Start at the End

Sometimes I find it terribly useful to work backwards. 

When I want to do something, I start at the end. I say okay, what do I want to end up with, or where do I want to be, and set the Finish Line, and then zoom back out to where I am now and say okay, how do I get there? 

I am a total mess when I don’t have something I’m aiming at. Not a good wanderer, me.

That was how I wrote papers in high school. I need 8 pages; probably need 4 main points plus a thesis and conclusion, start to back out from that end and flesh it all in. That was how I ended up studying abroad in Europe. That was how I ran a half-marathon. That was how we hosted Feed My Starving Children Mobile Pack events. That was how my mom and I took the coolest hiking trip ever in Cornwall. That was how we became parents. That was how I have started jobs and ended jobs. That’s how I ended up a stay-at-home mom.


Most of those things are pretty hard to end up at on accident. You can’t just hope that someday you “get to travel” or whatever and keep on doing what you’re doing.

You have to stop and look at the BIG map, and see how to get from here to there, and make a plan. 

Identify a thing worth doing or a thing worth being, set that as the Finish Line, and then zoom back out and say ok, what is between here and there.

That’s why I still love Switchfoot, among other things. That is not the kind of music I would normally listen to, but thankfully Dane made me pay attention to them back when we first started dating because they have so many great songs that keep me remembering the finish line. 

This is your life, are you who you want to be? 

Is this the world you want? You’re making it. 

I am not kidding, you might think it’s cheesy, and it’s like 10 years old or something, but that first song is one of my all-time favorites because you HAVE to keep asking yourself that. This now, sitting in my car, putting my kid to bed, going to the bank, whatever, this is the life that I have, and is it what I want?

I have to honestly say, in most ways, yes. And in the ways that it’s not, it’s getting there, and I feel pretty okay about that. 

My (former [sob]) boss has a big white board in his office that he uses to keep track of goals and kind of like big-picture management-type vision stuff. It changes regularly and usually goes kind of small plans to grand vision, including finances, personnel, the ministry and community stuff he is involved in, etc. 

And at the bottom of it, it always said:


That was his finish line, and if you worked your way up, you could zoom down into the details and see how he was getting there. 

Shoot – one of my finish lines is that I want to go to the beach with our friends this summer. I want to know dates, I want to know dollar amounts, I want to know logistics, so that I can plot my points and draw my map: What extra weekends will Dane have to work? What will we have to skip in order to save money? What kid gear – what vehicle – what work arrangements – what SWIMSUIT?

One of my finish lines is to bring wounded, abandoned, hard-shelled little people into my home and bring them to the point where they FEEL safety, FEEL love, KNOW trust. The path from trailhead to destination on this particular one has proven to be the trickiest of all of them, so far. Sometimes it’s doing something hundreds of times before you see a result. Feels like running on a treadmill, not up a mountain. Sometimes it’s feeding, bathing, dressing, soothing a crying kid day after day after day when they don’t even seem to want YOU, until eventually you turn a corner and look over your shoulder and realize you’re miles from where you started, after all. [The beast of this one is that I do know for a FACT that we have only just started.)]

One of my finish lines is that I will be married to Dane when I am old and wrinkly and wise, and we will delight in each other more than ever the older we get. You have to look at that map OFTEN. You have to look at every what-restaurant-are-we-eating-at argument in terms of how it does or does not get you there. You have to talk about stuff that bugs you and be willing to be the one that’s wrong. You don’t drift to a fully contented, mutually respectful, intimate companionship marriage. No matter how funny or polite or charming or sexy you are when you start out.

One of my finish lines is to leave this earth having helped to make people’s lives better than they were without me. Maybe that’s 2 or 3 adopted people. Maybe that’s 100,000 rice-fed people. Maybe that’s 40 Pakistani orphan people, or families of 5 West African fruit farmers and their future generations, or 50 Honduran orphans and their caregivers. Maybe most of the works I was created for I haven’t even remotely started yet. I don’t know. 

For that one, there are a lot of different roads, but I just know I better keep putting my feet one in front of the other, re-routing as necessary. I also know for that one in particular I’m not going to know how successful I was within this life. And that’s okay; just one foot in front of the other.

What’s your finish line? For this week? This year? Your life?

Posted in Posts by Abbey, Uncategorized
4 comments on “Start at the End
  1. welderbeth says:

    I heard Jen Hatmaker speak and she said that, at the end of her life, she wanted to have nothing left. She wanted to know that she gave everything she could to the kingdom. I love the way she worded that finish line.

  2. Susanna says:

    That’s how JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, actually.

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