In this new year, just get on the bus.

Way back in the day -- specifically on Christmas day 2021, which was less than two weeks ago but feels like a small lifetime past -- after our gift exchange and a festive breakfast, my family finished packing our bags and we joined the Penn State Football travel party of players, coaches, trainers, and staff to head to Tampa, Florida for the Outback Bowl on New Years Day.

Traveling on Christmas adds a unique nuance to the holiday -- still wonderful, but with an adherence to a schedule that wouldn't otherwise characterize a Christmas spent lounging at home. We ate an airplane dinner instead of a roast or a ham and the traditional holiday sides, and we experienced the striking (even if pleasant) temperature adjustment from a chilly Pennsylvania Christmas morning to a balmy Florida Christmas evening.

I wouldn't characterize myself as a widely-traveled individual. Beyond these Bowl Game trips for my husband's work, I've flown only a handful of times. My other travels have been in the form of road trips. This being said, I'm savvy enough to know that traveling with a group, like this particular travel party, that has access to chartered jets and bus convoys is the way to go. There's no waiting in terminals; instead, luggage checks and metal detector screenings are done directly on the tarmac. There are no tickets to manage; instead, our names appear on the roster with our assigned seats.

Essentially, besides from packing our own bags and showing up on time, there are no real logistics we need to consider about the trip. It's all been done by competent individuals who make sure things run smoothly for the travel party.

I thought about this during our week in Tampa. Whenever our group needed to travel -- whether to the Beach Day in Clearwater for the pep rally, to downtown for the New Year's Eve parade, or to the stadium on game day -- we'd exit our hotel to the back parking lot, find our bus in the convoy lineup, and climb aboard. Without fail, I always felt better once I took my seat on the bus. I knew I was going to get where I needed to go.

I didn't need to know the directions. I didn't need to navigate myself. I simply trusted that the drivers knew where they were taking us, and because of this, I could enjoy the ride without any thought, without any work, and without any stress.

I'm not sure what's ahead for myself or my family in this new year. The nearly two-year trudge through a global pandemic has taken a toll. I find myself wound more tightly in some ways and unwound more loosely in other ways because of it. I still enjoy being social, yet I secretly love wearing masks in stores because if I see someone I know but I don't have any social bandwidth, I can -- quite literally -- hide behind my mask. (An introvert's dream!)

On the home front, like any parent at any given time, I enter the new year with concerns for my children. They're navigating their own life struggles typical to middle and high school, on top of how the pandemic has shaped their school experiences, social lives, and mental health. On the work front, I'm gearing up for the new semester, which starts next week, and yesterday I completed my classroom visits in preparation to meet a fresh crop of students.

In short, new things are forthcoming. Many of them will be exciting, and, of course, some will be hard. At the same time, challenges from last year still linger. (We've certainly learned from these past two years that troubles have no problems crossing the boundary of a new calendar page, or even a new year.) But one thing I know in this sea of unknown -- something that was solidified last week as I was bussed around an unknown city and safely transported by drivers who knew where to go and what to do -- is that my journey ahead is in good hands. I can sit and rest easy. God loves us, and he doesn't expect us to always know the directions, navigate ourselves, or plot our paths.

I think of a wonderful passage from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird where she writes: "E.L. Doctorow said once that 'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination of everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard."

We've started another year. We'll finish it, Lord willing, by moving forward, perhaps an inch at a time, doing our best with what we know and trusting that God not only sees the full route ahead, but also that he can safely navigate us where we need to go.

I realize how secure I felt during those bus trips around Tampa, how I could rest my head against the back of my chair and be at ease, just enjoying the ride. If I can rest easy like that, I can strive to rest easy as I ask God to navigate my life this year.

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