Mid-Year Goal Refresh: #SummerToThrive

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Hi, friends!

As I’ve been preparing my heart for Jess Connolly's #summertothrive and working on my #Powersheets mid-year goal refresh, I’ve been thinking a lot about the words flourish and thrive. I feel these are the words God has given me for the summer, and as I ponder them with hope and wonder, I’m setting my heart on Him and remaining open to how He might want to use me in the months ahead.
I read a post on Jess Connolly's Instagram recently, and something she said really struck a chord with me... she said she’s decided she will no longer live by the words “I can’t” and instead is choosing to live by the words “I can if God wants me to...” That’s exactly how I want to approach this #summertothrive, my mid-year goal updates, and honestly, my life in general. I’m telling all the lies that like to play on repeat in my mind to get outta town, because anything is possible with God, and I CAN if He wants me to.
Like Jess said in her post, I want to worship Him with my willingness, and I don’t want to speak limits where He has not.
(So no more "I can'ts" or "I won'ts" from this girl...because if He wants me to, I surely CAN.)
I’m ready to say yes to what He asks of me, kicking those familiar lies to the curb and living a flourishing and fruitful faith all for His glory and purposes.

That said, I decided to simplify my yearly goals a bit now that we've made it halfway through 2018 (Can you believe that?!).

My Updated Goals:

1. Know and trust God more.

This goal hasn't changed at all. It's my foundational goal, the heart of everything I do. As I wrote at the beginning of the year, I want my pursuit of knowing God to be the center of everything I do. And as I grow in knowledge of Him, my trust and confidence in Him will also grow. I'm also still learning to trust Him with some of my deepest desires and hopes (like marriage), and I want to continue to surrender those things and entrust them to His care.

2. Be humble, faithful, and willing right where I am.#ComeMatterHere

This goal is also basically unchanged, although, I added the hashtag after reading Hannah Brencher's book. As I wrote at the beginning of the year:  I want to be faithful right where I am, making the most of every day and every opportunity all for Him and His glory. I don't want to miss out on the season I'm in because my eyes and heart are too focused on what's ahead. "Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there."  1 Cor 7:17 MSG There are so many adventures to be had, ways to serve, and opportunities to fall more in love with Jesus right where I am. This goal has come to mean even more to me as the year has progressed... God is teaching me how to embrace today, while still being expectant and hopeful for tomorrow. It can be a delicate balance, but I'm grateful for all He's teaching me through it. I love these words from Hannah's book about being fully where our feet are: "Presence is all we get at any given moment. We either lean into the here and now, or we miss it. I think something bigger is always happening, but it is never how we narrate it in our own head... We will meet people we never imagined in places we never planned to go. But it starts with a choice and then follows with a step." I think that quote is a beautiful illustration of what it means to be faithful where you are, to say daily yes's to God's work in your life and heart, and to daily step out and go where He calls. And that leads me to the next goal...

3. Occupy new space.

This is a new goal (another phrase I borrowed from Hannah's book Come Matter Here). It may seem like it's a contradiction to goal #2, but it's not...it's a beautiful extension of that idea. In her chapter by the same name, Hannah writes: We plan for growth. We plan (and hope) for acceptance. We plan for abundance... But we don't sit down and plan to rebuild." After the brokenness 2017 left behind, 2018 has turned into a year of rebuilding for me, a year of believing and trusting that 2017 was a turning point and an invitation to occupy new space in 2018. Adding this to my list of goals means that I will continue to engage with and embrace my story — even the scars and broken parts. It means I will continue to step out in faith and go where He calls, trusting that this rebuilding process is something beautiful and complex and entirely worthwhile. Occupying new space also means continuing to let go of my own expectations (and the lies I've believed) in favor for His truth, His ways, His plan.

4. Continue to equip myself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for my God-given tasks]. (Proverbs 31:17)

The heart of this goal is the same, but I've just reworded it a bit, using the amplified translation of Proverbs 31:17. I'm continuing to focus on loving and serving God with all my strength, and this has been one of the most tangible ways I've seen God working and moving this year. I'm excited to continue to prioritize health and wellness as a part of this goal.

And so that's where I've landed! :)

I think this might be the first time I've rewritten and updated my Powersheets goals, but it felt good to take a look at everything and make adjustments. I truly feel like these goals are invitations God has been extending to me, and I'm hopeful to see how the rest of the year unfolds, as I continue to lean in and trust Him fully.

Also, rather than doing monthly goals this summer, I'll be back soon to share a simple list of summer #powersheets goals that I've put together based on these updates, as well as Jess' #SummertoThrive guide.

Until then, you can find more fun over at Instagram. :)

~K

What It’s Like to Live Fully in Singleness While Still Hoping for Marriage

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A few weeks ago, I sat across from a friend at my little dining room table, coffees in hand (of course), talking about life, faith, callings, and building God’s Kingdom from wherever we are. At one point in our conversation, my friend looked at me and said she thought I was living a wonderful and full life for the Lord. She saw God’s work in all I was doing. And she celebrated where I was and the opportunities He had given me.

Her words meant so much to me, because sometimes, as a single woman, one of the greatest challenges I face is devaluing where I’m at in life and what God is doing in and through me. I haven’t hit the major milestones our culture puts so much emphasis on — milestones I long for — like getting married and having kids — and so it’s easy to compare what God is doing in my life to others’ lives and feel both left behind and lacking purpose.

But I am realizing that no one season or calling has more value than another when our hearts are focused on making much of this life for Him. We all have the same call to know Him and build His Kingdom, and realizing that has been bringing me so much freedom.

I’ve also realized that I can both make the most of my singleness and also still hope and pray for marriage. The two are not mutually exclusive. I don’t have to suppress my hopes and dreams for marriage, or be embarrassed by them. And I also don’t have to hinge my life around them...

If you'd like to read the rest of this post, head on over to Chelsea's blog Trials Bring Joy. I am both honored and excited to be included in her current series What It's Like To.

Faith & Fitness: An Update on My Health/Wellness Journey

 Credit: Simple Green Smoothies

Credit: Simple Green Smoothies

Hi, friends!

It's been quite a while since I posted a health and wellness update, and since one of my goals this year is focused on growing stronger, I thought it was a great time to share a few thoughts and resources that have been an encouragement to me.

My current approach to health/wellness has been an on-going journey these past few years. I'm a HUGE proponent of freedom and balance in the area of health and wellness, rather than operating from a mindset of deprivation, and so I love approaching health and fitness as an act of worship to the Lord. For me, it's become about making healthy choices in an effort to glorify Him and be a good steward of this life and body He's blessed me with. In our culture, that's not an easy focus to keep, though. I find myself needing to return to this WHY again and again. Otherwise, I can easily become very self-focused and begin to strive in this area.

She equips herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task] And makes her arms strong." Proverbs 31:17 AMP

One of the most surprising discoveries I've made recently has been how much I love strength training! It may sound completely obvious and cheesy, but one of the things I'm loving most about strength training is the way it can be an illustration for life and how God uses discomfort to strengthen and refine us. Lifting always leads to some discomfort, but I know that each time I experience that discomfort, it's going to lead to more strength and resilience. Remembering that helps me to push through and continue to challenge myself (in both fitness and life) not to shy away from the things that may at first bring discomfort.

