My Word for 2016

In 2015, I focused on savor.  2014 was about the word grow.  2013 was a year to celebrate.  This year I’ve chosen the most challenging word yet.  I’m taking grow a step further and focusing on the word deeper.  To be honest, it makes me a little nervous.  I still feel some resistance to this word, but that’s how I know it’s the right one.  For my purposes here, deeper means trying harder, digging below the surface, being more intentional with my time and, really, whatever else God reveals to me this year.

Since it is already late March (ahem), I can talk about what deeper has looked like so far this year.  Here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned.  One way I can go deeper this year is to get more organized so that I can invest time in worthy causes without giving up my peaceful home hours.  

I’ve had a tendency to be too guarded with my time, so as part of my effort to live out my word for the year, I’ve tried to step up my involvement in activities when an opportunity comes up. In February, I ending up helping to plan events for two different groups that I’m involved with in the same week, and I almost didn’t recognize my life with so little down time.  [Please note that I realize this is just a normal week for some of you.  I’m talking to you, extroverts.  :)]  I felt guilty that I wasn’t home much during the day because Ben’s nap schedule was suffering and frazzled without my quiet time in the house to regroup.  Both events went extremely well, and knowing that I helped make them happen was really satisfying.  While I don’t regret participating, I also learned that it’s okay if I need a couple of quiet hours at home most days.

So, this gets pretty detailed, but I need to be able to refer back to it.  In no particular order, here are some goals that have developed out of choosing the word deeper, and steps I’m taking…

Get organized and balance my time

Steps Taken:

  • Drawing inspiration from women who have a routine or structure that is working well.  There are so many great ideas out there in the blog and podcast world, in addition to real life examples, of course.
  • Committing to some weekly routines like MOPS/Bible Study and story time at the library.
  • Being diligent with bed time and nap time for the baby.

Steps to Take:

  • Consider trying a bullet journal.
  • Try to structure time when Ben is sleeping so that I’m using it more effectively.

Go deeper spiritually

Steps Taken:

  • Joining a Bible study.
  • Attending church ladies’ retreat.
  • Having more consistent Bible reading time with my husband.  **work in progress

Steps to Take:

  • Embrace the renewed urgency I feel to deeper in my relationship with God and be prayerful and open to where he will lead.
  • Be fearless when he opens a door I might not have expected.

Build skills at home

Steps Taken:

  • Learning every day how to be a mom to this rapidly growing baby boy.IMG_0926
  • Repainting the cabinets in our guest bathroom!
  • Doing more reading and less TV watching, which makes me feel better about life.
    • TV is not an inherently bad thing, but it can become too time-consuming and even harmful to our spirits, in some cases.  When Parenthood and Parks and Recreation ended, for example, we didn’t replace them with new shows.  Now my beloved Downton Abbey has ended, too, (sigh) and the timing is good.  I’m getting a lot of book recommendations and making more frequent trips to the library.  My little guy is finally old enough for story time!  I cannot even describe the joy this brings to my inner literary nerd.  Libraries are a happy place.
  • Exercising most days
    • Right now that means a fast-paced walk with the stroller on the trail system near our house.  I love it and so does my boy.  This falls into the spirituality category, too.  It’s easier for me to find peace and connection with God when I am outside breathing fresh air and taking in natural scenes of trees and hills, etc.  It’s a win win.
  • In the kitchen— .
    • I made my own chicken broth. You know what?  It really does taste better.  🙂  It is definitely labor intensive, but one thing I love about cooking is how it reminds us that good things are worth waiting for.
    • I’ve enjoyed making food for Ben these last few months as well.  My personal favorite is sweet potatoes with applesauce and a pinch of cinnamon.  Que rico!
    • I’m finding some favorite meatless recipes for us, and I try to do a meatless meal at least once a week.
  • Trying to be more hospitable.
    • We love hosting family and friends for gatherings, whether special meals or just people stopping by.  We have done some of that already this year, and I’m really looking forward to some overnight guests coming up, too.

Steps to Take:

  • Get better at cleaning.
  • Make more progress on the long list of culinary endeavors I hope to tackle.
    • From scratch bread, yogurt, ranch dressing, some recipes from my fancy books, etc.
  • Start practicing yoga again.
    • I’ve heard about a great yoga YouTube channel, and I would like to start utilizing that to work on strength.
  • Take on more home improvement projects.
    • More painting, fireplace, yard…
  • Invest more time in writing.
  • Find more ways to be hospitable.

It should be an interesting and rewarding year, and I appreciate the accountability of being able to talk about my one word in this space.  Can any of you relate to the challenges I’m laying out for the year?  I would love to hear your experiences and any wisdom you have to offer.

Looking Back on My Word for 2015

I never wrote about my word for 2015, although I did choose one.  It was probably the most emotional, life-changing year I’d have thus far.  I didn’t write much at all in 2015, because I was busy living life as fully as I could.  I was tired with the pregnancy and, later, with a new baby, so I focused the energy I had on simply trying to savor my experiences.

