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Seven Things I Learned Working at Christian Care Ministry

A few years ago when I quit McDonald’s, I wrote a blog about 5 things I learned while I was working there. So now that I’m no longer working at CCM, I figured it would be appropriate to do the same type of blog for that job!

To sum it up, CCM is a healthcare sharing ministry for Christians that has a large location in Melbourne, Florida, a smaller location in Illinois and recently opened up one in Colorado. Our Illinois department basically dealt with incoming bills by getting them to the right department and then processing them, which required a lot of focus with minimal distractions. Many employees of CCM are remote employees and work from their own homes.

I first started working at Christian Care as a temp in June 2014; I became the main mail sorter and worked at that for 9 months. In March of 2015, I got hired on full-time and started doing more computer work. In October of 2016 I transitioned to working from home, which I loved… but the work I knew how to do was growing scarce, and my attempt to learn one of the more complicated tasks proved to be much harder than I expected. So they switched me to a seasonal department in December, and when the work ran out in January I was let go.

So after my total of 2 years and 7 months working there, here are 8 things I learned in the office!

  1. The Importance of Community
    It was understood that having many remote employees meant that it was probably going to be harder for them to feel connected to the rest of the workers. Even our smaller office felt out of touch from the larger location at times. So the leaders tried to find ways for everyone to stay connected as a community in spite of the distance!

    – We gathered for chapel every Thursday and had devos every Tuesday
    – We had food and fellowship day once a month and all our remote area employees commuted in
    – There were email groups for prayers and praises
    – There were walking, baking and decorating contests throughout the year
    – Christmas brought Secret Santas and “Random Act of Kindness” challenges to get to know employees you didn’t know well
    – Skype, videos, pictures, conference calls and emails were utilized to bring everyone together at various times

    I loved the creativity that led my co-workers and I to make friends with each other and with those that we worked with on the other side of the country. Since the work was often very isolating, it was great to have so many technological and face-to-face outlets for making connections.

  1. How to Use the Right Hand Keypad
    One of the most practical things I learned while working at CCM was how to use the numeric keypad on the side of my keyboard. I had never had a need to type so many numbers before, and was not particularly fast at the keys on the top of the alphabet. So with the speedy data entry I needed to complete, I was forced to learn how to use the numbers on the side… and it wasn’t long before I was an expert at typing away with phone numbers, socials and certification numbers!

  1. Ask Questions
    My learning style is what I’m gonna call “instructional hands on with a guide”; I like being told what to do and then trying to do it while somebody watches me to make sure I’m doing it right. Attention to detail was very important in my work, so in order to learn exactly what I needed to do, it was important that I was able to ask questions.

    If you give me the ability to do written communication, I’ve realized that I can be a bit overwhelming with how long and rambly my emails/texts/Facebook messages are. I’m sure I annoyed my supervisors several times with how much I pestered them with questions until I learned how to condense and figure things out on my own. 🙂 But they were very patient, and the “make sure you know that you’re doing it right” mentality served me well. There were times when I had to figure things out based on my own expertise, but knowing when to ask questions and being willing to do the work to get the answers I needed saved me from a lot of mistakes.

  1. I Enjoy Simplistic Work
    As someone who has never had a dream job or a career plan, it’s nice to find something I like to do, and there were 3 distinct times where I had the kind of work that made me say “I enjoy doing this every day”.

    The first was the mail table. I liked physically handling the mail, I liked the organization of it, I liked having to rush to get it done and the satisfaction of getting through a Monday; I liked gaining enough of an expertise on it that I got to train the newbies; I liked knowing the answer to where a document went, and having a partner to sit next to and chat with.

    After that, I moved to the computer and became in charge of multiple tasks: indexing documents, sorting out the faxed documents, printing medical CDs, logging in received checks, and being the back-up mail person. Occasionally having so many responsibilities was a little stressful because I have a tendency to procrastinate, but I also loved the variety of jobs and the satisfaction of completing all of it.

    Lastly, I learned the task of “keying in RXs”, which was processing prescription costs. They were more complex than indexing, but their consistency made it easy to learn the ropes; they were interesting enough to not be monotonous, but routine enough that I could listen to music and still focus on them.

    Those 3 different phases of my work were times that I really enjoyed. I like the feeling of doing something that I know really way, and I like simplistic organizational tasks. So hopefully in the future I can find jobs that let me do the same kinds of things!

  1. My Handwriting Is Really Recognizable
    Since I did mail I had things that I wrote on, so people who did mail alongside me caught onto what my handwriting looks like. Which meant that, during our Secret Santa’s, I had to try and disguise my handwriting on cards and such by writing in different fonts or using my right hand.  But even when I did that, there were people who could always recognize that it was mine. So whether that means that they have good eyes for handwriting or that my writing is so distinctly “me” (and if it’s the former whether it’s a compliment or not), I am not sure. But I will have to come up with some new tricks in case this type of thing happens in the future. *starts collecting magazines and newspapers for cutting out words*

  1. Take The Initiative
    Being in the new job, it took me a while to feel the freedom to jump in with chitchat or share during devos without being specifically addressed. So when I started to feel myself getting closer with my co-workers and finding my place in the group settings, I wanted to get into the practice of taking the initiative.

    I’ve been working on improving my friendships the last few years, and “initiative” is one thing I’ve been focusing on. So I tried to send people emails to thank them if they said or did something encouraging. I tried to tell people what I appreciated about them when I thought of it. If I had an idea to make another person laugh, I tried to follow through on it. I am not always the best at conversing with people I don’t know super well, but remembering that I was half of the relationship helped my perspective. I made some great friends at CCM, mostly because they are super nice people and take the initiative themselves… but I am glad that I put the effort in that I did because I know we’ll still get together as friends even though we’re no longer co-workers.

  1. Stop Being Afraid
    Another thing I was focusing on the last few years was to not NOT do something because I was afraid. Not that I had to do everything that was scary, but if fear was the only thing holding me back, I had to find another reason or go through with it. I didn’t live by that entirely (there are lots of things I wish I had done or need to work on) but it did help me a couple of times. I had several opportunities to lead activities and teams during my time at CCM, and I enjoyed jumping into those even though it was a little intimidating.

    The thing I learn about not being afraid is that it doesn’t mean whatever I do is going to be perfect; being courageous doesn’t always pay off with a flawless performance or without being rejected. But taking that step and being willing to accept the outcome of the risk is something I can always learn to be better at. It’s something I’m going to keep in mind in the future, because even when I audition for plays or jump into a temporary job offered to me or initiate a conversation with someone who intimidates me, being willing to do it even if I make mistakes will help me become more courageous anyway. And that’s worth it.

