I once stumbled across the idea of assigning a word to each new year. Be it a character trait you hope to develop, a challenge you want to overcome, or a goal you would like to reach, narrowing down a single word that you want to define your year does wonders to put things in perspective.
But at the beginning of January, I looked back, trying to remember what my resolutions were a year ago, and instead accidentally assigned a word to my 2020. Considering the fact that the year is over, and in retrospect was nothing like I imagined it would be, this one word was backed by a dozen stories, a thousand emotions, and weighed on my heart as I tried to decide where I go from here. How does one look back on disappointment and still race ahead with joy?
In a word: remember.
Novembers leave me grateful for flannel blankets, apple orchards, first snows, and cozy novels. I woke up this morning before the sun did, but my socks were warm and coffee smells especially amazing when all the rest of the house is asleep. Chocolate is delicious, my favorite song just surprised me on shuffle play, God didn't have to make ice sparkle but He did anyways, bury your nose in the pages of a brand new book if you want to smell adventure...
It's the little things that make life incredible. Especially the hidden ones.
But this year, along with all the goodness of life, I want to be thankful for the hard things.
I am a North Dakota girl. I love the open prairie and endless blue sky. I love the little pockets of history waiting at the end of every country road, and magical little hollows full of wildflowers and memories hidden in every cow pasture. I'm even a little attached to the people - especially those born and bred country - who love living five miles from their nearest neighbor and pride themselves on being able to survive blizzards in October and freezing wind chill all winter.
Speaking of winter...
Watching the last autumn leaf fall and grey clouds beginning to creep across the prairie, it can be daunting looking forward to "what comes next". Cold, dark mornings. Short overcast days. Snow drifts that tower above my head...
It's enough to leave one curled in a shivering ball underneath the nearest blanket, crying because I may never see the sun again. (Overly dramatic? Sorry... I am a writer)
On the other hand, I've never been one to back down from a challenge, and there is Christmas. (It's the most wonderful time of the year!)
In the same way that I love and dread winter all in one breath, it's easy to do the same with life. How do I enjoy looking forward to "what comes next" when I can't see the big picture or even the next step? Am I doing the right thing? What if I don't make the right choice? If only I hadn't... maybe I should've... do you think I could've...
Thoughts like these have more than once left me ready to give it all up and stay hidden under the bedcovers forever.
Golden sunsets, brilliantly colored leaves, late-night campfires, cozy flannel blankets, apple picking, pumpkin spice... it's time to welcome in my favorite season!
If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, then you know how much I love autumn - perhaps because this is my favorite season for writing. I always feel especially inspired when that first gust of FALL sweeps over the prairie leaving gold and crimson leaves in its wake. The colors, the scents, the tastes... there is nothing about this season that I don't enjoy.
While riding my horse out in the pasture a few days ago, I took a moment to look out over the country surrounding my home and let myself stare in wonder at the sinking sun. Maybe there is something different about observing creation when you are a creative person yourself. Rather than simply marveling at a job well done, I look at God's masterpiece and wonder how He managed to pull it off. The wanna-be painter in me schemes the best way to imitate a grove of maple trees in acrylics. My writer's heart smells campfire smoke and hears laughter and wonders how to capture that feeling on a piece of paper.
Let me be poetic for a moment and say that summer reminds me of a melody: dozens of lines, stanzas stacked one on top of the other, notes sprinkled across the page in a dozen different patterns, and the occasional crescendo here or there. Many of the notes might be the same, just played in a different order. One or two lines could be repeated, but a musician rarely plays a song exactly the same twice (at least I don't).
This summer has been an interesting composition. A mix of hopeful and minor keys, it certainly didn't live up to my expectations. Thanks to the little surprise twist my Composer threw in - turning the world on its head - I have been forced to look outside myself and realize something:
It's not about what life holds for you, it's what you bring to it.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in this world - a single, feeble line in the grand scheme of a symphony - and forget that this is not my home. I am not here simply to suck every ounce of pleasure out of life, to revel in my accomplishments, or even to shoot for the stars and chase my dreams. If that were so, I am afraid that life would disappoint me. Instead, my ultimate purpose as a child of God is to serve others and glorify my Creator.
All else - the beauty of a sunrise, the excitement of hearing my favorite song on the radio, sipping pumpkin spice lattes, relaxing on the back of a horse as it grazes and watching the clouds float by, the joy of reaching for the stars and dreaming big - all these little joys flow from that truth. I am His and He is mine.
Now... to remind myself often, because it is all too easy to write down the truth, and then walk away and forget.
"We have all eternity to celebrate the victories but only a few hours before sunset to win them."
- Amy Carmichael