Savor was, in fact, my word, and it fit the year perfectly.  It’s defined as “to give oneself to the enjoyment of.”  (dictionary.com)  I was not always successful, but choosing this word to focus on really helped me remember that I was in a sacred season.  I tried not to judge myself based on the standards we have in our culture for being “productive”.  I spent a lot of time holding my baby.  20150412-DSC_2611I tried to savor the awe I felt over this miracle God had done through my body instead of waiting impatiently for it to heal and shed the extra pounds I’d gained.  I even enjoyed the quiet of being home with Benjamin during the day.

I became a student of this little person and tried to learn everything I could about him.  We played music and cuddled, and I had many one-sided conversations and dance parties with him as he peered up at me.  Later, he began responding with meaningful coos and babble.  I watched him grow like crazy.  We went for walks on the trail near our house every day while I listened to podcasts.  Oh, how I savored (and still savor) our walks.  I love that he insists on fresh air and exercise every day.  My little outdoorsman.  IMG_0071-1In 2015, he learned new things each week or so, and it felt like I was constantly packing away darling little outfits that he only wore a handful of times.  I took a lot of pictures and videos and sent them to Bryan at work and to our families, sometimes.  I allowed myself to rest when I had an opportunity.  I started to enjoy cooking again!  It was like reconnecting with a beloved old friend.  I soaked in the joy of giving our families their first grandson/nephew/great grandson.  Watching them with Ben is pretty great.  IMG_0177I marveled at the fall leaves in our new neighborhood and took in a few sunsets with my sweetheart.  We started planning date nights and cherishing that quality time together.  I enjoyed my family’s first visit to Costa Rica and spent my birthday at one of my favorite places there.  Talk about savoring…IMG_0411

Even amidst all the adjustments—the sleep deprivation, leaving my job and figuring out new ways to interact with other adults, what it means for my identity to not be in the professional world right now, learning to breastfeed, having someone who is completely dependent on me, trying to balance our time and energy so that we’re still taking care of our marriage, changing our budget, feeling vulnerable in a way I had never experienced before…—even in processing ALL of this, it was an incredibly sweet, joyful time that I will always look back on with deep gratitude.

Now we are barely into the new year, but when I reflect on 2015 a lot of it feels almost like a beautiful, crazy dream.  I’m so glad that I choose savor for this past year, and I want to continue this practice.  I hope you will do some savoring of your own, too.  I will leave you with this song that helped define 2015 for me.  It was played often in our house and car.

My next post will reveal my word for 2016.  Grace and peace to you all.

Grateful for the Growing

I took a little blogging break this fall, and posts may continue to be more sporadic for awhile.  I will post the rest of our Italy trip, but I need to interrupt that series for a minute to share some exciting news.  Bryan and I are going to have a baby! Announcement When I chose my one word for the year, I have to admit that I didn’t just choose the word “GROW” because we were moving to a new place and starting new jobs.  I hoped that our family would grow this year, too.  Now I’m well into my 2nd trimester.  Aaahhh!  Oh, and we’re buying a house for the baby to live in.  If all goes smoothly, we will be moving in January.  I’ve been wanting to write about all of these life happenings in this space for more than a month, but it all felt like too much to express.  How do you begin to describe such an experience?  I’m still not sure.  But I’m writing nonetheless, because I’m tired of not writing.  🙂

I don’t think we really, fully believed that I was pregnant until the first sonogram in August.  Then I spent the next several weeks feeling horribly ill while trying to simultaneously keep myself from worrying that something could go wrong and also mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the possibility that something could go wrong.  This sounds completely crazy, and it has been, but maybe some of my mom friends can relate?  The first trimester was rough.  It wasn’t until mid-October that I started to get my energy back and feel like myself again.  This is a humbling experience in so many ways, and I’m thankful for all that God is teaching me.

These days, we’re feeling really thankful and full of joy.  Bryan and I have basically been grinning ear to ear since the anatomy scan at Week 18.  That’s only a slight exaggeration.  It’s a BOY!admin-ajax.php

I didn’t think it was possible for my sweet husband and I to be any more sappily in love with each other, but, my goodness, this has done it.  We are both the oldest in our family, and this is the first grandchild on both sides.  So, all of our relatives are going gaga over our unborn child, too.  It’s so much fun.  Do you ever have moments or even seasons of life when you realize that you’re making memories that you will always treasure?  It’s a rare gift (for me, anyway) to be aware of that while it’s happening.  I think it’s sometimes referred to as being nostalgic for the present.  I felt that way the semester I studied abroad and got to travel around Europe with some amazing friends.  I felt it when I met Bryan and periodically during our subsequent dating, engagement and newlywed seasons.  And I feel it now.  This time is so special, and I want to soak it up and remember everything.  I hope to capture some of the experience here with updates over the next few months.  Thank you for reading, dear ones.  We would appreciate your prayers during this incredible time in our lives.  We know that everything is about to change, and we are so glad to be on this adventure together.

Last year at this time, we were saying goodbye to my beloved Pawpaw.  I still sometimes can’t believe he’s not here with us anymore.  I’m so grateful for his life and for the blessing of this new life that brings some much-needed joy to this season for our family.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Recipes from my Sabbatical

Happy Friday, everyone!  Well, my word for the year is “GROW”, and I’m really making progress on that front.  The radio silence around here recently is due to some unexpected professional changes.  Change=growth, right?  Suffice it to say, I have a new job!  I’m at the same organization, and I am really excited about this new position.

