned the blog, it was written beautifully and I would love to share it!
    Thanks, Christy

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