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At years end.

Photo Credit: ky_olson (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: ky_olson (Creative Commons)

Happy 2014 everyone! 2013 was an incredible year for me and my little family. We had our share of ups and downs, but truly felt blessed throughout the journey. We started the year serving at the Passion conference and ended the year at Disney World. We experienced a tough summer with some health issues and tight finances, but had an incredible fall and winter filled with near constant reminders of God’s faithfulness.

This was my second year blogging, and my first year where I set concrete tangible goals. Thanks for following along on my sometimes repetitive blog posts with my goal progress. This blog truly kept me focused on the goals I set and it was encouraging to get positive feedback from friends. And finally, I present to you the final result of each of my thirteen goals:

1. Run a Half Marathon – The year started strong, then I slacked off, then I started strong again, but ultimately a slight injury to my left foot kept me from that half marathon. But I’ve got one in my sights for February, so this goal will be extended a bit.

2. Innovation as a professional every month – I believe with one or two exceptions this goal was accomplished every month. Even when I wasn’t being innovative at my paid job, I still found ways to grow myself as a professional.

3. Read 24 books: It was about 11:30pm on December 31st when I finished the last page of book number 24, but I did it! 24 books read this year.

4. Get Biscuit certified as a therapy dog Check! Accomplished this goal, with the help of Biscuit of course! He’s starting 2014 as a therapy dog!

5. Encourage two people a month with a handwritten note I did not accomplish this goal this year. I think I would have done better if I gave myself a yearly total and not a monthly, because it was discouraging to get behind.

6. Write 60 blog posts I exceeded this goal: 65 posts total for the year! I’ve really seen my writing strengthen as well, it’s been a good year for this goal.

7. Get to know people who different from me I feel like this goal was accomplished as I saw community grow throughout the year in many ways.

8. Enter into a mentoring relationship I feel like this goal has been accomplished. Most importantly, this year I’ve learned the value of relationships with older women. It’s been a great year for this and I hope I continue this habit.

9. Pay the car off – Well, we ended the year with less debt than we started, but paying the car off did not happen. So partially accomplished, but not in the way I thought. Shooting to get this done next year.

10. Increase my political activity- first name basis with elected officials – This goal has been accomplished, but I’ll pick back up in January to keep these relationships going.

11. Publish a professional article (or at least write one)– This goal didn’t happen either, I just simply ran out of time and the circumstances weren’t ideal to get this done.

12. Memorize the book of Philippians – This goal also didn’t happen simply due to busyness and a lack of discipline if I’m to be completely honest.

13. Love my husband in a new way every month – There were a couple months where I was stretching it, but I feel like I was able to find new ways to love my husband each month. It was a good year for our relationship, even with our ups and downs.

So there you have it. The final tally of all 13 goals: 8 accomplished, 2 postponed due to circumstances beyond my control, and 3 not accomplished due to busyness and/or lack of discipline. I’m ending the year feeling pretty content though, for a first year of tracking goal progress I’m proud of what has happened.

I have a new set of tasks for 2014: a “30 by 30” list. I don’t think I’ll update my progress monthly on this blog but I’ll do updates in some form. I love setting goals and I’m so glad I was able to work towards these accomplishments this year. Thanks for following along!

What are your 2014 goals? Any plans for this new year?

 

Goals- November

I can’t believe it’s December! This is the second to last goal blog I’ll write for these 13 goals, where has the year gone? Here’s my report:

1. Run a Half Marathon – I’ve started running again and am preparing for a half marathon in February. The half isn’t happening this year but I’m still going to work towards this goal!

2. Innovation as a professional every month – November was pretty good for this goal. I still feel like my new job is full of innovation, so there were a lot of ‘firsts’ for me this month. Nothing very specific, just a lot of new, innovative tasks and duties.

3. Read 24 books: Well, November was another month of major busyness. Still at 15 books. However, don’t count me out just yet. December will be busy but I’m going on vacation and won’t have any grading to do so I just might be able to get those last few books read before the end of the year!