I'm including some of my progress so far this year below (some of it will sound familiar from my monthly goals posts), as well as some of my favorite resources. I hope it's of encouragement to you! And if you have favorite resources, I'd love to hear about them! :)

P.S. How adorable are these blush sneakers? I can't get enough blush everything! :)

Some of my current action steps:

  • Strength train twice a week (I work with a local trainer and love it!)
  • Explore other strength/cardio routines to supplement my two days each week with my trainer (kettle bell, yoga, barre, spinning); I'm thinking about doing a few months of Pure Barre, for example, and then a few months at a local spinning studio after that; I'm trying to have fun with it and avoid boredom! :) P.S.you decide you want to try kettle bell, I recommend watching a few videos online about proper form...it's really easy to injure your back/neck if you're not doing the swings properly. My favorite kettle bell exercises so far are the goblet squat, deadlift squat, Russian swing, and "around the world." This video is a great video to start with.
  • Add extra protein to my diet to support my strength training efforts (still on the fence with protein powders, but if you use a plant-based protein or collagen powder that you love, I'd love to hear about it!)
  • Prepare green smoothies for the week as part of my weekend meal prep (and freeze them)
  • Eat more veggies and fruits (and fewer carbs and grains); green smoothies are helping me achieve this
  • Fast sugar for 10 days (and then limit daily sugar)
  • Drink lots of water! My goal is 50-60 oz each day (but don't worry, I haven't given up my love of lattes - hello, balance!) :)

Recipes I'm excited to try this month:

And a few favorite resources:

P.S. If you're wanting to explore the world of green smoothies, check out this great resource from Simple Green Smoothies. I love a pretty pin-able graphic! :)

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February Goals Recap & March 2018 Goals

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Hi, friends! Is anyone else a bit surprised that it's already March? February flew by, but it was packed with so much goodness and lots of little steps forward. As I wrote out my progress on each of the goals below, I just felt so grateful for all the ways God has been moving in my life. He continues to show me more of who He is and just how faithful and true He is. Praising Him tonight for how far He's brought me.

P.S. I just bought this new worship album, and I cannot get enough! Lots of little praise parties happening over here this week. :)

Okay, on to my February goals recap...

Monthly Goals

  • Fast social media for Lent (Both nervous and excited for this one!)

Still going strong on this! I’ll share a post on my thoughts and experience after Lent.

  • Finish reading Idols of the Heart and Faith Forward Future. I’ve been exceptionally bad about starting lots of books and not finishing them lately, so I’d like to commit to finishing these two books in February

I made some progress on this goal, but it ended up looking differently than I thought. I’m almost finished with Idols of the Heart, but I have a lot to go back and really sit with, and I also am almost finished with Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors, which was an unplanned read but exactly what I needed right now. Faith Forward Future is on the back burner for now.

  • Read and study the book of Exodus (I just finished Genesis)

I just finished reading Exodus and am going through the corresponding study on RightNow Media, but I want to go back and re-read some of the chapters, take detailed notes, etc. to make sure I’m really focused on comprehension. And then next up: Leviticus!

  • Fast sugar (and maybe coffee — eek) for 10 days (I think I’ll do this to correspond with the beginning of Lent, but not entirely sure yet…)

This goal never happened, so I’m moving it to March. I guess there were just too many tempting Valentine’s Day goodies to enjoy! ;)

  • Pick one area at home to clean out and organize (a closet, a cupboard, etc.)

This goal also never happened, but I’m coming up with a plan to tackle one area per month.

  • Attend IF Gathering with an open heart that's eager to hear and respond to God

This was so good and much-needed! Maybe I’ll do a recap post with some of my favorite takeaways. :)

Weekly Goals

  • Commit to at least one TV-free day (Thanking my friend Emily E for this idea!)

I didn’t do this consistently, but when I did it was rewarding.

  • Continue strength training twice a week (going on six months of doing this consistently!)

YES! I stayed consistent with this, with the exception of a few sessions I had to miss due to circumstances outside of my control. I continue to be surprised by how much I enjoy strength training! I'm thinking about ordering this adorable workout tank to celebrate six months of training!

  • Add one other workout into each week (barre, yoga, pilates, etc.)

This happened, too! Yay! I did a few Revelation Wellness videos, and I also gave this kettle bell workout a try. I think kettle bell is going to be a regular addition to my workouts each week. I love that it combines both weights and cardio in one session.

  • Spend one evening each week working on my Expectant Faith devotional

Sadly, this didn’t happen, and it’s going to have to be on hold for most of March, most likely, due to some other writing commitments.

  • Sunday meal prep (prep at least one vegetable and one protein), so I have some healthy options as I begin each new week

This happened occasionally, but it’s an area I want to continue to improve in (ideas to try: rice/quinoa, chicken, protein-packed egg muffins, tray of roasted veggies, spiralized veggies)

Daily Goals

  • Word Before World (read Exodus and the Psalms; spend time in prayer; continue my daily focus on God’s promises/attributes through the current YouVersion studies I'm going through)
  • Listen to a sermon or worship music each morning as I get ready for my day
  • Drink 50 oz of water
  • Three servings of veggies and two servings of fruit (consider getting portion control containers to help with serving sizes and weekly meal prep/planning)

I was fairly consistent with all of my daily goals, but I need to get serious about my fruit/veggie intake. :) I also have LOVED starting my day with worship music or a sermon. After my coffee and quiet time, I’ve been choosing a sermon to listen to while getting ready, and it’s been such a positive start to each day.

And on to my March goals! It's going to be another busy month filled with lots of building and investing in the things God has been calling me to, and I can't wait!

March Monthly Goals

  •  Continue to fast social media for Lent
  •  Write upcoming guest blog post (I’ll share more about who I’m writing for soon!)
  •  Prayerfully plan and write the teaching for the session I’ll be co-leading at my church’s upcoming women’s retreat (so excited about this! I’ll share a few highlights after the event in April)
  •  Fill out March prayer journal and have a prayer session right then and there
  •  Fast sugar for 10 days
  •  Choose one book to read  (I’m leaving it open this month, rather than goaling to read a specific book)
  • Make a monthly plan room by room for the organizational projects I want to tackle this year

March Weekly Goals

  • Two weight-training sessions with personal trainer
  • At least one additional cardio or strength/cardio workout (kettle bell, yoga, barre, yogalates, pilates, Revelation Wellness video etc.); switch it up each week to keep things interesting :)
  •  Meal plan/prep for the week ahead (figure out a routine for this that I can actually stick with)

Daily Goals

  • Word Before World (read Exodus a second time for note-taking and comprehension and then start Leviticus)
  • Listen to a sermon or worship music each morning as I get ready for my day
  • Drink 50 oz of water
  • Three servings of veggies and two servings of fruit (start making smoothies to start my day to increase my servings, since I am struggling with this)

And that's that! What about you? Have you set any goals for the month ahead? :)

 

2018 Reading List

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It's been a few years since I made a yearly reading list to tie into my yearly goals, and in an effort to curb my habit of reading multiple books at a time and not finishing them, I am starting a list of books I'm interested in reading this year that support my overall goals. I'm hoping to focus on reading about one to two books a month. No doubt I'll skip some on this list and add others, but it's a good starting point, and it makes me excited to read and learn in this next year!

(Editor's Note: Although, you MIGHT note I've already started quite a few of these...so my reading-multiple-books-at-a-time habit might prove A BIT hard to break!) :)

1. Know God more and trust Him more.

2. Grow STRONGER (mentally, physically, and spiritually).

3. Practice praise.

4. Be humble, willing, and faithful right where God has me.

5. Wait well (purposefully, not passively).

What about you? What books are you excited to read this year?

