“You Are Here” ~ 2018 in Review


January 1. This day is so reflective. So pensive. It’s a day when people tend to look back at the year before and think of the things they wish they could do differently, and make a bunch of pledges to themselves to really affect that change in their lives.

I’ve seen a bunch of posts circulating Facebook lately where people who normally go to the gym are preparing themselves for a busy month, where those who start running or going to the gym will show up for the first month and then never be seen again. I used to be that person.

I used to do something called Power Sheets. For the past two years, during my Christmas break and the month of December leading up to New Year’s, I’d sit down and do some intentional goal setting, decide on who I wanted to be by the time I was closing up the coming year, and what I needed to do to get there. I picked one word to define my upcoming year, picked some Bible verses to go alongside it, updated my vision board in my kitchen, and wrote down all my rationales for all my goals. I laboured over them in a very real way.

I tracked alongside those goals all through 2017, into 2018, and then quit in March. The process almost felt ingrained by that point and I felt like I was in a head space where I could keep track of my own goals without having to tick off boxes to prove it to myself.

I decided that this year will continue along the “I don’t need a book to help me set my goals” theme, but as 2018 was coming to a close I did decide there were a few things I’d like to work on. The one word thing always feels kind of cheesy to me, but it really allows you to narrow your focus down into one broad stroke where other goals can naturally thrive, rather than become overwhelming and too much.

One of the biggest things I learned in my year and a bit of intentional life planning was that there’s nothing magic about any given date. There’s nothing that says January 1st has to be the day you start making changes. If you’ve stumbled upon this post in June, on a rainy day on the 17th (for example), then let June 17th be the day you think about where you’d like to be when 2019 wraps up. One concept that really stuck with me through all of that was the idea that if I have an idea of what I’d like to have accomplished by the time I’m 80, I can’t get there if I don’t make smaller goals and work away at them. I did an about-face with the way I’d been eating and treating my body on July 3rd of 2018. If I had waited until January 1st to set some “New Year, New Me” goals, I wouldn’t be down 65 pounds and considering investing in hiking shoes because it turns out I like hiking….. if there are waterfalls at the end of the hike…..

So….. I guess I’m still goal setting in a way, even though too much of it feels oppressive, but I don’t want to be left in the same place I was coming into 2019 when I get to the end of it, so it’s good to set a FEW goals.

I have picked one word for 2019. I was torn. I waffled back and forth for a bit between “Present” and “Listen”. But I think that Present encompasses what Listen tries to communicate, but goes a layer deeper, which is what you’re going for when you’re only picking one word.

As an Enneagram 7, I find that my tendency is to lean into the future so hard, usually in anticipation of what’s to come (but sometimes to escape what’s right in front of me), that I miss the moments I’m in. I can get so caught up in what I’m looking forward to, what’s coming, what’s ahead… that I miss what I already have. It can make it hard to enjoy what comes, because the pattern doesn’t stop just because what’s in front of me is phenomenal. There’s still a “well what comes next?” feeling that persists. It’s what prompts me to plan vacations before the one I’m on is even finished. It’s likely what prompted me as a kid to run countdowns of days between where I was on the calendar and something I thought was going to be really awesome. (lol. as a kid. I still do this. who am I kidding?)

So, to sum up, 2018 has been a pretty great year. My word for 2018 was Strength. I definitely think I’ve gotten stronger this year. Physically, emotionally, spiritually — I think all around I’ve taken steps in the right direction. Ten years ago, if you’d told me this is where I’d be though, I think I’d have been disappointed. If at 24 you’d have shown me the life I was going to have, I would have looked ahead to it with dread rather than with glee and excitement. I certainly haven’t accomplished all the things I thought I would. But I’ve accomplished some things miles beyond what I ever thought I was capable of doing, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that had I not ended up here.

So, as I wander into 2019, I plan to be Present. I plan to be grateful, and to appreciate the little things that are right in front of me. That probably means fewer countdowns and less screen time. It probably means saying no more often and setting healthier boundaries — both on myself and on others. It surely needs to mean letting go of some of the anxiety I hold onto because I want to control things. And it definitely means that when I feel a nudge that I’m pretty sure is Holy Spirit trying to convince me to do something, I should listen… But all of those things feed into the goal of being Present. So in 2019, wherever I am, that’s where you’ll find me. I promise it’s less nomadic than that makes it sound.

What’s your word for 2019? Do you set goals? Do you make resolutions? Do you stick to them…..

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2018 — An obligatory New Year’s Day post


It is 2018.  It is January 1st.  Actually, in the time zone I inhabit, by the time I’ve hit publish on this post, it’ll likely be January 2nd.  Thankfully, I’m currently chilling in the Rockies and Mountain Standard Time has gifted me with two whole extra hours — something I’m thankful for tonight, but was annoyed by at this time last night as I set myself a reminder alarm to remember to text my Ontario peeps at 10 pm to wish THEM a Happy New Year!

Anyway, I digress.  Where was I?  Yes; it’s 2018.  Nothing really feels like it’s changed from yesterday.  But yet, so much has, hasn’t it?  We do this yearly.  We wait til January 1st to start things.  We spend the last week of December eating all the junk food in our houses in hopes to start fresh January 1st.  I was a day late with this silly plan and made my last bag of chips my personal mission for today.

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But it doesn’t have to be like this.  Futility doesn’t have to be our best friend as we launch into every single new year.  New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be a to-do list that extends no further than the first week of January.

In the fall of 2016, my dear friend Rachel sent me a link to this thing she’d heard of called Power Sheets.  Lara Casey and her team make them over at Cultivate What Matters.  It’s designed for intentional life planning.  Intentional goal setting.  Progress.  Not perfection.  Rachel and I dove right in.  We each ordered a set and split the shipping (since it has to come from the States and the shipping is steep), and we dug in.  (This year 6 of us ordered and split shipping — highly recommend this if you’re Canadian and want your hands on a set!)  We did the prep work while discussing all of our goals together, and we were ready over the course of about a month of intentional thinking, planning, and praying to meet 2017 head on.  For me, it felt like 2017 was going to be the year I finally got my act together and stopped making resolutions I couldn’t keep.  Resolutions I knew even as I made them I wouldn’t keep.  But it’s what we do, right?

