This is the place where I used to write.
Not long ago it was warm and full of furniture. My chair in the corner, my bookcase, my favorite knickknacks here and there. Now it’s harsh, bare, and blindingly white. The sound of our footsteps ricochet off the hard surfaces. It’s a good visual metaphor for how my writing life, once rich and productive, has felt for the past 6 months or so.
I really wanted 2016 to be THE YEAR. The year I would finish tinkering with my manuscript and begin to query in earnest. The year I would go to conference. The year I would finally feel comfortable calling myself a writer.
It was not THE YEAR. Nothing I planned has come to fruition. It was not laziness or lack of passion, dedication, purpose, or prayer. It was a surprise; an unexpected and unwelcome interruption. Midway through 2016, while visiting family during our summer travels, sitting around the morning campfire with mugs of coffee in our hands, my husband received a message from his battalion back home: You’re on orders to report to Korea in February, 2017.
It was still months away, but I could rarely think of anything else. The days were taken up entirely with doctor appointments, health screenings, vet appointments, transportation appointments, passport appointments, organizing, categorizing, disposing, packing, calling, emailing, researching, and preparing my extended family and my kids for our international move. If there were a couple hours left at the end of the day, I spent them brain dead in front of the tv, not writing.
It’s been overwhelming. Though I resisted it for a time, my writing life eventually screeched to a lurching stop.
Now writing just feels like something I used to do. A lump rises in my throat when I think of my crooked little flashdrive, that fragile keeper of my stories, which laid neglected on the desk so long there was a film of dust on it when I picked it up the day the movers came to box up the computer.
This interruption to my plans for 2016 is bitter. I thought I had all year to ping away at the keyboard in writing obscurity. I was so comfortable in that place, so hopeful God would do something with it eventually, if I just stayed faithful to the task.
Now that my world feels so upended, so chaotic, so riddled with uncertainty, it’s difficult to foresee a time when it won’t be. I know intellectually this part will pass. I can look at the calendar and count the days until we hand over the keys to our house, until we board the plane, until we arrive in Korea.
And when the days pass, what then? Will it be as simple as clicking on the monitor and loading the document? Will my affection for these characters I’ve created over 5 years come rushing back to me? Will my passion for the story I wish to tell drive me once again to do the work even when no one else sees what I’m doing?
God knows every answer to these questions and the ones I haven’t even thought of, and yes, there is a measure of comfort in that. But it doesn’t lessen the sting of having my perfectly good plans thwarted. It doesn’t dull the ache that settles into my body during this time of treading water.
What keeps my churning legs from turning to lead and pulling me under? What keeps me thinking and writing–even now–when I’m tired and uncertain when a life preserver will be tossed out, or if I will even recognize it?
One word. One teeny little 3 letter word. Arguably the most important word in scripture.
We were sinners, Paul tells us in Ephesians, BUT Christ died for us.
We were by nature children of wrath, BUT God is rich in mercy.
We were dead in our trespasses, BUT we are alive together with Christ.
Solomon taught the same theme in Proverbs.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, BUT it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21
These scriptures are like honey which sweetens the bitterness of hiatus.
Don’t you see? My 2016 didn’t turn out how I planned, BUT GOD’S PLAN IS BETTER.
My writing work didn’t come to fruition…again, BUT the freedom and fluidity of this writing life has allowed me to pause in my work and be all here for my family during this time of transition.
I won’t get to attend conference for 2 more years while I’m out of the country, BUT there has never been an easier time to stay connected with writers all over the world.
There is something exhilarating about being swept up in plans not of your making and knowing this is God’s doing. There is friction, I admit, as you accept the change in course, but friction can be a beautiful thing, as Sinclair Ferguson teaches.
So not only am I trusting God in this hiatus, I’m thanking Him for it, for all the ways I will grow in holiness when these days have passed, and life feels normal again, and the monitor has been clicked on, and, God-willing, my writing life resumes.
2017 may not be THE YEAR for me either, and that’s okay. I will do the work, and pray for fruit with open hands, praising God for his better plan which will prevail.