Looking to the Future: What's Next for A Place to Dwell

 Art: The Crown Prints

Art: The Crown Prints

Hi, friends!

I'm in the process of putting together some new content for A Place to Dwell (both online and in print!), and I would love your feedback.

Would you consider taking a few minutes of your time to take this 10-question survey?

It is my hope and prayer to continue to create content here that equips and encourages you to embrace the story God is writing in your life, so you can live fully for Him in every season and circumstance — with a surrendered heart and an expectant faith.

I also hope to provide additional resources, such as devotional content and journals, Bible studies, and regular encouragement videos, and your feedback will help me plan accordingly for those resources.

I'm so excited about the future of this little ministry God has blessed me with, and I'm so humbled and thankful for each and every one of you who has been a part of it over the years!

The best is always yet to come when He is leading the way.

Thank you all for being a part of this community!

Katie

 

February 2018 Goals

Hello, friends! I'm excited to be posting my very first monthly goals post of 2018, working from my yearly goals that I blogged a few weeks ago. February is going to be a pretty busy month, so I tried to keep most of my goals fairly simple. You'll notice that most are focused on my quiet time with the Lord and my health/fitness goals.

Monthly Goals

  • Fast social media for Lent. (Both nervous and excited for this one!)
  • Finish reading Idols of the Heart and Faith Forward Future. I’ve been exceptionally bad about starting lots of books and not finishing them lately, so I’d like to commit to finishing these two books in February
  • Read and study the book of Exodus (I just finished Genesis)
  • Fast sugar (and maybe coffee — eek) for 10 days (I think I’ll do this to correspond with the beginning of Lent, but not entirely sure yet…)
  • Pick one area at home to clean out and organize (a closet, a cupboard, etc.)
  • Attend IF Gathering with an open heart that's eager to hear and respond to God

Weekly Goals

  • Commit to at least one TV-free day (Thanking my friend Emily E for this idea!)
  • Continue strength training twice a week (going on six months of doing this consistently!)
  • Add one other workout into each week (barre, yoga, pilates, etc.)
  • Spend one evening each week working on my Expectant Faith devotional
  • Sunday meal prep (prep at least one vegetable and one protein), so I have some healthy options as I begin each new week

Daily Goals

  • Word Before World (read Exodus and the Psalms; spend time in prayer; continue my daily focus on God’s promises/attributes through the current YouVersion studies I'm going through)
  • Listen to a sermon or worship music each morning as I get ready for my day
  • Drink 50 oz of water
  • Three servings of veggies and two servings of fruit (consider getting portion control containers to help with serving sizes and weekly meal prep/planning)

Have you set any goals for February? If so, I'd love to hear about them in the comments and cheer you on! :)

How to Write a Yearly Vision Statement

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For the past few years, as part of my PowerSheets goal-setting process, I've written a yearly vision statement to help me write and cultivate meaningful goals.

I've had a few people ask about this process, so I thought I'd do a short post to help you craft one of your own, if you're so inspired. :)

This is the vision statement I've written for 2018:

In 2018, I will focus on knowing, loving, and serving God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37). I will seek to know and trust Him more (completely, entirely, without reservation or exception), and I will be open to His will and His way in all things. I will wait and pray for His plan, in His time, trusting Him with all of my most precious dreams and desires (especially marriage). 2018 will be a year where I prioritize Jesus (Word before World, His way and His Kingdom over mine). I will study and teach His Word, using my creativity and curiosity to build the Kingdom, and I will continue to be brave in sharing my story all for His glory. I will prioritize people and relationships, from family and friends to dating intentionally. I will pray BIG and with expectant faith, and I will never give up hope, knowing that He is a God who can flip the script and change the story at any time.

And this is my process for writing yearly vision statements:

  1. I utilize the prompts in my Cultivate What Matters PowerSheets* and my Horacio Printing The Best is Yet to Come Dream Planner* to uncover areas I want to focus on/grow in for the next year. As part of this process, I brainstorm a bucket list of potential goals and dreams, and I reflect on the different areas of my life and how I might want to grow in each area (spiritual, physical, professional, personal, financial, and relational). For more help on these steps, check out Lara Casey's yearly goal-setting series, and these goal-setting resources from Horacio Printing. (I also highly recommend the PowerSheets and the Dream Planner, if you want extra goal-setting guidance and a beautiful and intentional way to track and make progress on your dreams and goals.)
  2. I reflect on the previous year and evaluate what went well, what was challenging, and what I learned through it all. This step helps me reflect on where I've been, where I currently am, and where I hope to go. (Lara guides you through this process in more detail in the PowerSheets).
  3. I prayerfully select a focal word and verse for the year. (This year was my first year selecting a verse, and I think I will continue to do that in the future, because it's already been amazing to see the ways God is weaving that verse into each goal I set). My focal word for this year is DEVOTED, and my focal verse is Mark 12:30: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.”
  4. I ask myself what my most fulfilling year would look like (again, more detail on this reflection process in the PowerSheets). As I journal about what my most fulfilling year might look like, I use everything I've written about in steps 1-3 to inspire me. Lara often encourages women to think about what they hope to have accomplished when they are 80...What will be important to you then? Use that to guide you in thinking about what to pursue and prioritize now. It's all about the little steps and decisions we make today that add up to the bigger overall picture.
  5. And finally, I put it all together! Step 4 is basically a rough draft of my statement, so I take what I've written there and refine it into my vision statement. I try to use active verbs that will be motivating when I come back to reread the statement as I set my goals and throughout the year when I need a little encouragement. I also keep my yearly verse and word in mind and try to incorporate aspects of each in the final vision statement.

And there you have it! I've loved the process of writing a vision statement the past few years, and if you give it a try, I hope it's encouraging and helpful for you, too.

And just in case it's helpful or inspiring, here are some examples of previous years' statements:

I want to live fully for Jesus in 2017 — seeking Him fully, knowing Him more fully, and being used by Him fully. I will prioritize time spent with Him, choosing Him above all things and keeping Him at the center of everything. I will make space in my life for what truly matters, saying no to meaningless distractions and investing in my faith, family, friends, and using my creative gifts fully for God. I will fill my life with meaning moments and memories shared with loved ones, inspiration, truth, encouragement, art, praise, and worship. I will seek to be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and resources God so graciously gives, using the margin in my life to the fullest for Him. 2017 will be a year of daily encountering Jesus, intentionally building relationships, and sharing His love and light with others. It will be a year where I invite Him to have His way in all things, trusting that the story He’s writing will always be so much greater than the one I could write on my own. (2017)

In 2016, I will be joyfully open to God’s plan for my life, living fully and creatively right where I am. It will be a year of less trying and more trusting. I will be open to new adventures and new possibilities. I will make space in my life for what truly matters, investing in my faith, family, friends, and using my creative gifts fully for God. I will spend less time mindlessly consuming (TV, social media, shopping, etc.), and more time cultivating contentment, community, and creativity. I will seek to experience abundance through simplicity (shopping less, “scrolling” less, fearing less, fretting less!). I will prioritize prayer and seek to live out Hebrews 3:13 in all I do, encouraging others daily to live their own inspired lives of possibility. Above all, I will live each day fully for Him, with purpose, passion, and positivity. (2016)

