give. refresh. gather. receive​.

IMG_9396Sitting down and making goals for myself has become a ritual that refreshes and energizes me.  My intent in this practice is less focused on crossing something off a list or reaching a milestone in life, but rather on intentionally analyzing what is going on with myself in an honest way, and actually making some action steps in areas that are essential for my personal growth.

before diving into what I am considering for myself in 2018, I’d like to revisit my goals from 2017.  I didn’t blog about my goals last year, I only journaled about them and discussed them with Ian, so here is a flashback to what I wanted for myself, and then some honest follow up on how that actually went.

2017 Goal #1: Write in One Line A Day journal each day
In 2015, my cousin Emily gave me a “One Line A Day” journal for my birthday.  The setup of the journal outlines five years.  There is a page for five years worth of “January 1”, five years worth of “January 2”, and so on.  The concept is that you write a very short little blurb in the journal every day for five years.  At the end of the five years, you basically have this little mini-biography of your life or “memory book” from the last five years, which I love the concept of!

I made this a goal for myself, because if I don’t fill in the sections daily or at least often, I will forget what I did or how I felt that day, and those sections will just be empty. After the first 2 years of filling it out, I actually noticed a pattern.  Sometimes I would be doing the same thing or feeling the same way during the same weeks or even days of the year throughout the different years.  I was, and still am, super interested in observing the pattern of the seasons of my life.

I definitely did NOT fulfill this goal in 2017.  In fact, I forgot I even made it a goal until I just went back to my regular journal to see what my goals were from last year.

I took a look at OLAD journal to see how far I made it.  It looks like I completed pretty much all of January and February, then forgot about it until May, finished May, and forgot about it until now.

While I don’t want to be hard on myself about completing it, I do think it’s a cool project that I’d like to attempt to fill in more regularly in 2018!

2017 Goal #2: Log my confessions regularly
This goal came into existence because I was inspired by reading the book Girl Met God by Lauren F. Winner.  The book is a memoir about how Winner converted from Judaism to Christianity.  During her spiritual journey, she practices various forms of spiritual practices, including Confession.

The denomination of churches that I attend do not typically have a procedure for “Confession” like Winner was experiencing.  However, I thought it would be valuable for me to start admitting to myself what I am doing wrong, giving it to God, and then actually doing something about it.

I started doing this right before the new year, and the remainder of my 2017 goals were actually a result of my confession journaling and the conclusions that I came to during that process.

I didn’t formally keep up this practice for the duration of 2017, although during the last two years I have had an increased desire to develop rituals and spiritual practices into my life.  Practicing a regular confession and allowing this to become an open dialogue with the Lord about how He can refine me, is certainly a practice I want to keep.

2017 Goal #3: Actively listen to Ian
This is something that has been difficult for me time and time again during our first few years of marriage.  Before marriage, I was this independent person who made my own decisions and did things my own way.  Marriage changes that and it can be challenging to adjust to a complete change of behavior.

“Listening” to him in even the smallest ways was complicated for me.  We have been doing chores differently for several years while we lived separately as adults.  There are many ways in which he does chores more efficiently than me.  He would constantly give me the instructions on how to handle the chores more efficiently.  I did not listen. Not in an act of defiance– I was just simply used to doing them my own way and didn’t think it was necessary to change it.

Ian saw this differently– he saw it as an act of defiance.  He was giving me explicit instructions and I explicitly was not listening.  This caused conflict in our marriage because he felt as though I did not respect him and his thoughts.

Not actively listening to Ian took other forms as well.  If he wanted me to see something quickly and he asked me to look, I would take my sweet time with whatever I was doing, finish it up, THEN look.  By that time, whatever it was was gone.  I would also go to him with an issue or something I was upset about, and he would give me feedback or advice.  Instead of considering what he had to say, I would proceed to solve the problem in my own way.  All of these actions on my part caused issues between us in our relationship.

I believe this is something I have come a long way in.  It is still something that does not come naturally to me, and it is still difficult at times to basically have another half of you to navigate the world with.  I have to make a conscious decision to not be selfish and do whatever I want, but rather respect, listen and respond to my other half.

2017 Goal #4: Be more clear in my communication
I still work on this daily! In 2016, I noticed that I was getting upset at things that were basically my own fault.  Some of this stemmed from not actively listening to Ian.

