February Goals | 2015

Goals

Several of my favorite bloggers regularly share their thoughts on goal setting (The Tiny Twig and Elise at Elise Joy). I love hearing how others work through their goal setting process, and seeing the specific goals that come out of that process.

I tend to be much more of a jump-in-and-do-it kind of girl than a plan-it-out-and-get-it-done girl. Meaning, I jump into things pretty quickly and assume I really CAN do it all, and that there will be no shock to my system in pursuing a goal. I usually do okay making progress toward the goal while the passion and energy are alive, but I rarely stick something through past the end of the initial wave of passion and energy.

Recently, goals have been rolling around in my head and begging to be written down. I couldn’t write goals down on just any piece of paper, though, so I started using Elise’s goal tracker. I love this approach! I have three yearly goals, and I am using three separate sheets – one for each goal. I know – 100% – I’m going to miss days (maybe even weeks) of working toward certain goals. It’s just how life goes. But I also know that the goal is met by doing my best, not by being perfect. The visual of these templates helps me see that.

I thought I would share my goals with you, both my yearly goals and monthly goals, and track overall progress here – a monthly recap, if you will.

Yearly Goals

1) Study the Bible daily. I’m planning to use the She Reads Truth studies throughout the year, and am also using the SRT #365daysoftruth year long Bible reading plan.

2) Practice yoga daily. I love the flow of yoga and the way my body feels when I’ve completed a session – even just 15 minutes of stretching makes a huge difference. I want to make this a daily practice.

3) Wake up “early” each day. Working from home breeds the temptation to lay in bed until 7:59AM and work the whole day in jammies. Been there, done that, and it’s not all it seems to be. By the middle of the day, I’m yucky feeling, sluggish, bored, etc. When I wake up earlier in the morning, I ease into the day by reading the Bible, drinking hot tea, showering, and eating breakfast. For me, the benefit of waking up early is substantial.

February Goals

1) Complete She Reads Truth’s Esther study, and start the Lent study.

2) Continue reading through the #365daysoftruth reading plan.

3) Wake up ten minutes earlier daily each week. This week, I’m up at 6:30. Next week, I’ll be up at 6:20, The following week, up at 6:10 and so on. The goal is 5AM :-).

4) Complete a yoga session each day. I use and LOVE the Yoga Studio app which offers a variety of classes, and tracks the date and time of each class completed. My goal is to work up to a 45 minute beginner session by the end of February.

5) Eat less sugar.

So there you have it. I’ll report back on goal progress at the end of the month. I’d love to hear any goals you’ve set for this month or year!

—–

Joining Hayley at The Tiny Twig for Goals with Grace.

What I’m Into | January 2015

Dahlonega Morning | grey ceiling
Our back deck on January 17 – it felt like the FIRST sunny day all year.

I can’t wax philosophical about January because its winter, and winter is my least favorite season. If I could get over my dislike of winter, I’d give January a lot of credit. January has been the month of new routines (e.g. She Reads Truth every.single.day), of warm wood fires in our fireplace, of dreaming for spring, and of celebrating one year since our big move to Dahlonega.

We started January dog tired after traveling home from visiting my sister and her family in Italy for Christmas (I am fully aware of the snobbishness oozing from that statement – apologies). We spent the first weekend recovering, and then jumped back into work. I cannot understate the benefits of the time we took off. Two weeks is long enough to let the cobwebs really clear, and to get to the point where starting the routine of work and life is a welcome change. While 2015 has already had its share of stresses and challenges, Justin and I are both much more balanced and sane on this side of a break than we were in December.

Okay, so on to the FUN STUFF… this month, we loved:
– Reuniting with our Bible Study group
– Brother-in-law coming to stay for the weekend
– Hiking on the AT (Woody Gap trailhead to Preacher’s Rock)
– Celebrating ONE YEAR since our move to Dahlonega
– Seeing Glennon Melton IN PERSON at FBC Gainesville
– Swapping Favorite Things bags with my girlfriends

My earbuds were filled with Taylor Swift and the StartUp podcast series by Alex Blumberg at Gimlet Media (yes, I love the name!)… I am a bit late to the podcast series but am enjoying it immensely.