In the interim, I had some time off.  It was harder than I expected.  I’ve never been one to turn my nose up at alone time, but after about the first two weeks even my introspective self was ready for some human interaction.  Some of the lovely souls in my life who are stay-at-home moms were kind enough to grant me some afternoons accompanying them on afternoon walks and preschool pick ups.  That was nice.  It’s still so weird to see friends that I knew as teenagers being moms.  It’s a GOOD weird, though.  I mean, just look at these cuties!photo (1)photo (2)

 

I got to visit Husband at work for the first time.  We work in different parts of the city, so having lunch with him was not normally an option.  It was great fun letting him show me around and introduce me to his coworkers.  He was a student when we got married, so this was my first time seeing him in his professional environment.  It suits him.  🙂

I didn’t feel inspired to write during this transition.  I like to process things internally before I’m comfortable enough to put them out in the open.  My other favorite form of creative expression is cooking, so I dove into that wholeheartedly.  I always dream about being able to make more things from scratch.  I cook quite a bit, mostly quick and simple things during the week.  I love recipes that use a lot of fresh ingredients, but they can be more time consuming.  So, I used this sudden surplus of free time to take on some new dishes.  Here are three of my favorites.

Pickles – Rachael Ray

Husband loves pickles, and I was craving some homemade ones.  I chose a recipe that would allow me to consume them more immediately than most pickle recipes.  In the end, they just tasted like slightly flavored cucumbers until I added more vinegar and allowed them to sit in the fridge for a few days.  Good things are worth waiting for.  Lesson learned.

Crispy Curry Chicken Tenders- Tasty Kitchen

I’m from the South, but I had actually never made fried chicken.  As a working woman, I just didn’t feel like I had time.  It seemed a bit intimidating.  They turned out great!  I love the curry in this, because it’s subtle.  You can’t quite tell what it is when blended with the other flavors, but it gives this traditional dish an extra oomph, if you will.  I love yogurt, and she incorporates it into the batter AND the delicious dipping sauce that pairs with the chicken.

Hummus – Ina Garten

I recently discovered tahini.  I’ve made hummus before, but a friend told me she always makes hers with tahini paste–which is ground sesame seeds.  The first thing I tried to make with it was chocolate chip cookies.  They were different…maybe a bit of an acquired taste, but they all got eaten.  This hummus recipe from my beloved Barefoot Contessa worked well.  The tahini paste gave it a bit more bite, and I used less garlic than she calls for because wow.

I started my first post-grad school job midway through 2010, and I had not taken a break from work since then.  So, though it was unexpected, I am grateful to have had some time off.  I am also glad to be working again now.  God provides.  My next post will be the long-awaited (by me, anyway) Part 2 of my post on being a connector.  Stay tuned, friends!

 

 

Finally Embracing the New Year and My One Word for 2014

Well, it’s the last day of January, so I guess it’s the last acceptable day to publish this post.  It’s good to know that my procrastination tendency didn’t fade out after college…

It was harder than usual this year for me to let go of the holiday season and move on to thoughts of a new year.  We had a funeral over Thanksgiving, photo 1a wedding right after Christmas…photo 2and a New Years spent thousands of miles away from my sweetheart.  It all felt like too much, and at the same time, not enough.  I felt cheated and disoriented for several weeks.  The holiday season is usually my absolute favorite time of year—starting with the cooler temperatures arriving (which is long-awaited each summer in Texas), all the way through Thanksgiving, our wedding anniversary and Christmas.  But things are changing.  And I’m ashamed to admit it, but I had a hard time with that.  When it comes to the holidays, I love special traditions and time for reflection.  I wait impatiently all year for the coziness and warmth of quality time with the family (and good food).  It all looked different this year, and I wasn’t ready for it.

It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve realized now, as I always do with time and prayer, that different doesn’t have to be bad.  I know I’m slow, but I get there eventually.  It’s a continual learning process.  I cannot recapture the joy of Christmases past, but I can change my perspective for future holiday seasons and find joy in new ways.  For instance, no holiday could be completely devoid of joy that included Chocolate Santa.  photo (2)And let’s think for a minute about what a blessing it is to have a family that you WANT to spend time with.  Furthermore, I look forward to a time when, Lord willing, I will be able see the magic of the holiday season through the eyes of my children.  That will be an entirely new kind of joy.

So, after some contemplation and reflection I have finally come up with my one word for 2014.  It’s GROW.  This year I will turn 30. (yikes)  It seems like a good time to focus on growing…relationships, opportunities to serve, my career, my marriage, my organizational skills, my writing, my exercise regimen, my brain, my connectedness with our new community, etc., etc.  The 30s are the time when you supposedly feel more grounded.  You’re more settled in your career/relationships/location and feel more comfortable in your own skin.  This sounds appealing to me, but when I take inventory of my life, it seems I have some growing to do.

I’ll go into some of my more specific goals later, but for now, suffice it to say I plan on challenging myself to grow this year.  I can’t wait.  🙂