The New Year is a good time to reflect on life, including the past, present and future. This New Year brings particular note, in that it is the first year I enter as a retired person soon to be on Medicare and social security, and making the transitions in life that are ultimately an end to a long journey. It remains a mystery as to how long the ending will be. I could die as I write this piece (okay, I’ve finished this piece, and remain alive), or I could live to be past 100. If I had my choice, I’d live for a full but short life, rather than a long life.
In the past month, Betsy (my wife) and I have purchased our funeral arrangements, caskets (the cheapest wood casket on the market!) and burial plot with stone—the only absence from the headstone is the dates of our death, and that’s something that only God knows. Funeral preparations remind one how fleeting life is. As I look back on life, I cannot help but think that it is but for the grace of God that Betsy and I are still here, more madly in love than ever, and yet so different from each other. We’ve had some very difficult times in life, though the blessings have been so much greater, and it overwhelms any of the trials we may have had to bear. I know of a certain that I could not have made it without her, and I don’t think any other person in the world could have filled her shoes.
This coming year offers some exciting times for us. 1. We have to figure out how to do Medicare. We’ve already applied for social security, which will start in March. 2. I am very busy making preparations, including planning, packaging resupply mailers and doing training hikes, for my 2650 mile walk on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs in the mountains, through desert, and follows the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges from Mexico to Canada. I face it realistically, and realize that it may end up being nothing but a section hike, but it is a dream that I will pursue until circumstances possibly prove otherwise. 3. Betsy begins a year of babysitting our youngest grandchild Rachel, daughter of Sarah. This little Fleischklopps is cuter than cute, and a precious little kiddo. 4. Our youngest daughter Diane graduates from Nurse Practitioner school with a doctorate in nursing. We are so proud of her. I call her a “noctor” (not a doctor), but I feel comfortable that Diane is brighter than many of the doctors that I know. She will do well. 5. We celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on 20OCT. I’m not sure what we will do. Betsy and I love to go to Jamaica to vacation, but this year is something special that I will leave undecided for now. 6. Reading… I have a veritable stack of books that need to be read by me. I love reading history, and have large volumes awaiting on the founding fathers and civil war era. I really want to get back into Herman Bavinck’s magisterial four volume work in systematic theology, titled Reformed Dogmatics. Ever since I took a systematic theology class from JI Packer, I have had a love for reading through systematic theology texts. Bavinck’s is the most challenging one I’ve encountered. 7. Getting back into long-distance cycling. I’ve taken a short pause from cycling in order to be prepared for the PCT, but have an endearing love for cycle touring. 8. Refreshing my language studies. I have taken German, Russian, French, and Chinese in my life. I no longer have an interest in Russian, and Chinese is interesting but maybe a little too challenging to pick up. I’m reasonably good at German but would like to become semi-fluent. I’m passable in French, but would like to be better. Some day, I’d like to hike the Camino de Santiago with Betsy, and so would maybe want to learn passable Spanish. 9. Trying to spend a little time a day practicing my trumpet. 10. Possibly start writing a Memoirs. My father wrote a short book on the history of his life, at the behest of us children of his. It was awesome. It may be perhaps time to do the same, before my memory fails me too badly. 11. Last, but definitely the most important, I would like to have this year as more consecrated to my Lord Jesus Christ, more devoted to His word, more diligent to walk in His ways, and more eager to have entire being, thought, word, and deed centered around Scripture and obedience to Him. Soli Deo Gloria
The things that we love tend to be our motivation for doing things in life, and there are three things that I identify that seem to be my loves, and motivation for still living. They are listed in order of my priorities.
1. Scriptures —I’d offer a lengthy quote or perhaps wax eloquent here, but perhaps the best statement is to encourage the dear reader to just go over Psalm 119. May I also regard God’s word as more important than silver and gold and everything else most precious to me.
2. Family and friends. First and foremost is my wife Betsy. We have been together nearly forty years now. We’ve had our hard times and good times. We’ve had fights, but most overwhelmingly, we’ve had cherished moments of loving each other, ravishing each other, enjoying each other, and pleasing each other. I could not think of another person who could better fit me as a lover, friend, helpmate, advisor, companion, support, wife, mother, grandmother or human being. She truly has been a gift from God to me. My children, all four of them, have been the joy of my life. The grief and trials they have brought us pales in the light of all the joy they have given us. I am grateful that they all are Christian, and have been very successful in life. Plus, they have given us the most adorable grandchildren. It is now Opa’s (grandpa’s) duty to teach them to walk rightly and to help them enjoy life. I wish to have special time taking each one separately backpacking and on outings. My siblings also have been a delight. Now with retirement, I am able to make better contact with them, and it is wonderful to be able to enjoy their fellowship once again. I think long about many of my current and past friends and the change of year causes one to focus particularly on past friends. One would love to be in perpetual contact with them, yet it is humanly impossible. Sadly, I have many past friends, all of which are cherished by me, and often thought of. The words from a wonderful song “Blest be the ties that binds” come to mind “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.” My pastor has been a source of strength and encouragement, a soul coach, but also a good friend. On a slightly darker note, I also think of what I would call false-friends—those friends who were friends in appearance only, but then revealed their true self, who used you, who gained your trust, only to mislead and betray your trust. They are the Judas’s in one’s life. Even King David had such experiences, and reflects on it in Psalms 55,
For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.
Memory of these false-friends sometimes bring deep grief and sleepless nights, wondering why a person would act and behave the way they did. I’m thankful that there have been few of these in my life. I truly pray that I have not been a false friend to anybody else.
3. Nature. This is my Father’s world! The heaven’s declare the glory of God, and the firmament His handiwork. God has given me the strength and capability to delight in his world, and I will do that to the fullest possible. From the seashore to the desert to the mountains, all are wonderful. My favorite spot is in the mountains. I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where my help comes. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Whether on a bicycle, on foot, or in a car, I love adventuring into wilderness. It is my best chance to reflect, meditate, and wonder over the goodness of our God. soli deo gloria!