Aug 4, 2017

reviewing the first half of 2017 (pt. 1)





At the beginning of 2017, I prayerfully journaled and blogged my way through Lara Casey's yearly goal-setting process. It has been four years of repeating this process every year and it has helped me become more intentional with my goals rather than writing down resolutions I never follow-up on. Her process is reflective and full of purpose. It's not about filling up your to-do list with meaningless tasks merely to feel productive or busy; it's about living life on purpose and making the things that matter actually happen.

I tend to go overboard with planning, productivity, and organization. It affected and stole some of the precious hours Greg and I had after he'd come home from work because I'd often be knee-deep in a blog post or project I wanted to finish and miss out on opportunities to have quality time with him. As quality time is a major way he receives and gives love, I was failing to pay attention to what mattered and instead chose to prioritize things (even good things) that should never be more important than my husband. This was a recurring struggle our first year of marriage.  It was humbling and a bit scary to simplify my goals and priorities for this year. I decided to decrease the amount of posting on the blog since it was taking too much time as well as cutting ties with a few sponsors so I didn't feel pressured to write about things that I didn't believe were furthering the purpose of this internet space (to encourage others and point them to Jesus rather than show off clothes I was receiving for free in order to review and share in posts). 

I took a hard look during this season (and need to still remind myself at times) at my inner drive for productivity. Why was it so important for me to get things crossed off my to-do list? I realized I found satisfaction, pride, and even some sort of identity in having a perceived control and order in my life, even if only reflected through crossed off to-do lists and monthly goals checked off. If I failed to get certain things done, I would feel disappointed in myself and assume the worst about myself. This is not where my identity should find its foundation because this is shaky ground, easily shifting from day to day. And it blinded me to opportunities to serve God, enjoy time with my husband, and build friendships in a new town. 

I decided to stop posting monthly goals like I had for several years on the blog because for me, it became a prideful badge of honor ("look at all I did this month!") and too much pressure to keep up with other bloggers. I compared myself to others and often found myself lacking, further propelling me to try harder and to do more.  I now share my goals with my husband alone and only shared big accomplishments on social media or the blog every once in a while. I want my heart to be in the right place with goal-setting, productivity, and living life on purpose.

That was January (and bled into the next few months). Now it's August. The year is more than half over. That blows my mind. In some ways, the year sped by with lightening speed. In other areas, it dragged its feet. I am still wrestling with a lot of the same things I just shared. I am not perfect, nor do I feel the need to aspire to be anymore. I am eternally grateful for wise counsel, godly examples, and encouraging words from my husband, friends,  a Biblical counselor from church, and bloggers like Lara Casey who have all been a huge help in this journey, whether they know or not the role they've played.  

I am currently reading Lara Casey's first book, Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live On Purpose. Her guide to "making it happen" is in the fourth part of the book and it was a review since I have used her goal-setting process for four years. But I thought it would be helpful to revisit some of the steps in order to evaluate mid-year, my progress. Although I look at my yearly goals almost every month as I set monthly goals, I wanted to also pinpoint things that are working and things that aren't working. First, in this post, I want to share a few of the things that I am grateful for this year so far. Opportunities to serve, fun QT-filled dates with Greg, deeper friendships, and new passions. God has been so faithful and has showered me with gifts, both big and small this first half of 2017.


"Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever 
He gives ... the manifestation of our "yes!" to His grace." 
(Anne Voscamp, One Thousand Gifts

These are in chronological order of when they happened this year rather than order of importance:

I am grateful for Christian community. In January, I attended the If:Gathering with a new friend from book club at her mom's church. Our table of ladies really connected during the discussion sessions and decided to meet monthly to have gospel conversations and share delicious meals. I love getting to know these women from different life seasons. Similarly, I have been so blessed with the Young Marrieds Sunday school class at our church. Greg and I have been getting more involved in the opportunities to get to know the couples more, such as small group.

I am grateful for book club. If you know me, you know I love to talk about books. Its one of the times I feel the most comfortable in social situations. Nerdy? Definitely. But luckily, there are both single and married ladies from church who join me in these bookish conversations nearly every month. It's been a fun way to deepen friendships with truly fantastic gals, eat delicious snacks, and have thought-provoking discussions about certain books. I have enjoyed all our books we've read but especially enjoyed Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (pictured) and The Help.

I am grateful for opportunities to travel with my best friend, whether to San Francisco (where we toured Alcatraz), to Dallas or Houston or Waco to visit his family (we visited Magnolia Market while in Waco), or trips to Oregon to visit my family. I adore adventuring with Greg and experiencing things for the first time together with him as well as visiting places filled with nostalgia (such as our Seaside beach trip with my family in June, pictured).

