On December 31, 2019, I had a lot of hopes. At our sweet friends’ New Year’s Eve party, I shakily wrote my resolution on a thin piece of cardboard: ‘attend my first writer’s conference’ and then I paused and added something like, ‘pursue publishing’. In the weeks that followed, I applied for and received a scholarship to the Festival of Faith & Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I connected with writing friends, planned travel, and worried over whether my introverted self would have the stamina for two trips in April. Though we’d rarely travelled away from our now adult kids, my husband and I had planned a couples’ trip to Nashville with our dear friends just two weeks before the conference. 2020 was going to be a year of new possibility and open doors.
By March, the conference was cancelled, and we realized we weren’t headed to Nashville, either. These were such small losses in the wake of so much happening in the world that I tucked them both away, focusing on the day-to-day and what needed to be done. I continued to write, as an outlet for me and the small number of people who follow my words, but my goal of publishing had faded to the background, again.
I was no longer hustling or striving as I had determined to do on that New Year’s Eve. I had laid down and buried those 2020 dreams in the quietest, darkest places of my mind and just kept walking. Like you, I ordered masks, worried over grocery shopping, stayed home, and watched the news. What I did not realize, or remember, is the uncanny ability of God to make beauty out of the things we surrender, how the things that are buried are not gone, but planted, and of God’s lavish gift of time and grace to make things bloom.
As it turns out, the foundational verses in Scripture upon which I rely are actually true. He does work for the good in all things for those who love Him, (Romans 8:28) and He can do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
In early January of 2020, I had given my permission for a piece of mine to be published in a collection of devotionals on how to find God in times of trial. I had written and submitted this piece to an online periodical well over two years before, and when I read the email, I smiled at how God can bring things around again. How He never forgets. How He works in our details. But it wasn’t until I saw the bound book with its beautifully designed cover available for pre-order on Barnes and Noble and Amazon that I realized:
This is a real thing, and this is the year I’ll be published on paper.
In 2020, the year everything went wrong. The year I had to cancel my travel plans, rework my early childhood music business to an online platform, the year my beloved chapel literally caught fire and I had to suddenly stop singing at the church I love, the year I have to wonder at the likelihood of teaching or singing at all this fall. 2020, the year my kids’ plans were upended, the year of vocational questioning, the year when we saw, unvarnished, the deep systemic flaws in our country. The year you’d want to throw your hands up if it weren’t for the nagging hope that whispers: Hold on, dear one. I’m making all things new. (Isaiah 43:18-19)
In this chaotic time, God quietly assured me, with this one printed piece in a paper book that actual people will hold in their beautiful hands, that He’s still in it. In this messy world and in our particular lives. In issues large and small, in situations manageable and out of control, in lives here and there, He’s still in it, working for the good. There’s still light and it’s bringing new growth out of the muck and soil, in things we thought were long dead or didn’t remember planting. There is inconceivable beauty and possibility, still.
It’s happening, where I sit on my porch typing these words and where you sit, reading them. Here, in the lives and situations over which we worry and toil every day. In your town and city and Washington, DC, and Grand Rapids and Nashville, too. Today I see how our fragile threads are connected and the work of God in the lives of good people who are planting things in the dirt and longing for light. Today our trembling hands may not be equipped to hold our hope, and that’s okay, but maybe just for today, we can plant our hope like a seed or a bulb in the mucky ground, take a breath, look up, and see what happens in ways we didn’t plan but which may surprise us with their holy and creative abundance.