Looking Back and Pressing On

How many of you feel like 2019 was a year for the books? Ours was a roller coaster ministry trips, church planting work, and unexpected health challenges. I’ve barely had time to catch my breath, let alone find margin to do things I actually wanted to do.

In the first six months, we had a forty-day ministry trip to the Southeast, an unexpected family funeral in MA, and multiple shorter ministry trips around the West. In fact, at the end of June I took stock of everywhere we’d been since Christmas, and the list came to 26 states (not counting confusion!). Around the time our traveling slowed to a stop, we began church planting work in a town about an hour away from us. That includes Sunday services, midweek Bible study, and a week-long VBS we held during the summer. We were home at night, but still spending long hours in the car every week. Then August rushed in with a bang when my husband suddenly began having seizures and trouble walking. Since then, we’ve made weekly (or more) trips to Utah for doctors and therapists, started house hunting in Logan, and continued our church planting efforts.

I look back at my goals for 2019 and see very few that were accomplished — and many more that remain incomplete or even unstarted. I think they all went out the window somewhere along the interstate.

Pressing on through Cache National Forest in Northern Utah

Disappointment whispers in my ear that I’m not good enough, not skilled enough, and not disciplined enough. The never-ending to-do list looms large, and reaching the end feels nigh unto impossible.

I’m sure you can relate. Life happens, and we end up plodding through circumstances we never imagined. Things get put on hold — or even called off completely. But have you ever noticed that other goals and disciplines often take their place?

So maybe I didn’t turn my art into a viable side business this year. But I discovered acrylics this year, and fell in love with abstracts and mountainscapes, and — even though I haven’t sold a lot of hand lettered pieces — I practiced a lot and gained confidence and improved my skill in so many ways.

So maybe I didn’t lose the weight I’d hoped to this year. Instead, I’m learning how to be more active even without having time for a “real” workout, and how to increase my NEAT calories so I burn more on just an average workday.

So maybe I didn’t keep up with my writing very well. But I lived a whole wealth of experiences, both good and bad! My perspectives have changed, and my understanding has matured, and now I have so many ideas simmering in the back of my mind that I’m getting excited about the possibilities for the future!

How about you? Does the balance of things undone from this year threaten to outweigh whatever you’ve managed to accomplish? Does the to-do list seem unending?

Is life making you dizzy and you just want it to stop?

If so, pause for a moment and consider what you have done this year. Forget about the rest of your “should have’s” and “wanted to’s” for a few moments, and focus instead on the “did’s” and “got to’s” of the year.

Remember the good things that happened. Call to mind the memories made that will be cherished forever. Consider the people you met and the relationships that grew stronger and deeper.

Then choose to keep on going — and growing — no matter how far away the horizon may seem.

Pressing on toward Fossil Butte National Monument in Kemmerer, Wyoming

Decide with Paul to “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.” Decide to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Here’s what I wrote about faithfulness in January, and what I’m reminding myself of today:

Whatever good things I’m doing, I want to keep doing.
Whatever bad habits I’ve been trying to stop, I want to keep trying to stop.
Whatever skills I’m learning or dreams I’m pursuing, I want to keep walking in the right direction
so that — however slow it may be — I’ll keep moving towards the desired goal.

How about you? What setbacks and stressors from the past year do you need to discard in order to move forward? What habits or goals do you need to reconsider? What needs to change in order for you to grow this coming year?

I’m choosing a three-fold focus for this year, and maybe it would help you as well:

  • EVALUATE — Consider every major area of life (health, finances, relationships, spiritual growth, hobbies or skills, occupation, etc). Evaluate where you are versus where you want to be. Are you heading in the right direction or have you merely been rolling with the punches? Do you know what you want to achieve, and why?
  • CHANGE — Once you know the what and why, you can figure out the how. What are some specific, measurable long-term goals you can establish in each area? What daily habits do you need to develop, and what do you need to discard? What needs to change in order to start making progress?
  • GROW — Now it’s time for the hardest part: actually doing it. Figure out ahead of time how you will handle challenges and setbacks. Set a timeframe to re-evaluate your progress. Find someone to keep you accountable. Establish consequences (good and bad) to help you persevere. Start building the habits you need today, despite how far away your goal may seem right now.

How was your 2019? What goals are you focusing on or pressing towards in 2020?


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5 thoughts on “Looking Back and Pressing On

  1. My year has been filled with loss and the moving in of my mom with us after she had a mild stroke. I’m still in a whirlwind and hope I can get grounded in 2020.

    1. You and me both, friend! Praying your new year goes a lot smoother!

  2. Love it, Elizabeth! I’m right there with you, my friend. And no idea what 2020 will hold, but ready to roll with the punches while holding on to God. 🙂

  3. Really great thoughts, I can relate. Sorry your 2019 was unexpectedly full of hard things, but hoping for the best for you & your husband’s health, church-planting, house-hunting efforts, and seeking joy in 2020.

  4. Love the three-fold focus Elizabeth. Evaluate, change and grow. That is a great path forward to a better future both personally and in our relationship with the Lord.

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