The Struggle of Almost

rob-looking-up-at-mountainWe’re almost there.

I almost have a strict pull up.

We’re almost ready to compete.

I’m almost certain I know the answer.

I’m almost ready to buy a house.

The struggle of the almost. Right now, most of my life feels like almost. I haven’t yet arrived, but it seems close enough; at least close enough to keep me simultaneously frustrated and hopeful. My soccer team is almost ready to play with the big dogs. My reading goals are almost complete. I have almost attained a strict pull up. I’m almost ready to buy a house.

On good days, almost is encouraging. Almost reminds me how far I’ve come. Almost tells me these goals and dreams were big enough and worthy of pursuit.

On bad days, almost is hopeless. Almost reminds me I’m not there yet. Almost tells me I’ll never be good enough. Almost whispers and shouts my fears and inadequacies until I can’t take it anymore.

On good days and bad, almost focuses on me. How do I measure up? How am I performing? What skills and talents do I need to leverage? Who approves of me?

The lie of the almost is the belief that it ends. When we live our lives focused on ourselves and our strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, and failures then we will never measure up. We will never arrive. We will never have all of the answers.

I think what I, and we, am chasing is shalom. The deep and abiding wholeness that can only come from God. Success, balance, and accomplishments are mere shadows of the rest and satisfaction resulting from satisfaction in God.

I love goals. I love achieving “things” and I will continue to set big goals for myself and work to achieve them. I would still go so far as to say I need goals to live a healthy life. However, I must be willing to live in the almost because I know that is where God reveals Himself abundantly sufficient. Though the sorrows may last for the night, joy comes in the almost. Or something like that.

Almost reminds me I am inadequate. I am weak. I do not measure up. God tells me he is sufficient. He is strong. He is perfect. My almost is his already done.

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Success, Failure, and a New Perspective

20150202_163943Those of you who are regular readers may remember my post about my goals for the year. In addition to yearly goals, I also made smaller, monthly goals for myself. I started the year strong, making my bed every day in January and continuing the habit so far. February was a bust; my goal to solve a Rubik’s cube never got started. I still do not even own a Rubik’s cube. March was a mix. My goal was to memorize 3 sequential chapters of Scripture. I memorized 2, the first two chapters of the book of James.

Around the same time my church was starting a series on James and I’ve always loved the simplicity of James’ writing, even if the living it out part is a good bit more difficult, so memorizing the book seemed like an interesting way to engage with the sermon in a new way.

Memorizing the first chapter proved pretty easy, my brain was not yet stretched to capacity, but each set of new verses proved a little more difficult. I got a little discouraged when I realized my memorization wasn’t coming as easily, but then I was reminded why I’m doing this in the first place.

My motivation for memorizing Scripture is not to be merely a smarter sinner, but a more repentant believer. In challenging myself to memorizing Scripture I am giving myself set time each day to spend with God – a value infinitely more valuable than any rote memorization. Gaining this clarity made me OK with not memorizing all 3 chapters, even if the achiever side of me hates not finishing a task.

As a list maker, even my time with God can become part of my routine; merely a discipline instead of a relationship. I’m easily tempted to become a hearer and not a doer, just like James says. I can learn Scripture, quote it to help others, and never let it transform me. I need grace every day, even (especially) for my good deeds.

Don’t just be hearers of the word and so deceive yourselves, but be doers of the word also. James 1:22

Leftovers and Libraries

IMG_2238

This is my bedside table…I may have a book problem.

Today, on this last day of the month, I am thankful for leftovers and libraries; both of which save my bank account and remind me of my dependence on others.

Grilled chicken and vegetable leftovers keep me from eating paleo cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner today – thanks, Mom and Dad.

And libraries enable me to checkout and read books I wanted to read, but didn’t have in my budget to read. I’m on my way to reading 100 books this year and my new Greenville Library membership is by far the greatest factor in my success. In 2 visits the last 2 weeks, I’ve already checked out 14 books and read 5.5. Thanks Greenville Library!

I’m reminded that I cannot survive in a bubble. I love setting big, hairy, audacious goals (you can read more here), but I can’t do them alone – even something as simple as keeping a budget or reading a book requires me to depend on other people and systems for success.

January Goals: A Review

breakfast2My goal for January was to make my bed every day. I’ve heard over and over again about the importance of starting each day with a small accomplishment like making your bed. This simple task starts the day right and puts you on the proper trajectory for the day. I love the idea of being able to start the day fresh and feeling accomplished. Not to mention, I have a little bit of OCD tendencies 😉

Over the years I’ve learned I’m a convenient bed maker; meaning if it’s easy to make my bed then I will do it, if not then I won’t. Easy means not having my bed pushed up against a wall making it difficult to make the bed. Still, when January started I wasn’t sure how I would feel about making my bed every.single.day.

