This Homeward Ache Q&A

Welcome to the “office hours” for This Homeward Ache, friends! The comment section here will be open today for questions about details in the chapters, points I can clarify, or thoughts you might like to share.

Come in and take up a cup of something warm and delicious, and — if you’d like — please feel free to say hello even if you haven’t got a specific question or read the book. It’s been a gift to hear from kindred souls over the past few months. I’ve been especially honored to hear from readers about the signposts of joy they’ve encountered in their own lives, so that is a question I’ll put to you, if you have an answer: Where have you encountered a Homeward sort of longing? What was it like?

(And if you’ve read the book — was there a passage or chapter you found particularly resonant?)

By way of celebrating the book’s one month birthday, I’m hoping to pop in throughout the day to update this post with recent autumn snapshots and more snippets from last year’s writing log. Thank you for stopping by!


Snippets from the writing log

2.2.22 – I’m a few paragraphs away from the end [of Chapter 7] now… and also realizing that I ought to keep a record of what is happening as I am writing. So much of it feels as though I’m being led, which reminds me that all of this has come from Him, and that gives me hope that this thing will come safe into harbor in November.

2.3.22 – If this chapter were a quilt, I would sitting among the pieces of a top that once held tenuously together, seam-ripper in hand. Went back to present tense today because the last section rang truer [in that mode] than in all the preceding versions. Ordered [someone else’s memoir, told in present tense] to give me some courage to keep to what I think is the right road!

2.8.22 – Started the day with “finish the first section of Ch. 8” on today’s THA list; by noon I had changed it to “start the first sentence”; at 9:55pm I still haven’t done it.

2.19.22 – There is a music to [writing].

5.1.22 – Ch. 8 has been chugging along but also been on hold, because I haven’t felt that my recollections [of my college fellowship] are comprehensive or clear enough to make into a story. But today in church they all came to mind out of nowhere, and for the first time I missed this aspect: worshipping with them with music.

After that I worked a bit on Ch. 8 this evening and only now I realize that — I think — this, too, was a stepping-stone from the Lord.

6.27.22 – There are bound to be holes — things that somebody wishes I had addressed but didn’t; things some people don’t resonate with; things that just plain exasperate others. I think I’m going to start writing the one-star reviews I anticipate toward this end. For some reason I expect that to help me put those objections out of my mind and concentrate on writing for the reader I do have in mind. 

8.18.22 – I recognize where I am now, here on the writing track. There is a point at which the course has been mapped out, and as many path-lights strewn as possible . . . though the finish line isn’t in sight yet — now comes that stretch where one puts one’s head down and puts all one’s strength into the springing and dashing of the feet. What has been laid has been laid, and if I can let that be—relinquish the could-have-beens and perhaps all the thank-goodness-nots—I can run this well. 

– Some days I benefit from the sheer manipulation of writing-a-book sequences from movies!

8.19.22 – Worst morning yet [health-wise]. All the same — I am glad to be alive.

9.5.22 – I think one of the things I love most about Ch. 13 is how it has led to conversations with my parents, which have led to conversations between my mother and grandmother, and my father and his older sisters… these chains of memory being refreshed and passed on. 

10.31.22 – After getting ready for bed I felt a lightness and a relief I have no felt for perhaps a year or more — always there has been an undercurrent of knowledge that this work was not done — and then, [chronic illnesses] being what they are, the adrenaline kept me from falling asleep and, when I finally did, filled the night with vivid and poignant dreams. But for once — I did not mind at all. 

It is very nearly done. I could stop at Ch. 18 and still have a complete book, but I ask for Your help and grace to write these last few words now. 

But — thank You. 

11.1.22 – Down to the last line now. […]

For my sisters and brothers who live with this Homeward longing, strengthen them with Your joy. In their moments that border or dwell squarely in grief, I pray for the covering of Your comfort, and for daily, visible, undeniable eucatastrophes. I pray that You will keep them from the clutches of the Evil One, and that You would help each to recognize Your voice. Kindle this ache. Prepare us to live in the place You are preparing; whet our appetites for exactly what it will be. 

Give us relief and endurance. Keep our hearts burning within us at the sound of Your voice and the glimmers of the place You are preparing, so that we may be alive to the working of Your Spirit in our lives. […]

Manuscript submitted. 


