New Year Resolutions

We've been discussing goals for the New Year on our group site this week. It's been interesting to see the responses. They range from general things we all want, like to make more efficient use of writing time, or to meet and talk to J.K. Rowling. (I wouldn't mind that opportunity myself!) Then there was the list of insanely detailed and intricate monthly/yearly goals. If you are having trouble with goals, please contact our own Donna Sundblad, author of Pumping Your Muse! This lady is an expert. Her list puts us all to shame. She has yearly goals, monthly goals, and secondary goals. I have one daily goal: to make it out of bed and manage NOT to land flat on my back! (Ok… maybe that's two goals.)

I've watched these lists appear, and I must admit to a certain amount of envy. I used to plan everything. I used to keep the impeccable calendar of an Air Force officer's wife, with every social engagement meticulously planned ahead, babysitters hired, the perfect wardrobe for the occasion, my husband's uniform cleaned and ready. Dinners were planned, sometimes spur of the moment, but my recipes were well ordered and I could switch gears on a dime if I had to. Now I don't plan past getting up in the morning. My life has turned a full 180 degrees, and I'm feeling a little lost again this year. The injury that changed my life almost five years ago has now disabled me since the last surgery. When I was younger, I never saw this on my horizon. Never!

This time of year is always bittersweet for me. When I was young, I couldn't wait to grow up, to be out on my own and somehow take the world by storm. I longed for the stage, but beyond a few church productions, that didn't happen. Probably a good thing. Sometimes God protects us from ourselves. Then I married and started popping out my children. I couldn't wait until they all started school, so I could pursue my writing, at least for those few hours a day. That worked in a minimal way. I did write more, and I did see publication in several magazines and national church flyers. But school years also increased the activity level, with field trips, parent/teacher conferences (which were numerous with my son), school programs, and after school sports. They were busy years, but looking back now, they were golden. I didn't see divorce on my horizon. I didn't see a broken heart, broken family, broken dreams. Somehow, even ten years later, I find I'm still trying to pick myself up off the floor from that blow.

Then God sent love my way again. Two years ago, Larry Morris swept into my home and my heart with flowers, chocolates, a basket of clementine oranges, a stuffed penguin, and a glass hummingbird. He swept me off my feet and let me know it was ok to love again. Our first date was January 10th, my 50th birthday. Larry made it a memorable one! The best birthday I'd had in years. God brought Larry along at a point when my spirits were low. I'd been hurt on the job and was weary of the constant pain, the doctor's visits, and physical therapy. Larry helped me forget the pain and live again, in spite of my limitations. We had such plans. Trips to take, plays and dinner theatres we wanted to attend, friends and family to visit. Our goals were set together. As writers, we both determined to help each other prepare for publication. Then a fatal car accident changed all those plans, demolished goals, destroyed hope. I still don't understand why God took him away from me. One day, I'll ask Him about that.

This time of year, it's hard for me to set goals. Even though two years have passed since Larry left me for his Heavenly Home, I still face the early months of the New Year with a certain heart-sickness, and a longing for what might have been. I pass the restaurant where we had our first date, and I feel the tears well up. The pain returns, and plans are harder and harder to make.

And yet…. Somehow in all these things, God has kept His gentle Hand on my head. I feel the pressure of that Hand even now, as I write these words. What lies in store? Do I even want to know? Could I face it if God did let me in on the future? If I could have foreseen the heartbreak, would I have even let Larry in the door? Probably not. But if I hadn't, I would have missed not only the blessing of loving him and being loved, but I would have missed the camaraderie of so many dear people, like our own Frank Creed and Cynthia McKinnon-Morris. I would have felt dried up and shriveled, unworthy of the love of a good man. Yes, God had a plan. I don't understand it fully – certainly I don't understand why my future couldn't include Larry's presence HERE. But God Almighty has a divine plan for each of our lives. In spite of pain, heartache, worldly pressures, monetary need – in spite of all the things that distract us and distress us, God has a PLAN.

I'd like to see my own novel, The Last of the Long-Haired Hippies, completed and published this year. I'd also like to make significant progress on a collaborative work called The Song of the Grey Lady. We've been stalemated for quite some time now, and are eager to get back to work on the journey we started together. And I've promised several reviews, which I desperately need to finish.

But goals? I think I'll leave the planning to God for the time being. He's much better at it than I am these days. Pain is still my companion, and earthly issues, like earning some semblance of a living, are pressing like a schoolyard bully. Only God knows what this year holds for me, and I'm content to leave that knowledge in His capable Hands.

I'm doing well to make it out of bed every morning.


Donna Sundblad said...

