As the old, worn-out year winds down like a clock unwinding to a stop and the new year full of possibilities verges on the horizon like the sunrise, we often find ourselves reflecting on where we’ve been and where we’re going. We contemplate the past year, and maybe the years before that, and wonder if the next year will be different, better, shinier.
2021 was likely not the year most of us hoped. A year ago, as my husband and I sat in bed watching an empty Times Square, we were glad to put 2020 behind us. “2021 will be a year of hope,” I said, “not sadness.”
And now, here we are, and I, like many, question a lot of what’s happened. I ask if “hope” is what I’d call this year.
Maybe. Maybe not.
I’ve seen both sides of what’s going on in the world, and I don’t need to elaborate on those messes because you all know what’s been happening.
Here’s what I can say: Peace starts within. Change starts within.
I’d like to believe the older I get that I’m a kinder, more thoughtful person. But this isn’t to make myself somehow appear better or wiser or whatever. It’s to do what’s right for the sake of what’s right.
It’s to ask myself three simple questions before I speak: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? If I can’t answer “yes” to all three, then I need to keep my mouth shut.
I’m not here to preach, but I am Christian, and I do believe that what I say and how I act matters because I am to behave in such a way that brings glory to God. Whatever your beliefs, can we be united in agreeing that kindness goes a long way?
In 2021, I tried, to the best of my ability, to be intentional about my faith. To read my Bible every day. To be more involved with church. To connect more with Christian and non-Christians in meaningful ways. It’s an ongoing process, and not long ago, a dear friend of mine and I had a conversation about faith. She was moved to give me a precious gift of a cross made of nails and explained how someone had given it to her years ago when she began her faith journey. I’ll treasure that cross and pass it along to someone in the future who needs it.
I’ve lived long enough to know that resolutions don’t work, that promises get broken, that hearts are hurt, but I also know that if you want something badly enough, you will work for it. Hearts can be mended, and love always finds a way because that is the way of God.
I’ve said goodbye to a chapter of my life recently. Like any relationship that’s changed, it’s like someone has died. I’ve mourned that change, tried to hold onto the good memories, and to move forward with a grateful heart for new opportunities. Change is never easy, but anything worth doing is never easy.
As for wanting something badly enough, 2021 was not the year I did much with my writing. I’m going to try to do better in 2022 and have already registered for an online women’s conference in publishing in March. I have opportunities to directly submit a manuscript to two publishers to see if they’re interested in my work. It’s time to act. I’ve already written 40 thousand words of my next novel in the past two months. This was after telling myself I’d write 50 thousand words in November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but life happened. Stuff got crazy, and I had to shift my plans. I had to give myself the grace that I’ve tried to give others in this craziness called life. So, here it is, the end of December, and I’m not at my goal, but that’s okay. I still wrote 40 thousand words more than I had in October.
All that aside, I have another manuscript in progress as well and have a complete manuscript that I finished last year among more craziness. I have a book about to go out in March. I also wrote a 90 thousand-word fanfic this year, which was unexpected but perhaps the blissful escape I needed in this crazy world. (Are you detecting a theme here of “crazy”?) I’ve met several new online friends through the When Calls the Heart community.
Speaking of friends, I continue to be thankful beyond words for the many friendships I have. I can say with honesty that I have more friends at this point in my life than I ever have had. I had several opportunities over the year to meet up with many of them. My writer friends from “back in the day” (pre-pandemic) and my newer writer friends had lunch together on a lovely June afternoon, and it was like the sun was shining on life again after over a year of not seeing many of them face-to-face. To hug each other was a gift I’ll never take for granted again. Some of us even went to the library afterward where we used to meet and visited the librarian who ran the writers group, much to his pleasant surprise!
My friends from the Big Apple moved to Columbus, Ohio, this year, and I drove down to see them, and it was like no time had passed. The next day, Erik and I went out with a couple who we’ve been blessed to break bread with on several occasions, and again, after nearly a year of not going on a double date in person, what a treat to drink beer on a patio.
A couple of my besties and I rocked it out to 90s music at the one’s son’s high school graduation party. Another bestie from high school, our mutual friend, and I have also met up many times at Panera and shared those moments only close friends can. One of my besties who I rocked it out with also went through a devastating loss, and she and I had some beautiful moments as I just held her, listened, and brought food.
I reconnected with two old friends from my childhood in October, and talk about no time passing! I think we got along better now in our early forties than we did as kids! Over wine and laughter, we shared memories and where life has taken us in the past twenty-some years since we’d seen each other.
At the end of November, my writers group, the Rebels, surprised me with a birthday dinner at Applebee’s. To say I felt so blessed in that moment would be an understatement. I’d actually been feeling sorry for myself and stressed out just before that night, and that was the balm I needed.
Erik and I celebrated 20 years together in August and 18 years married in September. We celebrated our children turning 12, 10, and 6 and have watched them grow into little versions of the adults they one day will become. We got to take a couple of short trips this summer: to a Jellystone park in June and to Niagara Falls in August. They were all happy to return to full-day in-person school this fall.
We also celebrated, a year and a half later, my parents’ 50th anniversary. Not even COVID could stop that celebration, because these milestones need to be celebrated. That’s a lot of talk about celebrating, but life should be celebrated! Among a room full of their friends, they renewed their vows. I stood and stand in awe of them and anyone who has been married for decades and decades, because that kind of commitment and love transcends anything we know at the beginning of our marriages.
I ended the year with get-togethers with several friends and my family on Christmas. So, I can say that, yes, hope has proven real. Joy, love, and peace have as well, and it’s all by the grace of God.
Happy New Year!