I have always loved the start of a brand-new year. I relish swapping out the wrinkled, scribbled planner for a brand-new one chock-full of white pages and empty squares. I love to make resolutions, to list out goals, to dream and plan. I love that the dawning of a new year offers the perfect opportunity to reflect on what has passed and plan for what is to come.
I spent some time over the holidays thinking back on 2019. It was a year of big change and transition for me – both professionally and personally – as I stepped out of the publishing arena, put book-writing on the back-back-back burner, turned my attention to my work at The Salvation Army and began to figure out who I am and who I want to be.
The year was not without sorrow. Case in point: I bawled my eyes out at the end of the new Little Women film, as Jo stood behind the plate-glass window and watched her novel being typeset, printed and bound. The joy and satisfaction on her face as she held her first book in her hands pricked a tender spot in me, and as I left the theater all glassy-eyed, still dabbing at my nose with a Kleenex, I couldn’t help but panic a little bit: “Why on earth did I quit? What have I done?!”
Still, when I look back at all of 2019, I feel solidly good. On one hand, not much happened – at least outwardly. But the transformation that has taken place within made it one of the most exhilarating years of my life. I’ve stripped a lot away; I’ve been pruned back to what feels like my pith. This past year marked the beginning of a journey toward reclaiming myself – a journey that will continue for as long as I am alive.
At the same time I am sensing a restlessness, a low-level agitation humming beneath the surface of these early January days. I feel like there is a “next thing” on the horizon – the problem is, I don’t yet know what that “next thing” is. I’m confident that writing will continue to be an important part of my personal story and my vocation, but I am still uncertain as to what shape it will take. A new creative project? A more substantial commitment to non-profit work? Blog writing? Something else altogether? The role writing will play in my life going forward is still a shifting mirage in the far-off distance.
In the quiet early morning of New Year’s Eve, tucked into the corner of my brother- and sister-in-law’s sofa in Minnesota, eight inches of freshly fallen snow blanketing the back yard, I read the story in Genesis of Abram’s calling, specifically these words:
“The Lord said to Abram: ‘Go forth from your land, from your relatives and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.’” (12:1)
The distance between Haran – Abram and his wife Sarai’s current town of residence – to the new land God had for them in Canaan was about 400 miles. Abram didn’t know which land, exactly, God had for him. He didn’t know where it was, what it looked like or how long it would take to travel there. He couldn’t see Canaan from where he stood in Haran. And yet, with his wife, his nephew Lot, and his livestock and people, he set out for that unseen land. Abram simply trusted God at his word. He trusted God would tell him when he had arrived at the place God had for him.
Turns out, like Abram, I’m en route to the place God has for me. This place has not yet been revealed. I can’t yet see it from where I stand, and I don’t really have any idea what it will look like. It is, at this point, a matter of trust – trust that God will indeed show me not only the land I am traveling to, but also the way to get there.