About a week or so ago, I was in a team prayer meeting at my church. The girl who leads it was talking about how while many people make resolutions, she listed out very intentional, specific things to pray for and then a detailed reasoning as to why she wanted to see God work in that way. Even if it was something that seemed obvious, like for someone’s health to improve, it was a way to really examine and think about the meaning behind what she was praying for and expecting to see happen this year.
This is my version of that. Last year, I intended to write a full goal post following the Making Things Happen format – I didn’t really do as well with that as I had hoped. I think in the past I made goals based on things that I wanted to do purely because I wanted to see it happen. For example, if I wanted to lose five pounds it was perhaps because of an insecurity, not from a desire to be more physically strong and healthy. There were things that I wanted to do that were more for the sake of being able to say that I had experienced them, or really, let’s be honest, I wanted to post them on social media as points of pride and excitement.
I decided that for this year, I was going to follow Lara Casey‘s goal settling process much better and effectively than I did last year. Last January, a lot was still going in my head where I didn’t really know what I wanted for the year. Around March or so I think was when I really (in my head) made more of my intentional plans and progress. But that’s okay, better late than never!
So without further ado….
Step 1: What worked in 2013?
2013 was an amazing year, possibly even the best one yet. It started off a little rough with some difficult decisions I had to make, but once that faded away, it cleared up time, energy, and my thoughts to be able to focus more on what matters and less on what I felt like I should be doing for reasons that I didn’t really know. Having the courage to create boundaries in friendships or other relationships gave me more freedom to be able to focus on the changes that I needed to make in my own life. I had an amazing housing situation with three of my closest friends. We made countless memories together and laughed til it hurt on many occasions. Living in Carrboro, working and saving money while still being in my college town made the transition after graduation back in 2011 a lot easier.
I joined a church in June of 2012 that wound up being a huge support system for me. I had kind of been “church dating” throughout my college years, never really feeling super plugged in to any one place in particular. At the time, I put more energy and time into my Christian sorority and campus small group versus a church. This wasn’t really a conscious decision looking back, but just that way things happened. Once I went to Calvary however, I felt like I could connect with…really just the whole package. The messages challenged me in a positive and necessary way, and in the spring, I decided to get baptized for the second time. My baptism was one of the greatest things from the last year.
To be honest, if I wrote out everything I was grateful for from this past year and what worked, it would fill up an entire book. Here are just a few things therefore that I would like to celebrate, even though there are certainly more that I am grateful for!
-I was fully funded (ahead of schedule!) to do a five week trip to Nice, France to live with and learn about overseas mission work and leadership.
-In January, I stumbled across a YouTube video for the Urban Eagles, which was immediately placed on my heart. The staff in the neighborhoods were in my prayers a lot. Little did I know that two months later I would find myself led to moving back to Charlotte to get my Masters of Social Work (another celebration!) and, upon my return from France, began volunteering in the Forest Hills neighborhood with their young girls group. I love Jessica and Emily so much, and they have been wonderful co-leaders and friends the last four months! I still remember coming the very first week, and trying to conceal at least a little bit how excited I was to come back in case I came across as too eager and they didn’t want me to return because of how weird I was : ) We have since begun both an older girls Bible discipleship group as well as a fun girls night for all ages to make crafts and pray together.
-I continued to develop a close relationship with Lara, Ari and Grace, and said my VERY bittersweet goodbye to them in May. I am grateful though that we have remained close despite being three hours apart, and love getting videos from Gracie saying “Hi Ms. Sue! I love you!”
-I pushed myself to be more bold in my faith, and shared my testimony publicly on more than one occasion. The first time speaking in front of people, I know my face was bright red and I was shaking uncontrollably, but perhaps that made me more real (?) Haha, anyway, continuing to get comfortable with public speaking is something that is on my heart. This also included discussing my faith one on one or in small groups (which I am way more comfortable with!) in both religious and non-religious settings. This was something that was huge for me, as in the past I have often been weighed down by a fear of either coming across as condescending or just overstepping someone’s personal boundaries.
-I did the contentment challenge for three months where I did not buy any clothing. To some people this probably sounds like not that big of a deal. It is a lot harder (at least for me…) than it sounds!! There were a few occasions where I did go to Ebay or a thrift store to buy a few things that I genuinely did not have that I needed for France (who knew you could get capris for three dollars?) but for the most part, I was really good. I am contemplating doing a stricter challenge for this spring in regards to more than just clothing.
