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“The common begin, the uncommon finish. Be uncommon.” 

I read this quote in a book years ago by Christian women’s writer Donna Otto. She wrote of many tips for homemakers and mothers which I gleaned from, but this one has stuck with me. As our small groups work through Ecclesiastes this year, one verse also resonates on this theme: 

The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.
Ecclesiastes 7:8

It is exciting to begin! There is inspiration, possibility, and a notion of what could become. 

But as much as I love to begin new things, I must admit it’s not in my nature to begin and finish a task. Call it a short attention span, call it too many irons in the fire, but to actually make a plan and see it through to the end is something that is difficult. It requires that we count the cost and consider the investment of time, sacrifice, and effort it will take for us to complete the job. 

How many times have we made the plans, gotten the supplies, begun the project and then abandoned it on account of feeling overwhelmed or losing interest?

We want to read through the Bible this year. We start out strong. We know Genesis pretty well. Afterall, we’ve begun this plan 6 times in recent years. But by the end of March, we have fallen behind. We can never catch up. Do we jump ahead? Do we tell ourselves we’ll just cram and read more every day. We give up and say we’ll try it again next quarter. 

We want to lose a few pounds. We choose a new health plan, take daily walks and work out, buy the groceries, prep the meals, but by the weekend, we are back to our former bad habits. 

Of a more weighty consequence are relationships. The beginning of marriage is often blissful and dreamy. Life is full of options, and they are all ahead of you. Then as you begin to make choices and commit to seeing them through, it becomes clear that you married a sinner, that you are a sinner, and that you will need to learn to trust and obey God together for the future. Things will not be accomplished as easily as it seemed at the beginning. It will take prudence and fortitude (as Dr. Forney always said). As Ecc 7:8 says, it will take patience and sacrificial love (1 Cor 13).

The common begin. The uncommon finish. Just search out divorce statistics to see how true this is today. The dreamy thrill of falling in love and getting married comes readily–almost easily–to many people. The harder part is for each spouse to choose to remain in love and commitment until death. The uncommon thing today is to honor the vows and covenant you made to the finish. But to be sure, the end of a Christ-centered marriage is most certainly better than the beginning. It produces bountifully. God can forge a oneness that is sweeter than any hard time you ever faced together and this glorifies him. Set your heart and mind to be a finisher!


Some Nut & Bolts of Finishing

I love to sit down with my planner and dream up plans: how can I serve where God has planted me this year, how can I bless and encourage my children, where does my marriage need more love and attention? Then I formulate a prayerful plan. I confess, the same things are often on my list month after month… because I have not yet completed them. But I don’t let myself give up–unless I realize it’s not a good plan. I say “prayerfully plan” because it is possible to make our own plans that do not meet the measure of God’s plans. 

Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
Proverbs 19:21

Making plans is common, but how can we be uncommon and finish what we start all the way through to completion? In no way am I an expert, but I have found a few things to help in small ways. And in the economy of God, small ways add up to big ways. So faithful daily finishing lends itself to faithfulness to finish in bigger ways.

  • Begin with God. Everyday, make it your first priority to read God’s word and pray.

  • Set your intentions early in the week. Distribute appointments, menu plans, cleaning tasks, work/ministry plans, schooling priorities, health goals out across your week.

  • Focus on finishing 3 things each day. These could be the same thing every day in certain seasons, and they don’t need to be earth-moving. When I was a nursing mom, on my list daily was to drink water and feed/snuggle my baby.

  • Re-visit quarterly and yearly goals. Try to set and move monthly actions toward their completion.
  • Break big tasks into digestible chunks. Let’s say you need to read a book quickly. You can’t likely sit for hours on-end reading and cramming, unless you are a college student. But whether you are or are not an avid reader, can you commit to read 10 minutes a day? Likewise, if you are not a daily pray-er, can you sit down to pray with a 10 minute timer every morning? You’ll likely find yourself reloading the timer because 10 minutes is easily exceeded.
  • Enlist others’ help. Accountability and delegation are two incredible tools God gives us to build community and complete overwhelming tasks. Where can you be helped by either or both of these?

  • Mama said there’d be days like this. Sickness, cycles, set backs, bummer days can intercept our best intentions. For the down days, after spending time with God, my highest priorities were to tend to the kids, then to dinner and laundry. I also learned that getting dressed and ready for the day helped my state of mind on challenging days. Maybe even put on some lipstick.

  • If you stall out, pray for His strength to complete. We are always dependent on God, but asking for his strength in your weakness is biblical and actual.

  • Focus more on less. Perhaps you have said YES to too much and now you’re floundering at all of it. Prayerfully consider how to lighten your load in the future so you can put more meaningful focus on a tad fewer things. Keep a servant’s heart. It can be tempting to protect our time too much with regular NOs.

Even as I write this, please know I am writing to myself! I have looming deadlines and fumbled executions. But as the end of the year is upon us: Small groups, our children’s school year and graduations, busy ministry seasons, preparations for change… let’s remember that the common begin. But the uncommon finish. Let’s be uncommon to God’s glory!