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Words by VLB

Say "Yes."

Summer 2019. I remember staring at the blank screen of my internship laptop, pondering possible fun facts about myself for the advertising agency's "get to know our intern!" Instagram post. After rattling off my go-to facts, I found my fingers typing something my heart had always wanted, but I had never admitted:

"I'd like to write a book and run a marathon before I turn thirty."

I stared at the cursor flashing in the white space after my sentence, stunned at what I'd just typed. Did I really think I could write an entire book? Did I believe I had a marathon in me? Did I actually want to make these goals public on the advertising agency's Instagram account?

Before I could delete the sentence, I hit "send" and my goal traveled straight to my boss' inbox. Thirty minutes later, it was in an Instagram caption. There was no going back now.

Having these two goals publicly attached to my identity felt impressive. I thought these dreams showed my determination and optimism, and honestly I was interested in writing a book and running a marathon someday. But age thirty was a long ways away.

As my junior year of college went on and 2019 turned to 2020, I became increasingly comfortable with the phrase I'd first typed on the advertising agency's laptop. I donned "I'd like to write a book and run a marathon before I turn thirty" on my LinkedIn with pride. The two action items, a book and a marathon, felt like exciting challenges for the faraway future. I figured I wouldn't touch those goals til after graduation.

And then, halfway through my junior year, the pandemic hit. I moved back home to Colorado for what I figured would be a few weeks. My college classes moved online but I didn't think the change was permanent. I knew the pandemic was serious, but I doubted its longevity.

And then, in March, my summer 2020 study abroad program was officially cancelled.

I'll never forget the sinking feeling in my stomach as I processed the words on my computer screen: "We regret to inform you that due to the COVID-19 pandemic we do not deem international travel safe for the summer of 2020..."

After receiving that email, life felt more fragile and uncertain than ever before. Within minutes, my perception of the pandemic changed. I realized we were in this for the long haul. I felt like I'd taken so much for granted back before I'd ever heard the terms "quarantine" and "social distancing."

I closed my computer screen and let out a sigh. My heart felt heavy in my chest. And in the silence and fear of shattered summer plans and dimming hope, I heard loud and clear: "write the book."

I'd played around with the idea of writing a book even before the pandemic, but I wasn't sure how large or serious of a project it would be. I was thinking maybe a short e-book, or I could at least start something and work on it for a few years. I knew I wanted to write a book before I learned of my cancelled study abroad trip, but this calling felt different than anything I'd ever experienced. It was one of the the clearest times I've ever heard God speak. "Write the book."

Yet, even after the deep conviction I felt after learning my summer plans had been cancelled, I continued to pursue my own ideas of success and productivity. I wanted to spend my summer in a standard, predictable way, so I spent a week searching for internships to fill my time. But I couldn't stop hearing those three words rattling around in my mind as I tried to fall asleep each night. "Write the book."

Although I didn't take action right away, the feelings in my heart eventually became so strong that I knew I had no choice but to write the book as soon as I could. I had no idea what I wanted to write about, but I knew I had to be serious about this opportunity. I had not the slightest clue how to turn some words on a computer screen into something I could hold in my hands and keep on my nightstand. I didn't have a degree or a literary agent, but I decided to trust that God could provide.

The process of becoming a published author was far from perfect. There's a lot I want to unpack about the research, writing, editing, and publishing processes of making A Way in the Wilderness a tangible reality. Someday, I want to tell you about the many times I wanted to give up. I want to explain to you the insecurity that kept me silent about my book for so long, and the joy that came from finally telling people without fear of judgement. I want to elaborate on the prayers I prayed, the ways God showed up, and the people who cheered me on before my book even had a title.

I will write about the full story behind A Way in the Wilderness someday. For now, I think I'm still mentally putting together the pieces that made the last eight months so memorable and difficult and happy and invigorating. But today, I'm sharing how A Way in the Wilderness started as a haphazardly written goal for an internship Instagram post and somehow became a reality in the midst of cancelled plans and a global pandemic. I'm sharing how I said "no" before I said "yes" because of my ideas about the the prescribed "right" way to spend your last summer of college. I'm sharing my story not to bring attention to my accomplishments, but to give glory to the One who made it all possible.

I am so thankful God gave me the courage to type "I'd like to write a book and run a marathon before I turn thirty." I'm still sad about my summer study abroad plans getting cancelled, but I see how my empty schedule created the opportunity to say a bold "yes" and let God take care of the details.

No matter what disappointment or change you are facing today, my prayer is that you can do the same. Say "yes." Even if you have to say "no" first. Even if you don't know how it will turn out. Even if you don't feel qualified. Your "yes" is never wasted.

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