Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Devotion: Evaluating My Progress {Reviewing my 2012 New Year's Resolutions}

"Brothers and Sisters, I know that I have not reached yet that goal, but there is one thing I always do.  Forgetting the past and straining towards what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above." Philippians 3:13-14

Happy New Year!

This past Sunday, my pastor presented three questions for the congregation to think about and, if willing, stand up and share their answers. 
"What did God teach you in 2012? 
What has your church meant to you? 
What are your hopes for Grace on the Ashley?" 

As much as I wanted to stand up and answer, there just wasn't enough time for me to spill out all that God taught me, what my church meant for me, and what I planned to do with the lessons learned. So here, today, I share the answers to my questions by evaluating my progress through the past year. You see, at the beginning of 2012, I made 34 New Years Resolutions. I was determined to make 2012 a year of true growth. And as much of a struggle 2012 ended up being, God taught me so much through accomplishing goals, not accomplishing goals, and re-evaluating some of the goals I had for myself. Below you will see my list of 2012 New Years Resolutions and my response to most of them. 

New Year's Resolutions for 2012
  1. Do a devotion EVERY DAY
  2. Organize daily schedule
  3. Take a break from Facebook one full day a week
  4. Walk every Wednesday and Friday
  5. Bake bread at least once a week
  6. Go to New Orleans
  7. Go down one dress size
  8. Meatless Mondays
  9. Speak softer to my children
  10. Be more obvious in my love for my husband
  11. Make freezer meals at the beginning of each month
  12. Go to lunch with my mom once a month
  13. Pay off a major debt
  14. Clean/organize the pantry room
  15. Clean/organize the craft room
  16. Have the youth over
  17. Have the college kids over
  18. Make a new friend (not an acquaintance, but a friend) 
  19. Stick to chore schedule 
  20. Stick to reward/consequences chart
  21. Have family worship once a week
  22. Take the kids to volunteer at a homeless shelter
  23. Visit Connie Maxwell
  24. Find a new hobby
  25. Have one sewing project a month
  26. Promote a local business on my blog once a month
  27. Get a family photo done (professionally) 
  28. Go to the dentist
  29. Have a date with the husband once a month
  30. Try a new, exotic food
  31. Have a successful garden 
  32. Read a non-fiction book 
  33. Go to bed with a clean kitchen 
  34. Recycle
I have organized my response to my Resolutions into five categories: "Relationships," "Home Management," "Life Changes," "Community," and "Accomplishments." 

Let's start with "Community": Numbers 22 and 23
I wanted to teach my children this year the value of serving others in the community. One was to volunteer at a shelter and the other was the visit one of my favorite places, Connie Maxwell Children's Home. I wanted my children to understand the world is so much bigger than just our home, just our neighborhood, just their school and our church. Although I didn't accomplish either of these Resolutions, I did, however, introduce my children to Random Acts of Kindness {see this post and this one}. What God showed me through this year was that teaching my children about serving others didn't always mean you needed serve food at a shelter or volunteer an afternoon playing games with children, but it also means speaking kindly to a waitress, greeting the Greeter at Wal-Mart with true concern, and bringing a gift to the cashier who serves you each week. 

"Life Changes": Numbers 4 and 8 {and sort of number 7}
My goals for 2012 were to finally lose that baby weight from my last child. I promised to change my diet by serving healthier options {see tab on the right for "vegetarian"}. I promised to make daily exercise part of my regular schedule. And although I did not accomplish number 7, God has showed me to be happy with how He created me. If you struggle with weight, and you have not read my post "I'm the Fat Friend in the Group...and I'm Okay," please do so. God placed me in the path of other people who are struggling to lose weight. He gave me words to pass on to others who are really about to give up. He brought others to me to lift me up, encourage me, and assist me as I struggled this year. NOT losing weight has turned out to be a blessing in so many ways. And my family is still benefiting from healthier eating, and my children are learning from  me ways to stay in shape and keep bodies moving. 

"Home Management": Numbers 5, 11, 14, 15, 19, 20, 25, 31, 33, and 34
My home has completely turned around. My children have learned the smell of homemade bread, so much so that my 1 Hour Bread has been renamed "Jed Bread" after my middle child helped me make it the first few times. We have turned our bread making into a family affair, many times making bread just to give out to others {Random Acts of Kindness}. In the past year, I have tried out quite a few bread recipes, and homemade bread is a staple in our house {see "Bread" tab on the right for more recipes}. 

As for my house, I did clean the laundry and craft room {read the last part of this post}, but we had some unexpected blessings come our way that caused us to move more things into the craft room. So, although my laundry and craft room are good candidates right now for "Hoarders", so many blessings came to us this year that I'm not going to chalk this one up as a failure. 

