“Looking forward to February!” The words greeted me from a hand-drawn bubble bursting from the mouth of a Snowman on the wrapping paper. Curious about the connection between the snowman and the gift inside, I tore open the package to reveal a pair of elegant gold earrings featuring red heart=shaped stones.
“Valentine’s Day?” I thought to myself, trying to determine what excitement was coming in February.
My mom smiled at me. “We have to find things to look forward to, don’t we?”
Hasn’t that been hard over the past year? With plans changed, changed again, and ultimately cancelled?
Stores closed. Restaurants closed. Entire counties closed. Looking forward has seemed impossible – until I opened that single pair of earrings and realized something about those sparkly hearts.
A few years ago, my mom and I established a mother-daughter night. Being fans of the Hallmark series When Calls the Heart, we set aside time on Sunday nights, with each new season, to enjoy the episodes together. Sometimes we relax in companionable silence. More often, we dissect and evaluate the story structure, the costuming, and even the subtle changes in set design. In the often-chaotic world of raising school-aged kids, teaching middle school, and writing a screenplay and a novel, these weekly mother-daughter moments are precious and hard-to-come-by for me.
My mom gifted me a pair of earrings – and a reminder to look forward, even when it’s hard.
On those days that zoom by in the blink of an eye and leave me mentally spinning, I’ll focus on the coming weekend and anticipate the comfort of steaming peppermint tea, a warm blanket over my knees, and my mom’s soothing presence as we share our show together.
I’ve decided I need more of those events, those subtle changes in routine and slivers of light at the end of this tunnel that will keep hope alive. To make these occasions tangible, I’m redoing my calendar for the next few months. Instead of listing the dentist appointments and due dates and school projects, I will dedicate a calendar to the “Look Forward” moments. In just the month ahead, I’ve discovered many:
Two great reads are coming on February 2: Sarah Sundin’s newest book, When Twilight Breaks; and Annie F. Downs book That Sounds Fun. Both promise to be much-needed food for my spirit that will motivate me to indulge in some “me time.”
Just two weeks later, I’ll be haunting my mailbox for Christy Nockels’ first book, Live the Life You Long For. I had the pleasure of hearing Christy sing live just a couple of years ago. Her voice and lyrics brought tears to my eyes. To this day, her song Amaryllis is one of my absolute favorite Christmas songs to play year-round – and I can’t wait to dive into her words about living a Christ-centered life.
And then, I’ll be brewing a cup of tea and cuddling up on the couch to watch When Calls the Heart with my mom, commenting, critiquing, and developing our own spin-off storylines.
Mixed in and among these dates, I’ll make cookies with my boys for Valentine’s Day. I’ll spend an afternoon each week goading an old quarter horse named Red out of complacency and into a smooth trot – while I try to avoid crashing into the railing of the arena. I’ll chat with my long-distance friends about life, writing, and whatever else crosses our minds. My hubby and I just might squeeze in a date night or two – ordering takeout and watching classic movies.
As I dig deep to find moments to add to my calendar. I am discovering something: when I look wider and broader, I feel discouraged. I see the sadness and the hurt and the depression. I see students failing and families breaking. These should be reminders to pray and hold fast in my faith. They are not reasons to lose hope.
But when I look at my calendar, to my family and my friends and my day-to-day life, I see perseverance and resilience and little flashes of joy. By looking forward to what used to be the “little things,” my hope is restored.