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On the Side - September 2013

Seizing the Day
by Robin Kaufmann

"Why do we always have to take history vacations?"

The source of this desperate inquiry was my 9-year old daughter, the youngest of our three children, who was most often collapsed on a steamy Washington, D.C. sidewalk when she posed her question to her father and me.

"It’s boring," she sometimes added, hoping that further explanation and her impromptu, sit-in sidewalk-protest might deter her family from the next museum or monument. Alas, her efforts were in vain: more than two hundred years of history were before us, but we had only had three short days to soak it in. We did manage to visit all that we had hoped to see in our capital city, but I admit that it may have taken an ice cream cone or two to get an unhappy 9-year old through it.

Nonetheless, our "history vacation" continued in Virginia: stops in Williamsburg, Richmond, and our old residency home, Charlottesville, provided a week of reflection, remembering, and recreation. Although it took a few more ice cream treats to get our youngest child through the "boring history" tours, the rest of us enjoyed visiting places significant to our nation’s history, and we all delighted in reconnecting with people significant to our own personal history. Virginia is a place that is ripe for remembering, particularly for my family, as it is full of people and places and stories that we love. Besides medical training, much of life happened for us in Virginia: we had babies and parented preschoolers, made friends who are now considered family, and grew in grace and knowledge of Jesus through what were some difficult days. As my husband observed, our four formative years in Charlottesville hold in our memories a significance that far outweighs the brief time that it really was.

Ironically, as I regard the past that is in Virginia, I now find myself sitting in front of a North Carolina beach home whose name, "Carpe Diem," encourages me not to reflect on the past, but to live in the present. Seize the day...or as my teenagers might say, "YOLO" (You Only Live Once). Admittedly, even for a history-loving nostalgic like me, it is not hard to live in the moment when the moment involves white sand beneath your feet and a happy 9-year old playing in the surf. Far away from many responsibilities of my landlocked Minnesota life, I am happy to seize the day on this beautiful beach. It is a day that the Lord has made, and let me tell you, I rejoice in it.

Not every day is so easy to rejoice over. Perhaps it is the same for you. Some days, it is not sand, but cracker crumbs from the kitchen floor that I find beneath my feet.

Some days, the 9-year old isn’t happy.

Other days, the 13-year old is a bit moody.

Most days, the 16-year old argues with everything I say.

Relatively speaking, those are still the easy days. It gets tougher for some. Friends move. Husbands work too much. People disappoint. Loved ones die. Wives cry alone. Carpe diem? Rejoice in the day? I’d rather not, thank you.

Yet the psalmist who rejoiced in the day was once not in the best of circumstances, either. "All the nations surrounded me," he recalls. "They swarmed around me like bees...I was pushed back and about to fall..." (Psalm 118). This day, he rejoices at the deliverance God granted him in the past, and the Savior that was to come in the future. As it is with the Alpha and Omega, this is as good as done already: "The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes...Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

Another psalmist (77) finds himself in distress, his soul uncomforted: "Will the Lord reject forever? . . .Has his unfailing love vanished forever?. . .Has God forgotten to be merciful?" The answer to his present anguish is found in the past: "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago." He recalls the holy God who parted the seas and led his flock, and he is comforted by a God whose purposes cannot be thwarted.

Over and over, Scripture reports the deeds of the Lord. Again and again, God’s people recall his provision and purpose. We, the modern-day beneficiaries of this written history, are encouraged to do the same: "Do not forget the things your eyes have seen," "Remember well what the Lord your God did" (Deuteronomy 4:9, 7:18), and "Recall the words spoken in the past" (2 Peter 3:1). The practice of remembering the deeds of the Lord enables us to trust Him for the future, for His promise to His people is a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Recalling the past and trusting His plan for the future, we can indeed, seize the day. As Christians, our present is not an aimless, unrooted moment. Instead, it is a moment inhabited by the great I AM. He has made this day. He is present in it. Regardless of your circumstances, rejoice, or at least rest, in it.

Certainly, my daughter has not taken her last "history vacation," although that likely means there is more ice cream in her future, as well. I delight in my girl’s appreciation of the present, but she has yet to discover the value of the past. One day, she may begin to worry about the future. It is then that I hope she will recall the God of the past...the God that acts in all generations. In ancient days, He was the God who delivered the Israelites, protected His people, defeated death, and established His church. In early America, He was the God who equipped founding fathers, blessed a new nation, granted wisdom to Godly presidents, and maintained the Union. In my own lifetime, He is the God who has enabled in Illinois, provided in Virginia, and protected in Minnesota. Time passes and circumstances change, but He, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, IS, has been, and always will be. This is the moment you encounter Him. Carpe diem, indeed.

Robin Kaufmann and her husband, Tim, have called Rochester, MN home for 10 years. They have three generally-agreeable kids, ages 16, 13, and 9. Robin recently attempted to turn back time by enrolling in grad school. Yolo!