Postmarked: Dear Jen (32) — A Few Thoughts on Trust in a Time of Uncertainty


It’s wonderful hearing from you, and I’m so glad you guys made it home safely.

Thanks for asking about my novel—I think I’m finding a bit of groove. This one is a wriggling thing, and hard to grab on to, but I’m about 50,000 words in, so the path to the end is in sight.

Today marks two weeks since we were told to stay home as much as possible here in Pennsylvania, two week since schools were canceled. It’s so strange to think about how much has changed since I wrote my letter to you fifteen days ago. Then, life was still relatively normal. We had no idea, or at least I didn’t have any idea, what was coming.

We’re approaching the end of the honeymoon phase of staying home all the time. I know the jokes and memes about being trapped in your house with your children abound, but to be honest, Maile and I have so enjoyed our time with our kids. After all, it’s only been two years since Maile was homeschooling them all, so in some ways this feels like a flashback to a simpler time in our lives, when everyone was under our roof most of the time, and our schedule was in our control. Add to that the fact that Maile and I both prefer not to have busy schedules, prefer to be at home, and these two weeks, in many ways, have felt like a blessing.

And yet.

This morning marked the first time a friend of ours was admitted to the ER with Covid-19. We have close friends who work in the healthcare system, as well as friends in New York City where the disease is exploding. And the fog of uncertainty hangs over everything, no matter how much we enjoy being at home—will our aging parents and friends make it through this? Will the economy recover? Will I still have writing projects through this time, or on the other side of it? How will the publishing industry be changed?

During our dinner club last week, when we met on Zoom instead of in real life, one of our friends laughed and said, “Well, now we all get to live like Maile and Shawn have lived for the last ten years.” I think she was referring to the uncertainty everyone is feeling, and in some ways what she said is true: Maile and I have grown accustomed to uncertainty. Rarely in the last ten years, since I started writing full time, have we had more than three or four months’ income lined up. Often, less than that. A few times, we have had nothing lined up. We have operated, these ten years, with a certain level of trust (more or less, depending on the season) that God would provide what we needed. Strangely enough, and in sudden fashion, it would seem that everyone has been ushered into this kind of uncertain existence.

Trust is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity.

Something that has meant a lot to me during this decade of trust has been Brennan Manning’s book, Ruthless Trust. My favorite quote from that book goes like this:

“The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of the pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.”

I think we are, all of us, entering into a season that will require more trust than we have ever managed to muster before. As Manning later writes, “The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received.” While none of us have chosen to walk into this new life defined by a virus, I think we can still take heart in what Manning has to say, because even here God offers us his presence and his promise.

So, here we are. You and me and our families and nearly everyone on the planet, walking into darkness, waving our hands around in front of us, trying to get a feel for what lies ahead.

May we all sense a presence and a promise during these strange, uncertain times.

Our love to you and yours


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Maile and I are going to run the same free writing class for kids again next week that we did this week. These 20-minute classes will be held each day next week, from 3/30 – 4/3, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time, and we’ll explore creating characters, settings, conflict, plot, and ways to move forward in the writing life. Please share this link with all your friends!