Above all else, I will seek and FIND GOD WHOLEHEARTEDLY this year. I will FOLLOW where He leads, going and doing and creating in line with His heart.  I will live fully in each day without worry, fear, or fretting for what may or may not be ahead. I will have hope for all God has planned, but I will also wholeheartedly embrace right where I am TODAY, because I don't want to miss one moment of what God is doing right here, right now.  I will keep an open heart to His way, delighting in any unexpected adventures and possibilities He might bring my way. I will make meaningful memories with friends and family, and I will live in a balance of experiencing the stories and telling them — celebrating all God is doing in my life and in the lives of others. I will make the most of this season, filling my life and heart with all that fires me up and points me to Jesus. I will continue to be a woman who lives an inspired life for God, and I will continue to invite and encourage others to do the same. (2015)

I will live with hope, joy, and creativity, embracing — and giving thanks for — the possibilities He blesses me with every day. I will make space for Him to move, seeking first the Kingdom with a heart that longs to hear Him and go where He leads. I will fill my days with art and inspiration and creativity, being brave in new adventures with Him and the people I am blessed to share life with. I will cultivate life-giving, encouraging relationships and community that celebrates creativity and each of our unique God-given dreams and stories. With honesty and vulnerability, I will write and make art that blesses, inspires, and points to Jesus. I will believe anything is possible, and I will keep asking, seeking, and knocking about some of my most precious hopes and dreams. My vision for 2014 is to be a woman who lives an inspired life for the Lord — and a woman who encourages others to live this way, too. (2014)

Happy Writing! :)

 

Cultivating What Matters: My 2018 Goals

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My focal verse for this year is Mark 12:30 (AMP), and I am writing all of my goals with this verse in mind.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.”

I want to live 2018 completely devoted to Christ, loving, knowing, and serving Him with my entire being.

With that in mind, I've created the vision board below and settled on the following goals for the year ahead...

1. Know God more and trust Him more.

Why: I want my pursuit of knowing God to be the center of everything I do. And as I grow in knowledge of Him, my trust and confidence in Him will also grow. I've also realized I have been struggling to trust Him with some of my deepest desires (like marriage), and I want to completely surrender that desire into His Hands this year and TRUST that He has a good plan for my life AND for those desires specifically.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Join the Well Watered Women community and commit to Word Before World this year
  • Study the Bible with my heart and my mind (Jen Wilkin); I hope to focus much of my study time this year in the Old Testament, since I completed a study on the New Testament last year
  • Study the attributes of God (and choose one attribute each month to study and meditate on)
  • Pray the promises of God
  • Cultivate an expectant faith (and write and publish my devotional on that topic)
  • Memorize scripture (see "practice praise" goal for more on this)
  • Learn more about fasting and consider a fast at the beginning of the year to draw near to God and hear His voice (“There are walls of intercession that will never be scaled by dispassionate religious service. But when you take steps to break out of the ordinary and worship Him as He deserves, you will begin to see facets of His being you never knew existed. He will begin to share secrets with you about Himself, His plans, His desires for you. When you worship God as He deserves, He is magnified.” Jentezen Franklin)

2. Grow STRONGER (mentally, physically, and spiritually).

Why: I LOVE what my sweet friend Bailey had to say about building strength: " I want the Lord’s best for my life, and I want to be able to wholeheartedly run after the dreams HE has for my life as best as I can for as long as He calls me to it.” YES and AMEN. And I love how the Amplified translation speaks about this very idea in Proverbs 31:17: "She equips herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task] And makes her arms strong." I want to do all I can to be equipped for everything God calls me to.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Continue working with my personal trainer twice a week
  • Incorporate at least one day of cardio each week
  • Yoga
  • Choose foods that nourish and fuel my body; consider doing Whole30 and/or Daniel diet fasting plan at the beginning of the year

3. Practice praise.

Why: Praise is powerful, and I want to make it a more regular part of my life (especially in prayer). “Praise is really the most vital preparatory ministry to the working of miracles. Miracles are wrought by spiritual power. Spiritual power is always proportioned to our faith.” Dr. Jowett, Streams in the Desert

Starting Steps (how):

  • Choose an attribute of God each month to include in the Adoration section of my prayer journal; spend the month learning more about this attribute of God and praising Him in prayer for it
  • Memorize scripture that correlates with the attribute I am studying each month
  • Practice praising Him in prayer before I've seen the answers; praise Him with confidence that He WILL answer and that the way in which He answers will be GOOD because HE is good
  • Fill out my praise reports each month in my The Best is Yet to Come Planner from Horacio Printing
  • Fill out the answered prayer section of my Val Marie Paper prayer journal each month, and take the time to pray a prayer of thanksgiving for all God did and provided

4. Be humble, willing, and faithful right where God has me.

Why: I have been so encouraged reading about Ruth and Mary these past few months. They were both women who were humble and willing to be faithful right where they were, trusting God and being obedient, even in the face of hardship, unknowns, and lots of uncertainty. I want to live with this kind of heart posture this year...I want to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and brave to take action when prompted. I want to be faithful right where I am, making the most of every day and every opportunity all for Him and His glory. And I don't want to miss out on the season I'm in because my eyes and heart are too focused on what's ahead. "Where you are right now is God's place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there."  1 Cor 7:17 MSG There are so many adventures to be had, ways to serve, and opportunities to fall more in love with Jesus right where I am.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and margin in my life (this will sound familiar as it was one of my main 2017 goals!); I feel it’s vitally important that I continue to intentionally steward my life and resources for Him
  • Simplify at home (clothing, office, books, etc.)
  • Create a new monthly budget (and be more intentional with saving, spending, and giving)
  • Continue to explore the calling and dreams I have to study and teach His word as a Light Giver in the Kingdom through creating devotionals, blogs, journals, online studies, and being a part of the women's ministry team at my church
  • Prioritize people + relationships (focus on building strong, meaningful relationships and connections with others); continue to disciple women at my church

5. Wait well (purposefully, not passively).

Why: "Love is patient..." I have been reminded recently that it truly is an honor to wait and pray for my future husband. I don't want to lose sight of that when the waiting gets hard and frustrating. And while it's true that I don't know when or if my waiting in singleness will end, I do know it is changing me in the process and teaching me to rely on the Lord more completely. And I know that if I am blessed with marriage, this season of waiting will have shaped me into the wife I will be.

Starting Steps (how):

  • Continue to pray through the book 31 Prayers For My Future Husband (January marks my ninth month of praying this daily!)
  • Live fully for God right where I am (a purposeful life NOW, not a passive one)! Use Natalie's Wholeheartedly Devoted collection for encouragement in this! (See goal #4 for more on this)
  • Surrender my future daily into His Hands, trusting that He will always know better than I know
  • Pray and wait for the story that gives Him the most glory — even if it looks different than what I or culture — expect (be open to new possibilities)
  • Date intentionally (always keeping Christ at the center)

 

So there you have it! My five main goals for 2018. :) I'm so excited to get these written and to be looking at the year ahead with faith and hope. My heart and hands are open to his leading, and I'm excited to see all He has in store.

Did you set goals for the year? If so, I'd love to hear about them!

 

Cultivating What Matters 2018 - Getting Inspired

I started my morning with coffee (of course!) and working through my Cultivate What Matters 2018 Powersheets. I've been going through last year's pages, as well as everything I've written so far, gathering inspiration and looking for common threads. I've also been building a Pinterest board and collecting images that inspire me and remind me of what's important.

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In this post, I'm going to share what fires me up and inspires me, what I'm saying yes and no to in 2018, the word I've selected for the year ahead, and my 2018 vision statement :)

It was fun to see how much my inspiration list changed and evolved from last year. 2017 was a huge year of pruning and refinement for me, and I can absolutely see that reflected when comparing last year's powersheets to this year's.

