“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34
The package was small and compact; I knew it was a book of some sort. Delighted, I tore open the wrapped gift, glimpsing the title, “Jane-a-Day”. It was a five-year journal prompted daily with a witty quote from one of my favorites, Jane Austen. And so, I started the journal in 2015, dropping it for most of the year, picking it up again in 2018, and then, in 2020, developing a consistent habit. Limiting myself to a few sentences about my day was hard. Sometimes I tried to spring off Austen’s quotes, quickly recognizing I am not witty. Other times, I wrote a brief prayer. Finally, a habit of writing short conclusions of my days, hopes for the future sprinkled in with major events of my life, filled my book. These events include the weddings of both my children, the births of my grandchildren, and visits from family and friends. But the events also include some hard moments, including accidents, unexpected deaths, and disappointments.
One of these events happened four years ago, marking an unwelcome anniversary of some sort in my marriage. Although this event changed us and our marriage for the better, it still isn’t the journey either of us would have chosen. I don’t want to celebrate this event, but inked words are an echo of what happened. And on that date, four years later, my shoulders scrunch up with tension as I desperately try to write something new, hoping to redeem the day.
It’s no secret: I love to read. I read across genres with old and new writers. My TBR list (for non-bibliophiles that means “to be read”) grows daily, aided by recommendations made by podcast hosts. I am often at the mercy of the library system, reserving books and waiting for whatever shows up. It might be a collage of fiction, cookbooks, or memoirs. There are few modern writers that I admire so much that I automatically purchase their new books instead of waiting for the library. This year, two of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp and Shauna Niequist, came out with new material. I have already talked about Ann Voskamp’s Waymaker in a previous blog. Her poetic prose challenges and inspires me. No less talented, Shauna Niequist crafts words into sentences that make me pause and reflect. Her words seem to synthesize random thoughts in my head, like excellent coffee, sipped slowly to taste the undertones of citrus, blackberry, or bourbon. If you gulp the coffee, the flavors become muddled, but when I read her words slowly, clarity emerges in my life.
Shauna Niequist’s, “i guess I haven’t learned that yet”, was released in April (and, no, the lower-case “I” is not a mistake). It chronicles her last couple of years of hard moments and a major move to New York City with her family. Amid wedding planning, I put the book on my nightstand, hoping to read snippets of it in the evening. But time got away, and the book got shoved under other books, gathering dust. Recently, I rediscovered the book and began my journey of reading and underlining whole paragraphs.
On page 32, Niequist titles the chapter, Hello to Here. She tells us, “A wise friend of mine says that true spiritual maturity is nothing more and nothing less than consenting to reality. Hello to here -not what you wanted or longed for or lost, not what you hope for or imagine, Reality. This here. This now.” I took a deep breath as I read and reread her words again and again. Events in my past and future possibilities collided. And I stopped, thinking again about what she had to say, drawing some conclusions.
I need to stop pouring emotional energy into unwanted anniversaries. Mistakes I’ve made in parenting and relationships have no do-overs, only apologies and acceptance of forgiveness. I can’t change my past at all, none of it. And that is hard to swallow. But as long as I live in the past, I can’t move forward.
I also have some major uncertainties in my life for my future and the future of others I love. These uncertainties sweep over me like waves, threatening to pull me under. But the reality is they are completely beyond my control. I have pleaded with God asking him to reveal a glimpse of what the future holds, so I can rest in peace. I want to know that some things I have prioritized in my life and in others were worthwhile, yielding the outcomes I had planned. I want a sign so that what seems so difficult now is easier to process because of a hope I can see.
But God calls me to the present, not to my past or my future. Yes, I should learn from my past and prepare for my future. But I need to live in the here and now only moving forward second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. The prophet Isaiah records in chapter 43, verses 18-19, “Remember not the former things, no consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
This living in the here and now is hard! So hard!! It’s letting go of both, the narrative of the past and the control of the future. It is positioning myself before God in complete humility, recognizing I don’t have the answers or solutions. But when I choose to live in the here and now, I learn to trust God, who has all the answers. He does a new thing, something unexpected, making a way in the wilderness and a river in the dry desert. He is such a good God!! And when I trust and recognize His goodness, I can rest with a hope that I can’t see.
Recently, I spent two weeks with my grandson and my brand-new granddaughter. There are not a lot of photographs to record my stay, partially because I am a terrible photographer. But the other part is hat I choose to be present with my family, not worried about photo ops. Maybe someday I will regret not having more pictures, but right now, I am choosing to be present in the here and now, and it feels good! My journal ends in two months. The idea of a five-year-journal is good. But I am glad that I will no longer have that day remembered. Instead, I plan to continue to journal, not wanting to change the past or predict the future, choosing instead to live in the here and now!