The Story of Our Awesome House

One day as I was sitting at home in my kitchen in the year 2014, Elizabeth came up to me and said, “Hey you and I both have jobs, cars and are adults who are interested in independence… wanna buy a house together?” and I said, “Yes!”

I’m paraphrasing (obviously I don’t remember the exact conversation… it was over two years ago!) but that’s pretty much how this journey began. We both decided that we were ready to think about moving out… we knew that going in together would be cheaper, easier and less scary… and we had confidence that we could live in the same house without trying to kill each other! So thus began….

THE PLANNING PHASE
We knew pretty quickly that we wanted to get a house instead of an apartment. Neither of us liked the idea of spending several hundred dollars every month that never went towards anything. With a house we could do all of our own decorating and remodeling, we would be making an investment that would return our money in the long run, and if we got one that was big enough we could consider getting a roommate to help cover the costs. And since our parents let us continue living at home until things were settled, we had the time to save up for it.

Step 1.) We built up credit! We both got credit cards and made sure we paid off our car insurance and phone bills monthly. We needed at least a year’s worth of multiple payments for each of us in order to get a loan.

Step 2.) Save up for a deposit! I told my work friends that I wanted to save up $10,000 to cover deposits and immediate move-in expenses by the time we were ready to buy a house.

For almost two years we saved money, spent money, paid it off, and talked for many hours about all of our house plans. Finally, when Elizabeth was home from Haiti and we were all set financially, we jumped into…

THE HOUSE-HUNTING PHASE
In the spring of 2016, after getting an approval for a loan from the bank, we went to Re/Max Realty and met with Tim McCaslin to discuss our house-hunting plans.

We wanted a 3-bedroom house that was $85,000 or less; we wanted large living spaces that could comfortably seat a lot of people; we needed a long room that Elizabeth could use as a photography studio, and I needed a workspace as well; we also wanted two bathrooms, a garage, and a decent sized kitchen. We needed it to be fairly live-in ready, but we were okay with doing some cosmetic work (painting, flooring, that kind of thing).

Elizabeth, my mom, Tim and I looked at dozens of houses. We would give nicknames to each house that had potential, and list the pros and cons for each one. There were some houses that were instantly given a no, but we had a few favorites that we considered:

The Mexican House- A stucco house that kept getting cheaper but had a tiny kitchen and not quite the living room openness we hoped for.

The Kilgore House- A nice house in a good location that was right at the very top of our budget.

Elizabeth’s Favorite- Our favorite from our first round of online shopping that had large living rooms, but only one bathroom and tiny bedrooms.

The Metal House- This house was all metal on the upper level with a nice, hardwood basement; it was like living in a filing cabinet on top of a mahogany dresser. In another life we might’ve bought it and decked the top floor out in Star Trek and nerd décor, but the style was just a bit too bizarre for us.

The Auction House- This was a nice tri-level that we almost bought, but it was being auctioned off online and we couldn’t coordinate that with the bank.

We found a lot of “almost” and “if only” houses, but no “Yyyyes!” houses. But finally, one day, all that changed…

THE “WE THINK WE FOUND IT!!!” PHASE
When we walked into the house owned by HUD for the first time, Elizabeth and I loved how large the living room was. The main floor had a large living space with a side nook, which connected to a long carpeted room with a fireplace, which connected to a long “conservatory” room with tall windows, which connected back to the living room! I literally ran in a circle around the whole area, falling in love with the unique but appealing setup. It also had 3 decent sized bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large back porch, a big kitchen, and a mostly finished basement that had a closed-in room that was just perfect for Elizabeth’s studio!

Walking out of this house, Elizabeth and I both knew that this was one that we could really see ourselves living in. This was the first one that I was emotionally excited about; we didn’t really even nickname the house, we just started calling it by its address.

Once we knew this was the one we wanted, we got a second opinion and figured out the estimated cost up front for necessary repairs. Knowing that we could make it work, we got ready to go in that Saturday and put a bid on it… but on Friday I got a text that somebody else had put in an offer, and the offer had been accepted.

We were disappointed, but Elizabeth and I decided to pray and wait for two weeks, waiting to see if maybe, maybe, the deal would fall through and the house would be up for sale again.

More than two weeks went by, and we looked at a few other homes, but this house still said “pending” online. So we kept waiting.

One day at my work we were having our Tuesday devotionals and the discussion was about miracles. During the whole discussion I was thinking about how THIS was the house we really wanted and I was silently praying that God would do a miracle and work it out. And when I got back to my desk, I had a text from Tim: “Guess what, the HUD house is back on the market; the buyer financing must have fallen through”.

I texted my sister and mom immediately! We raced to his office as soon as we were off of work and put our bid in. A second night of waiting and adjusting our bid, and two days later they had accepted our offer!

We then endured approximately a month of just waiting on paperwork to go back and forth… but finally, finally, FINALLY we got together with Tim and a representative of HUD on October 27th of 2016, signed a million papers, and OFFICIALLY BECAME HOME-OWNERS!

THE REMODELING PHASE
Elizabeth and I each excitedly posted a Facebook status at the same time with our great news, and we received our housekeys the next day. Immediately we started calling businesses for repairs and services that needed to be done in the house, and we went into full-blown remodeling mode.

We walked through the house and talked about what we wanted to paint, where we wanted to carpet, and what each room would be used for. Elizabeth, who has a great natural knack for style, came up with most of the ideas for how the rooms should look, and together we put our house together in our head.

Over the course of the next month we had three painting parties, took a trip out to IKEA for lamps and chairs, cleaned some carpets, replaced others, moved furniture from my old office that was closing down to our new house, had various plumbing and lighting appointments, bought a stove, and made CONSTANT lists. Well, at least I did; I actually had an official “New House Notebook” where I kept all the lists of our To-Dos, To-Buys, appointments and ideas.

On a fun side note, as we started to name the rooms we ended up with a Conservatory, a Study and a Lounge. Realizing that these are all rooms in the board game Clue, we tried to find ways to put the rest of the room names in our house: Kitchen, Dining Room, Billiard Room, Ballroom, Hall and Library. On top of that, we found a way to decoratively hide representations of each Clue weapon in our house: the Revolver, the Rope, the Lead Pipe, the Candlestick, the Knife and the Wrench. So if you ever visit our house, see if you can find all of them!

On Dec 3rd we had our super fun Housewarming Party, and on Dec 8th we officially moved into our home. We’ve been living here for almost 3 months now, and we love it. We’ve got several home renovation projects to look forward to this year, and we are anxious for the weather to get warm again so we can start working outside.

Late note added: about 2 months after we moved in, I got let go from my full-time job, and I have been hunting for another one ever since. I’ve had some moments of panic, yeah… but I saw God so clearly working with Elizabeth and me in this house-buying process that I know He’s going to take care of this financial aspect and provide the right job at the right time. This whole last year has been a good reminder of His faithfulness, so I continue to trust Him in my renewed season of job-hunting.

