Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
While many people I knew were coming up with their new year’s resolutions or selecting a word to live by, I identified a word to describe the previous year: Canceled.
2020 had taught me how to live with COVID, but 2021 only frustrated me with all its COVID-related cancellations. Our family reunion—canceled. A writer’s conference—canceled. A couple of friends’ weddings—canceled. The annual girlfriend getaway—canceled. An overseas vacation—canceled. Book club talks—canceled. The list goes on. Now, with only one week left in 2021, COVID threatened to take away the last remaining celebration—New Year’s in New Mexico.
You see, my husband was exposed to COVID five days before Christmas. How could this be? He had been so careful! He wore his mask everywhere—even while filling up his gas tank, and his hands were dry from washing them so often.
But he had let his guard down. On a whim, he decided to visit a friend he hadn’t seen in a while. Less than 24 hours later, that friend called to inform Greg that he had tested positive for COVID. Though both of us had been vaccinated and boosted, there was no guarantee that we wouldn’t contract symptoms or pass the virus on to others.
My Christmas plans had been thwarted! Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. (Proverbs 27:1)
Attending Christmas Eve service was now out of the question. That wouldn’t have been prudent. Getting together with friends on Christmas Day was no longer an option. That wouldn’t have been wise. Instead, we canceled our plans, scheduled a PCR test five days out, and quarantined—even from each other. It was, after all, the right thing to do.
Doing the “right” thing is not always easy. Waiting five days to get a COVID test and another 24 hours to get the results was also hard. So, I was grateful for friends who thanked me for canceling our Christmas gathering and for family who checked in on us every day.
Greg and I were alone with each other on Christmas day, dining six-feet apart and opening our gifts on opposite ends of the room while wearing masks. It wasn’t our best Christmas, but we made the most of it by cooking a gourmet breakfast, playing pickleball outdoors in the afternoon, watching a movie, and making plenty of FaceTime calls to loved ones near and far. We did our best to live in the moment and not let future hopes or past decisions cloud the present.
Was I mad at Greg for taking a chance so close to Christmas? No. But I could feel the disappointment rising at the prospect of having to give up our New Year’s celebration with my brother and his family on the other side of the U.S. If we tested positive for COVID, there would be plane tickets to cancel, presents to be mailed, and photo opportunities missed. But most of all, my heart ached when I thought I might not be able to spend quality time with some of the most beloved people in my life.
I had to remind myself that God didn’t owe me this last hurrah, nor was He to blame for my frustration. That was all on me. In fact, my response to circumstances out of my control is the only thing I actually can control. The apostle Paul says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). So, that was what I tried to do.
By the time Greg and I headed to get our PCR tests, I was at peace with whatever the outcome. If negative, Greg and I would head west as planned. If positive, we would stay home, quarantine, and ring in the new year with Ryan Seacrest. Either way, we would be together, and God would be with us.
There was much rejoicing when, 12 hours later, our tests came back negative! I packed my bags with vigor, and I thanked God repeatedly when our flight—unlike many others—wasn’t canceled.
Greg and I were able to spend a heartwarming week with family, eating, playing, celebrating, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. There were presents to unwrap, babies to hold, and stories to share. New Year’s 2022 will go down in my family album as an all-time favorite event.
I can make my plans, but it’s God’s prerogative to cancel them. The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established. (Proverbs 19:21) I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I’m willing to roll with the punches, trusting that God has everything under control.
So, in setting my new year’s resolution this year, I’ve come up with this: Trust God and seek his will. That’s it. If plans fall through, I’m going to trust God and seek his will. It’s that simple.
Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, so enjoy today. Happy New Year!
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND is Day After Christmas by Matthew West.
Lyrics: “Sometimes we all need a change in the weather, but it won’t change the reason we sing.”