I remember being upset about something at work.  I felt strongly about this thing and it did not pan out the way I thought it needed to, and as a result, it hurt me.  Ian asked if I had talked to my coworkers about this thing, or stated out loud how I felt.  No, I hadn’t.  He said that I should have in this situation, and I should in the future, also. If I communicate clearly, things are more probable to work out how I imagine them to, because the other people actually know my perspective.   Makes sense.

But I did not change.

Continue this for one year.

A continual problem I was having was NOT BEING CLEAR.  Saying something vague.  Sometimes, not even saying anything at all!  Whether this was about my feelings, or a friend or coworker “venting” to me (actually trying to ask me for advice without directly asking for it), and me saying nothing of value (because they didn’t ask. Even though I knew they were trying to ask), or me really wanting something and literally not vocalizing it.  Sometimes I assumed it was already known (when how could it be?), sometimes I was passive or passive-aggressive (which does nothing), and sometimes I was too embarrassed to be honest (which was just fear).

All of these behaviors contributed nothing of value to my relationships or my emotional well-being.  I documented many confessions stating situations where I felt led to say something and flat out didn’t say anything.  Being vocal is SO ESSENTIAL.  Stating my thoughts clearly is THE ONLY WAY TO HAVE HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.  Speaking up is the only way my perspective will be heard!

This resolution MUST carry on into 2018.  It will probably be something that I work on for the rest of my life.  For me, half the battle is realizing the impurities I am carrying and bringing them into the light.


 

On to 2018!  I have some sectors of my life that I would like to pinpoint this year.  These are topics that have been brought to my attention from either a conversation with Ian or friends, a message from church, or a topic the Lord has spoken to me.

  • hospitality: to refresh others with what refreshes you
  • community: sharing in life and experiences with sectors of people
  • self-care: caring for my mind, spirit, and body
  • sojourner: unlike a tourist, a sojourner gives to the community instead of only receiving from it

My cousin and I had a craft night (almost) weekly when we lived in New Orleans, and it was SO GOOD FOR ME.  In a small group that Ian and I attend, we heard hospitality described as “refreshing others with what refreshes you.”  I love this definition!  I think it’s a perfect way to describe hospitality and how I want it to look in my life.  Crafting is something that refreshes me.  It is a way for me to create versus consume, detox from schoolwork and stress, and gives me the opportunity to use a part of my brain that I don’t necessarily get to use otherwise.  I had the idea to begin weekly craft night in our new location of Lafayette a while before I heard the message at small group.  Hearing that particular definition allowed me to reconsider and view in a new light what I really wanted craft night to be for myself and others.

On another note, I am realistic enough to understand that friends and people I invite may not be able to make it every week.  However, I feel led to be consistent in making time for it, even if I am crafting alone sometimes.  This links to my goal of self-care. Even if I am not crafting in a hospitable or community setting, it is still important to my self-care that I craft regularly!

A friend told me recently that she noticed that I am a “gatherer”.  Within a week of her mentioning this, a different friend described me as an “includer.”  Both of these girls were listening to me speak up about some social issues I was experiencing.  They heard me expressing (even though I did not say it in those particular words) that I wasn’t being “gathered” or “included”, and since I do those things, it hurts me to not feel reciprocated.

I once read a blog written by Donald Miller, and he talked about two different types of people. One type of person wants community, and they are active about it.  They attend gatherings, they join a small group at their church, they wait for someone to invite them to lunch.  The other type of person wants community, and they are also active about it.  They invite people over to their house for a game night, they host a bonfire, they arrange a dinner party, they invite someone out to lunch.

The blog alluded to the idea that the second type is “better” at forming a community.  At the time that I read the blog (a few years ago), I agreed.  Now, I feel a bit differently.  The actions steps described for BOTH types of people are essential for building community.

One of the goals I felt necessary for myself this upcoming year was to be quicker (within reason) to say “yes” to invitations from people I would consider part of my community.  I have learned how I want to be hospitable and how it is relevant to me in my life.  But also, I must learn how to receive the hospitality and friendship of others, not just participating in the practice of giving it.