Thank you so much to everyone who was involved in this lengthily-blogged-about process! We look forward to hosting you in our home for years to come!


January: Another Fresh Start!

It has been ages since I blogged… and I have no idea if I will do any better at it this year. But I’ll get it started by writing two blogs for the month of January. Here goes the first… my 2016-wrap-up-and-2017-resolutions blog!


What Were My Goals Last January?
My Blog Goals: To reconnect with God, to find contentment in this season of my life, and to learn financial responsibility. I also added a blog later on about a 24 Book Reading Challenge I wanted to complete in the year.

Non-Blog Goals: To not let fear be the reason I don’t do something new, and to buy a house.


What Did I Do Last Year?
-I hit my 1 year mark of being an employee with CCM.
-I auditioned for the Polo theater and got to spend one of the most fun summers I’ve had in years acting in Godspell.
-I read a million books, but completed less than half of the books on my challenge.
-I was frugal and spendy and frugal and spendy, and then Elizabeth and I spent the entire last half of the year being spendy-spendy-spendy because WE BOUGHT A FLIPPIN’ HOUSE! (Not meaning a house that we’re going to flip, rather one that makes me flip out because it’s so awesome.)
-I went through a lot of change with my work, as I transitioned to working from home, and then joined a new department in the same company; some of it was stressful, and some was good.


Did I Complete the Goals?
Spiritual Goal: I did not do a great job of reconnecting with God this year, at least not the way I’d hoped to. But more on that later.

Contentment Goal: I think I did pretty well with contentment in this season of my life so far. The house was definitely an upside, and working from home has been great; considering the fact that there have been so many changes in my life, the last half of the year I have felt more excited and stressed than “content”. We’ll see how it goes now that I’m getting settled.

Financial Goal: Considering the fact that my sister and I bought a house and it is going to be entirely furnished by the end of the month with plenty of food, bills being paid, and my savings account getting filled up again, I think I can say that I completed the financially responsible goal. 🙂

Reading Goal: I was so confident that I could do my 24 Book Challenge, or at least most of it… but then I started it 3 months late, and I kept seeing other books I wanted to read or finding new challenges at the library that I couldn’t say no to, and then at the end of the year I got majorly stuck on Don Quixote… so yeah, that overachieving didn’t end very well. But I still read a whole lot of books, so it was a successful year for reading.

Fearless Goal: The past two years I have had the mantra of “don’t let fear be the reason not to do something new” in the back of my head, and so I drank some water to calm my butterflies in my stomach and headed out to Godspell with my brothers to audition last year… and it was extremely worth it. I also got to work backstage on the play following that, which was another fun experience. I’m not going to audition for everything, but I have definitely rediscovered my love for acting, and so I am going to keep an eye out on plays this year and hopefully find a good one or two to audition for.

House Goal: And lastly… I moved out. As everyone knows, Elizabeth and I accomplished our goal of buying a house, and I am so excited. We’ve been living in it for about a month, and some days I still find myself surprised that we actually did it… it’s no longer hanging over our heads on a to-do list… it’s done! That was for sure the highlight of my year.
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What Are My Plans for 2017?
I don’t have a list of resolutions, but I do have a goal: I want to have the best year of my life so far.

Everyone who knows me knows that my ultimate goal is to “get married, have kids, be a stay-at-home wife and mom who homeschools her children”, yada yada yada. But whether that is or isn’t in my future, it is not my life right now. And right now, I’m in a great season! I am independently living in my own house with my sister… I have a good job that has helped me get this far… I have an area of ministry that I’ve been involved in for years at my church… I have friends aplenty who like me and enjoy doing fun activities… I have an adventurous spirit… and I’m single! I want to actively enjoy this season that I’m living in.

However, the only way to truly do that is to get back on track with God. If I am seeking and listening to God, then the rest will fall into place. So, my main goal this year is to actually, literally and practically make changes in my spiritual life. I have been apathetic for the past 3 years about that with the hope of changing, but I want to be proactive about it this year. My most important resolution will be to jump back into regular quiet times, study Scripture, pray for the girls in my ministry, and spend quality time in worship.

Other goals to make this the best year ever include:
…continuing to be socially initiative and hospitable to my friends and family
…being financially wise on a regular basis so that I have opportunities to do spontaneous fun things without going broke (weekend roadtrips, meals at Olive Garden, seeing a show, etc)
…getting an exercise bike and using it regularly in my living room, as well as learning healthy eating habits
…investing more strongly into the lives of my ministry girls
…and continuing to enjoy my creative outlets, such as blogging, acting, singing, dancing, reading, writing and cooking.

This is my plan! I don’t know how far I will make it, but I am going to do my best to make this a fulfilling and giving time of my life. Happy New Year, everyone!


Book Challenge: First Quarter Complete

I am officially ¼ of the way through my book challenge, and halfway through the original list! It is time for a blog about what I’ve read so far.

 

A BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2016

  1. Calamity (by Brandon Sanderson)
    This trilogy was really great. It has a fascinating premise based on really good world-building, and the plot moves quite quickly. The main character is super fun and intelligent with endearing quirks, and he’s surrounded by a solid and loveable cast of characters. Kept my interest all the way, took some great twists and turns, and Calamity was a solid ending for the series. Definitely gonna be rereading and then buying these books in the future!

A BOOK YOU CAN READ IN A DAY

  1. I didn’t feel like doing a chapter book, so instead I went and did a series of little picture books that you can read in a few minutes. Spending 2 hours at the library, I got through 38 picture books, which included every book I could find by Mo Willems and the entire “if you give a mouse a cookie” series. Since 38 is a lot, I won’t do an actual review here of them, but I’ll post the full list in the comments if you want to know which ones I read and liked.

A BOOK I’VE BEEN MEANING TO READ

  1. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Mark Twain)
    Well this was definitely much different than the movie! Rather than a sweet and silly love story accompanied by making better dance music and entertaining the neighborhood children, the book is all about Hank trying to secretly create and bring his “modern-day” technology into King Arthur’s world, which eventually leads to him and his factory of followers trying to overthrow the entire knight army.

His commentary throughout the book was entertaining though hard to understand, and I was intrigued by how the mindsets of the entire population was so fixed and different from our own; I didn’t think about how people would be so different in their modes of thinking than what we see as “reasonable”, and it was interesting to think of that being a major difference between us and people from other times and other cultures. Other than that, this book was fine; I know it was making points about technology or politics or something which was deep, but it was slow-moving and not the most interesting story. I will stick to the musical movie.