4. Get Biscuit certified as a therapy dog GUESS WHAT? Biscuit passed his test! He’s a

Look at my handsome therapy dog. So proud!

Look at my handsome therapy dog. So proud!

certified therapy dog with Happy Tails Pet Therapy! I’m such a proud dog-mom, it’s a bit ridiculous. We’ll join a team early next year.

5. Encourage two people a month with a handwritten note  Came excuse as before, just too much busyness. But if I’m allowing myself to play catch up there is still time in December!

6. Write 60 blog posts Four posts on this blog and one original on the Church4Chicks blog. I’m at 59 original posts this year, which means that I’ll definitely meet this goal.

7. Get to know people who different from me For awhile I didn’t think I would meet this goal, but now I’m realizing that there have been many opportunities to meet and get to know people from all walks of life. It’s been a good year.

8. Enter into a mentoring relationship I feel like this goal has been accomplished. Most importantly, this year I’ve learned the value of relationships with older women. It’s incredible the wisdom that I’ve gained from these conversations. I also heard about a new mentoring opportunity next year at my church and am hoping to continue this practice into the next year.

9. Pay the car off – I mentioned last month that God changed my plans on this one. We’ve paid off a chunk of other debt and are working towards getting this goal accomplished next year.

10. Increase my political activity- first name basis with elected officials – This goal has been accomplished, but I’ll pick back up in January to keep these relationships going.

11. Publish a professional article (or at least write one)– So I may just have to put this one in the books as a no go. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. We made headway then work and life got in the way. I did make progress in my writing as I’m regularly contributing to a new blog, so that’s some progress, just not what I thought when I started writing this goal.

12. Memorize the book of Philippians – I didn’t do anything with this goal this month. I don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s been mostly a lack of discipline on my end but memorizing the chunks of scripture was more difficult than I thought.

13. Love my husband in a new way every month – This month I focused on encouragement. Brent’s semester was winding down and I spent a good bit of time proofreading papers and encouraging him as he finished his last semester in school.

I’m amazed at how this year has flown by. I can’t believe it’s December. I have one month left to finish up some of these goals but I’m pretty proud that I’ve been making headway on most of them this year. I have learned a lot about myself and about the things I truly care about. I think the word this month is workload. Sometimes you can prioritize personal goals but on occasions other commitments and life get in the way. I definitely had moments of feeling overwhelmed with work and all my commitments this month and wasn’t able to focus on my goals. I’m thinking about my workload for next year and how I can balance everything.

So how about you? The year is almost over, how have you progressed with goals and resolutions you made earlier in the year?

Quiet

Photo Credit: ronsaunders (creative commons)

Photo Credit: ronsaunders (creative commons)

I read a book earlier this year: “Quiet” by Susan Cain. The subject of the book is centered around introversion and the value that introverts have in our very extroverted society. My husband is an introvert and I read the book to more fully understand the world of the more quiet personality type. It was very good, and I love the title of the book, it’s simple but powerful. And I believe it’s a word that’s lost in our American, Western culture today.

Everywhere you go today you encounter noise. It is almost impossible to really embrace silence anymore. I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day and there was a guy talking on Skype very loudly to his girlfriend. I went to the coffee shop for a little bit of peace and quiet, but I got noise.I didn’t really want to awkwardly hear his conversation and it really annoyed me. But after an hour or two my friend Cindy joined me and we commenced in adding to the noise, so I don’t really have any room to talk. But regardless, have you noticed how noisy the world is? Even libraries seem loud nowadays. And even if you’re sitting in your car with no music going, your phone is probably buzzing, cars are honking- noise is everywhere.

Noise adds to our stress level too. There are numerous scholarly articles that discuss the effects noise has on the brain. You can find a couple articles here, here and here. The excessive noise around us is causing over stimulation and long term stress.

