Looking back at the first half of 2020, I can see how my goals are starting to drift. Earlier this year, I shared about my “growth book” which was intended to record my reading, Bible memory, prayer requests, journal, and more. And I set a goal to recap each month both there and here as a means of accountability.
I managed an end of January and end of February post. With all that happened in March, I missed a monthly recap and combined March and April into one post. And I suppose this post will be a recap of May and June which also seemed to fly past, despite the fact that we were still isolated at home for much of the time.
When June came around, I realized I had written only two pages in my growth book the entire month of May! What had been a very active Bible study recording and journal sat quiet. (Oh, that now reminds me that’s my word for the year! — another reminder of where I’ve failed! That is not the quiet I was hoping to find!)
But all is not lost. While this could be characteristic of my life—a good starter, poor finisher—the point of recording it brings accountability and encourages me not to give up! All I have to do is start again. How?
In some ways, starting again is simple. Just take the next step. Pick up where I left off. But with a little more intention, it might motivate me to make even more of the next half of the year.
First, look back at what has been accomplished—not just where I failed. It’s so easy to give up, to think it’s too hard to change and grow in the long-term, and to let life pull us along without much purpose. Yet, we must not allow our failures to dictate our future. Allow God to define our days. And what can we celebrate? Where have we made progress?
For instance, I have mostly kept up with Scripture memory. The goal was about 3 verses a month. For May and June, I combined that and went with Romans 8:31-38. While I have not learned it yet as well as the other passages this year, I’m close. This encourages me to finish it and move to July verses. There is still time.
An unexpected accomplishment to celebrate is lots of cooking, new recipes, some healthier eating, and enjoying time with having family home.
Then, adjust any goals and move forward with realistic expectations. Prayerfully re-evaluate and assess any changes I need to make to what was planned and where there were setbacks. What adjustments would make this doable to finish the year strong? Would limiting social media help? Would scheduling out my day in advance help? How can I build better boundaries when I’m working from home to keep everything from blurring together? The growth book is actually a help with this, listing out key categories and providing questions to consider.
Based on these evaluations, take action to make forward progress.
While I love direct Bible reading and study, an adjustment I made to restart was to use a devotional which could serve as a springboard from the point where I had stalled.
Yesterday, I started the devotional book Psalms for the Anxious Heart. Day 1 took me to Psalm 3:3, so I read the entire psalm. As this is a psalm of David when his son Absalom was trying to overtake the throne, it reminded me of 2 Samuel 15-18, where that story is told. Well, 2 Samuel is the exact place I was reading when I dropped off on my Scripture reading a month or two ago, so I picked back up by reading about Absalom and got back on track.
Then I closed out my time thinking I would peruse A Practical Guide for Praying Parents, by Erwin Lutzer, also a new release from Moody Publishers. The first chapter on examining ourselves as parents talks about David and Absalom. Without planning it, my time in the Word had gone full circle, from a single verse in Psalm 3, to the story behind the psalm from 2 Samuel, to encouragement for parents from that very story in 2 Samuel.
Time spent in God’s Word is always such a blessing. When we truly seek Him, we will find Him. So the adjusted goal is to use this devotional through July and then go from there.
Pray. The final thing I would emphasize with starting again is prayer. Pray about these things. Pray for God’s wisdom and leading. Pray as we set goals and renew them, keeping in step with the Spirit. Pray before we spend time in the Word that the Spirit will lead us and convict us and guide us. We may even find things we need to confess and repent of that have kept us from forward progress, even things such as laziness or distraction, a bitter spirit, or an unforgiving heart. Is there anything blocking the channel in our lives, preventing the free flow relationally with God and with others?
I recognize this is mostly a rambling post, but it’s my way to start again. If you’ve stumbled upon it and read this far, perhaps it’s an encouragement for you as well, that if you’ve hit a bump in the road, or even wandered completely off the path, it’s never too late to start again. God is always inviting us back. Amazing!
Let’s keep going, friends… Don’t give up!
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9