Do you ever feel like someone moved your start or finish line? Continue reading to learn how you can stay committed when the path is unclear.
Are We There Yet?
I remember being stationed in Fort Bliss Texas for my Officer Basic Course back in 2003. We were on our first early morning PT (physical training) run. Within our ranks were a few allied soldiers from foreign countries. These soldiers were their country’s top leaders. I’ll admit, though, being in their midst was a bit intimidating; because most of them outranked me and my fellow Second Lieutenants.
But I can remember running that day on a new and unfamiliar course. Just when it seemed the course was coming to an end…we kept going. I remember one of the allied soldiers stopping…refusing to go any further without clear guidance to where the finish line was. Let me be clear. I and my comrades didn’t have that option. So, we kept running. Not because we weren’t tired, but because we had to run. Our physical fitness ranking and overall assessment as new officers depended on it.
But regardless of my reasoning, I understood the soldier’s point of frustration. It’s difficult to continue the motivation to keep going when you don’t have clear direction to where the end is.
A Difficult Start
As most of us trudge into 2023 effortlessly, with new goals and intentions outlined, I find myself in a state of hesitation. Not because I don’t want to go into a new year or into a new season; but rather because there are some people I cared deeply about who I lost in 2022, who I can’t bring with me. I almost feel like I’m just standing and the end of the 2022 finish line; hopeful and excited, because I can see that something new is up ahead. But, at the same time, sad that I have some people in this former space of 2022 who can’t continue with me.
It’s not the same as choosing not going into the new year together. Like, due to location or circumstances, we are going on different journeys. No, this is almost like a movie scene…where you’ve been on an adventure with someone searching for the answer to something or some direction, and this person was with you or helped you. But then, you get to this particular road, river, or bridge and you have to go the rest of the way alone…never to see that person again.
As much as you don’t want to leave them, they reiterate to you that you must go…that you’re equipped for the journey, or that you’ll meet someone else along the new path that will help you with what you still have left. With sadness, you cry and embrace, and with a long final stare, you finally go about your way…as the image of the person fades.
The Unwanted Finish
Yeah…that’s where I am. Except, I’m still in the long final stare. I don’t want to imagine leaving them. It almost feels like betrayal. Yet, I know that what brought us here was and is beyond my control. Their life, as I once knew it, is no more. And I, like that allied soldier, want to just quit; because I can’t see what life looks like moving forward. However, because of the determined soldier within me, who knows that there is still more ahead and that my calling and purpose depend on me continuing to go forward; I know that I have to keep running. Everything that lies ahead for me is contingent upon it. But that doesn’t make it easier or make feel any better.
Strengthened and Conditioned for the Start
As I was preparing to write this blog… First of all, it took me forever. But it was in my dark quiet hours of reflection that I finally mustered the words to the thoughts I couldn’t really put together… I thought about a track and the start and finish line. Wouldn’t it seem natural that they’d be in the same place? Did you ever realize that they’re not? Not for runners or cars. But, we still somehow assume that they are or should be.
Where Do You Start?
A runner, typically, must run past the actual start line where they began through to the finish line. And while we’re thinking about it. . . With a little more attention to the thought, it honestly depends on what race you’re running (sprint, relay, long distance) where the start and finish are. The same is true in life. Some of our goals or challenges are shorter or longer, faster or slower than others. Some require other people and others we must contend with alone.
I thought I would go into 2023 like I did most other years (except 2020 of course), with a plan and a vision that were clear and made sense. You know, one with a start and a finish. But you see, the race I ran in 2022 was a completely different race from any I’ve ever run before. It came with a lot of new and exciting things, but also with several wild cards. In order to consider running well in 2023, I need some intentional strength and conditioning. My natural strength and abilities are definitely not enough. So, by definition, what I need is REVIVAL. Yes, the definition of revival is an improvement in the condition or strength of something. My son taught this in a message once, but it never seemed more clear than it is in this moment.
Between Start and Finish
The space between the start and finish lines is intended to help a runner finish strong while at the same time providing space for the runner to safely slow down as the race concludes. You ever notice how the runners just kinda congratulate or linger in that stretch of space, collecting themselves and catching their breath? Well, currently, that’s where I am. I’m catching my breath; because the year 2022 took my breath away a few times. So, I’m gonna have to take some time to process through a few things before I fully start this new 2023 race.
Don’t get me wrong, in terms of opportunities and gains from 2022, they were significant. My children’s book Heeeyy Dandelion was a big success, and its success led to further success for its predecessor the 5-Day Morning C.O.F.F.E.E. Devotion. I learned so much this past year and made so many great connections for which I’m eternally grateful. Not to mention, just before Thanksgiving, receiving the news of being recognized as a Best Book Award Finalist by the American Book Fest for both books. That gain was not only huge and gratifying but also unexpected and humbling. Likewise, however, as my gains were significant, so were my losses.
