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Yesterday I posted about moving beyond basic resolutions or themes, and diving in to actual themes for the year. These themes get to the root of what you are trying to accomplish in the year. When you get to the end of 2014, who or what do you hope to be? What words will encompass the year? For me, I chose three themes: Be present, Be encouraging, and Be still. So what does that mean, exactly?

Be Present

Mobile phones, tablets, televisions—there is so much distracting us from daily life. I am the worst at being present when I get home. My “focus” kicks in to overdrive and I tend to get honed in to one thing (usually my phone or computer), and completely ignore everything around me. It’s not uncommon for my husband to have to repeatedly yell my name in order to get my attention. This has to stop. I am losing time with my husband, time with my family, time with my friends, and time with my sweet four-legged children. We all know that time is limited, so I hope to be more present this coming year.

Be Encouraging

It’s so easy to get caught in our own lives, worries, and struggles. I am challenging myself to be more encouraging and thoughtful of those around me. This comes in many forms—opening my eyes, listening a bit more, being more thoughtful, being happier, and putting myself out there to help those in need. I believe the simple act of making myself available will open a flood of opportunities to be encouraging to those around me.

Be Still

Although very similar to being present, the being still aspect relates to slowing down and connecting more closely with my Savior. I want to understand His will more intimately. I want to trust Him more radically. And I want to experience more deeply the peace from letting Him take the reins.

January Goals

Each month I am going to set goals, with the majority directly relating to one of the themes. My hope is that this focus and emphasis will help me to move closer to becoming a gentler and more loving person. I pray that come December 31, 2014, I can look back and smile at the growth this year has provided.

For January, I am starting small and have defined the following goals to help lay the foundation for the rest of the year (and a few are just for fun!):

Date day/night at one new place per month (Be present)
– Install new shelves for closet make-over
– Build Postable list for personal communication (Be encouraging)

– Begin daily prayer journal (Be still, Be present)

– Write two articles per month for Grace in Love (Be encouraging)
– Begin photography class online

It’s the end of the year—we’ve wrapped up a busy holiday season filled with an abundance of excitement, merriment, and anticipation. As the year winds down, these last few days tend to be full of reflection and examination of hopes, aspirations, and goals for an even better year to come.

I’ve joined the many individuals who are counting blessings and spending some introspective time on how I can be better as an individual, a wife, and as a steward to those within my community. I’m spending time understanding how I want to improve, and just what I’d like to accomplish in 2014.

With this planning at the forefront, the word “goal setting” can cause some anxiousness, filled with varying levels of emotion. The New Year often starts off just like any marathon—nerves and excitement are at helm, and hopes are soaring. Then, mile 10 sets in and you may begin to question what inspired you to pursue this mission in the first place. Or, as with goals or resolutions, February sets in and your inspiration may begin to waver.

So, how should you approach your goals this year? How can you make sure you are staying focused and on target? How can you pave a solid road for success? Personally, I’m keeping a few tips in mind that I thought worth sharing.

Select a Few Major Themes

Individual goals—losing weight, painting the house, cooking at home four nights a week, or saving 10% of your income per month—can be lost on the bigger picture. What are you trying to accomplish? When you get to the end of 2014, who or what do you hope to be? What words will encompass the year?

Financial freedom? Improved health? Career growth? Stronger relationships?

It’s these big picture items that will help you align goals to begin to build a more meaningful, successful, happy, and impactful life. You’re always going to have goals that may not fit directly with the major themes, but in the grand scheme, a theme or focus will keep you moving forward and give you a larger purpose.

Balance Your Categories

Whether it’s personal, professional, or spiritual, the importance of balance cannot be overstated. Burning yourself out on professional goals at the expense of personal goals will leave you tired and, in time, unfulfilled. Balance the number of goals within each category to ensure you are nurturing yourself emotionally and physically as well. For those that are married or in a committed relationship, it might even be worth outlining relationship goals with your significant other—this can serve as a tremendous method for building an even deeper, more loving relationship.

With those two things in mind, here are my broad themes:

– Be Present
– Be Encouraging
– Be Still

I’ll expand on these a bit more in my next post as I begin to outline my January goals—aligning them to themes along with categories. I’ve never really mapped goals out in such a manner before, so I’m really excited about the insights and blessings the New Year holds for me!

This has been a long and difficult year. I am so thankful to have made it to the other side with my head held high and such hope for the year to come. Here’s to a tremendous final day of 2013—see you on the other side!

I’ve been dreaming of the day I could write this post. If you’ve read back even a little bit on my blog, you know this year has not been a good one. It’s frightening how quickly financial burdens and stress can so easily compound, making breathing a laborious process.

Today marked the end of a really difficult time for my family—a few weeks short of seven months unemployment for my husband. Seven months of wondering when it would end, false hopes on job prospects, and panic as no financial relief ever found its way into our home.

Yet God provided. Through a small savings account, the refund from a cancelled European vacation, and an eye on expenses, we have made it through.

As I begin to look back and reflect, the promise of pruning comes to mind.

John 15:2 “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Learning from the Pruning

I believe that every moment in life is an opportunity to grow. Every trial is a chance to become kinder, gentler, and more compassionate. Every day is an opportunity to reflect Christ more clearly—and with that, an opportunity to realize just how far we are from the true target.

I’ve fallen a lot this year. In more ways than I care to recount. I’ve not been very gracious with my season of pruning—but maybe that’s just me not wanting to accept certain lessons. Maybe that’s just me being a stubborn human. Maybe that’s a result of how incredibly terrified I had become.

Regardless, God is done (even if momentarily) with the pruning. He’s done with His work on my family for now, and is ready for us to shine brighter and bring forth fruit that reflects His grace and glory.

Friends, this year has sucked. There is no candy coating it. But I have no doubt my Heavenly Father has started to strip me of that which is holding me back from praising His name more loudly and sharing His love more freely. I have no doubt he has injected a few lessons into the center of my family. I know he is bending my knee a bit lower, closer to the point of full surrender to His will.

God broke our branches, stripped us of financial security (my false blanket of luxury), and carried us through it all.

Pruning sucks. But, I know it has been worth the many lessons—many of which haven’t been realized yet. I know, in perfect timing, He will continue to lay those lessons on my heart.

As relief sets in, my personal prayer is that through this experience I can now become a better servant, a more loving wife, and a much better friend to everyone I meet.

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