*Photo by Lydia Matzal on Unsplash


  1. I have only had time to dip my toes into the water with this book – tis a season of harvest and the whirl of preservation has me gasping for air at times, but I love it already, as I knew I would. More than that, I rejoice in watching my older daughters curled in a corner reading it too. I wrote this poem over a year ago out of my own homeward longing.

    Sandhill cranes’ ebullient call,
    On my ears this morning falls
    As if to welcome selves to day,
    With wings outstretched, they fly away.

    Some sweet sad tone within their cry,
    Calls “Discontent, yet satisfy”,
    And I am beset, like them, to roam,
    Where things of beauty whisper home.

    I am left hungry every time,
    Straining to hear their voices climb,
    Not silence takes their place, but shrill,
    The crickets, crows, the sparrows fill

    Small space between the cranes left rent,
    Bright glimpse of some magnificent,
    Their song I could not replicate,
    I can not call it forth, must wait –

    To hear it rise some other hour,
    To open on its own, sweet flower –
    The gift the sandhilll cranes have shed,
    “Dear weary pilgrim…day’s ahead.”

    1. Jana, that poem fair takes my breath away. There is so much beauty and wisdom in it, and these lines encapsulate the bitter and the sweet of the longing so well: “Their song I could not replicate, I can not call it forth, must wait — / To hear it rise some other hour, / To open on its own, sweet flower…” I’ve heard of others being similarly touched by the sandhill cranes’ flight and call, and perhaps someday I’ll be fortunate enough to hear them too. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with me.

      1. Thank you, Amy, for your gracefilled response to my poem, notwithstanding the glaring typo I made. I hope you too will one day hear the call of sandhill cranes. I felt I had found a kindred soul from the first time I read your writing in a Rabbit Room post. Thank you for writing so much beauty.

        1. (A little while ago I spotted a far more glaring typo in my Instagram stories; yours was hardly noticeable!) It gives me so much joy to meet kindred souls as well. Forgive me if you’re already a well-known poet and don’t need the added encouragement, but please keep writing poetry.

          1. A well- known poet, I am not – thank you for the encouragement to keep writing. And I echo what Emma Fox has put so well. Till we are gathered together home at last.

  2. Amy, I missed your seminar at Hutchmoot this year (unintentionally–I was catching up with friends and lost all track of time), but I enjoyed listening to your interview with Jonathan on the Habit Podcast this week, and I look forward to reading THIS HOMEWARD ACHE. One point you made that resonated with me (and I believe C.S. Lewis talks about this as well) is that although we often try to arrange vacations, etc. to make these moments happen (the “magic” of Disneyworld, a weekend in Paris), and that beauty is worth chasing, joy often comes as a surprise, unlooked-for. It’s a gift of grace. And it’s often mixed with pain. After suddenly losing my mom two years ago, I’ve found that memories often hit me with a grief so great, my instinct is to look away. But when I make the choice to linger in that space for a moment, I’ll often find that what I thought was darkness is actually full of joy, love, even hope.

    1. That is the very reason I missed the reading of The Major and the Missionary! 🙂 I’m glad you caught up with friends… as is so often said of Hutchmoot, you were exactly where you needed to be.

      It really is a gift of grace… and I am so sorry for your great loss. I agree that the joy is often mixed with pain — not least because we live in a fallen world, but perhaps also because we ourselves aren’t capable of containing it yet without fracturing in some good way — and in a broad sense I’m thankful that even our experience of joy isn’t limited to the happy and pleasant chapters of our lives. That proves its eternal nature, I think. I think it’s very brave and tenaciously beautiful of you to linger in the grip of grief to see what lies at its heart.

      1. Thank you, Amy, and thank you for opening up this “office hours” day to discuss such a lovely and important theme! I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments and responses here from fellow pilgrims. I look forward to the day when each of us will touch our hands to Christ’s wounds and find the answer to all our homeward ache in him!

        1. My pleasure, truly! And what a beautiful Day that will be, indeed… to greet you all and share the stories of what has passed in the intervening time.