WHAT INSPIRES ME + FIRES ME UP

  • Reading good books and learning new things
  • Worship music that fuels my faith (especially Elevation Worship!)
  • Meaningful conversations
  • Making memories and creating traditions with friends and family
  • Encouraging others
  • Studying and teaching God's Word
  • Lattes and cute coffee shops (coffee + creativity)
  • Writing + blogging
  • Journals and journaling
  • Strength training (I never would have thought this would make the list! But I am loving the process of getting stronger little by little)
  • Encouraging single women to wait on God purposefully, rather than passively
  • Remembering that God's plan is always better than ours and that He can do
    immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine
  • Dreaming and praying BIG

WHAT I’M SAYING NO TO IN 2018:

  • Building my Kingdom over God’s Kingdom
  • Fear
  • Comparison
  • Control
  • Clutter (mental and physical)
  • Negativity
  • Doubting God and His goodness
  • Wasting time and money
  • Clinging to the past; looking backward, rather than forward
  • Not trusting + hoping in God’s promises
  • Choosing worldly comforts/fulfillment over Jesus
  • Too much scrolling/screen time
  • Overwhelm
  • Anxiety

WHAT I’M SAYING YES TO IN 2018:

  • God’s plan in God’s time
  • Trusting God with my desire for marriage (and waiting well); it is an honor to wait and pray for my future husband, and as I continue to wait and pray, I want to remember this
  • Knowing God more and trusting Him more
  • Loving and serving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength (a life and heart devoted to Him in all things)
  • Being humble + willing and pouring out all I have to know, love, and serve Him in every season and circumstance
  • Word before World
  • Prioritizing people + relationships (family, friends, co-workers, dating intentionally); building strong/meaningful relationships
  • Growing stronger (continuing to work with my personal trainer)
  • Eating clean-ish ;) (and doing the Whole30 again at the beginning of the year)
  • Building God’s Kingdom
  • Studying and teaching the Word
  • Worshiping BIG
  • NEW things and possibilities (new experiences, new adventures, learning new things)
  • Praise + adoration (especially in prayer)
  • Bold prayers + expectant faith
  • HOPE
  • Sharing my story for God’s glory

MY WORD FOR 2018

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You may have seen the post on Instagram, but I've selected the word DEVOTED for 2018. I am choosing to live this year with a heart devoted to Him.  A heart devoted to the study and teaching of His word. To knowing Him more and building His Kingdom over my own. To trusting, seeking, and putting Him first, regardless of if He brings new circumstances or opportunities my way. This life I’m living is His, and I want to be devoted to Him in all things. It also means I’m devoted to keep pursuing the dreams and callings He places on my heart and my life (like marriage, family, and teaching and writing for Him). And it means saying YES to wherever He leads.
My heart is to deepen my trust in Him this next year and live with a confident and Expectant Faith.

And finally (thanks for sticking with me!), here's my vision statement for the year ahead. I've been writing yearly vision statements for the past few years, and they really help me write goals that focus on and cultivate what matters most. It's a way for me to take all of the steps I've done so far and summarize them.

MY VISION STATEMENT FOR 2018

In 2018, I will focus on knowing, loving, and serving God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37). I will seek to know and trust Him more (completely, entirely, without reservation or exception), and I will be open to His will and His way in all things. I will wait and pray for His plan, in His time, trusting Him with all of my most precious dreams and desires (especially marriage). 2018 will be a year where I prioritize Jesus (Word before World, His way and His Kingdom over mine). I will study and teach His Word, using my creativity and curiosity to build the Kingdom, and I will continue to be brave in sharing my story all for His glory. I will prioritize people and relationships, from family and friends to dating intentionally. I will pray BIG and with expectant faith, and I will never give up hope, knowing that He is a God who can flip the script and change the story at any time.

I'll be back soon to share the 2018 goals I write.

Are you doing goals for the year ahead? If so, I'd love to hear about your process and progress. I want to cheer you on! :)

     

    Cultivating What Matters: 2018 Powersheets Prep

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    Powersheets time is one of my favorite times of the year, and I'm excited to be making some space these last few weeks of 2017 to dig into my 2018 Powersheets and get equipped for the new year ahead. The snow is falling outside, my tree is twinkling, and I'm drinking a hot mug of coffee from my favorite Birds Don't Worry mug.

    I'm ready. :)

    2017 was one of the hardest years I’ve had in a long time. It was a season of broken and redirected dreams, but through it all, I have seen His faithfulness to me, and I know He has been growing me and strengthening me.

    I know the best is yet to come, and my story isn’t over yet.

    As I began writing my celebration list for the year, I realized how much GOOD truly did come out of a year I'm tempted to label BAD. It was a hard year, but it wasn't a bad year. God is good on the mountaintop and in the valley. And He doesn't waste a thing. I'm praising Him for ALL the goodness He brought, even in the midst of challenges.

    HERE'S WHAT I AM CELEBRATING ABOUT 2017:

    • New adventures (my trip to Nashville and getting to reconnect with a sweet friend)
    • Learning and growing (I read and was encouraged by so many good books)
    • Praising through the pain (I got to worship with my sister and with some of my favorite worship artists this year: Rend Collective and Elevation Worship)
    • Bold prayers (even in the face of disappointment, I found God prompting me to keep praying boldly, and I’m excited to see the ways He answers each of those prayers)
    • I went deeper in my Bible study and am so excited to continue this more in-depth study in 2018
    • I redesigned my website!
    • I began writing my women's devotional Expectant Faith (coming in 2018! Stay tuned!) :)
    • I grew STRONGER - emotionally, spiritually, and physically
    • I started working with a personal trainer in September and have been strength training twice a week for the past four months —  I'm so encouraged by this progress!
    • I completed the Whole30 program
    • I shared my story in Laura Dudek's Written Bible study (releasing in January 2018)
    • I have another piece of writing being published, too (I'll share where in January!)
    • I took another God get-away in June, and it was such a sweet and refreshing time

    AND HERE ARE A FEW LESSONS I LEARNED IN 2017:

    • I want to practice praise more often. Doubt, discouragement, and comparison stole my focus and my joy much too often this year. I want to live so fully surrendered to God that I trust and praise Him even when the story looks like it has gone terribly wrong.
    • I want the story that gives Him the most glory — even if it looks different than what I (or culture) expects.
    • Doubt often leads to discouragement and despair. It's so important to remain anchored and immersed in His truth. I want to focus on studying and praising His attributes this coming year.
    • I can trust God with my dreams and desires — even when it feels or seems like I can't.
    • I can do hard things. But not because of my strength. Because of HIS.
    • Waiting is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts (Eugene Peterson). God ALWAYS knows best. So often I trust myself, rather than trusting Him. But I want to wait for the story He knows is best. I want to trust Him even when things don't seem to make any sense.
    • Chasing dreams — even God-given dreams — should never replace chasing God.
    • Prayer changes things — and it changes ME.
    • I am a Teacher, or Light Giver, in the Kingdom (Five-Fold Ministry Assessment); I want to study and teach His Word, using my creativity and curiosity to build His Kingdom.

    I'm going to end with a great question Lara asked in her 2018 Cultivate What Matters goal-setting series:

    What’s the one thing you most want to cultivate in 2018?

    The thing I most want to cultivate in 2018 is an expectant faith. I want to trust God completely with my most precious dreams and desires (like marriage and family and teaching and writing for Him). And I want to live with the kind of hope in Him that NEVER gives up, the kind of hope that knows He’s a God who can flip the script at any time.