Well, I am here to say I did it! Not a day was missed in January. Along the way I learned a few things:

1. I really like having my bed made when I come home in the evening. It makes my whole room look cleaner and surprisingly, it makes me less likely to leave my clothes on the floor because my room already looks neat and I want to keep it that way.

2. There were days I didn’t want to make my bed, but knowing I had a goal made it easier to suck it up on those days. I also realized it takes less than 2 minutes of my day so really, is it so hard to do? No.

3. I think this will be a habit I continue. Though I won’t berate myself if I miss a day…

This wasn’t a difficult goal, but you might as well start with a win – amiright? The main point of my monthly goals is to challenge myself and grow be it physically, mentally, or spiritually. Some habits, knowledge, and strength will stick, some will not, but my hope is the process will overtime make me a more well rounded person. I’m also a nerd who loves challenges so it’s a nice way to satisfy the need for a challenge.

February’s goal is to learn to solve a rubik’s cube. Step 1: buy a rubik’s cube…

Books I’m Reading

As promised I am posting my not-yet-finished book list for 2015. I’m hoping to read 100 books this year – a feat that may be more challenging than running an ultra-marathon. If I counted correctly, I have 71 books on my list, including the 3 books I’ve already read. I need to read about 1 book every 3 days if I’m going to do this. I’m not reading quite at that rate, but I’m planning on knocking out a few shorter books throughout the year that can be finished in less than 1 day. You will notice the books skew heavily toward the business/entrepreneurship category. This is an attempt to combine work reading with my personal goals. I don’t typically read a lot of fiction, but I plan to throw in a few more fiction books this year for ease of mind and speed of reading. As I said, I *only* have 71 books so far so if you have some favorites that I’m missing then let me know! I plan to update the Books I’ve read list throughout the year and if I find any must-reads I’ll post about those too. Now I’m off to the library! Book List 2015 Books I’ve Read: (as of 5.4.15)

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. Fierce Convictions
  3. Einstein – Walter Isaacson
  4. The Plantagenets – Dan Jones
  5. Brilliant Blunders – Mario Livio
  6. American Sniper – Chris Kyle
  7. Great by Choice – Jim Collins
  8. Poverty of Nationa – Wayne Gruden, Barry Asmus
  9. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  10. The Man Watching: A Biography of Anson Dorrance – Tim Cruthers
  11. Getting Naked – Patrick Lencioni
  12. The Forgotten 500 – Gregory A. Freeman
  13. The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd
  14. Love Does – Bob Goff
  15. Just Start – Schlesinger, Kiefer, Brown
  16. The Gold Standard: Building a World Class Team – Mike Krzyzewski
  17. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
  18. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  19. The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Launched a Revolution – Jonathan Eig
  20. The Effective Executive – Peter Drucker
  21. Failing Forward – John C. Maxwell
  22. The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership – Steven Sample and Warren Bennis
  23. Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell

Books I’m currently Reading:

  1. The Last Lion (Part III) – William Manchester and Paul Reid
  2. The Fabric of the Cosmos – Brian Greene
  3. In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations that Changed the World – Ian Stewart

Books I want to Read:

Business/Entrepreneurship –

  1. Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development – Anthony Bradley
  2. Other Books (secondary) – see back of PON
  3. Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working… – Dambisa Moyo
  4. The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World was Created – William J. Bernstein
  5. The Founding of the American Republic: 6. The Mercantile Impass (The Freeman22, no.1 (Janruary 1972)) – Clarence Carson
  6. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing… – Paul Collier
  7. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West… – Hernando De Soto
  8. Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond
  9. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
  10. Competition and Entreprneurship – Irael Kirzner
  11. Love is the Killer App – Tim Sanders
  12. Getting Things Done – David Allen
  13. The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  14. Entrepreneurial Mind – Kevin J???
  15. The Lean Start Up – Eric Ries
  16. The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen
  17. The Entrepreneurial Mindset – Rita Gunther McGrath
  18. Getting Naked – Patrick Lencioni
  19. The Effective Executive – Peter Drucker
  20. Just Start – Charles Kiefer
  21. Who Moved My Cheese? – Spencer Johnson
  22. The Secret – Mark Miller