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I can’t say that my Power Sheets were overwhelmingly life-changing in 2017.  Though maybe I can — it’s hard to achieve perspective since I don’t have a 2017 without Power Sheets to compare it to.  I don’t know.  It certainly wasn’t the productive year I’d hoped it to be.  The entire point to Power Sheets is to set goals, track your tending lists, make progress, and cover yourself in grace when you fall short of your own expectations.  After all, we don’t keep pushing into what we want to change when we feel defeated and like it’s hopeless, do we?  Progress.  Not perfection.  But I know they made some difference.  I was able to measure growth in some areas.  Some were more stubborn than others, and I’ve had to re-evaluate what I really wanted to see change in this year to make sure that I was choosing the right goals.  But more importantly, I’ve had to evaluate the why for my goals.  Why am I choosing this?  Am I choosing “be healthier” because I think people will like me more?  Or am I choosing it because I actually want health and I want to be able to do things I’ve only ever dreamed of — like learn to surf.  The prep work at the beginning of the planner for each year asks big questions and makes you look deep into the whys, and I know I got to the root of some of my wishes for 2018.

I don’t have my 2017 book with me.  I don’t have the list of goals I chose for 2017 with me because they’re in my book, and they’re in Ontario, and I am not.  But I do have the goals I’ve chosen for 2018, and I’d like to share them with you.  I’d like to be a little bit vulnerable and put them out into the air for the blogosphere to read.  This year, I’ve chosen bigger, over-arching goals.  There’s a Facebook group dedicated to Power Sheets users where a couple people have referred to them as “umbrella goals.”  They’re more like a topic where I want to do some work in my life this year, and then the more specific goals (which I have a lot of for 2018) will work their way into my monthly, weekly, and daily check-lists for each month.

Without further ado, here are my umbrella goals for 2018:

  1. Finances ~ Saving and not spending needlessly.  Obviously each month will have specific targets for this.  I’d been working on it throughout 2017 as well, and with some careful planning and some good timing, I managed to pay off a pile of debt in May, and have been relishing in the freedom of that ever since.  Can I recommend You Need A Budget (YNAB) to you?  Seriously, it changed my life in March of 2016.  Jesse Mecham, the creator, has written a book and it just released last week.  It’s on my list of things to do in January.
  2. Spiritual Growth ~ Depth.  I want a relationship with Jesus that is marked by reliance, listening, and trust.  That doesn’t come from just thinking about it and hoping it comes.
  3. Fun ~ Responsible Fun; Not running to fun to escape uncomfortable emotions.  This felt like a funny goal, but through a lot of introspection this year I’ve discovered something I don’t really love about myself.  Where I’d perpetually thought I just liked to have fun, it dawned on me that I’m prone to running to fun as soon as I don’t want to deal with something that doesn’t seem fun.  Awkward relationship situation?  I run away.  Work sucks?  I want to switch jobs — it isn’t fun!  Pain?  No fun.  Let’s go on vacation instead.  Where I want to goal-set around fun this year is to make sure it’s not my escape, as much as it is something that is just necessary to live.
  4. Mental Health — This is something I began to take very seriously in 2017, as I battled some anxiety that it turned out had been simmering just beneath my surface for a long time, and I’d never dealt with it.  I’ve started seeing a counselor, and I honestly can’t recommend a professional therapist enough — seriously.  You get to talk about yourself for an hour, and you don’t have to do anyone the social courtesy of listening back to them.  My goals here revolve around leaning into stress and anxiety and the situations that cause them so that I continue to get better at managing and reducing both of these things.
  5. Leadership — I am a leader.  For better or for worse, I’m in leadership positions in my church and at work.  I’m not sure how this happened.  I’m honestly not sure how I got here.  But people see potential in me, and I’d like to harness it for good!
  6. Health — this one is so common.  How many of us set healthy lifestyle New Year’s resolutions?  This one could be a whole post for me, but it’s a very raw spot at the moment, so… nope!  That doesn’t sound fun!
  7. Creativity — Brene Brown once said in a podcast interview I was listening to her on (For the Love with Jen Hatmaker) that “Unused creativity is not benign.”  It hit me to my core.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to write but have been too afraid people wouldn’t buy it.  I’ve wanted to paint but have been self-conscious because I’m not as good as someone else.  I’ve wanted to be a better musician but again, compare myself to others and always fall short.  But if unused creativity is harmful to me, then this needs intentional work as well.
  8. Bravery.  It has occurred to me that I am not that brave.  I’m a pretty big chicken, actually.  So 2018 needs to hone in on some of those areas where I could use some bravery the most.  I read Annie F. Downs’ book “Let’s All Be Brave” (buy it on Amazon here) in November, and I cried through parts of it.  I’m so ready to be brave.  So ready.  I highly recommend the book, but if you’re determined to stay seated in. your comfort zone, it may not be for you.  I’m doing her 100 Days to Brave devotional starting as soon as I get home (as it’s arrived in Ontario before I have).
  9. Adventure — I thrive on this.  It’s linked to my fun, and it’s linked to my finances.  I found a lot of my goals are linked to each other — I actually created a very messy flow chart that reflects that!  But I will have adventure based goals.  Where will I travel next?  Europe is calling — Scandinavia?  The South of France?  Switzerland (the land of my ancestral people)?  Who knows?
  10. Relationships — This is not just the romantic kind — though that’s pretty intrinsically linked to bravery.  I want to be intentional.  I want to be present.  I want to be brave.  In all of my relationships.

 

And there you have it.  My over-arching umbrella goals.

Do you set goals?  Do you make resolutions?  Do you keep them?  If you’ve been a successful Power Sheets user, I’d love to hear from you!  I really want them to help me make big changes this year!

Even if you don’t use Power Sheets, I highly recommend both of Lara Casey’s books.  They’re less intensive than using Power Sheets, but still give you lots of great tips and encouragement for living a more intentional life.  Get Make It Happen on Amazon here, and get Cultivate on Amazon here.