I picked up a new hobby in January… KNITTING. I technically started in December, but never made it past the first ten rows of any attempt. January, however, brought on my first completed project: a scarf!

January also marks the time to buy seeds. We’ve had a garden for the last few years (probably four or fives years now), and most of those have been container gardens (aka our “pot” garden). We’ll be doing the same thing this year because we’re renting, and the yard is quite rocky. Last year was our first year to grow from heirloom seeds, and I loved it. We’re going that route again this year. I love scouring the Baker Creek Seed catalog. This year, we’re going with purple hull pinkeyes, Craig’s grande jalapeno peppers, golden cayenne peppers, horizon bell peppersheepnose pimento peppers, chadwick cherry tomatoes (my favorites!), and white cherry tomatoes. I can’t wait to get the seeds started! More to come…

We ate really well this month. We started the month with black eyed peas, collards, corn bread, and pork chops… any month/year that starts with that meal is going to be great. We also devoured a pecan pie, Dijon Balsamic Tenderloin and black bean “dip”, tacos with mango salsa, white chicken chili, banana nut bread, and spicy black-eyed peas with cornbread. I recommend it all!

Lastly, but certainly not least… the She Reads Truth study of the book of John, and the year-long Bible reading plan have both been such a blessing. God has used many, many pieces of John to speak to my heart – this ragged, doubting heart that lives within me – and being in God’s Word daily has filled a piece of my heart I didn’t know was empty. I am grateful for the ladies at SRT and all they do.

Looking forward to February: More hiking, visiting favorite wineries, starting seeds, celebrating love, SRT’s Esther study, a day with my mom, and {hopefully} the first real hints of spring.

—–

Joining Leigh at www.leighkramer.com for What I’m Into.

Beach Finds | Turkish Steps

While visiting my sister and her family in Sicily this Christmas, we visited the Turkish Steps. We parked at a beach entrance and walked along the beach to the Turkish Steps. As we walked, Justin’s eagle eyes noticed an array of unique shells, rocks, glass, etc in the sand, and picked them up to show me. I snapped pictures so we’d remember, and wanted to share those here.

What’s in a word | 2015’s One Word

For each of the past two years, I’ve chosen a single word to focus on throughout the year. This word is in lieu of a list of resolutions and/or other goals. Both of those words were big, big words with all the feelings and pressure and expectation that come with big words. For 2013, I chose trust, and for 2014, I chose wisdom.

I have not written a reflection on 2014’s word because, well, I’m quite frankly very glad to see the year and the word go. Instead of walking in wisdom as a mature, thoughtful thirty-something, I tumbled down paths of bad decision and darkness that led me to places where wisdom was gained as the direct result of doing something very stupid. And this process did not happen just once – no, wisdom came to me via tumultuous paths the entire year.

I’ll spare you the details, but 2013’s word, trust, had a similar trajectory.

So I rode into 2015 decidedly against picking a single word. I preferred retaining my pleasant associations with single words in the English language to singling one word out and decimating my perception of its merit. I’d rather slaughter yet another New Year’s resolution of going to the gym eight out of seven days, thankyouverymuch.

But then, this pesky thought buzzed around my brain: What if I was picking the wrong words – the expected words, the big words, the words-I-wanted-to-fix words? What if I picked an “easy” word without any expectation?

Laying in bed one night in my sister and brother-in-law’s house under an Italian sky, I turned words over in my head and weighed them against questions I thought would help me land on a smaller, less expectant word. These questions went something like the following:

  1. Do I have any expectation of this word – if yes, is that expectation grand, with “good person” implications? If so, throw that word out.
  2. Do I practice this word already? If so, would I then expect myself to be a perfectionist at this word as a result of picking it for 2015? If yes, throw it out.
  3. Is this a comfortable word, or is this a buzzword and/or Christianese? If yes to either of the latter, throw it out like it’s on fire.