Faith and Business

  1. Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business – Grudem
  2. Poverty of Nations – Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus
  3. The Beijing Factor: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power – David AIkman
  4. Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of Revolutionary Faith – James Bilington
  5. Neither Poverty Nor Riches – Craig Blomberg
  6. The Christian in Industrial Society – HFR Catherwood
  7. Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures – Darrow Miller and Stan Guthrie
  8. How Christianity Changed the World – Alvin Schmidt
  9. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger – Ron Sider
  10. Thou Shalt Prosper – Daniel Lapin
  11. Business Secrets from the Bible – Rabbi Daniel Lapin
  12. Insanely Simple – Ken Segall
  13. Creation Regained – Albert Wolters
  14. Culture Making – Andy Crouch
  15. Work Matters – Tom Nelson
  16. Playing Heaven: Rediscovering Our Purpose as Participants in the Mission of God – R. Paul Stevens and Robert Banks
  17. He Shines in All That’s Fair – Richard J. Mouw
  18. When The Kings Come Marching In – Richard J. Mouw

Communication

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
  2. Permission Marketing – Seth Godin
  3. Launch – Jeff Walker
  4. Secrets of Dynamic Communication – Ken Davis
  5. Talk like TED – Carmine Gallo
  6. You are the Message – Roger Ailes
  7. The Magic of Thinking Big – David Schwartz
  8. On Writing Well – William Zinnser

Fiction

  1. Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd
  2. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  3. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
  4. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  5. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  6. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  7. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Science

  1. The Fabric of the Cosmos – Brian Greene
  2. Ada’s Algorithm – James Essinger
  3. The Accidental Universe – Alan Lightman
  4. The Meaning of Human Existence – Edward Wilson
  5. Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  6. The Grand Design – Stephen Hawking
  7. Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

Leadership

  1. Failing Forward – John Maxwell
  2. The Killer Angels – Michael Shaara
  3. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John Maxwell
  4. Courage: The Backbone of Leadership – Gus Lee
  5. The Gold Standard: Building World Class Teams – Mike Krzyzewski
  6. Drive – Daniel Pink
  7. Failing Forward – John Maxwell
  8. The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership – Steven Sample and Warren Bennis

History

  1. The Plantagenets – Dan Jones
  2. The Last Lion Series – William Manchester and Paul Reid
  3. The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
  4. The Forgotten 500 – Gregory Freeman
  5. Genghas Khan and the Making of the Modern World – Jack Weatherford
  6. Earl Black and Merle Black, The Rise of Southern Republicans (Harvard University Press, 2003).
  7. Charles Reagan Wilson, Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis (University of Georgia Press, 1995).
  8. Frank L. Owsley, Plain Folk of the Old South (Louisiana State University Press, 1949).
  9. James C. Cobb, Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity (Oxford University Press, 2005).
  10. Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (University of North Carolina Press, 1997).
  11. David L. Chappell, A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow (University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
  12. Charles Marsh, The Last Days: A Son’s Story of Sin and Segregation at the Dawn of a New South (Basic Books, 2001).

Non Profit

  1. The Revolution will not be Funded – INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence

Recommended

  1. The Man Watching – Biography of Anson Dorrance
  2. Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull
  3. Paper Towns – John Green
  4. Quiet – Susan Cain
  5. Great by Choice – Jim Collins
  6. Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson
  7. Bossypants – Tina Fey
  8. Telling Secrets – Frederick Buechner
  9. The Great Good Place – Ray Oldenburg
  10. The Hidden Dimension – Edward T. Hall
  11. Everything Is Miscellaneous – David Weinberger
  12. Emergence – Steven Johnson
  13. Orality and Literacy – Walter Ong
  14. I am Malala – Malala Youssef
  15. Still Alice – Lisa Genova
  16. God’s Smuggler – Brother Andrew
  17. David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell
  18. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

In Defense of New Year’s Resolutions

mountaintop

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? – Psalm 8:3-4

Like many people, I made New Year’s Resolutions. Also like many people, I posted them on the internet. I do this because I know my goals for this year deserve the same space as the latest cat meme; and that’s an important space!

I also know I will fail at some of my goals, but that’s part of the point – shoot for the stars and all that. Still, for many people New Year’s Resolutions are equal parts wishful thinking and guilt inducing. And I hate this. I hate we believe the lie that our value comes from completion of something as silly as making your bed every day. I hate I fall into the trap of believing I must measure up to an arbitrary list to be valuable.

When we use our resolutions as a measuring stick of value then we will fail every time, even if we succeed, because our value is misplaced. If I’m lucky, I’ll finish an ultra marathon this year, but even if I do I will still have 5 more months left of 2015 to live. 50 miles would be a great accomplishment, but I guarantee I will be empty within a week of completing it. If my most significant accomplishment this year is running 50 miles at one time then I will have failed miserably. The point is not for me to compare myself to others, to check off the longest list, or to add value to my life through activity, but for me, resolutions keep me focused, driven, and motivated.