Power Sheets — and how I’m using them


Dear friends,

I’ve missed posting as of late, but I haven’t been able to find the words I’ve wanted to use to do it.  I didn’t even do the customary “these are my New Year’s Resolutions/New-Year-New-Me/Life Goals” post at the beginning of January, because this year is supposed to be different.

2017 is supposed to be a year for Focus.  Or, at least, that’s the “one word” I chose to represent my pending 2017 over the end of Christmas Break in December 2016.

I embarked on this journey with a couple of dear friends of mine with an Intentional Life Goal planner called Power Sheets.  Created and published by a rocking lady named Lara Casey over at Cultivate What Matters, I scooped up a one-year Power Sheets planner, and a Write The Word journal.

The whole idea behind this is not to pick specific “resolutions” — I mean, they’ve all fallen to the wayside by this point at the end of February anyway, haven’t they?  The whole idea is to really do some soul searching (there’s prep work at the beginning of the planner to help you narrow down the areas of your life you feel need pruning, tending, weeding, etc — if life were a metaphorical garden, I suppose) and come up with 10(ish) goals that you really want to work through between January and December.

What I love about the whole philosophy that Lara Casey has laid out is the stress on Progress, not Perfection.  Little by little progress.  Which is good, cuz let me tell you, there’s been an utter lack of perfection on my part when it’s come to how January and February have gone — I like that I can look at where I’ve made some progress — any progress — and rejoice in that rather than dwell on the areas I haven’t met my own standards.

Each month there’s a tending list — an area where you can really specifically narrow in on your goals and set monthly, weekly, and daily tasks or goals/ideas that you want to achieve.  For example, in my weekly goals, I listed meal planning.  I’d really like to get better at this.  I haven’t gotten any better at it at all, as I sit here writing this to you on my lunch, eating unsweetened apple sauce straight up out of the jar because I had pretty much nothing else appealing to stash in my lunch bag……. oatmeal, applesauce, and two clementines.  I eat like a four year old.  BUT the constant reminder when I check on my tending list to check other things off that I AM accomplishing (like I’ve seen a dramatic uptick in my prayer habits, even if I haven’t seen it in journalling/devos yet) reminds me that “oh yeah!  You wanted to meal plan!”  So I sat down this morning and I wrote out a meal plan and a grocery list, and I will stop on my way home and pick up ONLY the groceries I need, and be ready for the week.

The other thing I’m loving is the sense of community that it’s creating.  I have two friends locally that are into this, and we’re helping to check in with one another, and see how things are going.  There are also a couple of Facebook groups that I’ve joined since late December which have really impacted how I view this goal-setting endeavour.  Modern Planner is another such site of great tips and helpful ideas that I’ve started following, and I’ve connected with Kathryn’s (the creator’s) Facebook page as well.

Another feature of the planner that I adore is the reflection piece at the end of each month.  Granted, so far I’ve only reflected on January, but I was really encouraged by the ability to look back over my January goals and use how I felt about whether or not I accomplished what I’d wanted to accomplish daily, weekly, and monthly to influence what I chose to prioritize as my new habits and goals in February.  For example, I’d intended to write a Power Sheets blog in January……… I did not.  But I knew at the end of January that for as much as I love writing, and for as little time as it would take me to knock this off, there was no reason I couldn’t accomplish this in February, so I put it back in.  Now, I’ll be able to check it off of my monthly goals and celebrate its completion next week when I reflect back on the month of February.

One last feature that I adore is the space to write encouraging words, whether from myself or from someone else, in and around my goals — making sure I know I’m not doing this in my own strength and that there are people around me who are rooting for me, and who want my success just as much as I want my own.  It’s really encouraging me to be more mindful of the words I choose to use to describe my goals as well.  Setting goals like losing weight has always seemed really daunting to me, mostly because I like eating candy and baked goods more than I like the idea of being thin.  But when I can shift the focus of that goal to being more about being healthy, living a longer life, and accomplishing other things I’d love to be able to (like maybe taking some surfing lessons while I’m out West this summer — though I’m not on track for that at all lol), it seems to be easier to wrap my head around.  And it doesn’t carry the weight of disappointment that not losing a specific amount of weight does.

Anyway, I’m curious — have you used Power Sheets?  Do you use something else to help organize your life and your goals and plans?  What do you do?

 

31 goals


I turned 31 two weeks ago.  It felt just like any other day.  There was no fanfare, no trumpet blowing, no life-changing ‘a-ha!’ moment to signal that another year had come and gone.  Just some loving friends who made sure I wasn’t forgotten, took me out for dinner, went to wander around the local art gallery’s Christmas light display (which was bizarre with no snow…. weird), and then to Starbucks for a gingerbread latte.

It was lovely.

But at dinner, my dear friend Laurel encouraged me to set 31 goals, as I turned 31.  She said it’s something she started doing at around 27, and she’s really enjoyed it.

To me, it seems almost like having to make 31 New Years Resolutions, because my birthday is a mere 3 weeks from the moment when the entire world notices that another year has come and gone, but that’s neither here nor there.  I’ve decided to take Laurel up on her suggestion, and I’ve decided to set 31 goals.