Why am I telling you this? If you know me at all you know that I’m a highly extroverted, busy, energetic, talkative person. I don’t like silences in conversation, I’m liable to talk nonstop just to keep silence from creeping in. Why on earth am I telling you about noise and the need to be quiet? I’m a major contributor to it!

Well, all my nervous extroverted energy aside, I’ve noticed this month that with my media fast for the “7” experiment that media is a huge creator of noise in my life and likely a huge contributor to my stress. On a typical day I never experience complete silence. I have the radio on during my commute, music playing or people around me during my work day (and meetings…. I go to lots of meetings), then more music or radio in the car, followed by whatever social activity or chores I need to do. The TV is frequently on in the background or I’m chatting with my husband about random things. Brent also likes to play the radio or Pandora at home as well. There are brief moments of silence throughout the day, and typically an hour right after I wake up (but I don’t really count that because I’m not very coherent in the morning, I’m practically not awake for that first hour, ha!). However, overall there is very little silence in my life.

This month there has been silence. No TV on in the background, minimal radio, infrequent dings and buzzes with facebook or twitter notifications. I feel a bit disconnected, but overall it’s been nice. And I’m realizing just how much I need more ‘quiet time’ in my life. I imagine that we all do. We need time to relax, take a deep breath, and just be present in the stillness and quiet around us. Jesus went to quiet places to be with God, and some of the most peaceful people in the world spend lengthy times in quiet, still settings. It’s a discipline that is lost in the United States, and I’m realizing that I need to practice it more.

I’m sure I’ll post again about this month’s 7 challenge in the near future, but these are my observations so far. I’d love to hear about if and how you incorporate moments of stillness and quiet in your life, and what you think the benefits are of that practice.

The Power of Forgiveness

Photo credit: thebettermom (creative commons)

Photo credit: thebettermom (creative commons)

We are entering into the holiday season. It’s a time of joyous celebration and happy memories. Cherished traditions and quality time with the ones we love take center stage. But there are also negative emotions that come into play with the holiday season. Both the negative and the positive emotions can overrule the reasons we celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving and other cherished holidays. I asked my team at church this morning about how they try to stay focused on Jesus during the advent season. I asked them what they felt like God was telling them to do during this time. One team member shared one small but powerful word:

Forgiveness

It seems like a simple concept but it can incredibly complicated and difficult sometimes. It can feel like an impossible obstacle that we can’t possibly overcome. But Jesus overcame death and temptation to forgive us and his words are an incredible example of grace.

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34a.

The humility, the restraint, the power that Jesus demonstrated with those words is hard for me to comprehend sometimes. The Creator of the Universe came to walk with us, to dwell with us, and then He suffered and died for us. And he forgave us! I know in my own life I betray Christ and deny Him in many ways.  I don’t stand up for my faith like I should. I am quiet when I should speak up more for His truth. I am silent about injustice when I should tirelessly advocate. I am prideful and look out for my own interests over that of others. I’m a mess y’all. And even though I have plenty of things to ask forgiveness for, sometimes I can be slow to forgive others.

Forgiveness isn’t easy. Life is hard, and the source of our pain is usually from people close to us. We are all human, and we all have been on the giving and receiving side of pain. And some of the pain we experience in this life feels unbearable. Sometimes the hurts committed against us feel so crippling and so intense that we don’t think we could possibly offer forgiveness.

But that’s where the power of Christ comes in.  Christ dwells in us, and it’s with His power that we can forgive. It’s not always easy, but with Him all things are possible. If you are holding on to hurts, know that Christ wants to take that burden. My prayer is that all of us can encourage and lift each other up to fully embrace the power that comes when we forgive.So in the upcoming holiday season as you prepare to spend time with people you love and possibly people you struggle to love, think about this powerful word. Think about the impact forgiveness can make on your life as you celebrate the coming of Jesus. Release the hurts and lay them at the feet of Jesus. The release can bring you closer to God and can help you focus on the holy, beautiful season of Advent as we remember and celebrate the coming of our Lord.

