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I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that combining two households into one is an easy task.

When we’re young and just starting out, we don’t have that much stuff. Two people get married and they marry each other’s hopes and dreams and potential for collecting things in the future. But they don’t marry two lifetimes of birthday cards and dishes and photos and books and furniture.

Nope, they marry and then they make those memories together. They collect the stuff as they live their lives as a couple. Then they have children and they collect things with their kids, of their kids, and for their kids. Many of these things the kids leave behind when they start their own lives.

Family members pass on and we end up with some of their things that represent their lives here on earth. Photos. Trinkets. Hobbies. Crafts. Musical instruments. Things that show who they were and what was important to them. Items that we have a hard time letting go of because they remind us of the ones we love. They spark memories that make us smile and cry and laugh and miss them all over again.

And somehow, all those things take on a life of their own. Like Fibber McGee’s closet, they fill up an entire house and seem to grow when no one is looking.

So marrying again after you’ve each lived a lifetime with someone else has its challenges, but who thought the biggest challenge would be what to do with all the stuff?

My husband, Mel, and I got married last October. We’d adjusted to life alone, each thinking we probably wouldn’t get married again. But the Lord had other plans. He brought us together first at a prayer meeting, then at my church.

Both of us lost our spouses before we were ready to let them go. But that’s been nine years for me and much longer for Mel. We carry their memories in our hearts. And we carry their possessions in both of our houses.

Now it’s time to combine the two households into one. When friends ask me how it’s going, all I can say is, “Oh, my.” You see, to bring things from my house to our house, I have to go through things in both houses. Essentially, I’m sifting, organizing and decluttering two households, carefully stepping around cherished items and cherished memories.

But I believe that in everything we experience in life, the Lord uses it to teach us and grow us into more faithful followers. One thing I’ve learned is that we can’t go back in time. We may be able to visit there by looking through photos and paraphernalia, but we have to live in the present.

Hopefully, we’re thankful for the past, but we greet each day as it arrives, fresh and full of possibilities. Every morning when I wake up, my first thought is, “Thank you, Lord, for another day. Another day to serve you.”

I’ve learned that sometimes when you don’t even pray for patience, the Lord will give you situations in which to learn more patience. I have recently said, “Lord, you know that I purposely never pray for patience, but you seem to be allowing me more opportunities to learn patience.”

As I was talking to the Lord about patience, I was reminded that as a young person I liked the prayer of St. Francis. It was made into a popular song which a catchy melody. But when I’d sing it with my youth group, I sang it as a prayer. I prayed to be an instrument of peace. To sow love where there was hated. To bring true faith to others who lived in doubt. To not worry about being understood or consoled, but to care more about understanding and consoling others.

In that moment of remembering, I was reminded of what is truly important in life. To live a life for the Lord, which means to go where he leads. To love others as he loves them, even when they can’t love themselves. To know that people are always more important than stuff.

To follow in the Lord’s footsteps, which leads to eternal life. What’s better than that? Certainly not two households filled with stuff, or even the happy memories they represent. No, what’s really important is that both Mel and I love the Lord and want to live for him. After all, he died for us. One day he’ll take us to our true home in Heaven.

And I’ve heard that when we arrive there, we leave all the stuff we’ve accumulated in this world behind for someone else to look through and wonder why no one wrote the names of the people in the photo on the back.

If Mel goes before me, he’s promised to meet me at the east gate. Now I’ll just have to brush up on my directions. I think I saw an atlas somewhere.

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Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at kathyyoder4@gmail.com.

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