Catching My Breath

Happy 2015!

I think this last week has been one of the most chaotic in a long time. I just arrived back in the country from a wonderful two-week trip spent in Ireland and the UK, only to return to my internship as a counselor a matter of hours later. (Score one for my pure stubbornness in wanting to have as much time abroad as possible. Fortunately I was so happy to be reunited with my clients that I didn’t notice the jet lag until that night…) As I sit here writing this post in-between jotting all of my assignment due dates for my final semester of grad school (?!) and typing a draft of my final research proposal for graduation, it is suddenly hitting me just how much has happened this past year.

I am still working on the long post that I briefly mentioned in my last entry. The words aren’t coming to me like I had hoped, but to be continued!

But because it is a new year, I wanted to make just a few brief lists for 2015 goal setting. Definitely encourage anyone else to make their own!

MY WORD FOR THIS YEAR:

Last month I was challenged to pray about a word that God really wanted me to focus on. Before I even finished, the word integrity came to mind, plain as day. Integrity, for me, is needing to…

  • Stop trying to cut so many corners. This is something I am especially bad about in my schoolwork. Sometimes I get so involved and focused on my internship (which I love) and actually serving in the field, that I begin to resent my graded papers and assignments, and just do the bare minimum. I need to remember that I am in school to learn- I want to appreciate what time I still have left and commit more to the entire process.
  • Be more intentional. This is a really broad goal, but specifically, I need to be more intentional about studying the Bible and engaging in conversations about it. Although I don’t want reading the Bible to become a chore, and merely check it off each day, I tend to get lazy and make excuses if I go several days on end without picking it up. I need to be more intentional about setting aside specific time and generally use the “whenever I get around to it” statement less.
  • Be more direct with people. Working as an addictions counselor has definitely toughened me up, but my tendency in day-to-day life is to want to bend over backwards to make other people happy. I need to be upfront and honest more often if I am frustrated with a situation rather than just doing nothing about it whatsoever. Raised voices tend to set me on edge, which is why I need to practice and remember that caring confrontation does not actually have to involve yelling.

Gratitude List

Even though people tend to do this during Thanksgiving, a project I want to pursue is to actively keep a gratitude list. The quickest way to kill contempt is to tell God, or another person, things that you are grateful for. For me, this most often happens when I am driving. (I don’t know if it is because I suddenly have the angry desire to issue driving tickets via hand signals that are supposed to express “What are you DOING?!?!” in the car, and therefore actually think about being grateful more often, but this is usually what happens.) The other day in my head I just started telling God how grateful I was for heat. That gas is a whopping $1.99 all of a sudden. That I have a car. And suddenly my road rage was lessened a bit.

Highlights and Lowlights

This year was a great one. By God’s grace, I published a book (see tab at top of website), joined a church plant team in Ireland for three months (and met an Irish fellow I am quite fond of while I was there…), finished my first year of graduate school, and heard some really amazing teachings and sermons that made my desire to follow Jesus multiply. I am going to be the Maid of Honor in the wedding of one of my best friends, got to see two friends get baptized, celebrated a new birth into one of my favorite families, and traveled solo across Europe for a few weeks.

It was challenging at the same time. It was difficult not having access to income anymore, and I felt guilty spending any just about any money that wasn’t a necessity as it was all coming out of my savings. Although I have some amazing relationships in Charlotte, I also spent a bit of lonely time missing friends in other cities. My sense of time management became stretched thin as I began taking night classes and electives in order to graduate on time and complete my internship. This unfortunately meant that I could no longer attend a weekly Bible Study or a leadership training I was nominated for. This has actually been one of the hardest things to deal with in recent months.

Goals for This Year

  • In some ways, not knowing where I will be living or working in five months, after graduation, has caused me anxiety. In other ways, it has led me to appreciate more of what God wants me to learn and do here in the present day. One goal of mine is to focus more on giving up control to Him whenever I am feeling overwhelmed. Personally, I think the whole “God won’t give you more than you can take” notion is mostly false- I think He gives us a great deal more than we can take sometimes so that at the end, there is no question of who should take the credit for it.
  • I have already talked about the necessity of spending more time reading my Bible, but as soon as I have a spare evening again, I am very much looking forward to joining a small group again for Bible study. I am very much missing the provided accountability and friendship!
  • Continue to invest time and love into the Urban Eagles. Last month, due to my course schedule, I had to stop volunteering in Grier Heights. This was hard for me to accept (I think I was in denial for a bit that a new elective option would be added to a morning), but am so thankful to continue to commit to the Forest Hills neighborhood. These young girls give me some of the most joy all week, and the leaders are all now some of my very best friends!
  • Create boundaries. This is one I will not expand on here, but is certainly a continuous goal, especially for a social worker.
  • Above all, develop more of a passion to know Christ more so that I may be able to know and love others more.

Any prayers for me as I continue writing, studying, learning, and working are much appreciated!

Blessings. xx

Goal Setting

This is a very belated post…but better late than never.

Back in January I read the series of blog posts on goal setting that my boss, Lara Casey, wrote on her website. I found them incredibly inspirational, and mentally began making lists. On Facebook, I made two “notes”: one about my year in reflection and one about the memories I wanted to make this year.

However what I never officially posted was my true goals for this year. I went over some in my head, but had not actually established a plan for how I wanted to achieve them, or at least work towards them. So, here they are!