-Towards the end of my time in Chapel Hill, I began listening to Steven Furtick’s sermons on the Elevation podcast. I had read his book Greater, and really wanted to check out what was going on with Elevation’s church in Charlotte. While certainly people have their own personal preferences in regards to traditional versus contemporary services, I fell in love. I had been praying for months about finding a church when coming to Charlotte, and automatically got plugged in with a Bible study and on a volunteer team. I am a Next Level member, which means that I am who people come to when they need someone to pray over them (cancer/health scares, divorce, and drug abuse are the most common) or (even more often) when someone makes the decision to accept Christ. When they make that decision, they come to me and talk about their past and what they are feeling, then we talk about what accepting Christ means, and I lead them through that prayer and give them a Bible. It’s been unreal. I am technically only supposed to have to volunteer every other week, but I show up as often as I can. People think I am weird for looking forward to getting up at 6:30 am on a Sunday to volunteer for 7 hours. I take it as a compliment. : )
Step Two: What didn’t work in 2013?
This is actually a harder one for me because even the things that didn’t go like I had wanted or expected to probably in actuality turned out for the better. That just goes to show though that it isn’t so much about the events or the actions as it is the attitude. Really, everything that I felt like didn’t work can be boiled down to just two words:
–Complaining – The words that I say and think do huge things. I don’t think I even realize how big they are. I recently read a book (as well as listened to the corresponding sermon series) by Craig Groeschel (my new favorite author) called Soul Detox. It was all about the ways in which our thoughts and words essentially contaminate our perspectives, outlooks, relationships, actions, decisions, and so forth. When we speak words of life, we build things or people up. When we criticize, self-doubt, complain, whine, or question God’s purpose or ability to provide for us, we basically just spin around in circles or tear things down. Complaining really never gets anything accomplished.
-Comparison – “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.” I love this statement…and it is so true. Sometimes I feel like every feeling of defeat or sadness stems from comparison. This doesn’t even just happen with the more materialistic things like houses, vacations, bank accounts, clothes, nor with relationships, like the “If one more friend announces they are engaged or pregnant I am going to Ben and Jerry’s every day for a month” thought pattern. Comparison leads to discontentment. Every season of life has a blessing, and every one has a struggle, even if it is not visible to others on the surface. If the grass is greener on the other side, water your lawn. It also happens with what I personally call the “Christian comparison”:
My ministry isn’t as widespread or noticeably powerful as theirs. Am I doing the right thing? Am I supposed to be doing something different?
Why am I not getting as much praise or attention as this other person? Why am I not being recognized for my leadership skills?
Wow…he read the entire Bible in 60 days. I am on the year plan. Is he more committed or passionate than I am?
Just like complaining, essentially, comparison is worthless. Also like complaining, it basically does nothing but question whether or not God has provided you with enough to be able to do His will, or if He has blessed you enough.
Are both of these things bound to happen? Probably every day. Are either of them helpful or productive? Nope. I want to focus on doing both of them less, and if that means that I have to give up social media etc altogether, then I want to be that extreme for awhile! I’d rather work my way back in to the online flow rather than be half-there-half-not in terms of commitment to changing my thought patterns. Also, when people use Facebook or Twitter as a way to vent or be mean to each other without having to be accountable, it stresses and tires me out.
Step 3: Get Visual
This step I am actually skipping because I do not use Pinterest : ) But if anyone reading this does, once again here is the link to Lara’s goal setting steps if you’d like to do your own!
Step 4: What did you learn from what worked?
This one is a little hard! I think the biggest one really is just trust God. There were times when I was support raising (a lot of times, actually) when I kept thinking of my “Plan B”. My “this is how I am going to pay for the remainder of what I don’t support raise.” There were a lot of times where my “what if’s” would get the better of me (you can read that blog post here). I would have these what if’s over where I should go to grad school, if I was supposed to go to France, if I should leave Grace, Lara and Ari and my housemates, church and friends to move to Charlotte, if I should live with people I had never met before, if I should take out student loans or use savings, and so on. There is always a new what if, a mental breakdown of all of the backup plans for what to do in case of emergency if things don’t go well. While I do like to plan, and certainly encourage responsible decision making (!!) I feel like things this past year have taught me that God has a plan, and the best way that I can see those plans and lessons happening around me is if I just surrender my need for control. God can do whatever, whenever, but I can make decisions that will either make myself a greater part of that plan or distance myself from it. There have been things this past year that, if I over-thought them too much, I may not have done; I may have just taken the safe route. But there were things that God placed on my heart to do that I didn’t want to ignore. I want to continue to grow in my obedience.
