Today I drive with a close friend along familiar roads to an unfamiliar destination. We talk about old memories and make plans for new ones. We eat ice cream in the car (a Dole Whip for me). We pick through baskets of peaches and find some of the weirdest jellies and jams I’ve ever seen (while wearing masks, of course, because #2020). I feel content and happy–I really needed this fun and somewhat spontaneous day. But I catch the tinge of sadness in my heart, too. I’ve been doing this thing lately that’s a little ridiculous, but I can’t stop. I feel like life is about to be full and fun and beautiful and fulfilling–until a certain date a couple of months away, that is, and then I feel like it won’t be anymore.
Before I left this afternoon, I was working on the chapter of my book about staying–a concept introduced to me this summer by Hannah Brencher and Grace Anne. It’s the idea of digging in for the long haul, walking in the trenches with people day after day and why that’s so important. But what does that look like, I find myself wondering now, when so many of the people I want to stay for are states away? When I get back in my car at the end of the afternoon and turn up the music, Ben Rector reminds me that you can’t make old friends, and that doesn’t help my emotional state. I know the whole life-will-only-be-good-until-X-date thing is ridiculous, because of course there will be other fun days in my life. But essentially, this is exactly what happened to me last year.
Another concept that’s really important to me is the idea of living a full life, and if you’ve heard me talk about fall 2019 at all, you know it was the most full season of life I think I’ve ever lived. Those days were packed with so many good and beautiful things. I was dancing in a show at our local Playhouse. I was spending time in the Word with new friends my age. I was writing a novel and doing fun things with my family and just absolutely thriving in every way during that first autumn in my apartment. I was growing and learning and creating, spending time with people I loved doing things I loved. It was so beautifully full that it hurts my heart a little every time I think about it.
And then, literally the morning after we closed the show, I woke up muggle sick. Two weeks later I was in the ER. And that full season of life faded into a bleak winter that I essentially spent at the hospital. By March, I was pulling eight-hour days of appointments and tests, with any downtime in-between spent in the hospital cafeteria. So when I look at my calendar for this fall, I can’t help but worry that the exact same thing is going to happen. For the next seven weeks I see picnics with friends and a beach trip with family and tap dance lessons at my dance studio. But after that, my calendar holds nothing but appointments with new doctors who have already thrown out a list of potential procedures and tests.
It’s true that some things are changing irrevocably after this date in my head. No season of life will ever be exactly like this one again. But I have to keep reminding myself that there are so much better seasons to come that we can’t even see. The best is yet to come, and often, the best is a surprise.
A couple of months ago, Grace Anne cited Psalm 27:13 (a verse I’ve loved for a long time) in one of her Tuesday Letters. “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” the verse reads. Don’t be afraid to expect good things from God, Grace Anne said. And in another recent letter, she talked about gifts–how she often lives dreading her current season coming to a close (which is, obviously, something I can very much relate to) but how every season comes with its own gifts.
I think it’s so important to cling to verses, to truths, like these. To look for His goodness in the land of the living. I wouldn’t call last winter “good,” but there was certainly still good in that season–friends who left care packages on my doormat when I was maybe the sickest I’ve ever been, quality time with my mom (even if it was spent at the hospital), discovering a new hobby in washi tape and papercrafts. Our Father is a Father Who gives us good gifts. So we can trust that even during the more difficult seasons, there will still be good things in life as well.
Because there’s this, too: When I think back to last fall, all I remember is how beautiful it was. My memory conveniently glosses over the multiple weeks I was too sick to get out of bed, the procedures and tests that were done, and the medical trauma I had to fight through to show up for them. Even in that full season of life that I remember as being the best season I’ve ever lived, there were still very real and very difficult struggles. And even in the bleak season of last winter, there were still good things, too. “There is always sorrow in the joy. And, praise God, there is always joy in the sorrow,” Jennifer Holmes wrote on Instagram last week.
There is good coming. There is. And it’s not going to stop coming on a specific calendar date. There will be seasons of life that are full and beautiful and more than we ever dreamed they could be. And there will be seasons of life that are difficult and draining and downright painful, because we’re promised an abundant life, not an easy one. But even in those difficult seasons, the ups and downs and the highs and lows, there will be abundance. There will be good. And eventually we’re all going to walk each other home into the fullest season yet, the one that is eternal, the one that never ends.
There is good coming. There is.