Well. Last year certainly has a lot to answer for, doesn’t it? 2020 did not quite fulfil the vision we began the year with. Or did it?
Hindsight is a beautiful thing, so while there were many challenges that we experienced last year, there were also a number of things we can now appreciate and be thankful for.
For me here in Australia, 2020 began with horrendous bushfires that claimed lives and devastated 12.6 million hectares (over 31 million acres) of our land. The effect of Covid 19 forcing us into various degrees of lockdown may have led us to greater levels of social isolation but coming mere weeks after much of the country faced the trauma of bushfires, I believe we were resilient enough to cope. That’s what tough times do: They force us to dig deeper for the grit that helps us to face the next challenge.
With four kids at home, including one who was in her final year of high school, I’m the first to admit that doing home school was not easy. And I’m a former high school teacher! Yet despite the challenges of technology and motivation, it seemed so much of the clutter of school life was dropped so my children could focus on what was really important.
And didn’t that prove true for all of us? Last year’s challenges helped sift out those things that really don’t matter and helped us focus on what does. People. Family. Friends. Community. Life. Love. God.
Jesus talked about the rich man who stored his wealth up in huge barns, tearing down the old to build bigger ones to contain the abundant harvest, only to lose his life (Luke 12). Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions, or how busy we are, or in the number of interesting places or people we’ve seen. God wants us to trust Him, to care for those for whom we can, to not store things up for ourselves but to be rich in the things of God. Things like faith in Him, generosity to others, love.
This is a theme present in my new historical novel, Dusk’s Darkest Shores, set in England’s beautiful Lake District. It tells of an injured soldier face unexpected challenges as he moves from reliance on himself to trust in God and others, as he learns to walk by faith and not by sight.
As hard as last year was, it was also a time when we learned the importance of trusting God (even though some people found this a challenge, especially in the storing up of toilet paper!). The busy pace of life was forced to slow, as we reconnected with our families and learned to not only love them, but like them again.
We were forced to think about things differently. Workplaces changed. Sadly, some workplaces were lost, while others were forced to adapt to working from home. Here in Australia, we’ve seen numbers of people escaping the cities and moving to regional areas, providing an extra zest to communities across the nation.
For me, I once again saw the importance of creating fiction that offered hope while still speaking truth, as readers were hungry for faith-filled books that provided a cosy cocoon from the challenges of the real world. All of my books, historical and contemporary, show how faith helps us to conquer fears, as flawed characters face some of life’s grittier aspects, so it was encouraging to see increased demand for this.
I was also challenged to think about how I do things, as the demand of readers for life-giving books encouraged me to take a step from the safe world of traditional publishing and embark into some independent publishing ventures too. That means at the end of this year, my first independently published contemporary romance, The Break Up Project, will be released, the first in a series of novels that focus on the importance of family and friendship and faith to overcome adversity. I’m excited that the first book will showcase a charity that helps impoverished children in the Philippines, and it’s my hope that through my words of fiction readers will investigate sponsoring some of these children and helping them in real life.
I’m learning that sometimes life gives us lemons, and we can suck it up and grow sour or squeeze out what we can, remembering that God’s love and faithfulness is the sweetener that helps us through it all. This may mean we need to take a step back and reassess what we thought was the way life was supposed to go. For me, that meant taking a step to one side, and trusting God in a way I haven’t needed to before. For despite bushfires and Covid and lockdowns and sickness and separation, I’m still convinced that God’s good plans can't be disrupted, and the sifting of the time-wasting distractions of our lives can only be good for us, and good for our families.
I want my life, and the stories I write that spring from my own challenges, to demonstrate that there is hope in this world, that we get one chance at life so let’s not waste it by being too afraid to step out of the known. I pray that we will all find the courage that we need to step into God’s good plans, whatever they may be, and continue to trust Him, and not put our confidence in our possessions, our experiences, or how we think things should be.
Who knows the exciting plans that God has got in store for you?
Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A long-time lover of romance, Carolyn loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency and contemporary novels are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Christianbook, and other online retailers.
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