I must say YES when a friend invites me to lunch.  I must say YES to a request to watch a family or friend’s child.  I must say YES to attending a gathering of friends or family.  This is the way to properly build community.  Both types of actions must be utilized.

This is not to say that I should wash away all my boundaries.  Within reason, and with consideration of my time and health, I should consider saying yes.  For me specifically, I believe I should consider the yes more quickly, and with a thankful heart that this dear person thought to gather and include me.

Much of the above paragraphs intertwine the concepts of hospitality, self-care, and community.  The last topic I want to touch on is the idea of being a sojourner.  This has been the most difficult concept for me to nail down.

In a recent church sermon, the pastor taught on the idea of being a sojourner.  He described a sojourner as unlike a tourist; a sojourner gives to the community instead of only receiving from it.  The pastor linked this idea to us as Christians.  We do not eternally belong to this world, rather we inhabit it for only a period of time.  Instead of only taking selfishly from our surroundings and experiences while we are on this Earth, it is important that we give back to it.

I love the idea of this.  For many weeks, I wrestled with the idea of how I could be a sojourner.  I inquired with Ian about his plans of how he would be one, and surveyed a few friends and family about their thoughts.  I did not receive any feedback that gave me an answer for how I would personally do this.  I decided I must turn to God for help.

The Lord is holding this idea in place in my heart.  He is insisting that it is important for me to be a sojourner.  As I type these ideas and plans from my head and heart for 2018, the Lord is changing me.  He is saying, “do not be selfish in this life. give.”  He is calling me to self-care so that I can give.  He is saying that I have something to offer.  Something that can refresh others.  He is also saying, “receive what others can give you. freely. and with a thankful heart.”  My God speaks to me when I ask.  When I sit in the quiet.  When I write, when I give things to Him.  He will teach me how to be a sojourner, how to refresh another, how to gather, and how to receive.

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(here&there)

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(here&there) has been challenging me in a way I have never experienced before. Instead of being encouraged by (here&there), I become upset and nauseated.  Little by little, I am being kicked down to the ground, harder and harder.  I lay there for days, not having a clue how to get myself out.  I lay there flat on the ground, crying, screaming, quivering, regretting. When I seem to crawl back up and start to feel like my normal self again, it is time to go back to (here&there) and I am kicked back down again.  This time, harder.

If it was up to me, I would stop going to (here&there). Cold turkey. I would find an immediate replacement. There are a million other places like (here&there), and I would find another one that would do a better job of everything it’s supposed to be doing in my life.

Instead, I am forced to go to (here&there).  Week after week, time after time.  Each time I am here or there, I feel like I am getting punched in the stomach, slapped in the face, kicked to the ground, and then left out to dry; beaten and bruised; until my next visit.  I can just barely crawl back up into my normal life during the time I get to rest from (here&there), and as soon as I return, I am immediately pushed back down.


When I am (here&there), topics and discussion are being spoken at me and surrounding me.  These discussions are cringe-worthy, blurry, confusing, and challenging.  They force me to listen, critique, examine and dig.  They force me to dig into places in my life I have never looked before.  They cause me to reflect on what I think about things, if I want to continue thinking that way, or if I want to change.  They make me question my actions, the things I do, the things I don’t do, and why.  They make me crumble under pressure and slip silently under the radar.  They force me to dig into the piles of junk in the core of myself.  I dig in there and find so much mush and destruction.  I half-heartedly scrape away at it, but only small remnants fall away.  I have no tools to clean this mess.  I am not equipped to scrape and excavate the mold away. I just find myself sitting in it. Dwelling in it. Stuck in it. Unable to move.

The parts of me that used to be safely tucked away and separated from this mess are now exposed.  The bacteria has now spread to every part of me.  Once upon a time, I had a healthy emotional state thriving at the surface, and an unhealthy one buried far down below.  Now all of me is contaminated.


I long to be cleansed.  Honestly, I long to go back to the way I was before. Before (here&there). Content, satisfied, with a strong desire to be refined. Striving to be a servant, to be loving, to be stronger and wiser.

Now, I am wounded, resentful.  I question my roles, the credibility of others, and the way God works through it all.

I want to go back to the way I was before, before (here&there), but I know that is impossible. A future me is waiting for me. She is better than my past me, and she is so, so much better than my current me.  Now, my hope is in finding out how to get to her.