Thursday, April 16, 2015

Back and Forward

As long as I'm glancing and not gazing, it's all good.

Back at the past, that is.

That's the theme God's been driving home to me of late. And, He's used Moses, Timehop, and Easter to do it.

I'll start with Moses.

I'm studying his life this spring through Bible Study Fellowship. (Two thumbs up for BSF and their method of study. Highly, highly recommend). Moses is nearing death, and he is giving the Israelites, who are poised on the brink of the promised land, his farewell talks. Some of his words have to do with where they've been, but more of his words are to prepare them for what is ahead. I highlighted these words on page 1 of the notes BSF printed about this very thing.

"There are brief looks back to where the people had come from; then, the focus shifts forward again. The land to which God was leading His people and the future He had promised them always takes center stage."

When I read those words, I thought of a quote about where our focus is that I've heard somewhere down the line.

Glance at your circumstances. Gaze at God.

It doesn't fit perfectly - the past is behind you and circumstances are before you - but those words from BSF and that remembered quote made me start pondering my focus. Am I focused more on where I've been or where I'm going? Do I look more at my circumstances or at my God?

The routines of life beckoned after reading those notes and thinking that quote. But a "focus" pot was now simmering on my mind's back burner and it tagged along when I got busy doing what I normally do.

And, one of the things I normally do?  Check my Timehop.

In fact, every morning, an alert pops up on my lock screen.

If it's ready, I'm ready.

Timehop takes me back to this date, one year ago, two years ago, and so forth - for as long as I've been on social media - and shows me what I was up to.  It's a completely delightful daily walk down memory lane.

That simmering "focus" pot just rumbled a little - Timehop just joined the stew.

Not condemningly, though. Just mindfully.

Glancing is what you do on that fun app.  I smile, and thank God for the (mostly) good things I'm reminded of there. He has been faithful. Where that app takes me is not a time and a place I find myself wishing was back, but a time and a place I was glad I was in.

Ok, sometimes I might wish those "easy" times were back.  Sometimes, today's hard makes me either morph yesterday's hard into easy, or it makes me forget yesterday's hard completely. But I try to remind myself as I look at pictures of my smiling, adorable children that yesterday really did have its share of hard. I swallow any lumps, and go on.

Easter week 2015 rolls around. I didn't realize it at the time, but my focus pot was about to start boiling.

My Lou and I have been celebrating Easter together since 1987. We've been taking the family Easter pics since the early 90s.

If my friends told me they liked my hair, they were lying.

Since our youngest was born in 1998, Easter activities have been fairly predictable for two decades.

We'd get messy and artistic and dye eggs.

 We'd dress in our new Easter outfits and go celebrate the Resurrection with our friends at church.

Mary Grace's hat and gloves -- on point

"Can we do a silly picture?' Always the question at the end of the "real" picture.

We'd eat a special Easter lunch and then hunt Easter eggs.

Sorry, Hannah...couldn't find one of you hunting!

As I type all that and glance at those pictures, I'm smiling. I'm smiling because I'm tempted to write just how much fun it was - and stop there. Don't get me wrong. It was fun. Those were precious, precious times. But as I think back to those times, I know they weren't easy and innocent like they sometimes look in pictures. I've forgotten how much work it all was and how tired I know I was. I've forgotten the sibling squabbles I had to referee because somebody found more eggs than somebody else. I've forgotten how somebody got upset with me because things weren't going exactly like they had thought they should go. I've forgotten how under appreciated I felt at times when all I was trying to do was make sure everybody had a good time!

(Yikes. Maybe I haven't forgotten like I thought I had.)

This year looked quite different than those Easters. Four of our six kids were home, which made this mama happy. We did like we do when we are all gussied up for Easter and took pictures.

There was fun conversation around the lunch table. I like my adult children a lot. But as sweet as this Easter was, every once in a while, in the middle of it, I found myself thinking back to Easters past.

Now there's nothing wrong with thinking about the sweetness of past events in your family. I know that. But I also know my heart, and I could feel it longing a little bit for those days - gazing at those days in my heart - as if these days were somehow lacking.

These days are not lacking. This day, this moment in time, with these people, at the age they are, is right where I'm supposed to be. It wasn't better back then. The past was what I needed then and the present is what I need now. The past makes this present even more sweet. They are both a gift from the hand of God.

And God is using the past and this present to prepare me and you for the future. He has good work for us to do!

We are to glance at the past for joy, instruction, and encouragement. We are to live, prepare, and hope in the present. And we are to focus on and follow God into the future.

This is what I preach to myself when I'm tempted to think my past was better (happier, more fulfilling, easier) than my present. This is what I preach to myself when I find myself staring at pictures of times past and almost aching for those days back.

He wants me to glance at my past, but gaze at Him and be doing the good work He has for me to do!

I remind myself God was faithful then and He is faithful now and He still has good work for me to do.

He has good work for you to do. In your family, in your community, and in your world. Work that matters for eternity.

So let's glance at the past, remember, and smile, but let's gaze at God, rejoice, and...get busy.

We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

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