Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Am I Paying Attention?

By Iola Goulton

I recently finished reading an advance copy of If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock (an excellent book, but do read If I Run first).

Terri includes a message to readers at the back of each of her novels, and I hope it’s not a spoiler to discuss this message weeks ahead of the novel’s official release date (21 March 2017), because it’s a timely message. Terri says:

This resonated with me on many levels. It’s December, and the interwebz is (are?) full of advice about how to set goals to make 2017 a great year … much of it the same advice as was offered last December, about how to make 2016 a great year.

On the face of it, 2016 hasn’t been a great year for me. When I consider the list of things I wanted to achieve in 2016, I fall short. Way short.

Yes, I’ve achieved some of my minor goals.

But I haven’t achieved the one main goal. Some days I feel I’ve barely even made progress on getting book one finished, edited, published, let alone the other two I wanted to write.

When I look at why I haven’t made progress towards those goals, there are good reasons. My father died, and that took a lot out of me both emotionally and time-wise. I’ve had some huge unexpected work projects, which take time away from those longer-term goals. So it’s been a hard year. Perhaps a hard two years.

Good things have happened. 

I won a major writing contest (and a less-major one), attended two excellent writing conferences, and I’ve just come back from a family vacation to Hawaii. I’m healthy, as are my family, and while I haven’t achieved my weight loss goals, I haven’t gained weight either.

I got to spend a week with my mother in June, and we visited my father every day. My sister and I were both with him when he died—he was unconscious and probably didn’t know we were there, but knowing he didn’t die alone gives us comfort. So that’s a good thing in the middle of the bad.

And the big work project is difficult and stressful, but I’m a freelance worker so I only get paid when I get a project. And let’s face facts: most of us can’t afford to turn down short-term paying work to chase long-term dreams. It’s the short-term pain for long-term gain.

So has it really been a not-great year?

Or has it been a good year I’ve risked missing because I was focusing on the wrong things?

Yes, you know the answer. It’s been a good year. Not the best, perhaps, but not the worst. Yes, there have been challenges, but that’s how we learn—learn how to deal with challenges, learn how to empathise with others facing similar challenges, learn to pay attention, to see the good as well as the less good.

How about you? Has 2016 been a good year … or do you need to join me in paying more attention to the right things?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at www.christianediting.co.nz to download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more atwww.iolagoulton.com.

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)


  1. Thanks for this reminder, Iola... It's been a hard year, but there have been lots of good things too. Here's to a great 2017 :) must pay attention to the right things, must pay attention to the right things, must pay attention to the right things...

    1. I'm sure I'll need more than one reminder as well!

  2. Excellent musings, Iola. It would be interesting to get God's perspective wouldn't it? I reckon He'd be so proud of you because of the amount of time you spent with your dad and mum. Love. In the end is all that matters and that's how you've spent much of your year. The novel(s) can wait … even the work projects (I know, I know, the money helps) … well done, my friend.

    1. Thank you, Ian. I needed to hear that today - perhaps it's human nature, but my tendency is to always think I could have done more rather than be satisfied with what I did. Thanks for the reminder about what's really important.

  3. This is such a great reminder. I remember that for so many years I kept waiting for the next thing to happen. As if when it did happen, I would be happy--things like getting married, having children, the perfect job. . .It taught me the importance of staying in the moment and not waiting for tomorrow. So I love that quote as it is so true. Thanks for sharing! (I need to start that series.)

    1. I remember those days - being a teen, having goals. Then reaching those goals and wondering what came next. Yes, we need to stay in the moment and see the good (and see God) in right now. Thanks for adding your perspective.

      (Yes, you need to start that series.)

    2. Oh yes. I have the same disease. I can hear the apostle Paul's words ringing in my ears - "in all things, be content." 2016 was nothing like I envisioned. We moved from the bottom of Australia to the top. I left wonderrful friends but have made new ones. My plan to finish editing my book went to mush and I now need to work to support my writing habit but a short story I wrote for a competition was published so that was encouraging. Reading your post Iola, reminded me to be intentional in searching for the good in every situation and to encourage myself with the Word of God. "He who begun a good work in you, will bring it to completion".