If there's one thing I have learnt throughout the Covid-19 year of 2020, it's that I need to hold my plans lightly!
Holidays in the UK, the final year of school and associated rites of passage, sports fixtures; all planned, eagerly anticipated and then abandoned. Amended plans to enjoy holidays here in SA, find alternative ways to celebrate the end of exams, enjoy sport in a different manner - also cancelled. Even the seemingly most simple of events, like a New Year's Eve family afternoon of fun or a trip out with friends is sacrificed to the inconvenience of Covid.
It can all feel like so much sand slipping through my fingers. The delight of planning and preparing lost through circumstances I have no control over. Where my voice isn't heard and my preferences don't count.
'My times are in your Hand.' A well-known verse which popped into my head the other day. A whisper from the Holy Spirit as my frustrations and weariness grew? I turned to my Bible and read the full story behind the sentence (incidentally if a random verse suddenly pops into your head, take the time to look it up and read its context. Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit will bring into remembrance all we have seen and heard- John 14:26. Sometimes, it is just a short phrase which has stuck in our mind which the Holy Spirit will use as a signpost to draw us deeper into the Word and the presence of Jesus. Give it a try next time it happens!). It is found in Psalm 31 and is written by David - not at a time when all was going well for him, but when he was surrounded on all sides by adversaries and enemies. No matter his circumstances, David knew there was One he could trust and turn to, One who is a rock of refuge and a strong fortress.
As I reflect on the year that has been, I realise just how much of my times have been held in the tight grip of the hand of my Father in Heaven. I have written and self-published three books, participated in my first multi-author boxed set of devotions, have had articles and poems featured in several magazines and had stories accepted in two amazing anthologies. I have met with distant family for the first time in over twenty years thanks to video-conferencing; I have discovered new places to visit and have stayed at home watching movies with popcorn and pizza every Friday. We have remained healthy, have flourished at work and school, learned new ways of doing the same old thing and discovered much that is fresh and surprising.
And as I look forward to what lies ahead, I know I can trust my Father to continue as He has begun. A friend recently asked what my writing goals are for 2021. I responded that I am starting the year by playing a metaphorical game of 'Pick up Sticks'- a childhood favourite game where a handful of colourful sticks is thrown down to land in a random pile, from which each player must pick up one stick without disturbing the others. Throwing down all that I have been working on throughout the year, all I have been involved with, writing and otherwise, I now sit and see what needs to be picked up and what should be left undisturbed. Knowing that every 'stick', every aspect of my future times are held and ordered in ways I don't yet see fills me with excitement. God is a good, good Father, as the Chris Tomlin song asserts, and no matter how many times my plans may need to change and be adjusted, I can be assured that His will be for my good and not for my harm.
I woke this morning to the sound of my fridge beeping in alarm. A door must have been left open when we went to bed last night. Or rather, earlier this morning. I opened sleepy eyes and went off to investigate. Sure enough, the freezer door was ajar. The afternoon before my sister-in-law had given us a bottle of non-alcoholic 'champagne' to celebrate the new year with which we had popped into the freezer to speed-chill (it was a super hot day yesterday, with top temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius, 89F. Remember, it is summer down here in the south!). We had then changed our minds and decided to save it for today, New Year's Day. Only we'd forgotten to take the bottle out of the freezer, and made our way to bed just after midnight.
The 'champagne' obviously felt the need to celebrate anyway and popped its own cork. The force had pushed the bottle backwards which had, in turn, pushed the door open. My first discovery of 2021 was a defrosted freezer and half a bottle of sticky liquid spilling everywhere! I took the bottle out, closed the door and went back to bed. Some things are better left until later.
Even a New Year toast didn't go as planned. Perhaps my word for 2021 needs to be 'flexible'. Knowing that God has everything in control and firmly held in His hand makes that possible. And do you notice something? He only needs one hand to hold everything safe.