A BOOK RECOMMENDATION FROM A LIBRARIAN (MARIA)

  1. I Feel Bad About My Neck (And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman) (by Nora Ephron)
    This very dry-humored look at the anti-perks of aging women (and other subjects) was written by the lady who, apparently, wrote the screenplays for 3 of my favorite romantic comedies (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. Basically she just writes for Meg Ryan.) There was a whole chapter that I had to read twice because she was talking about how she fell “in and out of love with Bill” and it wasn’t until I finished the chapter that I realized she meant Bill Clinton. There were always very humorous moments that I could relate to (as a woman, not as an aging woman yet, since I’ve been told I’m still “a baby”.) It wasn’t always laugh out loud funny (though it got me in a few parts) but its gentle exaggeration, mellow authenticity and sweetly thoughtful ending made it to be a very pleasant, humorous read.

A BOOK I SHOULD HAVE READ IN SCHOOL

  1. Wuthering Heights (by Emily Bronte)
    Why did people like this book? I mean, if they think of it as a whole Gone With the Wind “this is what happens when horrible people fall in love but clearly can’t stop being utterly selfish” deep, tragic story, then I can see its appeal because that’s what it is. If anybody thinks it’s romantic, I believe you are wrong and I would love to know why you liked it. It was unpleasant to read, with very few redeemable characters in it; the few redeemable characters did have a surprising happy ending, which I was not expecting, so the story ended better than… well, better than every other part of the book went. I’m sure it was written well and all that rot, but by golly, it’s hard to read a book that revolves around so many horrible people!

A BOOK CHOSEN BY A FAMILY MEMBER (HANNAH)

  1. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (by Jenny Lawson)
    Ok, my big disclaimer is that there is a ton of swearing and inappropriate commentary in this book, so I would not recommend it to anyone who is bothered by that: but by golly, this book was hilarious! I laughed out loud so many times, and it’s hard to tell whether the crazy things that happen to Jenny OR her quirky mind and ways of dealing with things is funnier. I always like figuratively getting into the minds of other people, and she had some very intriguing chapters that dove into the ways that she thinks. Definitely very high on the entertainment factor, this book!

A BOOK THAT WAS PUBLISHED BEFORE I WAS BORN

  1. Great Expectations (by Charles Dickens)
    This book was a kind of in-between slowness; it went fairly quickly while I was reading it, but it seemed to take forever. I was fairly interested in the story, but never intrigued. I didn’t dislike Pip, but I didn’t particularly care for him all the time, either; though I did care ABOUT him, which is different. And he learned his lesson at the end, so it’s all good. I did enjoy the characters of Herbert and Wemmick and Joe, and it had some fun moments of humor and quirkiness.

The ambiguously-happy ending threw me off when I first read it, but I think I’ve come to terms with how it turned out and believe that it’s plausible. The book I read had an extra except at the end that described Dickens’ “original ending”, and after reading it I don’t know which one I liked better. But as someone who likes happy endings, I’ll stick with the published one. Overall, not something I would reread often, but it was a fairly decent story I guess, albeit lengthy.

Well! It only took me 7 ½ months to get through 7 books! To be fair, I started 3 months into the year, so instead we’ll say it took me 4 ½ months… which leaves me with 21 books to read in the next 4 ½ months. Which means I have to read 3 times as many to get through the challenge twice, as is my plan, coming out to around a book a week. I’m done with the Godspell play, which ate away at my time, so if I devote my recreational activity around the house to reading books in this challenge instead of solely watching TV shows and cruising Facebook, I might make it. Of course I do have BOTH intimidating books to get through, as well as NaNo coming up in November and my continual house hunt. But it’s not over yet, so I haven’t given up! If I can get through 7 more books by the end of September, I think I’ll be in ok shape. So that’s my goal! We’ll see how it goes! 🙂


My 2016 Book Challenge!

A few months ago a friend of mine shared an article about a 12 category book challenge for 2016, and she tagged me in the post. I love to read, and challenges are fun, so I decided I was going to give it a go this year! But to make it more exciting, I’m going to try to go through it twice, and I even ended up tacking two more books onto the end of it. I’ll be reading the books in the order the article put them in.

I will write another blog about this at the end of the year, but here’s my introductory blog to tell you what the categories are, and what ideas I have for most of the categories. (Original article: http://modernmrsdarcy.com/2016-reading-challenge/?utm_source=-&utm_medium=-&utm_term&utm_content&utm_campaign&origin)

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A Book That Was Published This Year
1. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson. The reason I’m starting this challenge so late is because the FIRST ONE ON THE LIST (which I said I’m doing in order) was a book that was published this year. So since my family has been trying to get me to read The Reckoners Series for a while, I quickly read the first two books in March and have now finally begun Calamity, which came out this year and officially begins my challenge!

  1. Unknown

A Book You Can Read In A Day
With 2 & 16 I figure I can just go to the library, find a book in the kid’s section and read it there, so I’m not going to plan ahead for this category.

A Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. When I asked a friend for a recommendation, this was one she mentioned, and since I have been meaning to read this, I added it to this category and used one of her other books for a later category.

17. Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. This popped into my head the other day as a book I can put in this category, since I’ve been meaning to read it ever since I knew the movies was based off of a book.

A Book Recommendation From A Librarian
4. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron. This was recommended to me by my librarian friend Maria, the lady who originally tagged me in her post. I know nothing about this except where in the library to find it, so whee!

18. Bunnicula by James Howe. I asked my librarian friend Beth what book she could recommend to me, and this Bunny version of Dracula was her first choice, so we’re getting into some more interesting genres than just classics here!

A Book I Should Have Read In School
5 & 19; I couldn’t think of any books that I was supposed to read in school that I didn’t, so I’m assuming they mean a more worldwide “most people read this in school” rather than my specific experience… I might do some Shakespeare, but I still need to come up with some specific answers.

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A Book Recommendation By A Family Member/Friend
6. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I got this recommendation from my sister Hannah, who I know loves to read and said that this book is hilariously funny, so I will be looking forward to finding that out that this year.

20. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. My friend Jami (who recommended Wuthering Heights to me) and I were talking about books when she mentioned that this was one she found fascinating, so I added it to my list.

A Book That Was Published Before I Was Born
7 & 21; again, there are lots of these books that are still on my “to read” list, so I’ll just pick one of the classics I’ve never read when I get to these categories.

A Book That Was Banned Before
8. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I remember seeing this movie long ago and not getting it, and of course I’ve seen the VeggieTales version, so it’s about time I read the original!

22. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank. This seems like one of those that everyone is supposed to read at some point, and I’ve always been interested, so I’ma give it a go.

A Book I Didn’t Finish
9. Wicked by Gregory MaGuire. This category was harder to come up with books for, but then I glanced at my bookshelf and remembered that I had bought Wicked, read the first chapter and never picked it back up again. So that is happening this year!

23. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. My Dad has been reading and really enjoying the Thursday Next books, and when he mentioned to me that I should read them and that The Eyre Affair was the first book, I remembered that I had tried to read it a few years ago and never finished!

A Book That I Own But Never Read
10. The Fiction Class by Susan Breen. I was worried that I wouldn’t find a book that fit this category, either, since I don’t usually buy books I haven’t read. But I bought this last year at a library book sale because it’s about fiction writing, and it was cheap, and why not? Was it a poor choice to buy a book I’ve never read? We’ll find out this year! 

24. Three by Ted Dekker. I’ve only read two books by Ted Dekker, and have heard many mixed reviews about him as an author and this book particularly. But I bought this so I could read it and have my own opinion, and by golly, I will do that now!

 

A Book That’s Intimidating
11. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. How can you watch “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!” and not be intimidated by that huge copy of War and Peace that is half the size of him? But if Charlie Brown can read it, I can too!

25. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. In one of the Ramona books, her mother has trouble getting through Moby Dick for her book club, and as Ramona flips through it she’s disappointed that it’s a picture-less, small-print book with very grown up words. It was intimidating to my young mind.

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A Book I’ve Already Read
12/26a. Animal Farm by George Orwell. I remember finding this fascinating when I read this in school, and that was a very long time ago, so I figure I’ll retry it.

12/26b. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I read this in high school, didn’t get it at all, and now I’ve seen both movies and understand the plot, so I think on a reread this’ll make much more sense.

12/26c. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I read this years ago and found it fascinating, even though I didn’t always get everything he was saying, and I now own it and clearly need to reread it!

12/26d. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I’ve already this, but 2 friends recommended it, so it’s going on as a possible reread.

Disclaimer: I couldn’t decide between these 4 books which two to reread, so I’m putting them all down and will either just read two or manage to add more to the challenge.

A Book That Was Made Into A Movie
13. Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I loved the Lizzie Bennet Diaries which was created by the Green brothers, and I watched the movie, and I need more modern books in this challenge, so we’re going with this one!

27. Watership Down by Richard Adams. I remember that this movie was terrifying… so to get over it I have to read the book!

A Play
14. Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. My older sister loves this play, and I’ve heard lots about it but never read it, so this is a great chance to finally get to know Hannah’s favorite fictional character!

28. The Real Inspector by Tom Stopard. I asked my dad “what’s another play I should read?” and he went upstairs and found this book for me and so this will go on my list as the very last book!

So… if I can finish Calamity in early April, I will have 9 months to read 27 books, which will be an average of 3 books per month. Plus I’m going to try and read The Wheel of Time Series with my friend Kathy, and any other books I get when I go to the library… so we’ll see how well it goes! Stay tuned for the update in 9 months! 🙂


Why I Write Terrible Reviews About People

Last month at work, I had to participate in completing a few written reviews of people (including one review of myself). You know, the kind where they say “do you think this person is skilled at their job?” and “do they have good interpersonal skills?”, or “how do you think you could improve in your job?” and “what’s your greatest strength?”, etc.

And I don’t know WHY this is, but as soon as I start reading the questions in these surveys… something comes over me and I just can’t seem to take it seriously.

I mean, I know that giving feedback is important, and I know that it’s anonymous and the person isn’t going to see it, and I know that nobody’s going to fire me if I say the wrong thing so I should just be honest and professional… but somehow, the idea of reviewing people I don’t feel qualified to judge somehow makes me get a little panicky. And as a result, all I want to do is write sarcastic comments.

And it’s not like I even have anything bad to say about anyone! I have very high opinions about everyone I work with, so any review I give would most likely be positive. So what’s the big deal?

Well, my experience tells me that I don’t know the person enough to give super specific answers, so my first response is to write a rambly review full of disclaimers:

“I don’t really know what kinds of tasks Jane does, so I don’t actually know how knowledgeable she is at her job, but I’m sure she does great and knows exactly what she’s doing because I have no reason to think she doesn’t, and she’s super nice, so why not?”

But that’s hardly helpful at all, is it?
So I try to sound a little less like myself and a little more confident:

“Jane is a knowledgeable team-player who undertakes each task with a mentality of strong reasoning combined with a willingness to learn and a desire to make others feel at home. She displays a mixed skill set for gentle correction, adherence to instruction and the added ability to think for herself and make tough decisions in a given situation when the responsibility is thrust upon her.”

But then I just start laughing at myself because…seriously, isn’t that trying a little bit too hard? Like, am I just making all this stuff up because it supposedly sounds good? Do I actually know what any of that means? Would I ever actually say this in real life? In my defense to the latter, the way I write IS different than the way I speak, but it’s still so over the top…

Then finally, I get so disgusted with myself that I decide to just answer sarcastically with whatever comes into my head.

Is Jane flexible?
Yes, she is the greatest contortionist I’ve ever seen; she’s practically Elastigirl.

How are Jane’s interpersonal skills?
The skills of her interperson are quite astonishing, really, whenever she switches personalities.

How knowledgeable is Jane?
Not. At. All. Jane knows nothing and should be fired immediately.

No, of course, I didn’t choose the sarcastic options, no matter how sorely I was tempted. I generally ended up going with a condensed version of my second example; you know, the Random Big-Words Simulator.

But seriously, at the end of the survey I had to take about myself, the final question was something like, “What are some skills you would like to learn in your job?”, and I was SO tempted to say, “How to answer these questions without sounding pretentious!”

But because I didn’t ACTUALLY say that, I guess I will never learn.

Or maybe I’ll just get better in time.

Or maybe I’ll forever be a Feedback Failure.

I’m ok with any of those, really, as long as I don’t have to give Feedback about my Feedback. That could be a thousand times worse!


I Finally Finished the Twilight Saga!

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Twilight… one of the most controversial book series of my time… where the fans are avidly enthusiastic about it and the haters are very strongly against it.

I finally ended up reading the books and then watching the movies last year. I have a sister who couldn’t get through the first book, and another sister who loves it. Where am I on that scale? Well, as usual, I’m somewhere in the middle. (WARNING: SPOILERS throughout this entire review.)

BOOK REVIEWS

TWILIGHT
My least favorite of the series; we meet the mysterious, moody, and manipulative Edward Cullen, and Bella, a weird character who’s still fairly distinctive and unique. She falls “irrevocably in love” with his god-like good looks and his intensely hate-filled glares, he pulls on her emotions by stalking her and then yelling at her for liking him, yada yada. You could chalk his jerkishness up to his frustration at struggling to control his urge to kill her… whatever, that doesn’t make him a healthy character. But since this series shows that she is drawn to danger and death, I guess it’s her destiny. This beginning book does not make it look like it will be a happy love story. Except, wait! It is, because the final act of proving that he can control his thirst for her blood makes him the best guy to be with! Oh, what sacrifice! This noble character is certainly a keeper!