    How are you doing today, friends? I would love to hear from you in the comments. Tell me about your year, what you've learned, how God's worked...I'm cheering you all on as you reflect on the year behind and look forward with HOPE and FAITH to the year ahead. :)

    Favorite Reads in 2017

     Photo credit:  ashleybrooke

    Photo credit: ashleybrooke

    "You will be the same person ten years from now except for the books you read, the places you go, the people you meet, and the scripture you memorize." Jay Strack

    2017 has been a year filled with reading and learning. So much so that I thought it would be fun to write a post featuring some of my favorite reads of the year (including a favorite quote or two from each). God used this year to prune and grow me in significant ways, and He used the books I read as a big part of that process.

    The following eight books impacted me most this year.

    The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

    This has been one of the very best books I've ever read on dating, relationships, and marriage. I would seriously recommend it to every single or married person I know.
    I love the book's strong foundation of scripture and the main premise that a marriage is a spiritual friendship, a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on the journey to become the persons God designed them to be.

    One of my favorite quotes: "Within this Christian vision for marriage, here's what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, 'I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, 'I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!' Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel. Each spouse should then give him– or herself to be a vehicle for that work and envision the day that you will stand together before God, seeing each other presented in spotless beauty and glory."


    I truly get so excited thinking about building a marriage that looks like that! There's mission and meaning and intention to seek and serve God together, all the while encouraging one another to keep becoming more and more like Christ, through the ups and the downs life brings.

    Detours by Tony Evans

    I found this book at the perfect time, and it was such an encouragement to me in the midst of a season that took a painful detour I never expected. In this book, author Tony Evans uses Joseph's story as an example of the ways God works through the detours of our lives.

    One of my favorite quotes:

    "Detours are often those opportunities God uses in our lives to chisel us through the experiences we face. We can either cooperate with these detours by asking God to reveal to us the lessons He wants us to learn, or the skills He wants us to develop — and so on, or we can complain, kick, scream, fight, and remain on the detour much longer than we ever needed to...God uses all of our experiences to bring Him glory, when we allow Him. God sovereignly works through all of our detours to glorify Himself and achieve what is best for our development and the good we are to bring to others (Rom 8:28-30).

    When God Says Wait by Elizabeth Laing Thompson

    This is one of the best, most honest books on waiting that I've read. The author Elizabeth Laing Thompson writes with both understanding and humor, and it was so refreshing to read her words.

    One of my favorite quotes:

    "He can use your wait to shape you, make you stronger and more Christlike. Waiting is a journey of testing, fraught with spiritual danger, but rife with opportunity. Like Sarah, like us, each of our Bible heroes had to decide how to think and who to be during their in-between times. They didn't get everything they wanted, but many of them became the people God wanted them to be. God used their waiting times to shape them into instruments He could use for powerful purposes."

    Cultivate by Lara Casey

    I loved this book even more than Lara's first book Make It Happen. As I worked through my own messy and tension-filled year of unknowns, Lara's book was great company and great encouragement. As I read, I wrote all over the margins, underlining paragraphs, capturing thoughts, and scribbling raw, honest, and heartfelt prayers. Her book was such a gift to my weary heart.

    One of my favorite quotes:

    "To grow what matters in your life, just as you grow flowers in a garden, get your hands dirty, digging in right where you are. Growing what matters takes doing something that is counter intuitive to how we usually operate: embrace tension. We choose to embrace change, imperfect progress, and imperfect circumstances, and we trust that 'in all things God works for the good of those who love Him' (Rom. 8:28 NIV)."

    You Are Free by Rebekah Lyons

    I read most of this book in an airport and on the plane ride home from my Nashville adventure this summer. I read Rebekah's words both quickly and gratefully, finding that I needed this message of freedom and healing more than I realized. Rebekah's book ended up getting filled up with prayers and praises just like Lara's did. Each of these books is such a record of a messy, painful season of my life, and yet, as time continues to pass, I think I will look back and see God's redemption weaved throughout my notes and prayers, as well.

    One of my favorite quotes:

    "I believe grief is our most powerful confession, because it cracks our hearts wide open. The Spirit prays for what we need in that moment, in ways we can't imagine. This kind of physical expression of confession keeps our hearts clean. Tears are a soul-cleansing way to release any seeds of bitterness. Deep grief can take us to new depths of brokenness and surrender. In the depths of grief we realize mourning brings the comfort of God, and above all, God is waiting to rescue us in our darkest hour... Isn't that what faith is all about — trusting God is working something beautiful and and beyond our wildest imagination?"

    Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk

    This is such an awesome and powerful book on building healthy relationships with God and others. In the spirit of full disclosure, I still have a bit to finish reading, but I found myself both encouraged and challenged by everything I read so far, so I didn't want to leave it off the list! :)

    One of my favorite quotes (so far):

    "'I choose you.' This is the foundation of true, lasting relationships. It is the foundation for God’s relationship with you. As Jesus declared to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you...” Jesus chose you in the most difficult of circumstances. He chose you while you were in sin, while you were His enemy. His side of the relationship with you does not depend upon your choice, but entirely upon His choice. The question is whether or not you will learn to build your relationships with Him and others upon the foundation of your choice.”

    When Changing Nothing Changes Everything by Laurie Polich Short

    God taught me a LOT about perspective this year. So much of faith is about focusing on the right things — fixing our hope and heart on Him, rather than the things of this world. I love this quote from the book's synopsis: "Jesus indicates the power of focus when he says, "The eye is the lamp of the body, if the eye is good then the whole body will be full of light." It's the easiest way to find lasting meaning and purpose. Change nothing, but see differently. Your perspective has more power than you think to determine the course of your life." I found so much encouragement in the author's story (she had a very long season of singleness before getting married), and ultimately, God wrote such an unexpectedly beautiful story through it all.

    One of my favorite quotes:

    "The ability to reframe and view yourself in the middle of your story enables you to rest in what is, knowing that it is part of what is taking you to what will be. Things are happening in you — and to you — and if you attempt to escape your circumstances, rather than live them, you may actually abort a process that could be bringing something wonderful into your life. Considering the fullness of your story strengthens your resolve to live your current chapter well, and in so doing you may discover you are on a road to getting more than you ever could have dreamed."

    The Perfect You by Dr. Caroline Leaf

    I am still working through the second part of this book (the self-reflective questions), but I still wanted to include it, because it was such a different type of read for me. I am not a very scientific or mathematical gal, but I have been so fascinated to learn about the intricate ways God created our minds and just how powerful our thought life can be.

    One of my favorite quotes:

    "The moment people recognize the power of their minds — the individuality of their thinking and how they have control over their lives — they are truly able to transform their world. When people see themselves the way God sees them, as His wonderful works and particular reflections of His image, then they see what is inside of them and perceive the universe in a different way (Ps 139:14). Each of us is meant to bear His glory in our own unique way — we all have a beautiful way of stewarding eternity (Eccles. 3:11; Gen 1-2)."

    I am definitely not the same person I was when I began 2017. Just as the quote I shared from Jay Strack says, the books we read truly do change and transform us. God has used so many things (including books!) to refine my heart this year, and while it hasn't been an easy process, I'm grateful for the pruning and all the ways He will use it going forward.

    Sometimes our hardest seasons change and prepare us the most.

    What books have you loved this year?