Stuff

I have a lot of stuff.

Books and DVDs galore to give away.

Books and DVDs galore to give away.

I knew that we had a lot of stuff going into the third month of the “7” Experiment: Possessions. (Wondering what the 7 experiment is? Read this post first.) I knew that I had plenty of things I could give away. But when I read the chapter of 7 about possessions, I just knew that it would be impossible to do what the author did. She and her family gave away 7 items a day– 210 items total! I didn’t think it would be possible for us to give that much away. I mean, we live in a one bedroom, 970 square foot apartment. I knew we had more than we needed, but I didn’t think I could possible give away that much in a month. So I set a different goal for myself, 100 items total. Surely we could give away 100 things.

But then I started assessing. I looked around our apartment and counted items. I already knew from the clothing month that I had 269 items of clothing, so I knew I could start there. And when I began to sort through my stuff, I realized just how much excess I had. And I was ashamed.

I had three coats and six jackets. I live in Georgia for crying out loud, why did I have so many coats and jackets? I realized that a homeless woman or a refugee woman could get far more use out of at least a couple of those warm weather items. To the give away pile they went.

Bags upon bags of clothes and shoes.

Bags upon bags of clothes and shoes.

I counted our plates. We had 13 plates. We could not fit 11 extra people in our apartment to entertain, so why did we have so many plates? I reluctantly (being transparent here, I really love our plates) put three in the pile. A newly arriving refugee family could really use those plates. They come to our country with nothing, three plates could make a huge impact in their new home.

I didn’t even try to count my books, but it was probably over 200 books. Why did I have so many books? Many of them were never opened after I read them one time, and there are so many organizations who could sell or use many of my books. 42 books went into the pile.

After I started, I feel like God started working on me with my excess. There are so many people who truly need the excess that I have. I started pulling items left and right to give away. Blankets, furniture, kitchen items, DVDs, clothes, shoes, books, decorative items, dog items, towels- the list kept growing. Before I knew it, we had given away 227 items. And I’m pretty sure that we really gave away closer to 250 items, but I stopped counting after awhile. Some of the things I gave away hurt a little bit. I really love our plates, it was hard parting with even a couple of them. I liked the chair that we gave away, it looked very nice in our sun room. And I love my books, I pride myself on my library of books. But guess what? Nearly a month later and I don’t miss those three plates, but I imagine that a Nepali or Burmese family is getting a lot of use out of them. I haven’t missed that chair at all. A Somali family of 9 probably uses it every day now. And my large wool coat that I haven’t worn in several years? There may be a lady in Atlanta who uses that coat to keep warm during cold nights now. And all those books? Some will go to Africa and others will be sold to provide education for young girls in India.

This month humbled me even more to the reality of the world’s needs. There are so many needs in my own community while I swim around in my excess of stuff. My stuff can be my treasure, which is wrong. My treasure should be in Christ and in serving and loving others. It shouldn’t be in my clothes, books, shoes, plates or furniture.

I feel like I could write a whole book on just this month, it was so rich and full of valuable lessons. I found my mind wandering to the needs of others far more frequently than normal, and it was a beautiful thing. I may never meet most of the people who got my ‘stuff’ this month, but I am so thankful for this experience. And don’t think for a second that I’m all self sacrificial and pious about this. I have struggled so much recently, especially in the area of clothing, to ‘replace’ much of what I gave away- which is pretty much missing the point. I am a work in progress but step by step I’m working towards a life that is much simpler, less bogged down with stuff, and more focused on what God is doing.

Here’s a list of some of the organizations I donated to this month (still have a few things left to drop off at some of these places)

Lutheran Services of Georgia- Refugee Services: Clothes, Kitchen Items, and furniture

Atlanta Mission – Coats

Covenant House of Georgia– Clothes

Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party– Books

Books for Africa– Books

Wellspring Living Treasures Stores – Clothes

Goodwill – misc decor, DVDs

 

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