As a child, my mom would make me run laps around the house because I had too much energy. To be fair, I pretty much begged to run anywhere and everywhere so this wasn’t so much a punishment as a mutually beneficial activity. As an adult, I’ve noticed when I have too much free time I am less productive. If I have 10 things on my to-do list I will finish 8 of them, but if I have 2 things then I may not finish either. I need challenges and goals to focus or I am useless. I thrive under the stress of a to-do list (is it stress if you love it?) and I gain immense satisfaction from crossing off lists. That’s my obsessive weird personality.

I have a lot to learn from my creative, non-list friends; like how to ease up, relax, and enjoy just being. I love their spontaneity and ability to dream. I love that they tolerate my obsessive personality and still invite me to hang out even when I have to leave early so I can run in the morning. Most of all, I love that through them, I can see and know the joy of being loved unconditionally. They remind me that even when I fail, it’s OK because a list doesn’t determine my value in the first place.


And, if you’re interested, here are several good perspectives from achievers and dreamers on why you should NOT make New Year’s Resolutions. Each of these blogs bring a great perspective and address the negative side of resolutions well:

Abby | Joey | Jen

Welcome 2015! Goals for the New Year

Dreamy, future oriented photo for goals post? check!

Dreamy, future oriented photo for goals post? check!

I’ve mentioned my achieving personality many times before on this blog so it should come as no surprise that I love lists. More specifically, I love crossing items off lists. Last year, I created a new type of list for myself – yearly and monthly goals. I really enjoyed having something to look forward to each month – minus the months I totally forgot! – and I decided to continue the process again this year. I’m repeating some goals, trying to make them more into habits, some goals I didn’t complete last year and I’m trying again this year, and some are entirely new. So here’s to 2015 and all that will be in store!

I divided my goals in a couple of categories: first, yearly and monthly; then reading, personal, physical, and spiritual. This worked well last year and I like the balance it provides.

Reading

  • Read 100 books – an ambitious goal to say the least! I started a little early and have already read 3 that I’m counting towards 2015. I will also have several LONG flights in January/February that will aide in time directed to this goal! I will post my ever-changing reading list soon – there aren’t 100 books on it yet so you can help me get there!
  • Read at least two – 500+ page books – The Last Lion Series (on Winston Churchill) is already on my list. I don’t yet know what the 2nd book will be.

Spiritual

  • Read Bible through in 1 year – This has been a habit for several years now, but there are always new challenges and new rewards!
  • 1 solitude day – 8 hours per month, 1 solitude weekend (2 full days) per 6 month – a habit I started last year and LOVED. It definitely requires planning and commitment, but it was so worth it. I’m marking the days off for the whole year in January to encourage follow through.

Physical

  • Run 50 miler – YIKES! I ran a marathon in 2014 and now I need a new challenge. Surprisingly, 50 miles doesn’t scare me as much as 26 did. There is a race in July I have my eye on, depending how my training goes.
  • 10 minutes of yoga 2x per week – 50 mile race = lots of running = lots of stretching. I’m hoping this will ease soreness and prevent injury. I’ll also be continuing CrossFit and other cross training exercises and I’m thinking of taking up swimming again.

Personal

  • Complete goal per month (below)
  • Save $15,000 – the top goal on my list for 2016 is to buy a house so I’m going to be working and saving like crazy to make it happen!
  • Solitude 1x per month

Monthly

January – Make bed every day – I’m hoping this becomes a long term habit.

February – Learn to solve a Rubik’s cube – I hear this is also a great party trick. – ed note: this one didn’t happen. I didn’t even buy a Rubik’s cube, oops!

March – Memorize 3 chapters of Scripture – this was on my list last year and I failed miserably so I’m trying again this year.

April – Master strict pull up – Also on my list last year. I’ve been working on it the past few weeks and I’m getting close!

May – Take a picture every day

June – Learn Hebrew letters

July – Run 50 mile race – Sadly, I broke my toe earlier this year and that really threw off my training. This one won’t happen this year 😦

August – Visit a museum (Greenville or elsewhere)

September – Take family out for fancy dinner, and pay! – I bought a house instead, so that counts, right?

October – Donate at least 1 trash bag of clothes

November – Floss every day

December – Pray daily for persecuted church

2014 Goals: A Review

Doesn't this just make you want to travel?!?! I'll definitely have some travel goals in 2015.

