My day didn’t start out with me planning to update my website. My year – 2020 – didn’t start out with me planning to become, for all intensive purposes, a hermit. 2019 didn’t start out with me planning on losing my job – a job I’d had for twenty-two years. 2018 didn’t start out with me planning on it being the year I finally heard Jesus knocking at the door and accepted Him into my heart. The last three years didn’t start out with me planning on having to cancel my much-anticipated section hikes on the Appalachian Trail. No – very little in my life has gone the way I’d planned it. And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the only thing we know for certain is that change will come – that we can make the best-laid plans but it’s really out of our control. God directs our steps, and His plans for us might not look like what we envision.
I’d have to say that it’s probably a really good thing that we don’t know God’s plans for us – or why He places us in certain positions in our lives – what lessons we are supposed to learn. This year – 2020 – is a perfectly good example of why. I mean, had any one of us known what this year had in store, would we have joyfully celebrated its arrival on January 1st? Would we have made those resolutions and charged on into the New Year, full of determination to make it our “best year yet?” When we look back on it, will we be able to find something positive to talk about? Or will thoughts of having everything we cared about virtually stripped away from us be all that consumes our conversations? I’m right there with you on that – I’ve got a granddaughter who was born in early May that I haven’t even been able to hold yet. My other granddaughter’s third birthday is today, but we couldn’t really get together to celebrate it. Sometimes I wonder just when we will be able to pass each other on the street and NOT have the thought that we could give each other a virus that could kill us (at worst) lurking in our minds. It’s been a year like no other that I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime.
And yet – I know that something good will come out of it. I believe that God’s using this time to teach me something. I can remember back when it all began for me in March, I said that I refused to live in a spirit of fear. Well – I didn’t mean to, but I have to admit that I must have lied. I’ve suffered from anxiety like I’ve never known. The stress has started taking its toll on my physically. It’s become a constant struggle to keep a positive attitude when everything around me seems to be in such chaos. It’s been hard. It IS hard. It seemed that just when things had started to fall into place, it was all suddenly taken away from me. Going to the church twice a week? Gone. Volunteering with the Special Needs Ministry and one of my local middle schools? Gone. Being with my family every weekend? Nope. That’s gone too. Even something as simple as going to the grocery store suddenly looked different. For this very routine-oriented gal, trying to adapt to almost daily change has been beyond difficult.
But through it all, I’ve kept my eyes on God and done my best not to miss what it is He’s trying to teach me. I have no doubt that one of the things He’s been trying to teach me is to appreciate and be content in the place He’s put me. Since losing my job almost a year ago, I’ve been able to begin pursuing my MFA in Creative Writing without having to squeeze my classwork in between my work schedule. I’ve been able to go on long walks each morning – I’ve watched Spring turn into Summer, and now the shadows are growing just a little bit deeper as the sun slowly changes its position in the sky, pointing towards Fall. Yes – I had to give up my hiking plans for this year, but in exchange, I was able to drive my 81-year-old dad up to an isolated cabin in North Carolina so he could trout fish for a week. And I’ve come to appreciate what’s right in my own backyard – walking 9-10 miles each day and just spending that uninterrupted time with God.
Some might be wondering why I’ve chosen to write this post on my author website. It’s because all that’s been going on since March has changed my thoughts on where I want to go as an author. Up until a couple of months ago, I’d envisioned myself to be a Romance writer. But something about it just didn’t seem to “fit.” And then one day, it became clear to me: it didn’t fit because it wasn’t what God wanted me to do – or be. I instantly connected with the Contemporary Inspirational/Christian Fiction genre, and knew that I’d found my place in the literary landscape. Can I say that I know exactly where this path is taking me? No. Sure can’t. Can I say that I feel an excitement in my heart that wasn’t there before? Yes, I can.
I don’t have all the answers. And, you know what? I’ve come to understand that I never will – but I know the One who does, and I know that He’ll be with me as I navigate uncharted waters. Maybe that’s the whole point of this crazy year for me – learning to admit that I am not in control, that I cannot do this thing called life alone, and that I have someone walking with me through it all…someone who loves me as I am, no matter what – imperfections and all. I’ve had to lean on the Lord over these last few months in ways I never knew I could. I can’t claim to do it right all the time, but my faith has grown ten-fold, and knowing that I’ve got that perfect love out there rooting for me has changed my life.
It is my sincere hope that I’ll be able to weave my faith into stories that will encourage and inspire – and if I’m able to help just one person understand that he or she is truly not alone, then I’ll consider it a success. It doesn’t always have to be about wealth or fame. What matters more than either of those things is walking in love for those around me. That might not always be easy, but it will always be right.