I am grateful for the opportunity for Greg and I to be leaders with Young Life Capernaum here in San Antonio. We are privileged to hang out with some really fantastic teens with special (intellectual and developmental) needs. Club nights are high-intensity at times and the introvert in me often feels wiped out after all the dancing, talking, and games, but it is so worth it because these teens get to feel validated and appreciated and loved despite their differences or disabilities. We try to focus on their abilities instead of disabilities and to point them to the unfailing love of Jesus. I am also grateful for opportunities to hang out one-on-one or in small groups with the girls in our Young Life Capernaum family. Whether painting (pictured), enjoying Starbucks drinks, or shopping, it's been a joy to intentionally set aside time to hang out with these teens.

I am grateful for a healthy body and ability to train for a 10K. I ran my first this past February after years of wanting to do it but not believing I could actually get myself to really run six miles. I am grateful for Greg's support and encouragement with each milestone (literally, each mile) towards my goal and for cheering me on as I crossed the finish line after my first 10K.  I have made jogging a part of my week and it has helped me tremendously towards my health and fitness goals. We are planning on running a 10K together in September!

I am grateful for time at the lake house. My father-in-law's parents have sadly both passed away (I often wish I could have met them) and left their house (situated on a hill near a beautiful lake about an hour from where we live) to their grown children. We have taken many weekend trips alone and also with Greg's family the past year to this beautiful home. It is such a relaxing place to be, whether curled up with a book on the porch constantly distracted by the gorgeous lake view, renting a boat or taking my uncle's jet ski out on the water, sharing a meal at one of our favorite restaurants, or just enjoying the slower pace away from our busy schedules.

I am grateful for co-leading an ESL class for three refugee women (and keeping their toddlers busy during class so their moms can listen). I am constantly in awe of their determination to tackle the English language with all its nuances and complexities. They each are strong, capable, wise women and I have been blessed to spend a few hours every Friday with them for the past year and a half. Their progress in the English language and curiosity about the country they now live in really astound me time after time. We worked our way through the book of John and discussed Jesus' ministry on earth as well as His death and resurrection (we got there right in time for Easter!)  while studying sentence structures, new words, and comprehension skills such as summarization.

I am grateful for family visiting us here in Texas. We acted like kids as we sped down and looped around rollercoasters at Fiesta Texas Six Flags, splashed our way down slides and lazy rivers at Shlitterbahn, and toured around the river walk. It was fun showing off my city to a few of my sibs!

I am grateful for exploring new parts of San Antonio with Greg during date nights, specifically the McNay Art Museum, where several Monet paintings adorned the museum for an exhibit on impressionism art. I found a seat and soaked in the water lilies that so encapsulate Monet's later work. My favorite artist of all time, his work is inspiring and breathtaking. Greg found a painting of Tupac so he was inspired as well, lol.

I am grateful for date nights with Greg! This year we have been more intentional about taking turns planning dates for each other. We try to choose things we each enjoy and end up having a blast. Whether mini-golf, eating at our favorite burger place (Hopdoddy, pictured), going to the rodeo, or bowling, we've loved having quality time together.

I am grateful for a two days in Seattle during my recent Portland visit in June. I got to visit my old roomies, my old community group, a sweet friend who's soon getting married, and a few of my favorite stomping grounds (including Green Lake Park, pictured). There was a lot of growth and emotional healing that happened during my time in Seattle from 2010-2012 so it is always a sweet, reflective time when I go back and visit. So many reminders of the work God began in that season.

I am grateful for Greg planning a day together for my birthday. After a whirlwind month, we had not had any days all of June to spend together due to traveling to see family and working the days we were in town. We drove to nearby Fredricksburg and visited a beautiful winery, ate Tex Mex at a fun restaurant, and learned a lot about the Pacific War of WWII (including Pearl Harbor) at the National Museum of the Pacific War. We had such a fun time together! And the quality time with my best friend and beloved was the best birthday gift this girl could ask for!

I am grateful for a new passion for watercolor, specifically flowers. As an early birthday gift that I kept hinting at, Greg bought me a spot to a small floral watercoloring class in Portland during my visit in June. I learned some basic skills and the price included my own supplies, so I have been practicing atleast once a week since then. It's such a relaxing hobby. I have had selah time, pausing from my busyness to praise God while painting flowers.

I am grateful for the love story of one of my dearest friends. I have known her since third grade and she happens to be the one who introduced me to my husband, so she has a special place in my heart. Our friends from Oregon flew down to share in the joy of her wedding in July and we had a blast!

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SO many things to be grateful for! This was just the tip of the iceberg of the ways God has brought so much joy in 2017! It goes without saying that there were tough parts of 2017 as well, and I will share those soon, but I wanted to start my review with a big Thank You to my Heavenly Father as well as the wonderful people in my life for the year thus far. 

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Elle Alice