Step Five: What did you learn from what didn’t work?
I didn’t realize until I just typed this step that what did work and didn’t work actually taught me the same thing! The challenges, failures, mistakes, successes, joyful moments, and new relationships all directed me back to the same point which is acknowledging that God is:
and that He is far too creative to tell the same story twice through a person’s testimony.
I did, however, learn more about my own frustrations and limitations through what didn’t work. It emphasized to me how much I need grace, and also how much I don’t want to come across to people like I have it all figured out or am totally put together. I always appreciate encouragement or compliments from people (I am beyond a doubt the “Verbal Affirmation” love language person) yet at the same time, I want to make sure that I am being honest, genuine, and real. I want people to respect me for my weaknesses as well as my strengths, and to have all of them point back to the glory of God. I don’t want to forget that God is changing me every day, and that His opinion of me is the only one that matters.
Step Six: What fires you up?
-Seeing people respond to a message or testimony inviting Christ into their lives. This was our Christmas experience. (I was one of the people in the black shirts passing out the Bibles. I was so fired up that night. About 250 people at my location alone stood up. Tears were necessary : ))
-Witnessing baptisms (also these videos NEVER cease to make me cry. I got to be a part of the Raised to Life experience this August).
First Video – I Have Decided
Second Video – Raised to Life
-You have probably noticed from my video posting that anything creative fires me up. Bright colors, sense of humor, dance, music, photography. I need it around me.
-Laughter. When it is late at night especially. These are the times when the littlest, dumbest, most random things can make me cry I am laughing so hard. According to my housemates, this is also when I get really philosophical, and start initiating deep conversations that they like to tease me about later.
-Pretty dresses. Anything that twirls. Anything that is lace. Silly, I know, but it’s true.
-Seeing people I love truly happy.
-Working in the Urban Eagles community, my social work field placement, and just being in that environment of remembering your blessings constantly and talking about the love and grace of Jesus with kids (and adults of course, but kids are usually more entertaining. They help keep me going sometimes. And they also ask questions harder than ones on a seminary exam).
-Traveling. It never gets old, especially when I am blessed enough to be able to leave the country.
-Receiving and giving words and actions of affirmation and praise.
Step Seven: What is your 2014 vision?
The funny thing is….this was the whole point of the exercise really, and yet this is also the biggest question mark for me.
-My first one is a little vague. I want to not be afraid to ask for big things. In the past when I have prayed, particularly when I was in my teens and early twenties, I would ask for things that I thought were “feasible”. Things that I wanted to happen. Things that people asked me to pray for for them. I didn’t really go above and beyond in this area. Reading books that talk about praying audaciously, as well as books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan, have challenged me to re-think the way that I talk with and ask for things from God. There have been certain situations where I just accept something as the way it is, and probably always will be, and then formulate my prayers and actions based on that. Instead of that mindset, I want to ask for big things. Things that seem impossible, improbable, and so forth. I want to make preparations for the big things in life that I expect God to do (for His glory and not my own selfish ambition) versus what could happen (in my mind at least) by my own effort and hard work.
-My mission is to share the word of God through my prayers, lifestyle, actions, and words to others. I am hard on myself when I fall short of this, which is often. I believe that often I am better at extending grace to others than to myself. These are things that I want to push myself on this year, not to the point of exhaustion of course, but to the point where I am just slightly uncomfortable. I want to be vulnerable for God to use me in situations that I would have been more timid or passive in in the past and just love on people.
-This is still the very, very early stages, and I have not made the official announcement yet, but before I had even left France I was corresponding with my mobilization agency about opportunities to serve overseas this coming summer. More on that very soon, but that is one of my main visions right now.