NEW MOON
With Edward gone for most of this book, we get to spend most of our time with Bella and Jacob, which I enjoy. I really like their interactions together in this book… at least until he becomes a werewolf and becomes moody and full of angst. But they get over that fairly quickly. I think the friendship between Jacob and Bella in this book is one of the best relationships in the series. (Beat out only by Bella and Charlie.) And at least when Edward comes back at the end of this one, he finally stops being a jerk… for the most part.

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ECLIPSE
I think this was the book that drove me over the edge with the constant self-loathing “one-up-each-other” comments between Bella and Edward. For goodness sakes, can’t you just realize that you love each other and will “literally” die without the other and get over it already? There’s trying not to be overconfident, and then there’s being convinced that nobody could possibly love you but that you are OBVIOUSLY devoted to the other person and aren’t they stupid for not realizing it already? Great flirting going on here, in this book.

However, this one did have some of my favorite moments; I love when the werewolves and the Cullens first start working together. I love when Edward and Jacob have their mostly civil yet honest discussion in the tent while Bella is sleeping. And although I don’t know how much I buy the whole “Bella is in love with both of them” thing, this finally starts moving the plot forward and propels the relationship stuff along.

BREAKING DAWN
This final book was probably the best overall. It made me annoyed the least amount, and it had all the happy endings with a good amount of drama that was DIFFERENT drama than the last books. A lot of plot goes on in this book, but I think it’s a really good final wrap-up to the series. I loved how they dealt with Charlie and vampire-Bella. It’s very satisfying seeing Jacob get his happy ending. And I like the way everyone comes together at the end for the Cullens. I actually really enjoyed the way the big showdown at the end did NOT end in a massive fight, but that it actually DID get resolved peacefully. (And the way they worked that out in the movie was a good choice.) And since in the second half Bella and Edward are married and vampires, they can FINALLY get over their insecurities about each other and can just have the good relationship they’ve been striving for all along! Win for everybody!

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CHARACTER REVIEWS

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BELLA
Like I said, Bella is a weird character, but she is distinctive and unique. When a book is in the first person, it’s hard for me to be too judgy because I can see the person’s perspectives and WHY they think that way. I mean, I personally don’t get why Bella has this strong aversion to gifts and events and attention and weddings and people and fun, but at least she stays consistent with herself and remains unique throughout the series. She has the equally annoying habit of being overly self-deprecating in an “I’m totally serious” way, so she and Edward have lots of fun trying to outdo each other until she’s finally a vampire. But other than that, I don’t hate her as a character. She may not be my favorite, but I think she fits the strange world of Twilight.

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EDWARD
He starts out horrible, and slowly gets better. Sometimes I think he’s really sweet, and I guess by the end you can tell that he is self-sacrificing, but he has control issues for so much of the series, and he really likes to show his love for Bella by either over protecting her or mocking her. I don’t know if he matures as the series goes on, or if he just stops being rude once he and Bella are more official and he doesn’t have to manipulate her anymore, but his character does go from creep to decent guy by the end, which I did appreciate.

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JACOB
Jacob, on the other hand, is the epitome of cockiness and confidence. And I don’t know if it’s that he’s so refreshing compared to Bella and Edward’s self-loathing battles, or if it’s that he actually has a sense of humor and the desire to smile, or if it’s that he had such a great beginning to his character, or maybe I just think that Taylor Lautner is much cuter than Robert Pattinson (JK), but I really enjoyed Jacob throughout the whole series. Yeah, he got all angsty and has anger issues and was super pushy with Bella in the worst of the love-triangle plot, but I generally enjoyed his presence the best throughout the story. His happy ending was extremely satisfying to watch play out, and although he might just be a nicer guy compared to the worst of Edward (and it’s possible if he was the main character I wouldn’t like him as much), I do think I liked him best.

So there you have it! I think the books started out as weird, but I did really get drawn into the story and the characters as the series went on, and they definitely ended much stronger than they began. And although I can understand all the mocking of the series, and I definitely don’t think people should draw relationship lessons from this because in reality this would NOT end up as happy as it does, I did like the story as a whole.


My Musicals of January

Well January was musical month! I meant to watch more than four movies, but that didn’t happen; and I also meant to watch all movies that Hannah picked out for me, but I ended up doing 2 that she picked (The Last Five Years and Moulin Rouge) and 2 that I just grabbed from the library (South Pacific and Jesus Christ Superstar). After February I think I’m gonna take a break from my movie challenge, but I’ll get back to it eventually when I have more time to focus on it. In the meantime, read my reviews about these 4 musicals!

The Last Five Years
I knew the music of this, and the plot, before I saw the movie. Which was probably good, because it is a little confusing to follow in parts if you don’t know that one story moves backwards and one forwards. You can tell pretty quickly when it gets started, but the middle got a little muddled for me.

I’ve never liked this story as much as my sister Hannah has; it’s too sad for me, and while the songs may be well-written and the movie was well-acted, seeing the deterioration of their relationship is kind of depressing. My Dad disliked the movie because he disliked the characters and thus felt no sympathy for the pain they put themselves through, but I still couldn’t help feeling sympathy for them. But it’s a “if you would only stop doing this and listen to each other!” sympathy, where I know it’s their fault. Basically, I think it was really well executed, and the music is very pretty, but the beauty of the music doesn’t give me enough happiness/satisfaction to make up for the sadness I feel when it’s done. Good movie, but not one of my personal favorites.

 

South Pacific
This wasn’t recommended to me by Hannah (she’s not a fan of Rodgers and Hammerstein), but it was at my library so I figured I should watch it. It was fine, I guess, but not very interesting. The main girl seemed to have weird, sporatic emotions, and I don’t know if that was due to the story or the acting. And I think the characters’ motives for why they did what they did were less obvious to me because I didn’t pick up on the race thing right away. I also forgot most of the songs, although I think one or two of them were pretty. It was mostly just boring and forgettable.

 

Moulin Rouge
Hannah and Elizabeth both said this was amazing visually, although Elizabeth said she dislikes the first half because it’s very raunchy. They were right about both of those things. Since the female lead is the head prostitute in her business, they were not shy about making lots of sexual jokes throughout the whole first half, which did get very uncomfortable in moments. But the movie was also quite cool visually. There are several songs where they do this weird surreal flying in the air thing and there’s fireworks and stuff… I don’t remember it exactly, but I remember it looked cool. I wasn’t as blown away with this movie as my siblings were, but it had an interesting story, some great musical numbers, and Ewen was very endearing as the enthusiastic idealist who always seemed so in love with love. Glad I finally saw it, and maybe a rewatch someday would draw me in more with the music.