I’ll check back in around this time in 2016 and let you know how I did

  1.  Read 40 books (So far this year I’m at 22 of the 25 book goal I set for 2015.  I think I can pull it off.)
  2. Write every day (summer 2016 — I’m not going to Camp for the first time in 6 years.  I think writing about SOMETHING every day is a solid aspiration).
  3. Be generous.  I’m not limiting this.  I just want to be open to the voice of the Holy Spirit and do what He tells me to with the money and time I’m blessed with — things like helping refugees and caring for the homeless.
  4. Actually use my Instagram account.  I just revamped it yesterday.  Follow me if you’d like: @epicwings84
  5. Love deeply.  Who cares if I get hurt?  Hurts heal, but regret takes longer.
  6. Learn to chord on my mandolin
  7. Learn to chord on my guitar
  8. Keep playing the violin
  9. Not hide my piano in its carry-case/bag, but actually play it every once in a while.
  10. Create a music nook in my basement — because 6, 7, 8, and 9
  11. Watch all the Star Wars movies.  I’ve never done it.  I want to know what they hype is about.
  12. Actually read my Bible.  I haven’t figured out what this looks like yet — whether I start a plan or just read, but I want that to be a Dec. 31-Jan. 1 deal, since I already missed my birthday goal start by 2 weeks.  Details to follow.
  13. de-clutter my home.  It’s so cluttered.  I can’t handle it.  I will be removing clutter, filing clutter, giving away and selling clutter.  And if I manage to pull out enough to clutter to have a sale of some sort, I will donate the proceeds to somewhere important — probably to refugees.  They hurt my heart and I want to help everywhere I can.
  14. pray more — not in a “God, this situation sucks please fix it” kind of way.  In a “I lean into the Spirit because the Spirit is in me, and let’s do life together” kind of way.
  15. Start running again.  This is a tentative, hopeful goal.  I don’t know if I can do it, because I wrecked my ankle a couple years ago.  When I stopped running, I then gained a bunch of weight, which leads me to 16….
  16. Lose 50 pounds.  Or more.  But at least 50.  But healthily.
  17. Eat good food.  Goal # 16 does not have to mean I don’t eat good food.  It means I stop eating sour keys and chips.  Seriously — big vices right there.  I just got a Ninja professional kitchen system for Christmas.  And a veggie Spiralizer for my birthday.  And a sweet frying pan.  I seriously feel like I can make anything.
  18. Learn.  I keep saying “if I were to ever go back to school, I would study….” Well, I’m not going to go back to school.  I haven’t paid off round 1 and 2 yet.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t just learn.
  19. do something adventurous and scary.  I haven’t decided what that is going to be yet.  Time will tell.
  20. Play more — do the things I love even if they seem a little childish and like a waste of time.  Like colouring.  Or playing in the rain.
  21. actually stick to my budget.  At the end of August, I created a spreadsheet that’s been really helping me watch where my money is going.  This needs to continue.
  22. Choose love.  Where I can judge, be snarky, be rude, or even just be apathetic… I must choose love.
  23. Practice my French.  I’m not teaching it anymore, and this is the third year in a row that I haven’t been using it regularly.  I don’t want to lose it.
  24. Drink water.  This sounds so cliche and ridiculous, but it’s something I really, really, really need to do.
  25. Take my vitamins every day lol.  See 24.  Also, I’m running out of goals.
  26. Take time to watch the sun both come up and go back down.  I tend to ignore the sunrises, because I firmly believe I should be sleeping, but they’re a part of the natural process, and their beauty is just as profound.
  27. Install a dog door in my back door so Kloe has freedom this summer — something she’ll miss not going to my Mom’s for 2 months.
  28. Road trip somewhere (in Ontario) that I’ve never been.
  29. Write a song.
  30. eat way, way less refined sugar
  31. Choose joy — life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

 

We’ll chat at the end of 2016 and I’ll let you know what I accomplished.  Do you have any goals?

Mirror Mirror


Look in the mirror. Does the person you see match the person you feel like on the inside? How much stock do you put in appearances? (WordPress prompt)

I have to be honest.  I wasn’t going to write this prompt (it’s from two days ago).  It strikes me as just the kind of thing that takes away from my One Word for this year (value) and makes me focus too much on outward appearance.  But I came across some pictures that are a few years old today, and they pretty much broke my heart.  Let me tell you why.

I don’t like to put too much stock in appearances.  Or at least…. I like to think that I don’t like to put too much stock in appearances.  But I think that when I am really honest, I actually put a lot of emphasis on it.  And it bothers me how much emphasis I do seem to lay there in my life.

You see, here’s the deal…. I’ve written about my struggle with weight before.  I’ve written about my struggle with self esteem before… I’ve even tried writing love letters to my body…. I’ve struggled with both of these things fairly consistently since I was 8-10 years old, and it pains me to admit that, but it’s true.  And I don’t know how to fight it.

Sometimes it feels like the voices in my head that tell me I’m fat and ugly and not worth anything have gone away… and then sometimes they show back up, and they pop back in, and they mess with my brain, and they make me want to hide.

Today is one of those ‘I want to hide’ days.  I truly do.

I was going through some pictures in iPhoto, trying to select some that I needed to print for a Grade 1 Science project for tomorrow.  I scrolled too far back, and ended up scrolling through the pictures of trying on bridesmaid dresses for my Mom’s wedding… almost three years ago.  If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know that I recently had a bit of a debacle with dress fitting… because my brother’s getting married and I’m in the wedding party… and I’m a size 18.  Well, I found these pictures from when we were trying on dresses for my Mom’s wedding… of me in the dresses I was loving life in… because I was thin.  I hadn’t done it properly… I know that… but I was thin.

IMG_0724 IMG_0743 IMG_0748

But I still thought I was fat.

I remember being very self conscious that day because my arms were flabby and I still didn’t like my legs.  I look at the pictures now, and I wonder how I ever thought it would be a good idea to trade that body for food… but that’s precisely what I’ve done, because now I need to start all over, and I want to… but it’s so disheartening to know that I did it once… and now I have to do it again.

I don’t know what the solution is other than to give it back to God yet again, and to ask Him to help me see my own value.  And I’m not saying that isn’t a good idea… I know that’s a good plan… I just wish I could stay rooted there.  I never seem to stay rooted there… and then everything comes sneaking back.

I know I’m supposed to be seeing value here… but I’m struggling with that tonight.

So… long story short, yes, I suppose I do put stock in appearances… but more in my own than in anyone Else’s.

I am feeling defeated tonight.  Please pray for me.  That is all.

The dreaded 2014 budget.


It’s that time of year again.  Even if you’re like me and decided not to make ‘New Years’ Resolutions’ per se, and you’ve only chosen one word, the beginning of the year is still valuable for some things.

Budgeting, alas, is one of them.  I have a tendency to start out strong, and make these beautiful budgets up and determine how many thousands of dollars I’m going to save or put extra onto my debts.  I do it every January.  I calculate, number-crunch… what have you.

And by February, I’m wondering why I don’t know where my money went again.

