Looking Back to Look Forward

My tendency in life is to look forward at the coming challenges and dreams, creating lists upon lists of actions to take and goals to conquer. I have to remind myself to stop and look back, and the dawn of a new year seems like a particularly good time to do that.

I’ve always been a dreamer. I vividly remember dreaming big gymnastics dreams as a kid and desperately praying to achieve them as I laid in my bed under posters of Olympic-medal-winning gymnasts. I revised my goals as I got older and learned more about reality, but I’ve never been one to settle for small dreams. I simply couldn’t comprehend how some athletes were content with their skill level and weren’t daily thinking of the routines they wanted to compete the next year. I think God wired me that way, but that also means I can be plagued with perfectionism (how many times did I call my parents in college crying because I thought I DEFINITELY failed that test which obviously would mean I would NEVER get a job…) and a deep longing to be “there” at the destination.

Both Bill and I are facing those feelings now, as we look forward to the future and the dreams that we believe God has put on our hearts, but knowing we’re not “there” yet.  For some of our hopes and desires, we simply have to wait, stay faithful, and keep praying. For others we’re trying to put one foot in front of the other towards those seemingly impossible dreams.

It seems scary to even put our dreams on the page for others to read, because what if we fail? What if we change our minds? Yet, at the same time, I believe it’s good to declare things to make them real and to show our commitment. So here goes. Bill dreams of opening a coffee shop one day and creating an environment where people can foster community and have real conversations. We believe that as the world becomes more digital, conversations that are real, deep, and challenging become fewer and fewer. A coffee shop was a place where Bill partook in conversations without agenda that altered his world view, so he’s hungry to create a space for others to experience the same. He also intends for his future coffee shop to partner with the farmers and communities that grow the coffee beans that the shop will serve. For me, I dream of working as a visual storyteller, using photography, graphic design, and words to tell stories and share information about people and important concepts that are often overlooked and forgotten.

At times I feel restless, wondering what more I can do to move forward, and it can be almost frustratingly painful to look forward at where we want to be and how far away those dreams seem. The last few weeks, as 2018 came to a close and 2019 rises anew, I’m choosing to look at the distance we’ve travelled and celebrate the successes and lessons learned. I know we’ll look back on this one day in awe as we reminisce about the time we tried this crazy idea or the days we were worried about that small meeting.

In the past year, Bill participated in a seminar for entrepreneurs and worked on the vision and purpose of his future business. He’s worked nearly every weekend since the beginning of September at a local coffee shop, perfecting his barista skills and learning as much as he can about how a coffee shop runs. He’s also registered his future business name, become a registered food safety manager, and had numerous fruitful conversations with his brother-mentor about strategies and tactics for operating a restaurant. God put a friend in Bill’s life early this year who previously worked on starting a coffee shop and he has been a valuable resource and good friend. Of course, there’s been learning from dead ends too: emails reaching out to roasters gone unanswered and scrapping medium-term goals, like a coffee cart business, that just weren’t viable under our constraints.

As for me, I’ve been most proud of the times I’ve stepped out boldly, because it doesn’t come naturally for a shy person like me. After waking up one morning last January with a crazy idea, I contacted a local university about photographing their gymnastics team. That took me on a journey photographing the team’s practices, meets, and even the NCAA national championship meet. I don’t think I’ll forget the surreal moments watching former Olympic gymnasts through my viewfinder as I snapped my shutter (talk about an unexpected way of coming full circle from those childhood dreams!) or the nerves I felt when I packed my camera bag and headed to the arena. I’ve also embarked on a partnership with a local modest-wear stylist to photographically convey her personal style and what she offers customers (thanks to social media for creating ways to connect people who otherwise never would have met). During our trip to Scandinavia this summer, I found myself enthralled with the area’s unique design and wondered if this was an avenue to meld both my art mind and math brain to visually, memorably, and accessibly convey complex information. Soon after we arrived home, I applied to an online graphic design program, and I’ll start that program in just a few days. I’m also thankful for the couple of photographers who’ve so kindly shared their experiences and advice. Like Bill, I have also learned from dead ends; I’ve learned that plenty of people won’t respond to an email so you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to get a few yes’s; that the age of social media, smart phones, and “everyone is a photographer” has made photography as a potential career very difficult; and that I have to balance both self promotion and rejection.

We have plenty of goals for the coming year, but we’ll also try to remember to celebrate our successes and thank God for the dreams he’s put in our hearts and how far he’s already brought us. Here are some of the moments and photographs from the past year that we’re most proud of. Cheers to 2019!



  1. Reading your posts inspire me so much! I’m thankful to be a part of this crazy journey called life with you and Bill! I’ll be agreeing with you in prayer this next year as both of you continue to move towards your dreams. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marie, I love this post so much. I didn’t know about Bill’s ambitions to open a coffee shop. I love the intention behind the shop – creating a space for community and authentic conversation. I also am excited for your graphic design program adventures. That is exciting! I have much more to say, so I think I’ll send you an email. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this! I have lots of dreams too, but taking meaningful action towards them has always been a struggle for me. It’s wonderful that you have a partner who has his own ambitions, and to be in a relationship where you can support and inspire each other along the way. I’m realizing the importance of community more and more and older I get. Happy 2019!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rachel, I appreciate it! Good to hear from you 🙂 I’ve been realizing how important community is as well, especially in the past year when I feel like my community isn’t as strong as it used to be. Here’s to more community and deep friendships in 2019! I enjoy reading your posts when I check them out; I like how thoughtful and in touch with your emotions you are, it’s refreshing.


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