    Cultivating What Matters: 2017 Goal Recap

    2017VisionBoard.jpg

    Hi, friends! Happy Thanksgiving weekend! :) I'm currently about to make my third cup of coffee and grab myself a slice of pumpkin pie... I also may have been in my Christmas jammies past noon, but you'll have that on a holiday weekend, right? ;)

    Cultivate What Matters is kicking off their 2018 Powersheets Prep week the first week of December, so I thought I'd get my 2017 goals recap written and posted in preparation for that. It gets me in reflection mode for all God did this year, and it helps me prepare my heart for all He might have in store for 2018.

    2017 was my year of FULLY surrendering, trusting, and following Him. And while I'm still learning that in so many ways, this year stretched me more than any year has in quite some time.

    At the beginning of the year, I wrote the following vision statement:

    My 2017 vision…

    I want to live fully for Jesus in 2017 — seeking Him fully, knowing Him more fully, and being used by Him fully. I will prioritize time spent with Him, choosing Him above all things and keeping Him at the center of everything. I will make space in my life for what truly matters, saying no to meaningless distractions and investing in my faith, family, friends, and using my creative gifts fully for God. I will fill my life with meaningful moments and memories shared with loved ones, inspiration, truth, encouragement, art, praise, and worship. I will seek to be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and resources God so graciously gives, using the margin in my life to the fullest for Him. 2017 will be a year of daily encountering Jesus, intentionally building relationships, and sharing His love and light with others. It will be a year where I invite Him to have His way in all things, trusting that the story He’s writing will always be so much greater than the one I could write on my own.

    That statement helped lead me to prayerfully select the following overarching goals for my year:

    1. Encounter Jesus daily and read the entire Bible this year.

    2. Be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and margin in my life.

    3. Complete the Whole30 Program and focus on cultivating healthy habits. Find an exercise and strength-building routine that works for me.

    Looking back on the year, I can definitely see the ways God was teaching me to more fully trust, surrender, and follow Him. And before I jump into goal-setting prep for 2018 these next few weeks, I thought I would take the time to reflect on my progress toward the three main goals I set above.

    Goal #1:  Encounter Jesus daily and read the entire Bible this year.

    KH_02.jpg

    Ready for some honesty? :) This goal did not happen AT ALL the way I thought or planned it might. I did not read the entire Bible this year. In fact, after finishing up the New Testament in the spring, I spent the rest of the year jumping around without much of a plan. The summer months found me reading a lot in Genesis, focusing on Joseph's story, and this fall, I've spent quite a bit of time studying the book of Ruth. BUT in His grace, even though this goal technically was not achieved, I am ending the year so encouraged and excited to keep prioritizing time encountering Him and being in His word.

    Because while I did not read the entire Bible this year, I did learn a lot about HOW to study the Bible. And I realized that timed plans may not be the best fit for me. I want to take as long as necessary to really dive deep, absorb, and hear what He wants me to hear. I've been learning to study more inductively, too, and to do what Jen Wilkin talks about in her book Women of the Word: to read and study His word with my heart AND my mind.

    DwellDeeply3.jpg

    I've also been utilizing new translations (like the Amplified translation), new journaling formats (like the Dwell Deeply journal above from Machelle Kolbo Design Studio, and Bible study resources, including videos and commentaries from The Bible Project and the studies on RightNow Media. All of this makes me very excited, because it's PROGRESS. And I know I'm ending the year with a deeper and fuller understanding of His powerful and life-changing truth. As Lara always says, the little by little steps really do add up! And instead of being disappointed I didn't read the entire Bible this year, I'm encouraged by how deeply I studied what I did read and how I went deeper in the Word this year than I have in previous years.

    (And here's a little sneak peek at my 2018 goals: you'll definitely see another Bible-study-focused goal. I'm giving a lot of thought to focusing most of my in-depth study time next year in the Old Testament. More on that and my 2018 goals soon...)

    P.S. I have a little treat for you guys! Machelle's given me a code just for you guys to use! :) Use code APLACETODWELL for 15% off of her shop. I love her Dwell Deeply journal, because it's so easy to tuck into a bag and carry with me wherever I go!)

    Goal #2: Be a good steward of all the blessings, gifts, and margin in my life."

    This goal covered a lot! And I continue to learn what it looks like to keep Christ at the center of my life, influencing and directing all of my prayers, thoughts, decisions, and actions. But overall, this year found me being more mindful of my time, margin, and decisions. I watched less Netflix and Hulu and spent more time reading books, journaling, and being in the Word. I listened to more worship music to fill my mind with truth. I wrote scripture on post-it notes and taped them to my mirror, so I'd fill my mind with His truth first thing each day. I've also been praying through Unveiled Wife's 31 Prayers for Your Future Husband every day since May, because I want to be a good steward of the future marriage I hope and pray for, even before it's tangibly in front of me. I know that the decisions I make now are seeds planted for the future. And each one of those little decisions are helping me to be more mindful and cultivate habits that help me seek first His Kingdom in all I do.

    I was also excited to take the Five-Fold Ministry Assessment this year and learn that I'm a Teacher, or Light Giver in the Kingdom! That was a huge learning for me that has impacted (and will continue to impact) how I'm stewarding, building, and using the gifts and passions He's given me. He's been growing the love I have of studying His Word and helping others discover and apply His truths to their lives. I'm very excited to see how He continues to develop and use that in my life and to build His Kingdom.

    I also became more involved with the Women's Ministry team at my church and started writing a women's devotional journal that I hope to publish sometime in the next year (more on that in my 2018 goals, too). Oh, and I almost forgot! I also redesigned and relaunched my website! That was an adventure for sure. :) My heart is to continue to pour out all I have to know, love, and serve Him in every season and circumstance.

    Goal #3: Complete the Whole 30 Program and focus on cultivating healthy habits. Find an exercise and strength-building routine that works for me.

    “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL (life), AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND (thought, understanding), AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’”
    ‭‭MARK‬ ‭12:30‬ ‭AMP‬‬

    My progress on this goal has perhaps surprised me most! After completing the Whole 30 in February, my focus on making healthy choices and cultivating healthy habits waned a bit. But in August, my heart for this goal was refreshed and reignited (all thanks to God), and one of the main goals I set for the last few months of the year was to focus on STRENGTH: growing stronger both spiritually and physically, because I wanted to truly focus on loving and serving God with all I've got — my entire being.

    To focus on physical strength, I signed up with a personal trainer at the end of August, and I've been strength training twice a week ever since. In that time, I've only missed one training session, just due to a scheduling conflict. And while that may not seem like much to most, it's a HUGE deal for me — someone whose fitness plan and routine has always been incredibly inconsistent and hit-or-miss. To be working out and building strength for the last three months (and to be able to actually SEE and FEEL the progress) is amazing. I've committed to a year of training, and I'm excited to keep increasing my weights and growing stronger little by little.

    Strength training has been another lesson I've learned this year on the power of small, consistent steps forward — and also the power of doing things that may not always feel comfortable. In the breaking down of my muscles, there's always some discomfort, but with each breaking down, my muscles grow back stronger and more capable of handling more weight than they could before. I'm finding the same to be true for my faith. The more God challenges me and breaks me down, the stronger I grow in HIM, and the more capable I am of handling more and doing more for Him than I was before.

    Whew thanks for sticking with me through that VERY long post! ;)

    This year definitely held many challenges and heartbreaking circumstances, but I'm so encouraged to look back and see His work in my life and heart despite all of that. He met me right in the mess and brought beauty from ashes little by little, changing me in the process.

    And I don't believe He's done yet, either.

    I think the best is still yet to come.

    I'm praising Him today for all He's done and all that's yet to come.