I’d like to say that I want this year to be different.  It’s my hope that by sharing my intentions (and some of the resources I found today) on here, that people who love me and read this (*cough* my parents *cough* wink wink nudge nudge) will keep me accountable to this goal.  I like the idea of seeing where my money goes.  Knowing where every cent has been spent or used (either well or poorly) makes me happy on the inside…… but this hasn’t always been true.  Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up A LOT this year.  Maybe it’s because I have a plan in mind for all those extra cents (I am redecorating in March, plus I really want a new violin), or maybe it’s even because I am working on getting myself ready to someday be married, and managing my own finances is a huge step toward being able to help manage a family’s finances.  Whatever the reason, I want to be a good steward of what I’ve been given.  It’s all part of valuing myself (see my One Word post), knowing that the time I spend working for all that money is worth something, and there’s an end product that doesn’t need to be squandered at fast-food joints and clothing stores.  That’s right — squandered.

Anyway, I thought I’d show you some of the nifty resources I found while I was perusing the internet (with a purpose!) today.

I made a budget binder.  In it, you’ll find the following things.

First of all, a financial checklist for all the bills.  I find I have a terrible time remembering whether or not I’ve actually paid a bill.  I set reminders on my iCal and on my phone, but sometimes those arrive at inopportune times, and I think it’ll be very helpful to be able to look at this on Saturdays (my proposed budget review day), and go “yup, I’ve paid all those that were due.  Excellent.”

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Secondly, a printable budget sheet that is broken down into every category imaginable.  I didn’t have to use them all, but it’s fantastic.  And if I need them in the future, they are there!  I printed 12 of these, and they are all labeled with the correct month.  This one doesn’t have an image, it just goes right to downloading the PDF, so check the link out here.

Thirdly, an expense tracking sheet so that I know precisely how money was spent and where, especially in the areas that weren’t budgeted… like my copious trips to Subway and Wendy’s.

found at http://couponsnob.net/2011/12/25/free-printable-expense-tracker-and-instruction-sheet/

Fourthly, a monthly calendar template, which I also printed 12 of, so that I can write down when each bill is due and put a check mark in it when it’s paid.  I’ve also highlighted the bills that DO NOT come out of my account automatically, because I believe there are only 3 or 4 left in my life that aren’t automatic withdrawal.  It may surprise you, but these tend to be the ones I forget to pay 😉

found at http://eprintcalendar.com/monthly-calendar-template-pdf/

Lastly, and this is not budget related, I printed a weekly meal planner.  Well, I guess it’s sort of money related… because I suspect it will save me money at the grocery store, knowing exactly what I need to buy for the week instead of just guessing.  I have a terrible habit of over-buying and then I can’t eat everything I bought before it all goes bad, and I have to throw stuff out.  It disgusts me.  I’d like to stop doing that.  Never mind my hard-earned money, it’s just such a disastrous habit, and the money I save in not doing it could be funneled into a charity that takes care of those who lack enough food to eat on a week-to-week basis… and isn’t that a bigger issue than just “I bought too many baby carrots?”  My meals are planned for this coming week, and I’m going grocery shopping after church tomorrow, buying ONLY what is on that list.

found at http://domestic8d.blogspot.ca/p/printables.html

In completely unrelated news… in an effort to value my health, my life, and the piles of money I spent previously on clothes that used to fit me and now truly don’t, I am dropping refined carbs and sugars like they’re hot …. and I’m dropping them cold turkey.  I can’t see any other way to do it.  I know they’re my stumbling block to weight loss.  Bread, pasta, candy, and chocolate always have been.  I know I need to lose weight — not to ‘look better,’ but because I refuse to buy new clothes again when I can just eat better, and because I know I felt better thinner.  I don’t have a goal weight in mind, I just want to feel better physically.  Sadly, I know the only real and effective way for me to do this healthily is to eliminate the foods that cause me to keep weight on.  Everyone’s bodies are different.  Mine likes to hold on to simple carbs like there’s no tomorrow, and it doesn’t seem to matter how hard I try to wean myself off slowly, I also crave them intensely.  It’s not just a sugar problem, though.  I wrote a post a year ago today after I finished reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Made To Crave, about how I use food in a way that it shouldn’t be used… and I’ve slipped back into bad habits.  I need to give up these things, and go to God with my cravings when they show up — not the cupboard.  That being said, if we have to cross paths in the next little while, I’m sorry…. because the sugar withdrawal is hard to go through for the first few days.  I’ll do my best to stay pleasant and not take it out on innocent bystanders….  but it must be done.  Pray for me, friends?

Progress


“When you look back at your blog on January 2, 2015, what would you like to see?”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately, and thanks to WordPress, today I get to write about it.  I haven’t started with BlogHer’s prompts, yet, because WordPress’s have held my attention so far, but there appear to be some good ones coming from BlogHer, since January’s NaBloPoMo theme is ‘Pressure,’ and I feel like that topic can stir some stuff up.

Interestingly enough today, though, I can combine them both and talk about the pressure I’ve created for myself to blog well this year.

When I look back at my blog, this blog, on January 2, 2015, I really hope that I can say I’m proud of whatever I accomplished, regardless of what that is.  I have hopes and dreams for this blog, to be sure.  It’s becoming a baby of mine, in that I want to see it grow and flourish, and I want a base of readers built so that when I go to write my book (probably starting this year, I think I’m ready!!  …. that’s terrifying…), there will be people who want to read and buy it.  What’s the point in writing a book no one will read?

I gain followers with every post that I write, so I figure if I’m writing regularly, this trend in theory should continue.  And ultimately, I work much better under pressure so if I’ve created a little bit of pressure… perhaps I can create a diamond out of my blog?  This has inspired the theme change you may have noticed.  I figured after over 2 years with the same look, it was time for something new.  It may change a few more times in the next day or so… but, you know… New Year, new changes 🙂

 But my biggest hope and goal when I look back in 2015 is that no matter whether I’ve gained 1000 followers, or none, I’m able to smile at the personal reflection that writing lets me do, and that I’m able to smile and say I’ve done well for myself.  My ultimate goal in blogging is to reflect and express, so if I’ve done that, I’m happy 🙂

One Word for 2014. Some goals, and my favourite posts from 2013.