And so on… I’m guessing you’re getting the point.

And then I landed on a word where fields of butterflies and daisies and rainbows all shined upon this word. Only kidding – I landed on a word that I immediately brushed off because it’s something I’m not good at, and it’s something that will take time and effort to improve, and I’m not interested in a third year of decimated words.

But this word stuck: Thoughtful.

I let it roll around in my brain and take up residence for a few days. I casually mentioned it to Justin. I browsed Etsy for box sets of hand-made birthday cards – the object of my first thoughtful action (birthday cards for all!). And then I stepped away from it, stopped smothering the poor word, and let life move on. Thoughtful hung out, deep in the recesses of my mind, and wouldn’t leave. So, like the stray cat on the porch that just won’t leave, Thoughtful adopted me for the year.

At first, I expected Thoughtful to be very action oriented on my part. Seeing someone in need and offering them chocolate (what? most people carry cash as currency instead of chocolate?? nonsense.), remembering a friend’s birthday, giving gifts to people who deserve them, thinking before I speak (especially if snark is possibly involved in the answer), etc.

But really, the lessons Thoughtful has taught me thus are about recognizing the thoughtfulness of others toward me. An e-mail from a super close friend that knows my struggle with infertility letting me know she is pregnant with her second and taking time to share all the amazing things God has done to get her to this point and giving me privacy to process her news alone. That’s thoughtful.

There’s a third side to Thoughtful that I hope to encounter a lot over the next year, and that is the process of truly thinking a thought to completion. Not just being thoughtful of others, and not just recognizing when others are thoughtful toward me, but stopping and thinking things through – thinking life through – and understanding, appreciating, cherishing all the craziness of any given day.

So – 2015 shall be the year of Thoughtful. And, in case 2015 goes the way of previous years, I am apologizing in advance if I go the opposite side of Thoughtful and instead am a jerk – while it will be no consolation to you in the moment in which I am being a jerk, know that I will look back, quite likely in January 2016, and curse the moments where I went to the opposite extreme of Thoughtful. Please forgive me.

Rome in December

J and I spent three days in Rome recently. This trip was our second to the Eternal City, and we visited our favorites. I played with a new lens (the Canon 40mm lens) and wanted to share my favorite pictures thus far. The light in Rome in December fascinated me – because the days are so short (sunset is around 4:45 PM) and the sun is low in the sky, the light seems to always be morning or evening light.

grey ceiling | piazza novana
Piazza Novana, Rome, Italy
Pantheon, Rome, Italy
Pantheon, Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Rome, Italy
Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy
Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy
Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy
Pantheon, Rome, Italy
Pantheon, Rome, Italy
Christmas in Rome; view from Spanish Steps at night.
Christmas in Rome; view from Spanish Steps at night.

Flight.

grey ceiling | flight

[Written Dec 16, 2014] Right now, I’m 37,000 feet straight up somewhere over the Atlantic between northeastern Canada and western Europe. Truth be told, this spot is one of my favorites for writing. Headphones are on, flight tracker pulled up, husband in seat next to me, plane full of people on EST trying to sleep like babies at 9:15PM in hopes that the suddenness of the morning into which we’re flying will be less jarring. I gave up – I’m a night owl anyway, so why fight sleep at this point? So I am here – writing.

I love trips like this because I can’t do anything but sit right here on this plane for hours. I can’t get online, the phone cannot ring, and I cannot physically do anything other than sit, stand, use the restroom, eat, sleep, etc – no laundry or dishes or episodes of Gilmore Girls to watch. My mind gets to go all the places it loves but is usually too busy to go. Tonight, memories of adventures that once lurked at the end of jet bridges are crowding my memory.

