Challenges, Community, Living Free, Motherhood, My Story

2017 Recap + 2018 Goals :)

HAPPY 2018, Y’ALL!!!

Does anyone else feel a sense of expectation at the beginning of this new year? It feels like God is up to something. I’m very encouraged & curious about what’s to come in 2018.

With each new year, I love to reflect on the one we’ve just walked through & share dreams & vision for the next one! 🙂 I’d love to hear yours, too.

Our Highlights from 2017

Family

As new parents to a 19 month old, our life was one of constant adjustments & surprises. We’ve never done this parenting thing before, so we’re surely learning as we go 🙂

Last year, my daughter had many big milestones — eating her 1st foods, walking!, turning 1 (& huge party to celebrate), lots of new teeth, sleeping through the night finally (PTL!), spending her first night away at Gigi’s, then 4-nights at both Grandmas’ when we flew to New Orleans for a wedding, saying new words & phrases (& all the cute animal noises!), & many other things.

Abigail’s 1st word was spoken last NYE (“Mama!”), so 2017 she went from 1st words to MUCH more. Now she gives & receives simple commands & liberally employs that powerful 2-letter word No! (& its evil twin Mine!). We’re learning babies grow incredibly fast & are SO smart & continue to marvel at how perfectly they’re created!!

With that said, our connection as a couple dwindled last year as we focused on meeting the needs of a {rather demanding} adorable little child 😉 This year, we’re resolving to put our marriage 1st again with weekly date nights — more on this to come!!

Career

My husband’s two jobs kept him very busy. He sold real estate & ramped up his new role at the company he’s been with for over a year. There was a lot of hard work, transition, & juggling between both roles & our family, but he did it [and I’m very proud of him]!

2017 began with me starting a (sweet) full-time, work-from-home marketing job, but after a month & a half of juggling work and nannies and time with our daughter (& mommy tears!), my employer & I decided to part ways. It was the perfect decision for our family, & I was so relieved. It also clarified my purpose: Writing & encouraging women to impact their communities for the Lord! 🙂 

Now my husband works from home full-time, and I sometimes work on new projects remotely, too. Yet as our daughter’s needs have ramped up in recent months (read: she’s running everywhere, has boundless energy & is ripping through our house like a tornado! 😀 Plus she wants lots of attention), my work has slowed big-time, so we’re considering a nearby daycare for her 2 days a week to give her much-needed social time & me time to work & be someone other than mommy 24/7. Perhaps I could better contribute to the family income, too!

Fun

We had several amazing vacations (& one crazy whirlwind one!!) last year: Charleston in March (early birthday trip for my hubby), Key West with my family in July, impromptu Hurricane Irma evacuation trip to St. Augustine, FL & Greenville, SC in September, & New Orleans a couple weeks ago for one of my bestie’s weddings! We had lots of FUN & much-needed adventures amidst the day-to-day life of being parents & workers.

My favorite trip by far was Charleston — soo gorgeous & romantic with incredible food & stunning architecture. The people were very friendly & hospitable, & we explored so much in our 3-day stay! We even attended an amazing community church that was one of the most authentic, down-to-earth & beautiful worship services I’ve ever been privy to. #takemeback!

4 out-of-town visitors stayed with us for extended stays this year: the Hancocks, the Perez family of 4 (with 2 young girls), my friend Rachael & her hubby, & my BFFE Jen 🙂 It was fun to play tourists in my hometown with them {& catch up & see their faces}. Loved that we got to introduce them to our whole family, too!

Community & Ministry

I’ll be honest. I’ve been in a funky place, trying to figure out what my new role in life looks like as a SAHM. I know being a Mom is NO boring endeavor, but I also crave a creative outlet & working with others for a cause! I’ve explored numerous ways to let this pent-up creativity flow: Starting a biz with friends (or hubby), writing more {including for others}, launching a new organization to benefit Christian women, & others! But right now I’m not 100% clear on any course of action yet. I’d love your thoughts here! 🙂

I led a {brand-new} women’s group this summer, & it went surprisingly well! God worked in ways I didn’t expect, and we were at capacity for much of our meetings which surprised me so much! The women were incredibly gifted, smart & compassionate, and I felt honored to be meeting with them every week. I’m not sure what God’s plans are for this gathering of ladies, but I can tell you I left feeling INSPIRED after our summer together, closer to them, and more open to what the Lord wants to do through each of us!! I also made some vital connections that launched new things for myself & others. Very cool indeed! I was reminded of the truth that obedience is always a good idea.

In 2017, I felt it on my heart more than ever to simply invest in my neighbors & our community… to be a good neighbor, to be available, to open my home more, to host informal (& formal) gatherings for friends & family, & just be more present with the people closest to us. I’ve NEVER had this intentional focus before, and it’s been a game-changer for sure. It’s amazing how many years of our lives we can live next door to people without ever knowing their names & struggles or investing in them at all. In America we often live parallel lives with those in closest proximity to us, and this year I felt very much that the Lord wanted that to change in our family… so we did {& continue to do!}.

