Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ten Things I Learned in 2015: A Reflection on My "Goals"

I love the week between Christmas and the New Year. There's so much hustle and bustle with Christmas. I'm usually last minute shopping and last minute wrapping and then there's the going back and forth between our house and the grandparents and my parents and my in-laws... by the end of Christmas Day, I'm ready for a nap... but it's a good kind of tired.

After all the gifts are open and the boxes are piled up and the junk food has been consumed and I'm in a sugar coma, there's the potential for the let down. As a young kid, I can remember being surrounded with presents, not knowing which one to play with first, but still looking ahead to the next stop. Never satisfied.

I'm not much better as an adult.

Not that I care about presents... but it seems like too often the anticipation of an event is greater than the reality... because we build things up in our mind.

But the New Year... it is glittery and shiny and full of newness.  Full of potential. Full of expectations that have not yet been unrealized.

So I plot and scheme and plan and look ahead... but I look back first, because I have to look at where I was and how far I've come (even if it is just an inch). 

And so that brings us to this blog post... what I've learned in 2015. 

1. I learned a lot about love.
The first goal I had was to focus on my one word, love. This is probably the hardest goal I could have set for myself, because love is so hard to define. As I looked at life through love, I realized that love means different things to different people, and that it would be true that I could never learn to love as God does without His power within me.

I also learned that love means forgiveness. It means action. It means being willing to admit when you were wrong and being willing to look past when the other person is wrong.

I also learned (or was reminded) that loving is hard. It's not always fun... but it is always worth it.

2.  I learned that discipline is not my forte. I truly wanted to write 365 posts on this blog, and I fell way short. I also learned that falling short is ok. I'm not a loser because I didn't blog as much as I wanted. I'm human.

3. I learned that exercise can be fun. I've lost around 40 pounds this year (give or take a couple... because I don't really know what I truly weighed at the beginning of the year, because the scales were not my friends.) I learned that pushing through when you don't feel like it really is worth it. While I'm still not a runner, I was much more consistent. I exercised three or more days every week this year, with the exception of a week in May when I had a stomach bug.

4. I learned that fellowship with God is about more than just checking something off on your to read list. I failed at reading my Bible through, but I found that when I was spending time in His Word, it was often just what I needed to read. I did complete a few in-depth Bible studies. Karen Kingsbury's The Family of Jesus made me consider those important characters in the nativity story. I cried when I thought of Joseph and his gentleness. I was overwhelmed when I thought of Mary's humble obedience. Mostly, though, I learned that God uses ordinary, everyday people to accomplish His Will- we just have to be willing, and He will make us able. Kelly Minter's What Love Is helped me hone in on my one word for the year. Seamless by Angie Smith taught me that the Bible doesn't have to be as complicated as we tend to make it. It's really just a love letter from God to us, drawing us to Him. And Beth Moore's The Inheritance, a video only session, made me think of Who I am in Christ. I learned that I am His portion. That amazes me. And through participating in ladies Bible studies at both Jackson Church of God and Providence Pentecostal, I learned that Christian friendship is essential, and sometimes we just need someone to be afraid with us, or to listen to us as we whine about the craziness of this world.

5. By not crossing something off of my bucket list, I learned that there's still plenty of excitement in the mundane. Several books I read this year were about appreciating every moment for what it is worth, even if it doesn't seem like it's all that great. I didn't have any outstanding adventures this year, but I did have a lot of absolutely fabulous small moments.

6. I learned that gratitude really does affect your mood. You can't complain and have a heart full of joy and gratefulness. Every since I read 1000 Gifts a couple of years ago, I've tried to keep my eyes open to the small, everyday gifts... again, appreciating the mundane. I also learned that at times you have to choose to be grateful. It's all too easy to get overwhelmed with life and not count those gifts.

7. To go along with number one, I learned that love in action really does affect people. I tried to perform several random acts of kindness this year, and also made some deliberate decisions to help others out. Some things were small, some were large. I tried to teach Caleb the importance of helping others, too, and how it was better to give than to receive. Thank you notes and messages and even the smile on recipients faces taught me that it's not always about how much or what you give... rather, it's just that you ACT on something.

8. I learned that if you set a goal for doing something that you love, it will be much easier for you to reach. I wanted to read at least 125 books this year, and because I love to read, I did just that. (You'll note that I did not do as well on my exercise goal!)

9. I learned that a goal you have to think about is difficult as well. I wanted to memorize 24 Bible verses along with Beth Moore's Siesta Scripture Memory Team.  I fizzled out in the third month. I would write the verse down, note it in my Bible, put it on a post it note... but then forget to look at it again. Memorization takes concentration, folks.

10. I learned that life is short. I saw the deaths of some young people this year. I had some family members receive scary diagnoses. I saw an aunt healed from a stroke and an unlikely x-ray turn into a cancer diagnosis that was corrected with surgery. Through it all, the mantra life is too short continues to run through my head, because while cliché, it is true. We only have this moment. While it's fun to plan in the new year, we never know what the new year holds. It could be infinite possibility, or undeniable sadness. We must be ready to embrace whatever life sends us. As I look to the New year, I'd like to encourage you to join me in embracing a life is too short perspective.

Life is too short to stay on a diet, so make sure whatever you decide to do to get rid of those extra pounds is something you can commit to. Life is also too short to never have chocolate cake ever again, so splurge every now and then.
Life is too short not to use your body as God created, so move. Every day. (Says the girl who still sometimes hates to exercise... But this time last year always hated to exercise.).
Life is too short not to laugh every day. Laugh until your belly hurts and tears run down your cheeks. We can't take it too seriously. Nobody gets out of here alive.
Life is too short not to appreciate who you have. Pursue people rather than possessions. We were made for relationships.
Life is too short not to be grateful. You're breathing. That's enough to be thankful for.
Mostly, life is too short to set yourself up for failure. Forget about the past and look to new opportunities. If you choose, this new year is gonna be great!!! Live in the moment and you will truly live.

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