2013 has faded into the sunset and most of the year 2014 still stretches out before us, a clean slate.
I write historical fiction set in the 1800s, a time when one-room schoolhouses were common. Students of varying ages and stages of education would use a school slate, a piece of quarry slate framed with wood, and a slate pencil to form letters of the alphabet and to practice their sums.
The advantage of slates over paper was that they could be wiped clean. The historical novelist in me looks at a new year as a clean slate, which offers a fresh start. The year 2014 is fresh and presents us with an opportunity to write a new chapter in our lives. My novels and novellas celebrate fresh starts and new beginnings. Whether it is the Sinclair Sisters forced by their fathers to go west, the Saint Charles Quilting Circle facing the aftermath of the Civil War without the men they loved, or The Boone’s Lick Wagon Train Company traversing The Oregon Trail looking for a better life, my story characters find fresh starts. So do you and I. On a daily basis, because of God’s amazing, renewing grace.
A distinct difference between the school slate and life is that the previous years are not erased, but added to. The experiences of one day to the next and one year to the following are folded in, added to all that came before, laying a foundation for what is to come.
The women in the quilting circle in war-torn Missouri watched their families being torn apart, lost husbands, brothers, sons, and fathers. In the summer of 1865, they were starting over, their sorrow mingling with hope as they clung to one another and to a faithful God. At first glance, even after a long glance, Maren Jensen, Emilie Heinrich, and Caroline Milburn faced a dim future. Thankfully, God sees deeper and further into the future than we can.
I don’t know what the year 2013 was like for you. My guess is that joys mingled with sorrows and victories tumbled over failures. And it is all written on our hearts in God’s handwriting. Weddings. Funerals. Babies welcomed into the world. Illness faced. Business challenges and victories. Family conflicts. Resolutions. Separation. Reconciliation. Lots of waiting too, is my guess. And for most of us, the waiting continues as we watch and wait. Pray and wait. Wait for resolution, reconciliation, renewal. Wait on God to meet needs; to heal our hearts.
While I celebrated the release of my fifth full length novel, Prairie Song, and prepared for the January 21, 2014 release of The Quilted Heart novellas omnibus, I watched while my dear mother sank deeper into the abyss that is Alzheimer’s disease. The experience is giving me a new perspective on joy and victory.
Joy is slipping a Big Band CD into the player in Mom’s room and watching her hips start to sway, and her arms begin to swing. We danced, my heart so full of blessing. An oh so pleasant surprise. An unexpected joy. Isn’t that just like God?
One day while I drove Mom to see her doctor, she looked up at the sky and said, “I love looking at the clouds.” Pause. Sigh. “That’s where Jesus will come for me.” Smile. “I’m waiting for Him.”
There is victory in Jesus. In the here and now . . . for Mom, victory in the sound of music and the shower of peace. Also, there is victory in the promise of eternal life with Jesus for all who believe in Him.
My guess is that in 2013, your faith was tested. You, too, might have fallen to your knees at least once and cried out, “I don’t get it!” And, if you’re like me, your knees were knocking a bit as you entered into this new year. A lot of uncertainty lies in fresh starts and new beginnings.
The story of Christmas is still fresh on my mind. Mary, the mother of Jesus and her relative Elizabeth both received something from God she did not expect. A baby. Both gifts seemed impossible, one woman a virgin, the other barren, well stricken in years, very old.
And yet, God . . . .
(Luke 1:5-25, 39-80)
I thought I knew God.
Then He surprised me.
Me, well along in years, ripe with child?
When Mary stood before me
bright as afternoon sunshine,
I knew God’s gift of surprise had touched her life, too.
Each of us carrying sons.
Mine, the preparation for God’s Way,
Who was well-off in my relative’s womb.
Both of us blessed women.
Subjects of God’s surprising ways.
© 2013 Mona Hodgson