I stepped on a plane for the first time at 14. I was traveling halfway around the world to Moscow for a three week foreign exchange student program. Everything was new, and the roller coaster-like flight from Chattanooga to Atlanta via a puddle jumper was my favorite leg of the journey. Next was Atlanta to New York, and New York to Moscow. I’m not sure I even remembered my name after all that flying. 

The three weeks in Russia were incredibly formative in my understanding of humanity being the same, at our very foundation, in every culture. One evening, my host “sister” and I were walking to a friend’s house to spend the night. I told her I’d forgotten my toothbrush, and she laughed and said “Just use your finger!” I’d only heard this sentiment at home, obviously, and was delighted to realize using your finger in lieu of a toothbrush is universal truth.

The next flight I stepped on was to Brazil, two years later, for a two week mission trip. We visited places of heartbreaking poverty like huge dumps where children and their families lived and worked. We also visited places of beautiful hope. As a fifteen year old in small town USA, I walked away from this trip with a deeper understanding of the horrors of poverty. I walked away from this trip with two dear friends – one of whom I wrote letters with for years and years. Facebook became the easier/better means for keeping up with each other, and I cherish those friendships all these years later.

College brought a few more flights. After my freshman year, I visited a friend in Colorado Springs, CO. We commandeered her mom’s mini van and took in all the sites. Garden of the Gods was one of my favorites, and I went to my first “secular” concert while there – Good Charlotte at Red Rocks Amphitheater. The acoustics were awesome, and the view of Denver twinkling in the distance sticks with me all these years later.

During my sophomore year, I flew to New York City for a collegiate newspaper conference. We stayed at the Roosevelt, and had sessions scheduled all day. Needless to say, I skipped more than I attended, and instead ventured out to Wall Street and Battery Park. Our first night in town, we ate in little Italy and walked over an hour to get back to the hotel. It started snowing as we walked, and we passed several of the prettiest cathedrals I’ve ever seen. I visited my first Sephora while wandering around Times Square (a love that continues today!).

Seven years later, I took my next flight. I was headed to a conference in San Diego (my first visit to California), and booked late. My seat was an aisle, but in the middle of the plane. I couldn’t see out the window at all, and had no idea what all the squeaks and bumps and engine revving while we were on the ground meant. I was terrified the entire time we taxied and took off. Once we were safely in the air, I calmed down.

Nine months later, I flew from Atlanta to Philadelphia for training for a new job. The flight was at 5:30 on a Tuesday evening, and by the time we were in the air, the sky was dark. I spent most of the flight typing an e-mail on my mobile phone to a lady at the office I used to work in to help her understand some of the procedures she was taking on. This flight was the first time I can remember feeling as though I was doing the only thing I could be doing. I was technically between jobs – I’d finished my prior job at noon that day, and would not be starting my next job until 8AM the following day. I had no outstanding tasks at my old job, nor any at my new job. This feeling was so foreign.

Since that 5:30PM flight, I’ve taken many, many more flights for work. I traveled full time (i.e. every week, typically Monday morning – Thursday night) for three years. In the past year, the travel has slowed down and I’ve spent more time in my own bed than a hotel bed!

When I would spot an airplane in the sky when I was younger, I would daydream about who was on the flight and where they were going. The idea of flying – of having a reason to fly! – seemed so glamorous. I know now that it’s often not, but the dream remains. Every time I’ve stepped on a plane, an adventure has waited on the other side.

What’s your favorite adventure thus far in life?

Saturday

grey ceiling | woody gap (georgia)

Last night, we hosted our first Christmas party for J’s department. It was lovely – amazing food, music, laughter, introductions, gift-giving, little kids running around, and lingering around tables and in groups. We’ve always wanted to host such an event – a tangible way to serve those that serve others everyday – and are already planning for next year’s event.

This morning, I lingered in bed reading blogs I’ve not read for weeks. The conversations about race, the analysis of this Christian faith, wonderful tips for all kinds of life-things captured my attention and helped my soul start breathing again. The last month has been full of 55+ hour weeks, travel, go-go-go, and little rest. While my body can handle this pace for an extended period, my mind and my soul cannot.