Between Joy and Pain
Not many people knew that on a typical day where I spent thanking God for the leads and opportunities granted to me, I also spent some of those same nights crying and pleading with God to take the pain of my grief away. It’s amazing to me how joy and pain can coexist in the same space and season.
I recall being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, enjoying my family when I learned my aunt was going into hospice that afternoon. She passed away before I woke the next morning. Three months later, as I stood in the lobby of University Hospital, the day before my father passed away, I received a call for an invitation for an author visit from an excited Literacy Specialist in North Louisiana. Then, just over a month later, after arriving in ATL for a much-awaited book tour, I received the call of my brother-in-law’s heart attack. Two weeks later I wouldn’t be able to control my emotions as the limousine drove my best friend, my goddaughters, and me to say our final goodbye to a great husband, father, brother, and friend. And those were the things that directly impacted me. But, I also carried the concerns and burdens of others I care about. Those experiencing their own share of troubles. Friends and loved ones I wanted to help fix their situations and make them go away so that they could be better mentally and emotionally. But I couldn’t. All I could do was sit back, watch, and pray.
Yeah, 2022 WAS A LOT!!!! So, that’s why I slowly make my way into 2023.
A New Start Line
Understand this though…I don’t doubt that God has great things in store for me and my family in this next season; because that is who He is. But, I want to make sure, too, that I am reflective, intentional, and don’t move in haste either..getting in my own way or overstepping His will for me. I know He is the Great I Am. Whatever I need or lack, He is for me and for all who believe and trust in him. And I am a believer and… I trust him…despite anything I face.
Throughout this past year, as I was pleading with God about my grief, He just kept telling me his GRACE was sufficient … that in my weakness that’s when His strength shows greatest in me. In other words, in my weakness. . .He revives.
The trials we experience are weights and races that we must endure that will strengthen and condition us for what’s ahead. Yes, burdens and trials feel heavy, but so do blessings. If we’re not prepared for the blessings when they come, we stand the chance of fumbling them; and I don’t want to take anything for granted. I wanna hold what’s mine.
As I begin this new month, that’s what my focus will be…my revival – an improvement in the condition and strength of my faith, my focus, my family, and my future. I’m not leaving anything to chance. I know too well already what it’s like to have setbacks. But I also know God is able to both repurpose and restore. So I embrace the journey ahead. I’ll keep the memories of those I lost in 2022, knowing that each of them gave me something to take with me. So, as I prepare for the next phase of this journey…I’ll do my best to leave the pain and only pack for the purpose.
Keep Running for the Finish
I’m not sure how long this next race will take from start to finish. Yes, there will be 365 days on the calendar, but I don’t want to limit the possibilities of the things that will happen before or beyond that point. I just know I’m going to keep running. Though I may get tired, fulfilling my purpose is contingent on my willingness to stay in the race. No, I can’t see the finish line right now. I just know that it’s not where I am currently, nor should it be. Otherwise, that would mean that I’m only running in a circle. On the contrary, the race of life is different. It’s not straight or smooth, but it has a definite path that’s being revealed to us each day. And, each of us has our own.
My friend, we can’t quit just because we can’t see the finish line. We’ve got to go past this starting place to get to the next finish. So, join me in the quest to finish strong. Don’t worry, there will be stretches along the track to slow down and take a breath. Don’t linger there too long though. You need to be available when your name is called to the winners’ stand. Run well, my friend.
Oh yeah! And don’t worry. No one can move your start or finish line. Whether you realize it or not, God controls that. Happy New Year! ~Dawn
THANK YOU AND DON’T MISS WHAT’S NEW
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and words. I pray that you are ready to take on the race set before you in 2023.
Have you already set some goals for this new season? What would say are your biggest challenges? I would love for you to share. Please, leave a COMMENT.
If you’re having difficulty answering or just would like tips to help you navigate moving forward, please check out my FREE Checklist for Resetting Your Goals and Purpose After a Setback.
For a full guide and explanation of all the steps, grab my eBook, and put your name on the list to pre-order my next devotion entitled New Day of G.R.A.C.E. – a 21-Day devotion to help you develop the habit of expecting something NEW from God every day, even when you find yourself in unexpected situations. New Day of G.R.A.C.E. will help you approach each day that you’ve been given with the expectation that something great is possible. This new 21-day devotion is an absolute perfect place to START, RE-START, RESET, or RE-ENFORCE your faith journey in this new season. Secure your copy today.
(Photo of Best Book Award Certificates for being named a FINALIST for the 5-Day Morning COFFEE Devotion and Heeeyy Dandelion by American Book Fest.)