Since moving to Florida 2 years ago to live near our families, we haven’t been nearly as connected within our church as we have in years past. Our focus has shifted from church family to actual family & neighbors! It’s been a welcome change & a good one, but not without a bit of sadness that we’re not connecting at church like we once did. Maybe in a new season we will!

Home

Oddly, this past year we also struggled with wanting to move BIG TIME. Not that our current living situation is bad because it’s truly a huge blessing… but my hubby & I both want to live on land in the “Deep South” (like the Carolinas, GA or TN). I love the gorgeous surroundings (& seasons!), the family-friendly culture, & the opportunity to surround our babies with good Jesus people. I also love the idea of living in a creative (writing) mecca such as Nashville — because I LOVE writing & LOVE the Lord, living in a place that honors both would be my jam! 🙂

Thus in 2017 we looked at more homes, land, states, & applied to more jobs than in any past year combined. We were restless, antsy, ready to launch — yet lacking clear direction & resources to do so. Nothing panned out last year, nor do we have any clue what’s to come next.

We live in the same community as many members of our family (& within a few miles of both sets of our parents), so I feel like we’d be crazy to leave this perfect situation!! With our daughter, we can walk / bike / or take a 10 minute ride to see ALL of her cousins, aunts/uncles, & grandparents. How many people can say that? How many lucky young girls grow up surrounded by their extended family, & with Daddy & Mommy both working from home? We feel truly blessed, yet we’ve had so much confusion:

Should we buy an existing home in our current (awesome) neighborhood with a better backyard?
Should we look for property & build here in our neighborhood…
… or should we look for land elsewhere in Tampa Bay (to stay near family, but achieve our dream of living on acreage)?
Should we search for work out-of-state, where gorgeous land abounds?
Why do we have this PULL in our hearts to live on land (which we’ve both dreamt of our whole lives) if it’s not meant to be?

I know the Lord will clarify our steps when the time is right for us to move, but it’s definitely been a weird year. A confusing one. One with little direction & a lot of confusion & angst. It’s been a year where we’ve felt like we’re treading water, not making much progress, and getting by with much grace but very little forward momentum!!

Personal

Lastly, 2017 was a big year of healing for me. In the spring, I sensed the Lord laying it on my heart to go to counseling for a few months, which was so helpful!! I connected with a Spirit-filled Christian woman counselor via Skype {perfect for a stay-at-home mama!}, & she encouraged me so much. Strangely enough, we had a lot of common personal experiences & she was able to compassionately walk me through asking the right questions & even a very good book she had me go through with her.

A lot of old hurts were addressed last year — whether I wanted them to be or not — & situations forced them to come to light. The result was healing in my heart, in our family, & between friendships 🙂 Though this was a wonderful thing, it was also brutal at times, like rebreaking a bone. But God is very kind & did not bring more on me than my heart could take. It’s pretty amazing when I look back & see the necessary healing work He’s done the last 2 years in my life!

With alllll that said, let’s move onto this brand-new year in front of us.

How Will 2018 Be Better?

Every year we start out fresh on January 1st 🙂 (or so it feels). How can we better our lives, families, communities, & faith this year?

What are your resolutions in the new year?? Here are my intentions for 2018:

1) Take care of myself.

I admire women who constantly, amidst the pull of family & work & duties, manage to pencil themselves into their calendars. That is commendable!

I personally don’t believe we can give 100% to the people we love (or produce our best work) if our health is struggling, we aren’t sleeping, we’re isolated because we never make friend time, or we’re running on empty because we never feed our souls & spirits.

In 2018 I intend to make myself a priority — exercise, a good bedtime (I’m looking at you, 10:30pm!), time with Jesus daily, investing in life-giving friendships, and consistency with vitamins, daily outdoor time, & a weekly Sabbath. I’m saying yes to more hubby dates, park days {favorite!}, epsom salt baths & calm days with our little family, & no to running around like a headless chicken doing all the activities. Also ‘Yes’ to more baby-free time & ‘no’ to trying to be everything to my daughter {impossible & unhealthy for us both}. Nope.

2) Simplify

Simplifying has been a major theme in our lives for several years now, but with a young child comes lots of new things (furniture, diapers, toys, baby gear!) & less time to de-clutter. Several ways we’ve tried (or will try) to simplify in this new season include:

  1. For every major holiday where gifts are given — Christmas, birthdays, Easter, Valentine’s Day — give away or sell several items.
  2. Hiring a maid every few months to “deep clean”, which never seems to get done otherwise (& not feeling guilty about it!) 🙂
  3. Organizing our home better.
  4. Buying things we LOVE so we don’t have to hang onto numerous shoddy placeholders.
  5. Going through all the bins in our garage {eek!}.
  6. Throwing. things. away 😉
  7. Printing out photobooks & framing pictures {Also, did you hear Shutterfly will design your photobooks FOR YOU for just $10?! YES. PLEASE!}

We’re going through drawers/closets & dumping out everything Extreme Home Makeover-style, then only putting back what we LOVE & use. We’re getting more organized, too, and letting go of items we’ve held onto only due to guilt or nostalgia. Every family has some items worth keeping, but every single belonging of your grandma’s? It’s time to give these things to a new home. I feel the same about old jewelry, toiletries/cosmetics, shoes, books, toys, decor pieces, even kitchen items that sit in drawers or on shelves or in the backs of closets (& attics) unused.