I declared today an “Amy Day.” (For years, my dad has declared “Ralph Days” and will take himself off for a day of Barnes & Noble sitting/pondering, double-feature movies, and cheesecake – I have learned from the best.) The work to-do list for the weekend will wait for Sunday.

I threw on yoga pants and hopped in the car. J had to work today, so I took him a biscuit and Coke, offered him the water I’d bought for myself, and wished him luck. In the bright sunlight of a cloudless mountain sky, I turned the car north and headed for the mountains (not, fortunately, a long drive). Curvy roads brought on inclines and amazing mountain views. Tiny mountain towns and views of true-blue mountain ranges worked their way into my soul. With no particular thought in my head, the life seemed to come back bit by bit.

Coming home brought on the best kind of nap (the kind that start at 11AM on a Saturday). After a quick shower, Starbucks sitting and blog reading ensued. In the truest form of absence making the heart grow fonder, I found myself bookmarking new favorites:

Ten Thoughts on Hosting Thanksgiving by Shauna Niequist

Blessed Are The Peacemakers by Mihee Kim-Kort

Choose Well. Invest Wisely. (Reimagining Short Term Missions) by Jaime at Jamie the Very Worst Missionary (and I’ve bookmarked her short term missions series)

When none of it mattered by Alece Ronzino at A Deeper Story

I’m home now, and J and I have a pizza date planned. So I am putting these thoughts together to capture the goodness of these stolen days. Tomorrow will come quickly, and the unending list of work-things will pounce, and life will keep going… but for today, I found breathing room.

I’d love to know what you do to regain breathing room when things get busy and fast.

Tonight.

Tonight, we made pounds and pounds of amazing BBQ in preparation for J’s department’s Christmas Party (which is tomorrow night). Bring on the cole slaw, mac and cheese, potato salad, corn salad, Christmas cookies, pies, and much, much more!

grey ceiling | BBQ

Folly Beach 2014

Every fall, we spend a weekend at Folly Beach with my best friends from high school and their husbands. The company is wonderful, the mornings slow, and the beach beautiful. I slipped away a few minutes each morning to capture the beauty of the beach in the morning sun.

grey ceiling | folly beach, sc

grey ceiling | folly beach

grey ceiling | folly beach, sc

grey ceiling | folly beach, sc

Checking in…

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write. At first neglecting to post was unconscious. Then I realized I wasn’t writing anymore, and let that be okay. That went one step further and I essentially decided to “retire” grey ceiling – I shifted to a private site (I didn’t want to lose everything I’ve already written, but didn’t want it to be available anymore) and went on about my business.

But sometimes the thought that something is truly over drives us to realize we deeply cherish that thing and are not ready for it to be over – no matter how uncomfortable we are about it.

So here I am. The uncomfortableness of this media – sharing private life details, thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc with complete strangers – got to me, and led to my stepping away. But so many of you that read this are dear friends, and I want to keep you in the loop on life. So, again, here I am.

This past weekend, J and I attended a scholarship gala at our alma mater. The evening was delightful – full of smiles and hugs and laughter with many of our favorite people from our old town. At one point, I stepped back to the drink table, and ran into a man I’d worked with many years ago when I first started working at the college. We greeted one another, asked how life was going, and I then remembered seeing via social media that he had recently started a new job. I asked how his new job was going, and he looked surprised that I knew. I shrugged and said “I keep you with you!” and his face lit up. It was an “ah-ha” moment for me – something as simple as occasionally paying attention to someone else’s post and then asking when I have the rare chance to see them in real life means a lot to people. It means a lot to me when others do that for me. So in this media of social posting and sharing, I find value in the ability to keep up with others as life moves on and around and away. And so I will continue posting.

So, tonight, I just wanted to say HI. I hope you are well. And I hope you’ll occasionally share a snippet of your life where I can keep up with it as well :-).