I write a birthday letter to myself every year. I try to finish it within the first two weeks of January, then I seal it in an envelope and tuck it away in some safe place to open the following year on my birthday. It is one of my most cherished, long-standing traditions.
Each time I write these letters, I consider what the following year might hold, then I ask my future self about those tentative plans, all the while trying to encourage myself to have a godly outlook over them and the year in general. Before ending each letter, I include a word that I believe will have described the year personally. It’s not a word I strive to remember and live up to. Rather, it’s a word that I reflect upon as I read the letter with fresh eyes after the year has ended.
I’ve been writing these letters for years, and it’s not something I take lightly. I pray about them for several weeks before ever sitting down to write one. I ask God for wisdom to know what to say and to know what word to choose for the year. Although some letters are more meaningful to me than others when I read them, I am always encouraged by each one in some way or another, and I can generally see how my word described the year in some way.
This year, as I was praying about my letter and what word to include, it became clear to me through a one-minute devotion on Christian radio, and I became even more convinced of this word when reading its meaning in a definition I found through a Google search a few minutes later.
To “grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.”
With an upcoming move out of the literal desert at that time, I was excited to think that a new environment could bring healthy growth and development to my life and that of my family’s. I had been feeling nervous about the move, but the idea that we might flourish in a new place made me hopeful.
In mid-February, as I considered what I had written in my birthday letter weeks earlier and with the move still a few weeks away, I scoffed at the idea that the word flourish could describe any of my experiences this year.
Although we had already enjoyed some beautiful moments as a family, we had also encountered great loss, and I couldn’t help but think about the other losses to follow as we packed and prepared to say goodbye to our friends in El Paso.
Today marks a week since we left El Paso and safely arrived to our new town, and although I am trying to be open-minded to this new place, I am also becoming more aware of new losses now that we are here.
The trees are still barren outside, and the spring has yet to come. Almost everywhere I look, I am reminded of the death of winter, and I am reminded of death in our own personal losses as well. But then I am reminded of the mystery of a seed—how it must die in order to bring forth new life. And it makes me want to believe that all the losses we have experienced so far are like seeds that have fallen beneath the surface, dying so that new life may spring forth.
We experienced a literal death on my birthday this year, but this next wedding anniversary, JJ and I will celebrate the Resurrection, and through it we find our greatest hope.
The winter won’t last forever. Spring will come. Plants will sprout again, and trees will be covered in green.
God will make a way for this barren land to flourish again, and as the seasons change, I trust that He will change this wintry season of my life in due time and make it possible for my heart to flourish again too.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!Psalm 126:5 ESV