-I want to see the members of my small groups, my Next Level team, the girls in my UE discipleship group, and my friends all become more confident in who God made them to be (I am including myself in this obviously as well!). There are still insecurities that I work through because of things in the past, but I want to see them be transformed. I have so much faith in my friends and love them to death, and want to see them feel more secure in God’s love as well this year. I also want to be aware of showing them more gratitude for being in my life.
-Even more so now that I am back in Charlotte, I want to focus on being a better daughter, sister, cousin, and granddaughter. I am blessed to have so much family (and all healthy, no less!) within a very short living distance, and I want to be more intentional about spending quality time versus distracted time with them.
-Finally, I want to be more appreciative of the season that I am in right now. As a girl in her mid-twenties with no income, a year and a half MORE of school (wasn’t I supposed to be done?!?! I remember throwing my cap and everything…), who has just moved, thrown herself into becoming involved in a new community, church, school, and peer group, I have experienced a lot of unknowns and changes in the last year or so. Most have been very positive, however I also find myself occasionally looking at the life events of other people and imagining what my own life would be like if I was going through the same thing. Envy is not pretty, flattering or useful. As I said earlier in this post, every person is fighting a battle, and I want to appreciate all of the positive aspects of being in my situation, age, and so forth.
Step 8: What are you saying NO to in 2014?
I am saying no to:
-Limiting my expectations and goals
-Becoming easily frustrated with the actions or complaints of others
-Caring about criticism for things I am passionate or care about
-Becoming discouraged when things do not go the way I had hoped, and instead acknowledge that something better is ahead.
-Wishing that I was already done with school so that I could do my field work 5 days a week instead of just two, and make the most out of the experience.
-Being lazy and sleeping for too long.
-Wasting time by half-working, half-relaxing.
-Excessive time spent on social media.
Step 9: What are you saying YES to in 2014?
-Blogging more as a way to communicate my thoughts with people. Being more specific about topics, and setting a goal for myself of writing at least every other week.
-Spending more quality time with friends and family. More face to face, or at least google hangouts : ) and less texting.
-Continuing to develop my ability to let God use my in instances such working on the Next Level team and praying over people.
-Eating healthy. I bought a juicer a month or two ago, and loved it, but the holidays have sort of gotten the best of me with having so many sweets around. Too much sugar, not enough vegetables. Need to kick start myself back up again!
-Exercising. I know that a lot of people have weight loss goals, but for me it is really just about the way that I feel and how much energy I have. I am at a clothing size already that I am perfectly fine with, and want to improve my endurance as well as continue with my strength training. One thing that I did this year was go through a few months of boot camp, where Lauren lovingly and affectionately kicked my butt. In an awesome way though. I would like to see if I can make time for that again!
-Random acts of kindness. Coming up with ways to show love to strangers creatively and anonymously.
-For that matter, intentional acts of kindness. Coming up with ways to develop relationships in deeper ways through a bunch of laughter and, really, probably food will be involved as well.
-Seeing how God can work in any situation no matter how depressing it may seem.
-More time reading the Bible- I am on a YouVersion plan, and need to be held accountable!! (Anyone want to volunteer?)
-Having fun and enjoying my blessings.
Step “Bonus”: My word for 2014:
If I had to use a word for 2013, it would be Praise. I really wanted to focus on praising God and rejoicing in all circumstances. For 2014, I want to use a word that I have already used several times in this post: Intentional. I want to be more intentional with my time, words, actions, everything. This isn’t to be confused with controlling or obsessive. I don’t want to have everything planned out. I just wanted to be more focused on making things that matter happen instead of just seeing what comes my way.
Step 10: Plant seeds
What seeds can I plant in others lives? One of the reason that I love volunteering so much is that it gives me the opportunity to do things I wouldn’t normally get to be a part of. Recently I have done work with Habitat for Humanity, Operation Christmas Child, Project Lunch Bag, The Dream Center, and a few others. I love getting to be a part of a greater vision. I love the idea that just my super small snippet of work is able to keep a project or goal going to become achieved. But mostly I think it gives me the opportunity to work with and hear from people who give these organizations and missions their all day in and day it. They inspire me. They help me focus on what my own passions are and what I want to do with my life and where I want to see God take me. By taking part in these activities and goals, I can plant seeds that others will reap the harvest from.