 

Jesus Christ Superstar
I was very cautious about going into this, knowing that it’s portraying the story that is the basis of my faith, and was written by people who don’t believe the most important parts about the story. But I kept that in my head as I watched it, and thus wasn’t taken aback by anything they did that wasn’t Biblically sound. And actually, I think the story was told in a very interesting way that made it kind of ambiguous by the end. Many of the songs were sung by Judas and Mary Magdalene and the Romans, speculating about what Jesus was all about and how to deal with Him. The ending was sudden and open, with all the people leaving right after He died and just looking back at the hill in wonder as if to say, “We don’t get it, Jesus”. And I think it was a very interesting perspective of how a non-believer would interpret the events, or not be able to interpret them! If you don’t believe in the reason why He did it and in His resurrection, than it does seem kind of pointless.

My biggest issues were with the way they made Judas seem like the good guy, and the character of Jesus Himself. He felt rather off, more angry than compassionate, and I’m pretty sure the writers didn’t think that He was God. But it’s also really hard to get Jesus right, even for Christians, so I don’t begrudge them for trying. Taking it as a musical interpretation of the uncertainty and confusion concerning how Jesus’ story looks to the world, I thought it was quite interesting.


My Darling Guilt-Complex

I don’t think I’ve ever had anxiety or depression. My pity-parties seem much more just “flesh”-y than actual medical conditions. My inner insecurities don’t seem debilitating enough to be able to claim that I have anything wrong with my brain that is causing it to happen. I don’t say that to take lightly the mental disorders that I know people around me struggle with, but rather to confess that I KNOW I don’t have a right to claim these disorders as my own.

BUT…. I have become more aware of the amount of guilt that is deeply imbedded into my thoughts, emotions and motives. Every day. All the time. It’s not as serious as when I hear people describe their anxiety attacks or their bouts of irrational, depressive thoughts that slam them in the face; but it’s definitely something that is real and that I feel immersed in. And since writing is a good, therapeutic way to process my life, I’m going to talk about it! Here are several times I know that guilt likes to take over and make my life a little more complicated.


When People Give Me Compliments Or Attention
Last month I got a lot of attention for lots of random little things; starring in a Christmas program, giving a nice gift to a friend at church, a silly story I wrote at work, etc. And whenever I either get a lot of compliments or a lot of positive attention, suddenly my Ego and Guilt-Complex decide to have it out big time.

My Ego wants to take credit for everything and can get pretty self-righteous. I was such a great person, I’m so talented, etc. So I start to work against that mindset, knowing that I don’t ever want to turn genuine, encouraging compliments into a way of glorifying myself. There is a way to take the kind words of others in a healthy, constructive way and be encouraged in who I am.

But then, to combat my self-righteousness, Darling Guilt-Complex takes over and starts making me feel bad for doing anything in the spotlight that puts me in a position to get attention. It starts accusing me of showing off, saying that the words people say are just them being nice, that I have no right to feel proud of what I did, that I responded the wrong way when they complimented me, that I’m not humble enough.

I admit that I struggle with self-righteousness, but I know that there’s a balance between feeling too proud and not being able to ENJOY the encouragement I’m given because I’m too busy feeling bad that I received it. Now if I could just find that balance…


When I Plan or Anticipate Events
Last year, I helped plan 2 different surprise parties, and I scheduled and organized several different traveling outings to towns in my area. My family and I also took road trips out to New England and American Idol together, and I traveled to 2 different weddings.

When it comes to anything that involves anticipation, guilt is sure to sneak up on me and take a part in the final evaluation of how said event went. See, I’ve started noticing that every time I’m really looking forward to a trip, an event, a party… that as soon as it’s over, I say to myself “that was fun!”, but it’s intermingled with all the anxious over-analyzation of everything I said, did, didn’t do, should’ve done.

Darling Guilt-Complex likes to tell me that I shouldn’t have gotten stressed that one time because I ruined it for those around me. I should’ve made sure everyone had more fun. I should’ve talked to that person more. I should not have hyped it up as much as I did because people probably expected more out of it. Remember that one social interaction where I was really awkward? It probably ruined everybody’s day. they probably all hated coming and wished they’d stayed home instead. I could’ve done everything better.

Actually, being aware of the fact that my guilt is so present in my mind during these situations has helped me to prepare for events because I know it’s coming. I had fun planning Elizabeth’s surprise party in December, and I think it was a success… but I had to remind myself, beforehand, that I was not going to feel perfect after it was done and to just ignore the negative emotions. Sure, some things could’ve been smoother, but people had fun and got to hang out… so stupid accusations, you don’t matter!


During Every Social Time… Ever
Ok, maybe this is an introvert thing, or maybe this is an insecurity thing. I don’t really know. All I know is, I just went through an entire year where it honestly felt like EVERY human interaction I had was horrible. Awkward. Incompetent. Lame.

Seriously, do you ever go through those phases where you just feel completely off your social game? It didn’t matter how short or how long the conversation was… if I spoke to someone, I’d done it wrong. At least that’s how it felt.

For minutes, hours, or even days after each interaction, Darling GC would come with the attack: I didn’t respond fast enough to that person’s question. I stuttered a lot, which made me look stupid. It was very rude of me to interrupt like that. I should’ve smiled more because my face probably looked bored. That comment was probably offensive. I shouldn’t have made that joke. My sarcasm was too mean. I should’ve done more to carry my part of the conversation.

I’m pretty sure everybody has struggled with obsessing over past interactions and second-guessing themselves. But sometimes one can be a little bit too aware of what they say and do. At least the intensity of this onslaught has slowed to a gentle trickling of guilt rather than a bursting dam every time I open my mouth.


When I’m Working
I know I’m a good worker and that I’m fairly competent. I try to be responsible, respectful and reliable at work. I try to be aware of my mistakes that I’m likely to make, such as procrastinating on questions I need to ask my supervisors, or going so fast that I lose accuracy.

But sometimes I get really paranoid that everything I’m doing is wrong. I used to work with the mail, and after I was hired, anytime I overheard anybody mention “mail” or “scanning” or “sorting” or anything that had to do with my previous job, I had an instant moment of fear and panic, because I was sure they were talking about how I had messed it up somehow. Now I’m being trained on new tasks, which gives me a chance to learn… and new chances to mess up, says my Guilt.

I didn’t train the girls right. I did things without double-checking and now it’s twice as much work for everybody. I’m not fast enough. I’m going so fast I can’t possibly be getting everything right. I’m not being careful enough. I’m over-thinking. Everyone is fixing my mistakes behind my back.

Sometimes I even know that I’m doing a pretty good job and working straight through without getting distracted, and I still feel like everyone’s going to look at me and think that I’m being lazy. So I just do the best that I can, and if I can’t think of something constructive to tell myself that I should have done better, I do what I can to ignore my Guilt and tell it that it’s just being biased.


