On Failed Resolutions

I chose as a word for 2018 “resolve,” which seems a little lazy, given that the New Year is all about resolutions: “I’m resolved to be happily married in thirty years. I’m resolved to be healthy in thirty years. I’m resolved to be wiser, humbler, and more closely aligned with Christ in thirty years. Will those things happen? Is it possible my train will get derailed and misfortune or tragedy might strike? Yes. But I want to live with the resolve – and hope – that this future is mine to reach.”

I may not have checked back in very often to this resolution, but perhaps I managed to weave that hope into the year.

I also made a list of resolutions that I don’t think I’ve revisited since the day I wrote it. So much for resolving. Here’s the results of my non-resolved resolutions list from 2018:

  1. Read 24 books (this will be tough without an audiobook commute, but we’ll see what happens!) — I made it to 20… although I counted as “read” the book I wrote. So. Perhaps I’m a little farther off.
  2. Choose a new book-length writing project and begin work — nope.
  3. Plan at least one family vacation (weekend / week-long) with each side of our family – victory!
  4. Schedule 2 date nights a month with Brandon – unscheduled, but we watched nearly all of The Office together, again
  5. Retreat three times this year with Brandon, without the kids – We went to Europe. I think that counts
  6. Practice yoga twice a week – fail
  7. Take the kids to six state parks or recreation areas to explore more of Ohio’s natural landscape – it was close; we went to Geneva State Park, Punderson, Mohican, and Charles Mill with our camper. If I count Freer Field in Ashland and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park trails next to Brandon’s parents, then I can check this one off 😉
  8. Connect and serve in a more active way at church – check
  9. Get involved with one cause/organization in our community by volunteering or giving – fail
  10. Practice with my family all of the devotionals I wrote in 2017 before the book is published this fall – true confessions, we didn’t get through all of the devotional before the book was published
  11. Eat no more than three meals with animal protein a week (aiming for a plant-based, whole-foods diet, while keeping room for celebration and freedom and cheese) – major fail on the vegan front.
  12. Write three articles/blogs a month between here, work, and Off the Page – fail, Off the Page ended, I haven’t been blogging at work, and I wrote no more than once a month here. To be fair, I wrote 15 posts leading up to our 15th wedding anniversary, so surely that counts for something.
  13. Get away with girlfriends for at least one weekend – check – went to Cedar Point overnight with some girlfriends
  14. Spend time with girlfriends at least once a month – WIN – Book Club!
  15. Stay off my phone from 5 p.m. until the next day – fail
  16. Take walks with Izzy and Brandon (as soon as the weather gets better… or as soon as we buy her a sweater) – check
  17. Spend a lot of time in our backyard, shaping the landscape and hanging with friends – “a lot” isn’t a very measurable goal, but we spent some time in the backyard, with friends, so I think that’s a win
  18. Plan a day-long or overnight thing with one kid alone at least once each – nope, but it’s a fun goal.

8 for 18. If resolutions were baseballs, I’d be a major league hitter.

Setting aside this list, that word – resolve – and the more broad goal, to position myself for a life well lived, ran like an undercurrent through 2018. There was rest and restoration. So when resolutions fail, there is still this promise: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Even though I haven’t been writing much, I’ve been thinking about what comes next in 2019. I have goals I want to work toward, yes, and some of the measurable items above help me move the needle toward those goals. There’s a great comic about the state of the world from 2017 that keeps getting updated each year:


The word rolling around at the start of 2019 for me feels like grow. In order to plant flowers, you have to have a patch of land. You need to own your space. You need to weed and dig and sow seeds and weed and water and wait. So much of my life feels settled and sure these days, and I’d like it to stay that way. This season of our lives can bring tornados, threatening to rip what we love up by the roots if we’re not careful – but if we sink those roots in deeper, reaching heavenward and stretching downward – we can weather whatever comes.

So, for 2019, I want to grow in faith and faithfulness. I want to grow in joy. I want to grow in peacefulness – to be a source of calm for the anxious and a source of rest for the weary. I want to grow in love. I want to grow in self-control. When you resolve to grow, there is no fail. There is only steady good work toward completeness.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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