Doesn’t this just make you want to travel?!?! I’ll definitely have some travel goals in 2015.

2014 was an ambitious year. I decided to set yearly and monthly goals, personal and professional goals, and reading and fitness goals – you can read the full list here. As an achiever, it is deeply satisfying for me to cross off a list. In fact, several times throughout the year I wanted to create sub-lists for my yearly goals just to cross them off!

Like most people, my resolve for some goals dwindled throughout the year and others I completely forgot about. Still, I was able to finish several of my big goals – like running a marathon and completing a monthly solitude each month. Both of these were long term goals requiring commitment and resolve and both required giving up many Saturdays to make time – sometimes both happened on the same Saturday. I finished my marathon in October and I’m already planning to run another one. One of the most surprising realizations how quickly I began to crave my solitude time. If too many weeks went by without me having a solitude time then I would feel agitated and restless until I made time to get away. This is definitely a habit I plan to continue – who knows maybe I’ll go for a whole week sometime. Maybe.

My biggest regrets of the year were not putting any effort into learning a new language and not memorizing 3 sequential chapters of Scripture. Those may go on my 2015 list. I still have to finish 1,000 pushups in December – right now I’m at 450 and I’m pretty confident I can make it to 1,000 by the end of the year.

Overall, I enjoyed the process. I found the most stressful part was not being able to cross off year long lists sooner! The acts of setting and then making time to complete goals was most valuable and I learned I have a lot more time than I thought I did. I liked having different categories of goals to accomplish – reading, writing, fitness, spiritual, etc, but I’m also toying with the idea of creating a theme of goals for 2015. I just don’t know what it would be!

Just Do It

Y’all, I am riding a social justice high right now. We had an amazing meeting two nights ago with our little task force. Our merry, merry band of abolitionists is fired up and ready to go! It is so encouraging to be with friends who are committed to fighting injustice. Though I’ve only known most of these women for a short-time, it felt more like a reunion rather than our first meeting. I left with the same energy as after meeting with an old friend for coffee. These women are smart, creative, passionate, and committed to making a difference in our community and around the world.

Social justice has always been a passion of mine ever since I was a little kid. In kindergarten, I led my class in a protest to save the sea turtles – their habitats were being disrupted by coastal lighting which caused babies to go away from the ocean after birth and then die – normal kindergarten stuff, no? Often times, this bent towards social justice can feel disjointed and exhausting. Each new cause brings an onslaught of hope and despair, passion and fatigue. However, with trafficking, the passion lines up with my passion for orphans and vulnerable children, particularly those in foster care, and a great wave of passion is born! I can simultaneously fight for trafficking (and potential trafficking) victims while also advocating for orphans locally and globally. I may not be in a position to foster or adopt right now, but I can support foster and adoptive families, purchase my Christmas presents from slave-free vendors, and I can raise awareness in my community.

One commitment I’m making this Christmas is to focus on the gifts I give and learning where they come from. If, to the best of my ability, the origins of the products or their materials are unknown or likely sourced from slave labor then I’m not buying. Yes, this means spending more and yes, this means planning more, but hey! one of my goals is to have all of my gifts by the end of November and that means I’m already on it!

The idea for this realignment came from a book I read in college, Everyday Justice by Julie Clawson. In it she states, “Justice, at its very core, deals with relationships – our relationships to God, to each other and to the world […] Whether we intent to or not, our everyday actions hurt others and damage those relationships. Through anger and malice, self-centeredness and greed, we deny the image of God in others […] using them as objects that can be exploited for personal gain […] or simply ignore them.” (Clawson 20)

The time for silence is over. I will not be silent this year. I will use my voice and my dollar to fight for justice and freedom.

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. – Eli Wiesel

Running the Race

Marathon Finisher

Almost there! Mile 26.1

Y’all, I did it! I finally finished a marathon*!!! Overall, it went about as good as could be expected. I had some AMAZING friends and family cheering me on – shout out to my family, Madei, Sloan, Torres, Carrie, and Alli – THANK YOU!!!

I’ve posted a few thoughts at the Grace Church Women’s Blog so pop on over to read more:

At one point during the race, around mile 18, my hips seized up and running became extremely painful. For the next 4 miles I did a walk/run combination and admittedly, felt a bit sorry for myself. I had already run farther than I ever run before and I still had more to go. Around mile 22 my attitude began to change. My hips hurt whether I ran or walked so I decided to run just to finish sooner. I remembered what I said previously – namely that miles 18-26 were going to be a gut check no matter what. I could still enjoy the process even in the pain.


*It’s not too late to support Astor’s adoption! You can click here to donate online – instructions on the left sidebar.