    See you back here soon for 2018 goal-setting! :)

     

     

    Reflecting on My 2017 Word of the Year: FULLY

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    I started this year at a much different place than where I'm ending it.

    Last year ended with a flourish, and as 2017 began, I found myself in a full and hopeful season of building, investing, and planting. 2017 looked to be the year that would bring a long-awaited-for and long-prayed-for harvest.

    But sometimes, things don't go according to plan...

    At the beginning of the year when I selected FULLY as my word for 2017, I wrote: I love that the dictionary describes fully as completely, entirely, to the furthest extent. It’s giving something your ALL, holding nothing back. That’s the kind of faith-filled life I want to live. One that trusts and seeks and follows Him without reservation, without exception.

    FULLY: completely or entirely; to the furthest extent

    synonyms: completely, entirely, wholly, totally, altogether, thoroughly, in all respects, in every respect, without reservation, without exception

    I also wrote that I wanted to live a life of fullness and joy, not based on circumstances, blessings, or possessions, but on HIM.

    And that's exactly the kind of life I was challenged to live this year...

    When my deeply hoped for and prayed for plans unraveled, I felt Him very clearly whisper: "Will you still follow me FULLY, trust me FULLY, and live your life FULLY for me, even though your current circumstances and season don't look the way you expected, hoped, or even prayed they would?"

    He knows how to cut right to the chase, doesn't He? :)

    Sometimes my response was an enthusiastic YES! to that question. Other times, it was barely a whisper of agreement, but in all of those moments, whether I found myself feeling weak or strong, I continued to seek out His heart and follow where He was leading.

    I failed often. I grumbled. I complained. I doubted. And I definitely can't say I always followed without reservation.

    But in His grace, He kept picking me back up, drawing me near, strengthening my faith, and encouraging me to recommit myself to the on-going process of FULL trust and surrender.

    So while 2017 may have broken my heart, it also built my faith.

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    I'm ending the year knowing Him much more FULLY, and I have an even greater understanding of what it means and looks like to FULLY trust, follow, and serve Him — in any and every circumstance.

    As 2017 draws to a close, I will continue to put my trust in Him — completely, entirely, in every respect, without reservation, and without exception.

    Because He is good. Always, always good. He's good when we are on the mountain top, and He's good when we are in the valley. This year taught me that I want to live so FULLY surrendered to Him that I trust and praise Him even when the story looks like it has gone terribly wrong.

    This year taught me that I want the story that gives Him the most glory.

    And as He continues to work that story out in my life, I will continue to FULLY trust, praise, and follow Him wherever He leads.

     

     

    Navigating the Now and Not Yet: Lessons in Dating, Waiting, & Singleness

    Being the curious person that I am, I love to read all the books and blogs, watch inspiring sermons, and listen to thought-provoking podcasts. It's been such a season of learning for me that I thought I'd put together a post summarizing some of what God has been teaching me (especially when it comes to dating, waiting, and singleness). I've organized everything into four main lessons God's been teaching me.

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    1. Focus on seeking first the Kingdom, and go deeper in your life of worship and faith.

    I'm listing this lesson as #1, because it's foundationally important to navigating any and every season we face, whether it's singleness, dating, marriage, parenthood, etc. Seasons of waiting and transition offer us unique opportunities to deepen our roots of faith, and trust our Good Father in new ways. Ask Him what He's calling you to do or learn in this specific season of life (even if it's unwanted). How is He calling you to serve? How is He equipping you for where you are (and possibly what's ahead)? How can you be faithful right where you are? There are so many things happening behind the scenes that we can't see. But no matter what season we find ourselves in (and no matter what season we may be longing for), He's inviting us to discover who He is and all He is capable of doing in and through us. Get lost in that discovery process and allow Him to change you in the midst of it.

    2. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind and the refining of your character.

    This isn't an easy one, I know. But as I mentioned in lesson #1...God cares about our growth and transformation. In fact, as Nicole Reyes said in one of her videos on following God's call on your life, God cares more about inward transformation than He does about outward promotion. Be open to His work in you. Ask Him what areas He wants to grow and prune you in. Focus on filling your mind with His truth, His wisdom, and not what the world tells you. There are so many lies I've believed that have caused me to live (and date) from a place of discontent, discouragement, fear, and frustration, rather than hope, faith, and victory in Christ. As a single, if we can learn to cultivate a mind that overflows with joy and hope and faith, we will then be able to produce that fruit in dating and marriage, too.

    3. Become a good steward of your emotional health.

    Pain from our past can prevent us from living in freedom and stepping into all God has for us. Unresolved pain and bitterness in our lives becomes bondage. Ask God if there are any places or areas where you need healing. Then take the time to do what's necessary to truly heal where you need to heal, so you are fully ready when God does bring the right person into your life. I think it was Steven Furtick who said that if you're not ready, you can turn the right person into the wrong person. That was convicting for me! I've also been learning it's important to be a good steward of our emotions while dating. This means keeping in step with the Spirit, as well as dating in community, so we aren't tempted to rush ahead, and we aren't blinded by feelings of romance or infatuation. Being a good steward of our emotions means being aware and able to recognize what we are feeling, but also knowing how to put our emotions in their proper place and be guided by faith over feelings.

    4. Be faithful and FLOURISH!

    Seasons of waiting and transition have gotten a bit of a bad wrap. And I get it. I'm the first one to admit that I'm certainly ready to leave the season of singleness behind. ;) But I also know God desires for us to be so rooted in Him that we can be faithful, fruitful, and flourish in all seasons, not because of whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, but because we are trusting and relying on Him fully. He is the one variable that does not change. And He promises to give us all we need for this day. And the next. And the next. Whether we are single or married.

    One of the ways I focus on flourishing in my faith is by setting goals. I use Lara Casey's Powersheets process to set a vision for my year and then set Christ-centered goals that support that vision. Doing so helps me to cultivate what matters and know I am doing all I can to live this life as fully as I can for God's glory, right where I am. It also gives me a vision for my future that I can focus on when I'm making decisions and determining where God is leading me (and this includes dating!). For example, I know I want to build a marriage that's centered on Christ, and that I want the main mission of my marriage to be to seek and serve God together. That vision is going to influence who I choose to date and what I'm looking for in a partner.

    I love what Danny Silk said about having a vision and building relationships around vision in his book Keep Your Love On: "When two people establish the pillar of vision in their relationship, they share the knowledge of one another's identity and calling, as well as their joint vision, and remind one another of these things on a regular basis. When seasons of difficulty, pain, or loss come up, the pillar of vision strengthens a relational connection and protects it from being thrown into survival mode."

    Even in singleness, the vision we have based on the unique way God has created us will influence the decisions we make and help us to persevere through the hard and dry seasons of life.

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    I think all of these lessons could be summarized simply as this: be faithful and obedient right where you are. I've been spending a lot of time in the book of Ruth, and I think her life is such a beautiful example of that. Even facing loss and hardship, she was humble and faithful and trusted God to provide and do what only He could do. She did all she could with what was right front of her, remaining loyal and steadfast. Our faith often requires us to do and act and trust before we know what the outcome will be. But we know who DOES know the ultimate outcome, and that frees us up to keep moving forward in obedience. We can be like Ruth and do all we can with what is right in front of us, trusting our Father with where we will go from here.

    I hope these lessons are an encouragement to you today.

    (And I'd love to hear what God's been teaching you lately, too!)

    Resources that inspired this post: videos from Nicole Reyes, Instagram encouragement from Jessica Hoffman Shakir, and books like The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas, and Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk