Monday, December 15, 2008

Family Photos, Cottage Lake and Duck Wakes

I have spent a week at Cottage Lake on a type of personal study retreat at our lake cottage. As I look out on the lake, I notice the ducks as they leave their wake designs all over the glassy lake. In our house there we have some family pictures of our children at younger ages. Today they are 31, 23, 19 and 16. These photos of them at younger ages are like the duck wakes. They portrait where they WERE then but not where they ARE now.

I have a tendency to look at those photos and long for those days to return, as if by some magic wand I could be transported back in time to be in my early forties again (how young that sounds to me now!) and my children be 18, 11, 7 and 4 years old. I have been plagued with this overdose of nostalgia all my life. For example, when I turned six I can remember telling my dad of my sadness at turning six. He said “Why?” I replied, “Because I will never have these first five years again. They are gone forever.” He just smiled and told me that I really had my best years before me, and that I just had to trust him on that. But though he has since been clearly proved right, I didn’t believe him then. The other day I was explaining to my 16-year-old youngest daughter, Holly, how I get nostalgic still when I drive by Little League fields and can remember the boys playing there. She impatiently blurted out, “That was seven years ago, Dad, get over it!” Apparently she isn’t inflicted with the nostalgic tendencies I have. Lucky her.

Anyway, what does all this have to do with duck wakes on a lake? The actual duck is not in the wake, the wake just points to where he “was” a few minutes earlier. So these photos are not where my children actually ARE now but where they WERE a few years ago. If I obsess on the past I miss the real opportunities of the present with them, from being a grandfather to Heidi’s girls to helping launch Holly from home in the next year or two or three. I know this seems obvious to you who may be reading this but for ME, I need to train my mind to live in the present. To embrace the “now” rather than to continually grieve over the loss of the “thens” OR worry about the future and the inevitable pains of the “whens.”

At “fifty something” I find myself speaking to my Heavenly Father, something like, “These past 50 years will never come back and I grieve their loss.” I can sense Him smiling at me just as my earthly dad did almost fifty years ago, and say, “Yes son, you are right about that but trust Me (and I can’t lie) your very BEST years here and throughout eternity with Me and your children are truly yet to come!” Okay, Father, I am ready to believe and embrace that; please help my unbelief!

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