Wrestling With Time: Don’t Look Back, Don’t Worry About Tomorrow. Live for Today With The Abiding Presence


March is here. Spring is in the air and we’ve already had a taste of it. I’m not ready. I still want to hibernate. I didn’t lose any weight yet. I didn’t finish purging clutter. Wait, wait, wait!

I’m not ready.

But it’s here.

I spent much of January sulking about the past. After-holiday blues hit hard. My cousin Prudence and I talked about Christmas past, when gifts were opened slowly, one at a time, each moment treasured as everyone absorbed the joy of the recipient. We reminisced about a different kind of Christmas, a different world, another time. Remember when, remember when. Remember when one gift a piece was precious. It was enough. Now our grandchildren attack a tower of presents under the tree, flinging wrapping paper, viciously anticipating the next toy.

Prudy and I both had our youngest children, daughters, move away last year. We miss them.

All of my children are geographically far from me. I wish we could all be together again, at least during holidays. I hate that we were split apart by divorce, before they finished becoming adults. I envy other couples my age that have been married 30, 35, 40 plus years. Because that’s what it was supposed to be for me. I envy the shared history and memories, comfort level, children in common, that those couples have: fruits of a long faithful marriage.

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. – Psalm 42:5

On January 29, I was prompted to read Spurgeon’s Morning Devotion which starts:

In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. [emphases mine]

I was jolted back into the present. Yes, we must look forward. He says, for the most part, I think because we should never forget what God did for us, how He saved us from our past. We should remember how he plucked us out of places we shouldn’t have been in. I think Spurgeon says this also because it’s okay to treasure certain things in our hearts, like memories with our children and all the blessings in our lives past.

Life is but a vapor…

In February, my 58-year-old cousin Frank died unexpectedly. At his visitation, fifty-eight years flashed before me onscreen. There was a picture of Frank being baptized in the little Brooklyn church where I was also baptized. Those were the days, growing up in that little church. I plummeted further, lamenting over the utter brevity of life. My morning devotions brought me to Ecclesiastes 7:10 where the Lord, through Solomon berated me:

Do not say,
“Why were the former days better than these?”
For you do not inquire wisely concerning this. – Eccl. 7:10

The Lord, through Matthew Henry, scolded me further:

the supposition is a foolish reflection upon the providence of God in the government of the world.” Note, (1.) It is folly to complain of the badness of our own times when we have more reason to complain of the badness of our own hearts (if men’s hearts were better, the times would mend) and when we have more reason to be thankful that they are not worse, but that even in the worst of times we enjoy many mercies, which help to make them not only tolerable, but comfortable. (2.) It is folly to cry up the goodness of former times, so as to derogate from the mercy of God to us in our own times; as if former ages had not the same things to complain of that we have, or if perhaps, in some respects, they had not, yet as if God had been unjust and unkind to us in casting our lot in an iron age, compared with the golden ages that went before us; this arises from nothing but fretfulness and discontent, and an aptness to pick quarrels with God himself. [emphases mine]

How sobering!

Whatever state I am in to be content…

The good old days. They are always reinterpreted through revisionist eyes. Eyes that are so dissatisfied with the here and now, the past looks more attractive. This is discontentment. Paul learned whatever state I am in to be content. Am I? As a divorced, reformed and remarried woman, am I?

It’s a dangerous thing to whine over afflictions designed by God for our good. It’s a dangerous thing to look back, as Lot’s wife did.

The good old days were not really that good.

The Lord showed great mercy and lovingkindness toward me. He sent a new husband my way. He makes all things new, indeed.

Live in the Present with the Abiding Presence

I am reading The Abiding Presence by Hugh Martin, which I highly recommend. I love how he expounds on the timelessness of the Gospel.

… a Saviour the same yesterday, today and for ever, who in his marvelous biography is living with us still by his Spirit. The element of time is got rid of, and cast out. Jesus is with us.

The element of time has no influence at all on the efficacy of the sacrifice. As to past time, he may be called ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ And to the end of time, he is ‘the Lamb as it had been slain.’

Past time, end of time. I long for the element of time to be rid of!

Yes, March is here. The month that identifies with the Lion and the Lamb. Stormy or calm, blustery or blissful, I am going forward and looking forward to this day:

“…Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”

And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. -Revelation 5:5,6

Let time go by. The element of time is got rid of! Let the seasons change. My Lion and my Lamb are eternal, and change not. The element of time will vanish when the wrath of the Lion burns up the earth in righteous judgement and the love of the Lamb collects his children to be with him forever and ever.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Photo credit: http://www.stolinsky.com/wordpress/index.php/tag/lion-and-lamb/





The Second Time Around: Yours, Mine and Ours…Not! (Part One)

Photo courtesy of http://hookedonhouses.net/2012/12/03/yours-mine-ours-the-big-old-victorian-from-the-1968-movie-with-lucille-ball-henry-ford/
Photo courtesy of HookedOnHouses http://hookedonhouses.net/2012/12/03/yours-mine-ours-the-big-old-victorian-from-the-1968-movie-with-lucille-ball-henry-ford/