Spend more time in prayer, reading the Bible, in church, and talking about all of these matters with others. For a very long time, really as long as I can remember, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts on my faith better in writing than verbally. I do feel that I have spent more time throughout the day in prayer, however I want to continue to be bold in how I speak of my feelings and faith to others. Bold does not mean shoving my beliefs down other people’s throats, but having the guts to talk about what an impact it has had on my life, how my life has changed since I actually started praying for God to have His own way in my life versus me praying for the things I wanted. So far this year I have spoken at a women’s conference, continued to write devotionals, participated in a bible study, am going overseas on a mission and am leading a young girl’s body image discussion next month (wow…I sound really busy now that I see it all in writing), but I want to continue to make small changes in my day to day attitude and relationships with others.

Focus more on Grace, my friends and family, and less on distractions that will get me no where. People have different interpretations of what “useless distractions” are. Some feel that TV or movies fall into this category- I happen to disagree. While I can only sit still for a certain length of time, I have thoroughly enjoyed using films and TV shows as a way for my roommates and I to gather and spend time together. I certainly can see how this would not benefit some, but it has been a nice way to unwind (just not too often!). Anyway, I am beginning to get off topic. The last few months especially have emphasized to me how, even though I pray Grace will always be a part of my life, I am not going to be her nanny anymore. I am not going to be in her room with her for hours and hours each day, watching her say new words (my new favorite? I curl up in a ball with my head under my arms and say “Where’s Gracie?” She then proceeds to say “Ms. Sue? Ms. Sue….before toddling over and heaving my elbow off my face. When I act very surprised to see her she falls to the ground in a heap of giggles. Gets me every time.) and playing with her toys. This time last year a “year from now until grad school” felt like such a long time, but not in a bad way. Just in a “I don’t really even have to think about this yet” way. But suddenly, around November, time doubled in speed. It has truly been unreal how fast the last five months have gone by, and that is with me trying to be aware of making the most of my time. Am I always successful? Probably not. Have I made more wonderful memories than I can even list right now trying to have that attitude? Absolutely. So while this is a goal that I can always improve upon, I do feel pretty happy with my relationships and friendships right now, and the direction they are heading.

Become more organized, and donate more of my current items so that I can have less distractions around me during the day, share more of what I have, and make room in my heart to appreciate those things I do have even more. This one is pretty self explanatory, but one step I have taken in this direction is to do the “No Shopping Challenge”. I don’t think this is an official thing, but I read in a blog post by Nancy Ray that she was not going to shop for any clothes or accessories for three full months. I thought this was a great idea, and decided to hop on board. This has led to a few comical moments where I have subconsciously tried to find loopholes. Perhaps old clothing from last year was too big, maybe I had left a few too many summer things in Charlotte, maybe I wanted to donate my things and exchange them for different things off Ebay or the Thrift shop (those aren’t new right??!) But even typing that makes me feel selfish. It emphasizes how easy it is for me to just walk out the door and buy whatever I want to try and make me happy or content, when in reality it’s not going to. Sure there may be a few things that are good investments, or when I get a great deal it can put me in a good mood, but at the end of the day it is all temporary. I want to focus more on my satisfaction coming from Christ, and less from things that don’t really matter, and while I admit I wouldn’t describe myself as a super materialistic person, it is more about changing or keeping in check my whole mindset.

Become more in-shape so that I can be both more healthy and active for God’s purpose. This was a big one for me. I joined a gym last summer, noting that I was not going to the small, apartment complex one nearly as often as I would like. I felt like maybe if I was actually paying for it, it would be a good motivator to go. I have a condition called gastroparesis, which just about no one has heard of. Consequentially it makes it very difficult for me to eat healthy food. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I eat sweets and fries all the time, but essentially I cannot eat fresh fruits or vegetables, unprocessed food, or whole grain products, at least not easily. This led to a great deal of complications with my body image, feeling healthy vs weak, and  so forth. Seven years later, I have exponentially more control over everything, however this was basically a way of saying that I wanted to focus more on exercise as a way to be in shape. I completely and whole-heartedly believe that nutrition is an incredibly important part of being healthy, and one that I want to try and learn more about now that gastroparesis is becoming more well-known, however exercise is something that I can try and tackle more easily. After some unsuccessful attempts at just getting on an elliptical for half an hour (despite having books or headphones I would get incredibly bored after about the 2:17 mark), I began randomly doing weight lifting along with it. I honestly do not even remember what got me started, but I just felt like I needed to try something different. And I also secretly felt hard core being one of the only girls on the weight machines. I also started doing boot camp once a week, and bought a TRX system for my room. I definitely have noticed a difference in how I feel since I have been doing strength training. I feel stronger all around, and love being able to actually see the difference of the amount of weight I can add on to the machines. What I really need to do now though is focus more on nutrition in addition to this.

Read more. Watch less TV when I am bored. Be involved in things that are mentally stimulating instead of just relaxing. This is something that I have been a bit annoyed at myself for. After graduating, the amount that I read took a huge decline. I want to make a really big effort to read for pleasure more in the next four months, since I know that once I reach grad school, my amount of free time will take a huge hit.

I am sure there are more, but these are some of the main ones I want to be aware of. I may post an update in a few months, but either way, I hope to continue to pursue and focus on these things that matter versus filling my head with activities or thoughts that take my focus away from them. What are some of your goals this year?