Step 11: Define Your “Radical”
For me, picking one thing to do “radical” is a challenge, because I like pushing myself in as many areas as I can. I tend to take on a lot of things, and don’t really have one particular area of my life right now that is a large obstacle. There are many smaller things that God helps me jump over, but nothing specific that is just really weighing on me. I think in that sense, radical for me is just growing to become less dependent on things. Those things are:
-the opinions and feedback of others
-material items, clothing, makeup, and so forth
-the need to please people
-my own ambition
and so on. I want to give away more, invest my time wisely, and live my life in a way to where some people question how I do it.
Step 12: Sing a Song
I couldn’t help but laugh as I read that I would need to select a song for this year, because recently I have gone on a major music binge. I have collected dozens of CD’s from the library to put on my iTunes and just constantly listen to. I love music.
If I ABSOLUTELY had to pick one….and by one, obviously I mean two, because I have to do a “get fired up” and “get emotional” song.
Get Fired Up: Tell the World – Lecrae (Live version from Passion 2013. Better than the CD version. Chills.)
Get Emotional: Burn Away – Meredith Andrews
So many more. Just in case you are looking for song recommendations, the ones I have on repeat right now are:
Awake My Soul – Chris Tomlin ft. Lecrae
When Mercy Found Me – Rhett Walker Band
Oceans – Hillsong
Set a Fire – United Pursuit
Love Does – Brandon Heath
We Believe- Newsboys
Step 13: Review
First of all, I can’t believe I have been working on this post all in one sitting, in one position, with my laptop on my legs. I think I need some water or to run around or something! I am worn out! But this is good! I am being productive with my time : )
I am reviewing this all in my head, and…..
OKAY! LAST STEP!!
Step 14: Set Good Goals
1. Finish my book – This has been a LONG time coming. I began writing a devotional book when I was 19, and now, after several rewrites, I am almost done. It is nearly 400 pages, and I have no idea what will happen with it, but I am choosing to continue to edit, and rewrite, and edit more, because I feel like God is going to do something with it, even if only five people read it. I am choosing to believe that if I continue to work and put my time into it, that God will give me the words, even when I feel like I am being repetitive. Pray for me on this! My goal is to be done this month, and I am so close I can taste it haha.
2. On that note, try to get it published – I have the opportunity to self-publish through Amazon, which may be the best option anyway, but I want to try my best to see what I can do with it through other agencies. I feel like other agencies could provide greater resources to get it in the hands of more people, and really, I am not looking to make much (if any) money off of it. This is just something that has been on my heart for a long time.
3. Eating right and exercise – I explained this already in an earlier step, however I want to be able to be more physically strong to be able to volunteer with certain organizations and just not get tired so easily. What I was eating had a huge impact on how drained I would feel, and I want to go total opposite of that. I want to be able to use my energy and time physical strength to bring God glory, and whether that is through sports ministry, manual labor, or whatever, I want to be prepared for that.
4. Commit to making the most out of my field placement. – I have been interning for course credit with A Child’s Place, and have loved it. I want to continue to be resolved in learning as much as I can from both my supervisor and from my own experience so that I can be more competent and well-rounded in the field of social work.
5. Pray about leading a Starting Point class at church. – I have been going through a Starting Point class at church, which is essentially a small group for new believers, in order to learn more about it and be able to share what it teaches with people I pray over. I have really enjoyed the discussion and topics, because even though it is formatted for people who are very new in their faith, the questions and conversation of course never get old no matter how much you know about the Bible. I would like to move into a greater leadership role in my church, and want to pray about whether or not this would be the right opportunity to partner up with someone to lead.
6. Take more pictures. This is one that I feel like I say every year in theory, and it just never happens. Instagram has helped slightly, but I really want to commemorate memories and experiences by taking pictures in order to reflect on special times. I have a camera as well as a smartphone, so I really have no excuse to not do this!
7. Read the Bible more. I want to have read the entire book, cover to cover, by the end of the year. This is a goal that I want to finally make happen!
8. Donate more things – This past year I made a lot of donations, as my clothing size went down some and also just because I felt it was necessary. There are still so many things though that I could give away. While I want to be sure to keep and value gifts, I want to be more aware of the things I buy and keep myself.
Overall, I feel that my other specific goals were listed periodically throughout this post, rather unintentionally! 2013 was an amazing year, but the best is always yet to come. I am excited to start a new beginning with a New Year, and am excited to see what God brings in my life.