Reasons to purge: Peace in our family from a chaos-free environment brings, freeing up our time because we no longer have to clean / store / air condition / maintain those items, & the truth that SOMEONE needs these things much more than we do!! These people will put your old items to good use & be blessed by your giving! What’s not to love about that? And if donations aren’t your style, you can always consign items or have a garage sale & reap the financial benefits! 🙂

In addition to simplifying our home, I also intend to continue simplifying our:

  1. Schedule
  2. # of people we focus on {deeper with fewer!}
  3. Outside activities
  4. Daily rhythms as a family
  5. Electronic devices
  6. Even meals! {They don’t have to be elaborate or time-consuming to be healthy & awesome! Frozen veggies, pre-cut foods, & meal prepping are all great ideas)

When we rid our lives of excess, we make room for the right things to show up! 🙂 

3) Be present.

I’m an idea person {anyone else?!}. I like to look to the future of possibilities & opportunities — plan vacations for our family, consider creative ways to express ourselves & bless others, brainstorm business ideas with my hubby! All this idea-generation is fun & great, but sometimes it removes me from the here & now. I don’t want that to be the case!

I want to dream in doses, but I don’t want to spend my whole life exploring new opportunities & researching. I want to start DOING the things, putting pen to paper more, & executing some of these wonderful ideas rolling around in my brain.

I’ve started practicing this with my family & our home — focusing on our daughter & doing a bunch of fun things with her instead of just housework / emails / cooking. Staying present with her has made such a big difference. I don’t feel the mommy guilt tugging on me like I used to, and she seems happier & more content! I also involve her in what I’m doing {much easier now that she can communicate better!} instead of just cleaning around her. We’re both happier because of it 🙂

I’ve also started buying things we want/need, making faster decisions & not worrying so much about making the *perfect* choice in each area (that is exhausting!). What a difference this has made — our house & family is better for it, & so is my peace of mind.

4) Love people better.

I think I naturally love people, but I tend to focus more on words & conversation {my love languages} than doing things for them. This has been changing, as I recognize many people in my life respond more to thoughtful gestures than “mere words”.

This doesn’t really come naturally — and I’m not abandoning my top ways of blessing people {I can’t be all things to all people!}, but I want to start loving on people in practical ways, especially those around me who this matters most to!! 😀 More baking things for people, BEING ON TIME {yes, Jesus, this is the year I overcome in this area!}, hanging out in person {instead of texts/FB}, & being present at their special events. I’m getting better at opening our home to others & gift giving, which means a LOT to many people, which is part of practical love. So I’d like to continue making this a priority in 2018.

What are some other ideas, y’all?

5) Pursue God’s dreams for my life — Faith over fear.

My fears have been the #1 thing stopping me from pursuing God’s purpose for me. Fear of people taking advantage of me, fear of people thinking the ideas are stupid, fear of investing in something that will fail or won’t make a difference, fear of no one caring/showing up.

I had to face this fear last summer when the Lord laid it on my heart to lead a women’s small group & create our group curriculum — but surprisingly, A LOT of women showed up {& kept showing up}! It didn’t all go perfectly, and I definitely got nervous & felt stupid & vulnerable at times (& probably looked it!), but the risk was worth the reward: Women’s lives being changed, hearts opening up, ideas forming & encouraging them to be bold in pursuing their God dreams, too!

At some point, we believers have to realize that it’s worse to live a mediocre, safe life that makes a meager impact on people’s lives than it is to risk boldly, look stupid to some, but bless the socks off others’ lives!! Sure, our ideas aren’t for everyone & not all ideas are ‘winners’, but if God’s laying a vision on our hearts to pursue, then we should DO IT — and tell others about it so we can have support & prayers on the journey.

The reason God’s laying it on our hearts is because IT MATTERS. There’s good reason, so we must stop waiting for the perfect time {unless He says so} & make steps every week this year towards making our dream a reality. It will make a difference… and we won’t know what kind til we do it. {Preaching to myself here!}. It’s time.

What’s Your 2018 Word?

Mine is “Arise” 🙂 It was the name of my women’s group last summer, and it still feels fresh & relevant today. I believe the Lord is challenging me to arise from past struggles & fears to do what He’s called me to do.

{For past annual words of mine, see these posts here: 2013, 2014, 2016 & 2017 — & yes, I missed 2015. Owell)! 🙂


What were your highlights in 2017? How do you plan to make 2018 a better year for you? I’d love to hear!

 

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