I had actually already thought about my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 when I read She Loves Magazine’s One Word idea for the year.  I’ve decided to combine this with Mama Kat’s writing prompts, and add in my top 12 blog posts from 2013 and to talk about some Resolutions, or anti-resolutions if you will.

Here’s what I love about this one-word idea, to get myself back on track.

You pick one word for 2014.  Not a bunch of New Years’ Resolutions.  Not a bunch of lofty probably unattainable goals that you’ll be discouraged over later.  No.  One word.  I had already thought about it.  I had already given 2014 enough thought to decide that the only thing I’ll be ‘resolving’ is this:  value.  I will value myself.  I will value those around me.  I will refuse to devalue myself on account of things of this world.  I will wrap my value up in things of Christ, knowing that that’s where my true value is to be found.  I described this idea to my parents as “I will be less hard on myself,” but when I saw the One Word idea put out by She Loves, I wracked my brain for one word.

So the things I’m not resolving to this year, because I’ve resolved to them every year and failed:

I’m not going to put a number on weight loss.  Instead, I’ll value myself enough to make healthy choices, and if that results in weight loss — awesome.

I’m not going to put a kilometre goal on running.  I haven’t been able to run in such a long time because of a stupid ankle injury from LAST CHRISTMAS that I may stick with boxing and take up swimming instead anyway :p  I will value myself enough to know that I don’t need to obsess, and that if I don’t get in a certain number of kilometres or minutes or whatever… accomplished in a week, that doesn’t mean I’m a failure or that I should be so hard on myself.

I’m not going to put a ‘I hope to be in a committed relationship before I’m 30’ marker on this year, because that doesn’t value my singleness or myself AS a single individual.  I will instead recognize that I have value whether single or coupled.  Besides, I’m currently rocking the preferable term, ‘independently owned and operated.’

I have a few things I’d like to accomplish this year, certainly, but these things have less to do with beginning a new year, and more to do with being a person who likes to set goals for herself.  Most notably, I’d like to rock the violin this year.  I’m starting a 52 week money saving challenge with the end goal being a stellar (probably refurbished) violin which was not made in China and which will not break as easily (mine’s currently with a repair guy and I have a borrowed one.  Handing it over to a stranger was like turning over my baby.  It was sad).  I actually may have a resolution for 2015… I’d really like to enter the Canadian Open Fiddling Competition held every year in Shelburne.  I went with my Grandparents for the first time this past August… and I was enraptured.  I don’t think I’ll be ready for this August.  Maybe next year though 😉

Ann Voskamp summarizes really well my thoughts on heading into 2014.  I want to fall forward, not stumble backwards.  Check this out.  Wonderful words, here.

And as I get ready to usher in 2014 with One Word, I’m going to bid 2013 farewell with a few of my favourite blogs from this year (both my posts and those that I follow).  I’ll do 12 of each.  One for each month, I suppose.  Check out Sarah Bessey’s post along the same idea.

First:  Blogs I followed.

Tim and Olive, Olive To Run, A Holy Experience (Ann Voskamp), Jen Hatmaker, Sarah Bessey, Megan Gahan, Sometimes Screaming Helps (Sarah Richardson), Holley Gerth, She Loves Magazine, The Young Woman’s Bucket List, Mama’s Losin It, Darcie the Kindred Spirit, The Road To Rome, Avoiding Neverland (I know… that’s 14.)

Second:  My top 12 posts from 2013.

1.  My ‘2nd Blogiversary Post — I Will Not Humour the Cray Crays.‘  I wrote this just kind of summarizing my most recent dating experiences, and didn’t expect it to get kind of out of hand.  Blog Her picked it up and featured it and it got like 1300 views or something insane like that.  For a fairly newbie blogger, it just blew my mind.

2.  I Am Not Bible Barbie.  This was another one that kind of blew up on me.  I had decided that I’d had enough of being held to this impossible standard by potential suitors, and some friends and I were talking about it at church, and this happened.  And then 450 views happened.  It was my first big post, and the first one that blew up without help from anything else.

3.  The More Boys I Meet, The More I Love My Dog.  I’d been on an AWFUL date.  Seriously, read the story.  I decided that I’d better channel it into good writing that would get new readers, lest I sit around and mope.  It was good therapy 🙂

4.  I Don’t Want to Marry Bible Ken.  The day after I wrote I Am Not Bible Barbie, it occurred to me that I had picked on guys for holding us women to this impossible standard, when we do the same thing to them, and that I don’t want to keep looking for the ‘perfect’ guy.  Read on to find out why 🙂

5.  Singleness is not a disease, nor a curse, nor an affliction… nor is it a problem of mine for others to solve.  I wrote this post about a year ago.  Someone obviously had a ‘solution’ to my singleness problem.  I haven’t re-read these posts, so I don’t remember what prompted it, but it sounds angsty.

6, 7, 8, and 9 were parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 in a series of stories I wrote about a girl named Anna (fictional) who was sold into the sex trade.  I wrote it for The Exodus Road, an organization which works to spread awareness about sex trafficking and the work that’s being done to combat it.  Read Part 1 here.  Part 2 is herePart 3 is hereAnd Part 4 is here. Please read them.  They were hard to write because the details were supplied by Exodus Road, and I knew they were technically fictional, but it was gut-wrenching to think that even though I was making this up, it could very easily have happened in real life.

10.  How I Feel About Endings — A Tribute to My Buddy, Jack.  Hardest post to write this year probably.  I wrote it in the days before we had to have one of my Mom’s dogs, Jack, put down… he was very sick, we had no choice, really.  But it was really hard.  So hard.

11. A Picture’s Worth A Whole Lot… Apparently.  I updated my profile pictures on the dating sites I was registered on because a friend of mine showed me how to use makeup…. and like magic, I had a whole bunch of interest generated.  It caused me to reflect on the value we place on looks.