  3. I’ve been collecting quotes from your book as I’ve been reading–words that have been finding me where I am and calling me deeper, the first from page 8: “I only knew that I wanted to stand very still and be enfolded in the rustling quiet of that sight. … The beauty that hurts, this exquisite pain weighted with solemnity and wonder, is thus a joy steeped in longing and a longing steeped in joy; our sense of separation from eternity brings both the relief and the pang of knowing that things are not as they should be” (p.22). I could fill this comment section with the quotes that have spoken to me. I have just a few pages of This Homeward Ache left to read and will be savoring them tonight. You give voice to something I have felt as a child, maybe 7 or 8, when I stood on the shores of Lake Michigan listening to the crashing waves, feeling the wind, taking in the distinctive smell of the lake. That is my first recollection of wanting to “stand very still and be enfolded” in a place that would continue to call to me throughout my life–a place that filled with longing for what is beyond this world. As I’ve grown older, I recognize that razor thin edge between beauty and grief, and I am amazed by it every time. Thank you for putting these words out into the world. They have blessed and encouraged me. You are a deeply gifted writer!

    1. I’m so heartened to know that this book has helped give voice to your own experiences, Cindee… and I love that image of you as a child standing on the shores of that great lake. We visited it a few years ago, and thanks to your recollection, I remember that distinctive smell. It seemed to draw in the edges of the world to make the little lakeside town we visited into its own sphere. Thank you for your kind words!

  4. Hello Amy,

    On Monday of this week, my husband and I flew to a new state for him to have a job interview. As a mom of two little girls, I found myself with hours of uninterrupted free time (SO rare). As I ironed his shirt and pants at the hotel that morning (also rare), I turned on your Rabbit Room podcast and was mesmerized by the concept of Sehnsucht. Learning about it couldn’t have come at a better time. After dropping him off for his interviews, I walked the campus of the university where he will possibly work one day and I stumbled upon a small prayer chapel. I spent a few hours in there alone, in glorious silence, reading your book and discovering words to describe a feeling that I’ve felt my whole life. A feeling that I was feeling that very day.

    Thank you for this book, Amy. It’s blessed me so.

    1. Two girls — check; rare ironing — check… the kindred threads here made me smile. 🙂 But oh, goodness, I am honored that you spent your time in such a beautiful setting with this book, and I’m also honored to have introduced you to the term for this feeling you already knew. I’m truly grateful that you shared this with me; thank you.

  5. Where have I encountered a homeward longing? When I was a girl of 11, my family moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado to help my grandmother run a place that had been built by my father and grandfather. It was a “dude ranch” in their words, with six log cabins built by the hands of my father and his father, and it was called Moon Valley. My first night sleeping in the cabin was magical and the bright rays of the sun that awakened me the next morning made me feel truly alive, like I had been placed where I was meant to be. Now as an adult, I live in Colorado again, but sadly years ago the ranch had to be sold. This summer our son in law drove down that road and we asked him to send back pictures. When he did, my heart almost stopped. Moon Valley has a For-Sale sign, and the cabins….. are nowhere to be seen. The memories flooded back, time spent with my grandmother in the kitchen, and with my brothers wandering the back field, picking wildflowers. Knowing that my longings for that place are a taste of the longing for the true Home that I am made for, a home that will have the sweet rays of the Son shining down—this is my comfort. And. knowing that I will see my grandmother again in that place is too.

    1. Ah, Terri. I grieve with you over the passing of those cabins, and I love your description of what it was like for you to encounter that place for the first time and let it settle deep into the fabric of your childhood. There’s a liturgy in the next EMH that empathizes with you in looking toward the Home we long for while we carry the memory of homes we have known. 💛

      1. Oh, thank you, I will look for that liturgy when it’s available. In the meantime, I am so blessed to begin reading YOUR beautiful book, where I know I will find the longings of your kindred heart speaking truth to mine!

  6. Hello, Amy! I discovered your blog last autumn and enjoyed reading almost all of its posts in that season. Your walk with the Lord and recounting of glimpses of His beauty inspires me to look for closely for Him in my every day (and to relish more Lord of the Rings, Beatrix Potter, and flowers. :)). Imagine my excitement when I learned you had written a book! I haven’t read it yet, but I am so excited to. Thank you for your writing.

    I experienced a homeward longing last weekend while walking through and arboretum with my husband. The trees looked like light was glowing from within them!

    1. Hello, Emily! What an encouragement it is to hear that you found inspiration in those posts; thank you for letting me know! I love trees and light as well… you might be pleased to find them highlighted in one of the later chapters of the book. May your awareness of His presence (and mine) grow clearer and keener by the day.