When I Do Nice Things For People
“One question haunts and hurts; too much, too much to mention. Was I really seeking good or just seeking attention? Is that all good deeds are when looked at with an ice cold eye?”

Now just to clear it up, “No Good Deed” does not depict my actual philosophy about life and good works. But the question Elphaba asks herself, about her inner motivations and trying to understand the trouble she’s been facing, is a similar one I’ve asked.

I really like doing nice things for people, and seeing them happy, and knowing that I can make a difference. I have a fairly generous heart, and if a creative idea pops into my head of encouraging someone or acknowledging someone or giving a physical gift to someone, I really, really like when it works out and it actually blesses the person.

But I’m constantly second-guessing my motives when it comes to things like that. Darling Guilt-Complex, who likes to make everything all about It, does its best to warp my thoughts about myself even when I feel like I’m at my best. I’m just seeking attention. I’m over-compensating for something I feel guilty about. I don’t care about that person, I’m just trying to look good. I’m trying to win brownie points with God and we all know that that doesn’t work. I just want people to like me. It’s all fake and selfish underneath.

Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that everything we do will have a mix of selfish motivation in it, simply because of the fact that we live in the flesh. But that doesn’t make it any less encouraging to others or pleasing to God. My flesh being gratified doesn’t discount the value of doing something that was good or kind.


So now that you’ve had a little glimpse into my mind, I will assure everyone that I do know that most of what my guilt tells me is false. Sometimes my guilt points to something important or true about myself and I need to take a harder look, but most of the time it simply builds up anxiety and negative thoughts and skewered perceptions. And I am aware of that. Yes, I struggle a lot with self-identity and insecurity, but I also have a head knowledge of truths that contradict what Darling Guilt-Complex tells me. Sometimes it takes a while to believe the truth and not the lies, since the lies REALLY like to yell the same thing over and over again. But hey……….. uh, life is good, and God’s still on the throne! *cheesy grin* (Praise Him!)

(That was the only blog ending I could think of.)


My First 2016 Blog! (And Focuses For the Year)

So around this time of year you get a lot of people who say, “I don’t really do resolutions”. And I don’t know if I do them in the traditional sense; I don’t often make specific goals of exercising per week or certain pounds to lose; I don’t keep track of how many books I read or movies I watch or have fixed skills I’m going to learn or habits I’m going to stop.

But I’ve always liked the idea of looking at the year that’s just passed, and starting January 1st with a vision of things I want to focus on in the coming year. I feel like I’m starting with a clean slate; it’s like going to bed and sleeping in order to recharge for a busy day tomorrow.

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” 2016 is my blank notebook, full of opportunity and yet beautiful before I even write in it. Who knows what kinds of adventures await me? So, in preparation for this year, here are my focuses for 2016:


 1. RECONNECT WITH GOD

All throughout 2015, I felt emotionally distant from God. I had disconnection in my worship time, got defeated reading Scripture because it felt pointless, and my prayer time seemed like a rant without any resolution. And since the few times I set aside to try and get some spiritual rejuvenation in my life seemed to fall flat, I kind of pushed it to the back burner. Oh, I didn’t mean to, but the busyness of life just crept up on me and before I knew it, I had gone weeks without really talking to God about anything or pursuing Him in everyday life. And the weeks turned to more weeks, and months, and… you get the idea.

I know that my salvation doesn’t depend on my consistency of having a quiet time, and I know that I’m not supposed to be run by emotion. Sometimes I do all the right things and I still don’t “feel” God. But there is goodness and power in continuing to do the right things even when it feels like it’s going no where, because it’s still doing something. I just may not be able to see it.

I don’t really have a structure to “how many Bible verses I’m going to read per day” or “how long I’m going to spend in prayer each week”… but I do know that I want to refocus my heart on Jesus once again. Whether the emotions follow or not, I will do my part to seek God wholeheartedly and draw close to Him this year.

2. FIND CONTENTMENT IN THIS SEASON OF LIFE

Even though I’ve had a job all year that I’m extremely grateful to have, it’s been really hard for me the past 6-months to accept where things are in my life. All I’ve ever really desired has been to get married, have kids and raise a family as a stay-at-home mom. I’ve never wanted a career, or to go to college, or to work all the time. Of course, I knew if I wanted to live on my own (which I’ve always wanted to do) I’d have to support myself. And now I have this great job where I can DO that.

I don’t know if this discontentment stems from laziness at not wanting to work, or if it’s from waiting on a dream that hasn’t happened yet… but this year, I’m determined to fight it.

Years ago, before my first relationship, I told God I wanted to figure out how to be content being single before I got involved with someone. And I was content, and then I dated someone, and now that it’s over I find myself having to go through the same hoops again. I’m not feeling committed to this season of my life… and that’s something I want to change, because why would God bring me into the next season if I can’t find my place in this one?

So one of my focuses this year is to learn to be content where I am: as a single, working, almost-26-year-old who is hopefully going to be moved out by the end of the year. I want to focus on my friends… on my blogging… on my ministry… on working hard and being excellent at my job… in fighting through the boring monotony of every day. I don’t have to worry about anybody else. Just me and God and what He wants me to do. I want to embrace my singledom so that, when the next guy come along, I have the wisdom to know whether it’s right or wrong instead of jumping into it due to desperation.


3. BE FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE

So I want to move out with my sister and be on my own, but that requires money and being semi-stable. So I’ve been working this year on saving up money. And I think I did a pretty good job, but suddenly I’m going to be turning 26 this year and I need to get my own insurance, and it feels like everything in my savings disappears before my next paycheck, and rent and food and utilities… I’m slightly overwhelmed with what living on my own and being responsible is going to entail.

So I want to focus on being more financially responsible this year. This does not mean that I can’t have fun and go on trips and buy things for people and splurge every once in a while… but it does mean that I need to work on my self-control for silly things that I don’t need. I’m going to try to cut out fast food for the first two months and really work on saving, and keeping the money that I’m saving. I need to be able to say no to buying things on impulse that are unnecessary. I need to be able to make a budget for myself and stick to it. Whatever it takes to be a good steward of my money, I want to learn to be that. I know I’m going to fail a lot, but my hope is that I’m also going to learn more restraint and discipline and budgeting and hopefully be better at all this by the end of the year. Because great plans of living on my own… come with great responsibility. Or something like that.


So those are basically my main focuses. Of course I want to blog more and read more and give more and eat more healthily and exercise more and be more grateful and dance in the rain and live laugh love and all that mumbo jumbo… but if I focus on everything, then I’m really focusing on nothing! (Was that deep? That was deep! And now it’s in bold because it’s so deep!) So good luck with all your resolutions and goals and focuses this 2016! Happy New Year!