And tied for number 12 (yes, I know that means I have 13… but I have 4 tied into one story that took 4 months to finish, so I think it’s fair.  Also — it’s my blog.  #idowhatiwant)  “My ‘come-to-Jesus’ moment about Rob Ford’ and ‘A Duck Call for Love.’  Both of these posts were written in response to public figures blowing it in view of the entire Western World, and how I feel like there has to be a better way to do things than we’ve been doing it.  As Christians, we’re called to love, and that’s what both of these posts are aimed at.

favourite TV

Bones, NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, Nashville, Chicago Fire, Rick Mercer Report, Elementary, Castle, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, and… apparently there are only 11 of these.  That’s ok.

Books:  Confession ~ I didn’t read anywhere close to 12 books this year.  I’d like to read more in this next year.  I guess that comes with valuing my intelligence and not squandering so much time on Facebook?  We’ll see how that goes.

Pirates of Savannah, The Sacred Search, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Made To Crave, Every Body Matters, The Sweet By and By, Love Lifted Me, Softly And Tenderly, Flabbergasted.  I can’t think of any more that I read this past year.  There might be more, though that number in itself kind of shocked me.  I have a giant stack beside my bed to get through still, so… we’ll see how that goes :p  Next on the list, which I’m really excited about (just have to finish The Sacred Search first), is Real Men Don’t Text, by Ruthie Dean.  Can’t wait.

Movies: I should preface this — I’m not super picky when it comes to movies.  I’m pretty easy to please.  The only one I really didn’t like was The Heat.

The Hobbit, Frozen, The Butler, Captain Phillips, 12 Years A Slave, The Family, Oz the Great and Powerful, Gangster Squad, Safe Haven, Olympus Has Fallen, 42, Runner Runner.  Those are just ones I saw in theatres.  Like I said, I’m pretty indiscriminate.

Music:  I could never pick just 12 songs.  I guess I can pick 12 artists, though.  Note:  I fell in love with Eastern Canadian Folk Music this year.  So…. get ready for this.  That’s right… The Rankins are in there.  Classic, 1990s Rankin Family.  On repeat in the car for the last 5 days.  Straight.  Legit.

Charlie Worsham, Natalie MacMaster, Leahy, The Rankins, The Band Perry, Luke Bryan, Third Day, Dixie Chicks, Sugarland, Duelling Fiddlers, The Piano Guys, Lady Antebellum, Lindsey Stirling.  I know, I know, that’s 13.  It’s the best I could do.

And that’s it, guys!  That’s it for 2013!  Stay tuned for January.  Another NaBloPoMo kicks off January 1.  Am I insane for taking the challenge during a Report Card month?  Probably, but it could lead to some really entertaining (albeit brief) posts 😉

Made To Crave


So I’m reading a new book, called Made To Crave, and it’s by a great writer named Lysa TerKeurst.  The general idea of the book (while I admit I’m not that far in yet, I just started) is that we are made to crave.  I know, complicated, right?  God designed us to crave.  Not food, though.  We’re wired to crave and what we should crave is that relationship with Jesus that I know I need.  But because we’re messed up and we suck a little bit, and we’re not great at this life thing because our sin and our desires for “the flesh” (anything that’s not that relationship with Jesus but rather the things of this world) get in the way, we replace that need for Jesus with needs for other things.  For some, it’s food (that’s me.  I crave food).  For others, it’s other things.  Essentially, as Lysa explains, it’s anything that takes the place of that relationship… it becomes an idol then.

I’m enjoying this book, I’m getting a lot out of it.  It’s making me conscious of my eating habits.  It’s making me think.  Think BEFORE you eat.  BEFORE you bend to the temptation of that junk food, rather than feel regret after and hate yourself for succumbing to the temptation.

Normally, my biggest struggle is in the grocery store and in fast food.

And it hit me this week, not really be a ‘revelation’ or some big epiphany… but through a McDonald’s flyer full of coupons.  Check this out.

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I am MADE to Crave.  And McDonald’s knows that.  McDonald’s marketing team knows that everyone on this planet is wired to need to fill themselves with something.  So they’re trying quite ingeniously to convince me that I need to fill myself with McDonald’s.  As if I don’t want McDonald’s often enough, now in my mailbox at my home, I have not-so-subliminal messages TELLING me to CRAVE!  Look!  $45.00 of valuable coupons inside!  For crap that makes you feel disgusting the instant is starts to digest, when even though I’m pretty useless in the kitchen, I can make better food for myself.  I am made to crave, but not the Golden Arches.  I am made for something more than this.  I will not be held captive by those golden arches.  I put all $45.00 worth of coupons into my recycling bin.  I was going to take a picture, but it’s dark and cold and my recycling bin is currently full of snow *insert grumbling here*.

I’ve combined two “New Year’s Resolutions”….. but Ann Voskamp said something interesting in a recent blog post that stuck with me.  Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  Make New YOU Resolutions.  So I’m making resolutions for a new me.  Resolutions that I can’t keep without God’s help, and I’m professing them here, hoping, praying, etc. that it can work this time.  I’ve never done it with God before, I’ve always done it on my own.  So this is new.  New me.

New Me Resolution # 1:  Budget every penny so that I know where my money goes.  I spend too much time wondering where my money went.  Wondering how I can afford to pay everything each month.  But when I look at what I make and what I need to pay, there is no reason for that.  I can afford to do absolutely everything I need to do.  Note, need.  What I can’t afford is to recklessly spend because I’m not keeping track.  So I’m keeping track.  Of every cent.  Not that I don’t plan to have a little bit of fun and not that I don’t plan to eat or whatever… I just really want to know where my money is going… I’m sure no one likes the feeling that it’s slipping through your fingers.  As it turned out, the way that I budgeted, as long as things don’t go terribly wrong (car breaks down, whatev…), I have 200 a month going into savings as well as an extra 200 a month going to debt repayment above the minimum payments.  Who knew, if you budget, you can not only not burn through everything you have, but you can save too!  Lookit that!