I love old movies. The sappier the better. In the 1968 gem “Yours, Mine and Ours” starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, a widower with ten children marries a widow with eight children. Yours and mine are clearly defined, but then they have a biological child together. The new child is a clearly defined ours. The same year gave us Doris Day (queen of Hollywood schmalz) in “With Six You Get Eggroll” which had a similar premise. Then came The Brady Bunch. Remarriage and blended families ala Hollywood: two single parents meet, conflicts arise, no one likes each other, then suddenly (after some campy skirmishes) they all love each other and live happily ever after. Phew! Of course, this is Hollywood. But I so love storybook endings.

Real life is different. The second time around at mid-life is even more unique in its difficulties. And here’s why:

Not everything that’s his is mine, not everything that’s mine is his, and we’re not quite sure what’s ours.

I will share three major Nots here, though there are many more. I don’t want to be too negative. In Part Two of this series, I promise to be positive.

The Nots

  • The children. They are all grown, so they are not under our roof. Clearly, this is not a Brady Bunch situation. And clearly at 50+, we are not expecting (pun intended!) to have an ours. Mike’s three children came to our wedding. I was glad. It showed some kind of support and perhaps love. Only one of my three children came to our wedding – my daughter. So with six you only get a bite of eggroll, in my case. My previous post explained how my daughter and I grew closer together as the ‘widow and orphan’. She grieved with me throughout my separation and divorce. She was thrilled when I met Mike. Not only did she attend our wedding, she was my Matron of Honor. It was clear why my sons were not present and I was not offended by their absence. I just missed them. I would have liked for them to share in my joy. How could they? It is totally weird to watch your mother marry another man who is not your father. Understood. I could never imagine my parents splitting and taking other spouses. Yuck.  Our collective children really don’t know each other. We don’t all have dinner together and we’re not sure if there will ever be a scenario where there’s fluid unstrained conversation between our children. His are in Ohio. Mine are in California, North Carolina and Indiana. We hardly see the out-of-state ones. It’s hard to get to know his children. They only text, sporadically. His. Mine. Not ours.
  • The stuff. When we met, Mike had a house in Ohio, and I had the Storybook House in Indiana. We had to decide which one to keep and make ours. I didn’t want to sell my house, but I did put it up for sale because I took a marriage vow that said ‘whither thou goest I will go, whither thou lodgest I will lodge‘! Mike was working in Ohio, so that’s where I had to be. Unfortunately, he lost his job nine months after we were married. Fortunately, we kept my house and Mike moved into the Storybook House. And I still call it my house, a hard habit to break. God worked out the home situation to my advantage. Beside the stress involved with relocating, there are other problems when you both own stuff attained in a previous marriage or before you met. You have to factor in death and inheritance and that sort of thing. This post is going from negative to morbid, but let’s be realistic. Who gets the stuff when I die? How do you divvy up the goods in a second marriage? My stuff. His stuff. Not ours. His kids. My kids. Let’s buy new stuff and call it ours.
  • History. We don’t share a history together. We’re in our 50s and a big chunk of life is behind us. Confession: I envy couples that have been in long faithful marriages. They share children, a long history, have the same memories, and gather together at holiday time. Of course no marriage is perfect. No family is without conflict. In spite of imperfection, I admire those couples. Secondly, I get a bit jealous when Mike speaks of a past memory. I wasn’t there. Other people were. Mike has been so many places, having served in the Navy for six years and worked in the nuclear industry for over twenty years. I wasn’t with him then. Other people were. Thirdly, holidays are weird the second time around. Who’s coming over? His kids or mine? They’d be awkward together. Last Christmas, I got depressed. How was I to decorate our tree? Just looking at ornaments my children made in grade school got me bawling. I treasure these ornaments. While they give me great joy in remembering those days, they also remind me of my broken family. They hold no meaning for Mike. They are my ornaments, my history, my ghosts of Christmas past. While I never want to go back to lonely holidays, they can still bring sorrow if I let the past mar my joy.

    Christmas 2013 at the Storybook House. My ghosts of Christmas past paid me a visit.
    Christmas 2013 at the Storybook House. My ghosts of Christmas past paid me a visit.

There they are: three big NOTS – things Mike and I can’t call ours.

Getting back to old movies, old stuff and old crooners, Frank Sinatra sang, ‘love is lovelier the second time around‘. Shalimar agreed in 1979 (the year my first marriage began), in fact they said the second time around is better than the first time. Yes, I think the second time is lovelier. Better. Sweeter. I’ll tell you all about that in my next post, The Second Time Around: Yours, Mine and Ours…Yes! (Part Two). In the meantime, put up your feet and watch an old sappy movie. May I suggest “Yours, Mine and Ours”?