Deb, your blog entry is so transparent and touching. None of us knows what the future holds. I've lost several good friends in recent years between the ages of 51-74. And when one of them realized their stomach cancer had returned after 7 years and that the chemo wasn't working we did a study on heaven after he asked, "If heaven is so great, why don't people want to go there?"

My husband put together a study and by the time we were done I realized that if I were going on vacation I'd get information on it, be talking about it and looking forward to it. And how much more should I look toward my eternal dwelling?

Currently I have a friend who is only 62 that is having a heart cauterization today. Last year she lost her job, her husband broke his back and is in a wheel chair, they've lost their home to foreclosure, her appendix ruptured and now she has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She said, "I can't help but think what is next?"

Through out long talk yesterday I could see God working in her life—even answering prayers. Like she'd been changing her husband's diapers since he came home and with her in the hospital he has mastered using the potty-chair. None of us can understand everything on this side of eternity, but if we keep our focused on things above it really helps us keep a right perspective. Without it, life could be down right depressing!

As for goals, I started a group for writers years ago when they asked how I accomplished all I do. Goals helped me leave behind my day job, and my third book will be out in 2008. My non-fiction work helps pay the bills, and I even have an article coming out in the Writer Magazine in April.

The reason I set goals is because I am reminded by Scripture not to waste time because the days are evil. God has equipped each of us with gifts. And when I stand before him, I hope to hear him say "well done good and faithful servant."

I'd be happy to help anyone with goals, but just like anything accountability is part of that. Otherwise, it's easy to let life sweep you away in its trials, tribulations, traditions and expectations. If anyone wants to contact me, they can do so at birdiesquill@yahoo.com and should put GOALS in the subject line as I get hundreds of email everyday.

C. S. Lakin said...

Hey Deb, I am moved to tears by your story. I wish I wish there to give you a BIG hug. You have been through some very hard trials, and are still going through them. I pray God will give you a deep seated joy and strength, always filling your heart with the peace in knowing someday all this pain--physical and emotional--will be gone. I am reminded of the words Jesus spoke about the woman who sinned and was forgiven more. That she loved more because of it. Maybe that is the gift we get in disguise from all the suffering we go through--that we learn and feel more love. We love God more, and others, and the precious moments of this life. And I am thinking we will take that love and depth of compassion with us into the next life.

Jesus certainly felt suffering was worthwhile. The Bible says he learned obedience from suffering and was made perfect by it. Heavy, huh? May you have a blessed year in 2008 and let me know if you want some help with your books to get you revved back up! Susanne

Deborah Cullins Smith said...

Thank you, Donna. You really helped with perspective in this response. Lord, bless Donna's friend and her husband -- hold them in the palm of Your gentle hand.

I do want to add that I, in no way, meant to disparage your goals! I admire your ability to set and KEEP them. If my life can settle down a bit to something at least resembling "normal" (or maybe consistent), I will indeed call on you to help me organize myself. For now, unfortunately, coping day to day seems to be as good as it gets.

As for transparency --- yes, I am exactly what I seem to be. I have never learned that deceptive edge that allows one to say "...oh, I'm fine, I'm fine..." unless I truly am. Sometimes that's a good thing, and other times, I wish I could hide the pain a little better. At any rate, I do appreciate your comforting words.

Susannah, likewise, my dear friend, I appreciate the hug! I felt it in every pore as I read your response. Thank you.

Happy New Year, my friends.

Andrea Graham said...

If you've never heard of A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card, please accquaint yourself with the title, Deb. He says everything I'd like to say, and a lot better.

We got our pastors that book for Christmas this year, and if anyone needs a book about lament, woman, it's you! *hugs*

It's a really freeing book, seriously. The CD is a blessing, too.

TWCP Authors said...

Very touching post and quite a propos for the start of the new year.

Deborah Cullins Smith said...

Thank you for the suggestion, Andrea. I will definitely look that one up. I've always loved Michael Card's music.

It amazes me that so much of the grief still feels new and fresh. You expect time to heal some of the pain, but then.... I suppose there is no time limit on heartache. It hurts until it stops hurting. That's all there is to it. In the meantime, my writing will undoubtedly reflect some of the pain in my heart.

A lovely lady once told me that losing someone was like having a hole in your heart. Her grasp on English was sometimes less than perfect, but the image she handed me so many years ago has remained engraved in my mind.

Yesterday marked 2 years since Larry took me on that first date. That meeting held such promise. It's hard to believe that two whole years have passed. I still miss him so.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.... Someday joy will return and the tulips will bloom again in my heart.

Deborah Cullins Smith said...

You know, it's the love and prayers of the Lost Genre Guild that makes alot of this pain bearable. Thank you all so much.