A few other hit and misses this year were also the chores and my garden. Well, maybe not as many "misses" as "hits". Despite it being a very dry summer, and the invasion of some nasty bugs that ate many of my plants, we were still able to enjoy our harvest. As for the chores, it took almost all year, but my children are really getting into the routine of coming home from school, doing homework, and then doing chores. Some weeks we just don't get to it, but for the most part, we did {including going to bed with a clean kitchen}. My house is much cleaner and is "guest-ready" more days than not. It has prepared our home to be a place where we can serve others. What a blessing. 

"Accomplishments": Numbers 6, 7, 13, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30, and 32
So 2012 has been a very rough year for us financially. Because it was an election year, my husband worked extra loooonnnggg hours for most of the year. With those two things combined, most of these "accomplishments" never happened. We just didn't have the money or time off to "Go to New Orleans," "Get a family photo done" or even make doctors visits {my 3 year old completely missed her well check up}. And instead of paying off a major debt, we actually gained more debt. We missed paying a bill by one day {a bill, I must say, we have never missed in the past 10 years}, and as a result, we were charged an extra couple of hundred dollars. That put going on a 10 Year Anniversary trip to New Orleans out of the question, and caused us to skip out on a few other family things  we wanted to do this year. 

BUT, I will say we were still blessed. God is faithful. We ended up having a "Where are They Now...a 10 Year Wedding Anniversary Party". It was so much fun having most of our wedding party and some of our key friends join us to celebrate 10 years of marriage bliss. And when I said I wanted to find a new hobby, I initially thought I was going to learn a new language, but ended up, at the very end of the year, teaching myself how to knit. It came in perfect timing so that I could make a few Christmas gifts, and am now sitting just a foot away from a special new project I hope will bless another. God changed the view of my accomplishments and blessed me and my family incredibly. 

and finally...

"Relationships": Numbers 1, 3, 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18, 21, and 29
I really wanted 2012 to be all about developing better relationships with others, those I knew closely, those I just barely knew, and those God would send my way this year. I was SO BLESSED this year. At the beginning of 2012, I was having emotional issues with the state of my relationship with my family and friends. I was oh-so-lonely and was being attacked by Satan about my lack of true friendship with other women in my lives. I made it a goal for 2012 to evaluate what I was doing or not doing that was keeping me from developing deep, meaningful relationships with other women in my life. Through a series of activities, I have developed some incredible relationships with other women in my life. I began a "Breakfast Club" where a few moms and I eat breakfast together at a small, old-fashioned restaurant, Eva's Restaurant. Not only have I grown so much with the women I eat with, but I have come to love their children as my own. AND, as a bonus, I have learned much about our waitress and am beginning to see such a beautiful ministry develop. 

Our church decided to start Home Groups on Sunday nights. Since we live far away from the church, it was rare that we were able to join the church in prayer each Sunday night. So for all of us who lived away from the church, we were given an opportunity to meet in someone's home to pray for each other. It has been incredible. This year, we have seen two babies born, someone got engaged, members moving on to bigger and better things, changes in jobs, and so much more. Through this meeting, I was able to really develop some great relationships with some women in my church whom I probably wouldn't have had the courage to develop a friendship with otherwise. AND I got to get to know some awesome college kids through ministering to them and high school kids through taking over their Sunday School class. Although I didn't have them over as much as I wanted, I really came to love these Young People as family. 

As for my family, we have had a rough year, but have grown so much through it all. My husband and I started off the year going on a date once a month for the first few months, but his job and our lack of money kept us from making it a regular thing. I developed ways to minister to my husband so that he would feel blessed and desire to come home each day. I also changed the way I dealt with my children. As expected, some days are better than others, but I took this year to really focus on learning how to love each one. My oldest son and I have some  pretty intense conversations about everything. My middle child and I have found new ways to enjoy each other's company, and I have learned so much about him. {I really think he's going to be my architect}. And my daughter. There's such joy with my daughter. I have started making Thursdays our day to just do something special together. Some days we just go to the park; others we go get dessert somewhere. She's growing into such a little lady. 

And finally my relationship with my Father in Heaven. Although I didn't do a devotion every day, I did one most days. I participated in a few Bible studies, and I began listening to my Lord more and more. When I was getting upset about not accomplishing my goals, about not having enough money, about how much my husband was away from home because of his job, about my weight loss goals, about my relationships with others, about my role as a homemaker, God would remind me in so many ways how He was blessing me. Many times those blessings came from unexpected places. I began looking for Him in everything. I can only grow more and more with my Father as long as I live. I am beyond amazed at how He knows what's best for me. 

So what's in store for 2013? 

I am not going to be as much as an over-achiever this year. I believe that last year's extensive list set up for how God is going to use me this year, 2013. As this year was coming to a close, God was opening my eyes to ministry opportunities. He placed in my life key people who I truly believe will help me as I attempt to serve others. He developed skills in me that I will be able to use this year to spread His Love. I am beyond excited to see what God has in store for me, for my family, for my friends, and for those who are going to be a part of my life this year. As in the verse above, I will put behind me the disappointments, failures, and struggles of last year and strain for the goal that God has set aside for me in 2013. 

May 2013 be a year filled with so many blessings and joy. I look forward to growing with you. 

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