Life Lesson #188 ~ Time Waits For No Man

"Time is non-refundable, use it with intention." ~ Unknown

Alice once asked the White Rabbit, "How long is forever?" The White Rabbit replied, "Sometimes just one second."And the truth is this is exactly how life can feel sometimes. Time seems to pass so quickly...almost too fast honestly. One day we're young, running around with pig tales, playing with dolls and and the next we're tucking our own mini me into bed. It feels like our children were born just yesterday and then, boom! Today they're grown with families of their own, carrying babies around on their shoulders who look just like them and living a life vastly different from ours under a roof of their own. How can it be? How can time be both our friend and our enemy? And how can we embrace both the present and the passing of time with grace? I have asked myself this very question often. But very much like Leo Christopher I have always understood this: "There's only one thing more precious than our time and that's who we spend it on." I often speak of my childhood growing up, and with great fondness too. Why you ask? Well, I'll tell you. I was loved deeply, given a faith that I was certain could move mountains, taught to embrace the unknown, to face struggles head on, and not just shown how to glide but how to soar. I was fearless most of the time, jumping off dressers, valets and on top of and over beds convinced I was Wonder Woman. I'd run through the house, cardboard light saber in hand, fighting off the dark side, with my parents chasing along beside me. I'd spend hours telling stories, explaining my adventures from inside my imagination to my daddy. I'd sit at the kitchen table with my light bright, pretending I was connecting calls to worlds far, far away. And before the night was through, I'd have my mama's hairbrush in my hand, belting whatever song I could make up as I went along at the top of my lungs. I had a wonderful childhood. I was free to think for myself, to be myself. In many ways, I was taught and allowed to become the living, breathing words of Shakespeare, "And though she be but little, she is fierce." I could be a rebel, fighting with the Alliance, an Amazon roping up bad guys with my lasso of truth or I could simply be me, Christie of the Dowling clan.  My only limits were inside the confines of where my imagination could take me. I feared nothing, not even time.

Now up until I was around eight, I still saw time as my friend. I didn't fear it. I was much like the Hatter when he first met Time. I had no fear, and I had no reason to. Tea time forever would have sounded absolutely fantastical to me. I would have laughed and been quite beside myself listening in to the bantering going on during Tea between Time, The Cheshire Cat and The Hatter after Mallymkun asks Cheshire where he's been. "Actually, I'm right on time. And Hatter after taking Time's hand announces, "I have time on my hand!" Time looking rather flustered responds, "You silly nitwits really think that I've not heard these cheap jobs before? Your attempts at mockery fall flat." Hatter, well being himself can't keep from playing with Tome's shoulder pads and once again chimes in. "Look! Time is flying!" And poor Time at this point has had it. "Enough! No more wasting me!" Poor Hatter, he can't help himself, and enough though a bit nervously, he adds. "I'm having the time of my life?" I guess I have a little Hatter in me too. And as a little girl time seemed more of an idea than an actual real life concern. I saw the clock, each hour, each minute and each second as something bigger than myself. Not as much a person, but still as a living, breathing and moving presence in my life. Time and I seemed quite snug as a bug in a rug together for a while. Searching back through my memories there is one house in particular I remember with such great fondness. For the first time in my life I was living in a big city with lights and sounds moving all around me, 24 hours a day. The city buses picked my mom and I up and took us anywhere we wanted to go during the summer. And when school was in, those same buses took me to school and home again. My mom, she was always sitting beside me, every mile, Monday through Friday. Adventure was waiting around every corner and I had no time to be bored. I loved this house on Hornwood. It was the biggest house we'd ever lived in with wood floors, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and it boasted just as equally a big front yard as it did backyard. I had my first jungle gym set here complete with a swing and monkey bars. I'd spend hours plotting my escape from the Death Star back there until the sun set. And my bedroom? Well it was huge with big windows and a closet I could get lost in. I absolutely loved my canopy bed with my green Sears Holly Hobby bedspread, shams and curtains. This is also where Strawberry Shortcake and I became good friends. My room became an epic hideaway and a place where the Flash and I could make all our plans chasing down the Reverse Flash, Captain Cold and Grodd in Central City. This enchanted room became my own personal Paradise Island where Wonder Woman underoos were a staple in my wardrobe. And last but certainly not least, a looking glass, a detour where Wonderland was always one of my favorite stops for tea along the way home. This is also the house where time and I began to differ, where I learned to both respect and appreciate the strolls given to me through Wonderland. In this house I came to fully appreciate the falls I took head first into a rabbit's hole and the very time each of us is given here. We moved to this great big city after Daddy had been discharged from the Army. We were definitely adjusting to the whole civilian life thing at this time. I was seven years old and up until this point my life had been that of an Army brat. I'd been half way around the world and back again before we finally moved to and settled in Texas. And this probably has quite a lot to do with how my imagination expanded, grew and developed as much as how I came to see the world. Why? Well because I wasn't just given the world, I was shown the world. I learned at an early age to "stop waiting for Friday, for summer, for someone to fall in love with you, for life. Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it and make the most of the moment you are in now." (itsalovelylife) And while things had changed tremendously and very dramatically no less for the three of us, we had each other. Time was giving us a fresh start, a new way of life, not resetting the clock but expanding our horizon in which to begin again.

Now it wasn't until the summer of my dad's 38th birthday that I began to truly understand the concept of getting older. This was the summer Emily Dickenson's words began to make perfect sense to me. "Forever is composed of now's." This year, for whatever reason I felt the sting of time move across my tender heart. Maybe it was because I had just been diagnosed with diabetes or because we had been through so much change all at once. I don't really know. All I can tell you is it all just clicked. I looked at my daddy that day and thought what would I do without him? I felt fear for the first time, scared of losing my dad, my mom and the life we had. Not only was I an only child, but I was their little girl. I couldn't stand the idea of losing either one of my parents to time. Suddenly this concept, this idea was real to me as I observed every detail. I can still see the cake, smell the enchilada dinner and hear our friends and family singing happy birthday to my dad joking with him about getting old. This seemed to be my breaking point. Watching each pat to my dad's back and the words "old man" tossed around brought the reality of time into perspective. I began softly crying and then those tears turned into big ones quite like Alice, washing me away in emotion and fear in the room next door. I couldn't hold them back for anything. No super power was going to save me from my childish fears that day. I wanted to go back, to take us all through the looking glass and escape, to turn back the hands of time, to sop it all up with a biscuit and never leave the table. I'd say time had finally caught up with me, and like Hatter I was suddenly aware of the power he had over me and those I loved. I felt pretty much the same concern as the Hatter I do believe as when Time quite nonchalantly looks at Alice and says, "Young lady your time is up." Hatter, he knows Time, and he responds, "This cannot be good." And that is exactly how I felt in those moments. My world came undone, my breath was taken and time suddenly seemed to be coming for us all. But my dad seeing my pain, gently took me in his arms, sat me in his lap and explained to my eight year old self time although, we rarely understand it, isn't a thief but a wise friend. I began to understand that day time actually gives just as much as it takes from us. And if we forget, if we don't embrace the good along with the bad, we are the true thief of time itself.

Even now as a grown woman I can be startled by the hands of time. I long for the days when my babies, were well babies again. To revisit the days of my youth when Johnny and I were just married and planning out the next twenty years of our lives. I have moments I very much want to be that same eight year old little girl again. To sit in my daddy's lap and decide the impossible is possible together. I'd like nothing more than to be safe inside his arms, away from the ticking hands of time, my tears wiped away. Some days I would give anything to see no lines in his face or gray hairs on his head, to even hear him whisper in my ear once again..."How is it possible that out of all the little girls in the whole world...we got the best one?" But then I remember how blessed I am to hold these memories, to have made each one of them with those I love by my side. This is when I am reminded by Alice herself in Disney's Through the Looking Glass of this very thing. "I used to think time was a thief. But you give before you take. Time is a gift. Every minute. Every second." And this conversation with my dad, on his birthday of all days some 36 years ago still reminds me of this today. See it's not how much time gives you, but what you do with the time you're given. Pain, suffering and loss are all part of time's rhythm, it's tempo and measure. But in those moments, within those very seconds inside the clockwork of God's hand, He Himself reminds us "to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1) The truth is God gives us one life, just one. We can't change the past that is for certain. Nothing we do can undo anything we've already done good, bad or indifferent. We can't go back to "fix- her up" any moment or to bury a memory we deem erasable. We can however do as Time explains to Alice, "learn from it." And in spite of the hands of time we can absolutely take to heart the Word God has given us in Romans 8:35. "Who then can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death?" See nothing, I mean nothing can take the unconditional love of Christ away from you or me. And if we have received and then given this same unconditional love Christ offers us to those we love, neither the hands of time or the grip of death can touch us. No one or anything can ever take or steal this love or the memories we hold and share from us...ever!

Time, it truly marches on stopping for no one, no matter his or her stature in this life. We can't really forget the pain or the suffering living only in those happy thoughts we want to remember. We must live in the now with the mortgage due, the water boiling on the stove, washer overflowing all over our floor, finger paint on our walls and babies crying to be held. We should embrace the time God has blessed us with. Smile, laugh and accept each and every hiccup, smelly burp out of nowhere and loud giggle fits at our expense. That or we can simply reject each silly, grumpy, unplanned moment always wishing we might coulda have had more time, maybe. Personally, I like to think of another great conversation when I start talking to myself about forgetting any of our families downright silly or in a tizzy moments. It's one between Alice, the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat. A moment where Wonderland once again directs us, wisely encouraging us to focus on the good while still developing from the bad. "Forgetting is just forgetting except when it's not. Then they call it something else. " said the Mad Hatter. "Forgetting pain is convenient. Remembering it, agonizing. But recovering the truth is worth the suffering." responded the Cheshire Cat.  But first? Well, we have to actually wait a cotton pick'in second. Then just maybe; If we are willing to remember the pain time might even begin to be our friend once again. This is the thing. When we start to care more about the opinions of others, like I was doing in those moments as a little girl, we lose sight of the memories we've made replacing them with the fear of uncertainty. What we really need in these moments is to understand just how far we've really come, gray hairs and all. Think about when things were such a disastrous mess, when time was racing ahead, dragging do far behind that we couldn't even imagine this moment. The whole "can't never could' theory goes right out the window now doesn't it? Our old friend time starts to humble us, deeply in fact as we realize just how much time we've been throwing away, wasted on yesterday or later on, instead of on today.

So today as we really begin packing up, preparing and getting ready to begin our journey back home from Wonderland, I want to remind each of you of this. Time doesn't take anything away from us, people do. Our fears, our worries and anxiety do as well. Time shows us the value of hindsight offering us the ability to see where we've been and where we're going. The time we have now is not promised tomorrow, but given to us today. Time, speaking as a person in Alice Through the Looking Glass reminds us, "Everyone parts with everything eventually." And it's true. But while we part with the physical world, we do not part with our souls or the memories attached to those we love and have loved in this lifetime. We can fear time or we can embrace it. The choice is ours. Our lives are not meaningful because of the wealth, the education or the ideal we hold. No our lives are meaningful simply because they are fleeting. We certainly never get the same moment twice. In each of those moments, every second on the clock is precious. And this is something my eight year old self, just knee high to a grasshopper, found out in July of 1981. Am I ready? Not in the least. And truthfully I'm probably as prepared as the cows are to come home. Do I fear the day time stands still? Believe me, I do. I could start an argument in an empty house over those particular fears let alone have a conniption fit too. But I also understand I'd be pretty plum tuckered out if I let worry sit shotgun every day. I mean time itself would be knocking my door down, plain worn slap out if my daddy hadn't taught me how to hold my horses back in the day. See as much as we can try and steal time back, we actually have to live in the here and now. Lord knows I don't want to think about losing my family. None of us do. Our families, our parents well they are  our backbone. As children, grown or not, we're made and stitched together with every last drop of their sweat, each hope and every sacrifice. The truth is they love us as they live and breathe. Our families, our individual pocket watches, each one is made, forged and written by the memories we make together. These are the very people where our hearts find happiness, sorrow and unconditional love. I never want to forget. I want to remember it all, the sorrow, the happiness, every last cut, bruise and scrape, each kiss goodnight. What I know after all these years is that most of the time what we see as the end of something, is simply and very often just the beginning. You see while life has changed for us he's still my daddy, and I'm still his Criggy almost four decades later.

And so as we conclude Life Lesson #188 ~ Time Waits For No Man, I encourage you live in the moment. I say to you, love with all your heart. Take the time, have the courage to be silly and be brave enough to laugh out loud. Take a second here and a minute there to make sure those you love, those who are important to you really know how much you truly love them while you still can. Leave nothing unsaid, leave nothing undone including standing on the bed, hairbrush in hand, belting out your favorite song at the top of your lungs. Forget nothing, forgive everything and let nothing slip away simply because fear has gripped you. Time doesn't wait, and neither should we. Start thinking less of time of an object and more as a person. This way we can better focus on the gifts Time has to offer us and not so much on what we've lost or haven't yet found. Think of the Hatter here and his words. Let them sink in. "If you knew Time as well as I do, you wouldn't talk about wasting it." The reality is time itself can't be held back or returned to us. I can tell you I am good at dragging my feet at times. But like Alice, and the Hatter after having words with his family, I certainly don't want to be found guilty of wasting time. I don't want to be stuck forever one minute before tea time or un-cultivating any of the beautiful gifts Time has given me through God's startling and extraordinary grace. I am a child of God covered in the blood of Jesus Christ, my fear laid to rest at the foot of the Cross. Who am I to snatch back or even steal the gift of time He's already graciously paid for? Think of it like this my friends. Much like Jesus Christ, time allows events in our lives to happen but only once we have stopped winding the clock ourselves. Things happen when God says they will, when the time is right and never before. So please, never forget, "He has made everything beautiful on it's time. " (Ecclesiastes 3:11) And remember time is not our enemy. It is however, a non-refundable ticket, always moving forward, never backwards and always with intent.

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. " ` Vincent Van Gough



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