New Me Resolution # 2:  I will make conscious decisions about what I eat.  This does not mean I will not eat any junk at all.  Let’s be honest, this is going to happen.  But it does mean that I will think before I eat.  I will ask myself:  Am I eating because I’m hungry?  If I’m not, I need to step away.  As Lysa TerKeurst quotes in Made To Crave, everything is permissable but not everything is beneficial.  I forget the scripture reference.  I believe it to be in 1st or 2nd Corinthians somewhere.  At any rate… so I’m allowed to eat chocolate… but is it beneficial?  No, not really.  Not when I feel like I am not where I want to be.  So here’s the thing:  Is my goal to get skinny, and wear skinny jeans and leggings and chunky sweaters and boots everywhere?  And cute skirts?  If you look at my Pinterest “My Style” board, that’s certainly what you’d see.  That’s what I have posted.  Would I love to not feel self conscious in a bathing suit?  Absolutely.  But I want those to be fringe benefits to making choices that glorify God because I’ll need to rely on Him to make them.  I am beautiful regardless, because I’m created by a God who doesn’t make mistakes.

I feel like my New Me resolutions go really well together — part of my endless spending without really thinking has been on fast food and junk and going out too often when I really couldn’t afford it.  So… budget.  Stick to that.  Watch where every penny goes.  Make conscious decisions about what I eat.  Save money for things like my March Break Georgia Road Trip.  Look good when I go.  Ultimately — draw closer to my Father as I am forced to rely on Him for the strength to succeed in either of these areas.

What I’m finding, is that this will not be simple.  It seems simple in its very basic ideology.  But it’s not simple at all.  We’re wired to fight this every step of the way.  At least, I am.  I’m wired to do this for myself, by myself.  I’m wired to lose weight because I feel fat.  And as a result of that, I’m wired to fight for control, count every calorie, and obsess.  I don’t want to go there ever again.

I went grocery shopping this afternoon, and I found to be true what I’ve always really known — eating healthy is expensive, and sale prices are strategically placed on all things terribly delicious.  I snapped some pictures.

Aaaaaand the pastries.  Cookies.  Etc.  Hello, all of my weaknesses.  You lost today, too.
The pastries. Cookies. Etc. Hello, all of my weaknesses. You lost today.  I am made for more than to crave you.  So I walked away… but not until after I snapped a picture to prove my victory, of course :p

The bulk candy section.  Walk.  Away.  And I did.
The bulk candy section. Walk. Away. And I did.

Like these!  I know they're all high fructose corn syrup and glucose-fructose and that there's zero nutritional value to Pop Tarts what-so-ever, but I love them, ok?  When they're on sale, I battle my inner fat kid.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Sorry fat kid, you lost today.
I have to ignore things in the grocery store…. Like these! I know they’re all high fructose corn syrup and glucose-fructose and that there’s zero nutritional value to Pop Tarts what-so-ever, but I love them, ok? When they’re on sale, I battle my inner fat kid. Every. Single. Time. Sorry fat kid, you lost today. All photos taken on my iPhone.

This is my lot of groceries from today.  It's not the best, I'm sure it could still be healthier, but wait until you scroll down and you see all the things I walked past and ignored, even though they were on sale.
This is my lot of groceries from today. It’s not the best, I’m sure it could still be healthier, but I feel a victory over the things I walked past and ignored, even though they were on sale…. and I have none but God to thank for that.  My own willpower is not strong enough to do this.

Europe's Best -- Produce of China.  That's some tricksy marketing right there.  I know, I know, Europe's Best is merely the brand name, and of course they have to get the Oriental Mix veggies from China... but I have some issues with buying vegetables frozen from China when I can buy veggies from Ontario.  I put them down, mostly because I didn't like half the stuff in them, but... wowzers.
Europe’s Best — Produce of China. That’s some tricksy marketing right there. I know, I know, Europe’s Best is merely the brand name, and of course they have to get the Oriental Mix veggies from China… but I have some issues with buying vegetables frozen from China when I can buy veggies from Ontario. I put them down, mostly because I didn’t like half the stuff in them, but… wowzers.

Anyway… there are my thoughts for today.  We were made to live for so much more.  So so so much more than being ruled by insecurity, food cravings, and poor spending habits.  I will conquer these two bad habits in 2013 (and beyond!  Because it’s new ME, not new year…).

New Year’s Resolutions — and other important things to blog about on January 1


So I read a blog this morning about New Year’s Resolutions.  I had been thinking about them quite a bit myself in the last couple days… and largely, how pretty much no Resolution I’ve ever made has ever stuck.  There was one year where it stuck — the resolve to lose a bunch of weight in 2010.  It worked, but more out of a need so desperate to have control over something… anything… in my life, that I was able to grasp control of that one thing and not let go.  And it worked.

But while yes, it worked, it’s about the only one, as I said, that ever has.  And I’m sure that’s not how God intended for me to make resolutions.

I’d rather make covenants with God, to be honest.

And church this morning was such a huge confirmation of that.  Even the Preacher stood at the front and talked about how he doesn’t want to make resolutions this year because he’s never able to keep them, but that the only thing he wants to do this year is to constantly refocus on the Good News of the Gospel — the Gospel that’s for everyone.

I had considered a resolution to lose weight (I gained a bit more back than I’d have hoped after my successful 2010 resolution), one to focus less on dating, one not to worry so much, one to procrastinate less….

And then it occurred to me……..

“All of these things I want to ‘resolve’ to change could all be taken care of in ONE covenant/resolution/commitment.  Whatever word you care to use for it.”

So here’s my New Year’s “resolution:”

To constantly give my life to God, everything in it.  My finances, my dating/love life (or significant lack thereof {and that includes embracing my singleness as the gift that it very much is for the season that I’m in it}), my job, my relationships with family and friends.  My free time, my hobbies, my eating habits, my exercise habits.  Relying on God for the provision that I need in all things will make all the things I struggle with easier.

Now don’t misunderstand me.

I’m NOT saying that fully relying on God is going to make everything a happy go-lucky joy-ride sailing through life.  We’re not promised that.  But the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow loves me enough to care about how my life goes, and I trust that He’ll honour that commitment to drawing closer to Him and getting into a deep relationship with Him in the ways He sees fit.  And while I know that what He sees fit may not (let’s be honest, will not) always be what I was hoping for, or what I thought best… I also know that whatever the circumstance, whatever happens — He works all things together for my good.

And that’s a comforting thought to go to bed with.

What are some of your New Year’s Resolutions?  Did you make any??  Do you keep them???  I’d love to know.