What was wrong with me?

It was time to review 2019, and I dreaded the process because I wanted to be done with last year and move on. 

The suffering of 2019 had been intense. The year had been unpleasant on a personal level as I watched those nearest to me suffer. 

Instead of focusing on writing, I gave over large chunks of my time and energy to assist family members who were in crisis. 

This trade-off left a massive glob of unfinished professional goals which, by the start of the new year, I had grown ashamed of. I could see other people juggling work and relationships, so why couldn’t I?

Did I plan wrong? Were my goals too lofty?

Then came the more soul-crushing questions: what if I wasn’t meant to write stories? What if my failures were God’s way of steering me in a new direction? Was I failing God? Why couldn’t I finish what I set out to do?

By the end of the year, I just wanted to pull the covers over my head and never get out of bed again. 

Why would I want to reflect on all of that?

Sound heavy? 

It was. 

But, that’s not the end of the story. Read on…

A new year. A shiny new plan. A clean slate. 

I have enough life experience behind me now to know review and reflection are smart, but I wanted to put 2019 behind me. It had been a year filled with pain that I wanted to forget. 

But the Lord knew better. I needed to see the way He does. To see the successes and failures from an eternal perspective. 

So, I reviewed the year by asking myself a series of questions from an annual review template created by David Allen, the author of The Art of Getting Things Done.

The answers to those questions helped me form a month-by-month overview that looked like this: 

January

Began 2019 with optimism and hope by setting a huge goal for myself: I would publish my first Christian Thriller book in March.

February

First bombshell: We learned our daughter was living in a shocking situation. Nothing in my life before then had prepared me to take in the kind of pain we heard on the recordings she shared with us. 

March, April, May 

Daily phone calls and emergency family planning meetings took up my time. I postponed publication to June. I felt frustrated and unsure of what I could have done differently to meet my family’s needs and my writing goals.

June

My daughter decided to flee to a shelter with her children. Pain for everyone involved consumed me. I had no space in my heart to write, but I felt I should be doing the work.  

June publication deadline delayed to November. Instinctively, I understood the Lord was in charge of my work and relationships. Still, I didn’t know how to adjust my expectations.

July 

After helping my daughter and grandchildren transition out of the shelter and into a temporary home I was hit with the second bombshell. On a flight of a long-planned vacation with friends, I passed out. A doctor on board had to give me a shot of epinephrine to help me regain consciousness.

August

Doctor’s visits and tests to discover the underlying cause of my episode. Finally, my doctor and I agreed exhaustion was the culprit.

September

Although spending a lot of my time helping my daughter with legal matters I was determined to publish my first book. My editor agreed it was on target for the November release.  

October

After moving my daughter into a new home, I remained to help her and my grandchildren adjust to their new lifestyle. My daughter lives four states away so I did not have access to my home office. 

November, December

After a heart-to-heart talk with my editor, I chose to put my publication date on hold so I could continue to give my time and energy to helping my family. 

As I reflected on this list, I was reminded of a question my family asked me over and over and over during 2019. In the midst of all the chaos, they wanted to know, “Why are you so calm?”

Their question puzzled and worried me.

Was I really calm? I felt so much pain. So very helpless.

The pain I felt for my daughter suffocated me. Had I disassociated myself from the intensity of it all, and it just came across as calm? Was a calm demeanor a weird response? Was I an uncaring mom?

I took time to reflect on their question and it seemed to me that my daughter’s situation had created an opportunity for the Lord to show himself through the trust and surrender he had already deposited within me through my own trials. To my family, it came across as “calm” which I realized was the sweet gift from the Lord. He had been at work in me even while I felt buried in pain and suffering. He was sourcing himself out to those around me, and I had no idea. I was just clinging to him through it all and crying out to him for her whole family.

What did I learn from taking the time to reflect on the previous year?

  1. It’s easy to miss the eternal implications when I’m in the middle of chaos and pain.
  2. I’m prone to measure my worth on my performance. Therefore, at the end of a whole year, when my practical goals were unmet, it was easy for me to forget the reasons I chose to put the work aside and conclude I was a failure. Reflection allowed me to throw that idea away.
  3. Our practical work and intangible work are equally valuable. I have more to learn about the ebb and flow of these.
  4.  I have much to learn about setting goals and leaving the outcome to the Lord.
  5. “These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last long [in light of eternity.] Yet, this short time of distress will result in Gods richest blessing upon us forever and ever!” 2 Corinthians 4:17
  6. If you had asked me if I had reached my goals for 2019 in December I would have stammered and stuttered to give you an honest answer, But, after reflection, I can clearly say without hesitation that I was not a failure in 2019.

Exploring TRUTH through story,
Ali

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