In the ‘Just Before’

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By Elizabeth B. Elliott

I love the time “just before.” Just before starting a project, just before opening a new book, just before sitting down for a long-awaited conversation with an old friend. So it is no surprise that the week just before the New Year is my favorite week of the year. There are few commitments and fewer expectations. It is a time when we all seem to take a deep breath, put on our stretchy pants and loll on our couches.

But for me, it is also a week of planning, anticipating and praying over new beginnings. As much as that week embraces us in its idleness, it also blooms wide with the prospects of the New Year. Anything seems possible! If you can dream it – it can happen. Fresh story ideas? Of course! New marketing strategies? They will be wildly successful! Those resolutions you made last year that dissolved by February? Not this year, by golly!

Part of our future successes depends on what we can dream in the just before. But the real work comes when the year gets rolling, the emails pour in, and the car breaks down. Your actual success depends on your ability to implement the dreams of those quiet December days, and work through the inevitable onslaught of obstacles.

Historically, I am a better starter than a finisher, which is probably why I enjoy the just before so much. But on January 2, I watched a football game that may inspire me to push through the tough places, and finish strong.

The University of Houston Cougars played the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Armed Forces Bowl. Well into the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh led the game with a score of 31-6. It was ugly. UH had a 1.4 percent chance of winning the game, or, in other words, a 98.6 percent chance of losing.

Now, I’ve been to my share of UH football games – every Saturday night when I was growing up. My parents (and in-laws, it would turn out) were alumni and my dad played golf for the Cougars. I have probably seen more Cougar losses than wins. But on January 2, the Cougars dug deep and remembered the dream of winning they had just before the game – and managed to come back to beat the Panthers 35-34.

It is important to have a good beginning – no one is arguing that. But things don’t always go our way – kids get sick, deadlines loom like a shadow, and our great plays fall flat. But it might be more important to finish strong, even if you get off to a slow start.

So when life slows you down on your 2015 dreams and goals, and you feel like you have a 1.4 percent chance of finishing strong, remember the Houston Cougars, and don’t give up. You might be just before the biggest victory you’ve ever had.

Elizabeth B  ElliottElizabeth B. Elliott was honored to win the 2012 Southern Writers magazine short story contest. She writes short stories, devotions and middle grade fiction, and she is just before her breakout work. Elizabeth lives with her husband and three children in Texas. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter, @ElizaBElliott.

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