Like many of you, I like to take some time at the end of the year to do some reflection on the past 12 months. This year, like all others, has been filled with many ups and downs. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and learned even more lessons along the way. I shared my review a few years ago and was encouraged by the response, so I thought I’d do the same for 2018. 2016 was not a good year and I wasn’t alone. 2018 was filled with powerful lessons.
I’m following the example from James Clear and his annual review. I’m reading Atomic Habits by Clear right now and am really enjoying it so far. My friend Chad Allen also followed Clear’s example, and since I want to be like Chad when I grow up, I’m following his lead. This looks to be a good model to follow and answers three questions:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What did I learn?
Without further ado…
What went well this year?
My most important relationships. My relationship with my spouse, kids, community, coworkers, and friends all grew. I’m ending the year more in love with my family and in deeper community with my closest friends. There’s no unresolved conflict and I benefitted from the love and wisdom of close friends. I believe I helped do the same for others.
Even more important, I’ve grown in intimacy with Jesus. I got to spend 12 months studying the book of Romans and loved diving in deep this year. I journaled most days and also took note of areas where I’m grateful. And, I keep a daily list of at least three things I’m thankful for. My love for Jesus and hatred of sin have both grown in 2018.
My job. This was a year filled with transition. For five months I held two jobs (see below to understand why), and I technically held three different job titles this year. In the middle of the ups and downs, I’m as excited about my ministry role right now as I have been in years. For the first time since 2015 I get to pastor and lead people again. I’m grateful for the leadership at Watermark who wasn’t afraid to nudge me out of one role into more of a hands-on role again. I went into ministry in the first place to love and shepherd people, and as the Director of Newly Married Ministry, I get to do that again. Part of me shriveled up inside and I’m grateful to be firing on all cylinders again.
Reading. I read some great books this year! I listed out my favorites in My Favorite Books I Read in 2018. A few of my favorites were Gay Girl Good God, by Jackie Hill Perry, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan, and Fierce Marriage, by Ryan and Selena Frederick. I’m pumped about my 2019 reading list as well!
Book and blog writing. As many of you know, I have a book coming out in just over five weeks. I’m so excited and grateful for the team at Baker Books. Because of the team I’ve worked with and because people aren’t afraid to sharpen me and my writing, I’m thrilled about the final product and can’t wait for couples to read it. Gary Thomas wrote a killer Foreword and I’m thankful for all the incredible folks who endorsed the book. My prayer has been that Ready or Knot? will glorify God and help many couples. Please join me in this prayer!
On Wednesday of the week this post goes live (Wednesday, January 2nd), I’ll open the application to be a part of the Ready or Knot? Launch Team. If you’re a part of the team, you’ll get a free advance copy of the book and will help spread the word about the book! If you’re already subscribed to my email list, you’ll get an email Wednesday morning. If you’re not, then you can sign-up for the list here! (and you’ll get a copy of my Date Night Guide!). Either way, please share with any friends who you think might want to be a part of the team!
What didn’t go so well this year?
My wellness. While I did okay in exercise and better in sleep, my end of the year weight is the same as where I started in January. I had some ups and downs (as I often do), but didn’t lose the weight and get healthy like I hoped for in the beginning of 2018. This will be my primary focus in 2019. I’m grateful God has given me breath in my lungs and a beating heart today. I don’t want to take it for granted.
Blog traffic. I’m just kind of stuck. My traffic didn’t grow much this year. I’m grateful that anyone would read anything I write, but I still keep thinking it will take off and more people will read and share the content. My identity is not tied into this blog (or the book), but I believe deeply in the message I’m sharing, and want people to hear and read Truth, not so much of the other noise and garbage that’s out there. I will continue to write content that’s biblical, authentic, and practical, and I’ll trust God to do with it what He wants to do with it.
What did I learn this year?
I know I learn a lot every year, but this year seemed to be packed with more lessons than usual.
Sin sucks and affects much more than the individual. I’ve known this to be true, but witnessed up close and personal this year in a friend who had an affair and left their spouse. While I walk through this with couples on a nearly daily basis in my job as a marriage pastor, I’ve never been this personally involved. And I’ve watched the wake of death that follows behind sin. Marriages are broken and carnage is left all over the place. People question the existence of God because of the sin of followers of Christ. This sin of my friend led to some of the job transitions I referenced above in the “What went well?” section.
In spite of the carnage of sin, I’ve been reminded that God is still Good, all the time. All the time, He is Good. The sin of man does not change the fact that He is perfect, loves us, and is worthy of our trust. When man is faithless, God is faithful. This year I’ve learned more than ever that God is better than any high, orgasm, praise of man, taste of food, or anything else.
Sometimes I just need to sing. I usually worry way too much about what others think of me. Other times, however, I put my headphones in, put on my favorite songs, and sing. Loud. And I don’t care if someone else hears me or not. These are some of my favorite moments of the year: headphones in, spreading cheer by singing loud for all to hear.
My kids will be gone from my house in a few moments. During the years when they were younger, it felt like the years crawled by at a very slow pace. Now that my kids are older (14, 14, 12, and 10), it seems like the years are FLYING by. In a few blinks my twins will be off to college and I’m going to wish I had those years back. Because of this realization, we’re trying to make the most of the time we have, and I think we’re doing a great job. I have a lot to celebrate in the parenting realm this year. This is definitely different than years past!
I am not good at making decisions. This is my biggest weakness as a directional leader in ministry. Between fears of making the wrong decision and my people-pleasing tendencies, I don’t like to make decisions. This is one of my biggest weaknesses as a pastor and I need to improve in my confidence and decision-making.
Writing a book is a whole lot easier than selling a book. I had no idea. Lesson learned. Between marketing, publicity, launch teams, social media, and lots of decisions, writing is a piece of cake. I like all of it, but I had no idea selling the book would be this much work. People warned me, but I didn’t get it. Lesson learned.
I can never be empathetic enough with others who are hurting. We all know plenty of folks who are hurting and struggling. Empathy allows us to walk in their shoes and seek to understand what someone else is walking through. I’m trying to become more empathetic, and I’m learning I’ve got a long way to go.
Here’s to a great 2019!
- What went well for you this year?
- What didn’t go so well for you this year?
- What did you learn in 2018?