Aug 10, 2017

Reviewing the first part of 2017 (pt. 2)

We are more than halfway through the year. Does that sound a tad crazy to anyone else?! After finishing  Lara Casey's first book, Make It Happen last week, I was inspired to review the year and see how I am doing with the goals I set waaay back in January. I wanted to use this month as a checkpoint or a pitstop to review what's behind me now as well as to prepare for what's ahead.  Last week, I shared some of the things that I am grateful for in 2017 thus far. There were a plethora of things to be grateful for in the first seven months of 2017. God has been abundantly faithful and loving. I am deeply thankful for His Truth that gives me hope, identity, purpose, and freedom from anxiety's hold on me. I am also thankful for the people in my life, mostly my encouraging, supportive, loving husband. The opportunities, the lessons, the growth ... there was a lot of goodness in 2017 so far.

But that does not imply that it was an easy year or a perfect year. 2017 has definitely had its bumps and scrapes.

What has been hard this first half of 2017? Here are the two big ones:
  • Occasional conflict in marriage. Greg and I are deeply in love and committed to one another and yet, our own selfishness, pride, defensiveness, annoyances (among other things) come up at times, threatening to build walls against us. It happens to every marriage; what matters is how you deal with it.  Greg is actually exceptional at dealing with conflict in a healthy way by lovingly confronting me when I hurt him. He doesn't shy away from conflict because he knows it means dealing with whatever has come in between us. As a recovering conflict-avoider, I naturally gravitate towards holding in my hurt feelings, hoping they'll magically disappear. But they always result in passive-aggressive statements and harbor bitterness. I am growing in the ways I approach conflict in healthy ways, validating Greg's hurt emotions rather than immediately springing to defend myself. This is messy work but sanctifying work. We have both seen that we are quicker to deal with conflict and that it is done in healthier ways this year. 
  • Work. I work per diem (close to part-time) in a children's ER and it is a fast-paced and often intense environment, as anyone can imagine. All of my nursing and nurse practitioner background has been in pediatric out-patient settings so I feel like a fish out of water in a big hospital. My insecurities get the best of me sometimes and I always find myself lacking. I feel discontent at times, anxious about making a mistake or missing some important symptom, and often just feel plain stupid. Ever since starting this job, I knew it would stretch me in new ways professionally. Stretching is never fun. Not before I go for a jog and definitely not when I am learning something new. Like sore, tight muscles, I feel a mental ache and tightness when I push myself to learn something new and grow in my skills as a pediatric nurse practitioner. It has been defeating at times. I have been trying to give myself grace and patience as I learn this job and trying to avoid comparing myself and my abilities to others. 

In January, I listed some things I wanted to cultivate this year. Here are the main things I wanted to be intentionally paying attention to, watering and tending to like a well-cultivated garden:
  • My relationship with God. I wanted to dig deeper into understanding God's characteristics and His Truth revealed in the Bible. I wanted to meditate on Bible verses. I wanted to find podcasts and books with sound Biblical teachings. I wanted to carve out sabbath days away from social media and to cultivate selah time where I pause from my busyness and focus on praising God. And I wanted to spend more time in prayer.
    • How it's going:  I am very thankful for the extra time I have during the day when I am not working because I have ample time to devote to prioritizing my relationship with God. But whether I use this time well is the question. I have been trying to decrease distractions and less-important things (such as social media and even blogging at times) so I could be more purposeful in making time for prayer and Bible study and it has made a deep impact in the peace and freedom from anxiety along with becoming more in awe of who God is and how much He loves me. There have been lots of books that have helped me understand the Gospel better as well as resources such as She Reads Truth and The Bible Project that have been exceptional tools in my Bible study. For prayer, these husband prayer cards are great reminders to pray for Greg. And I have found that writing my prayer requests (especially the people I want to be praying for that week) in my weekly bullet journal helps me see those names daily and pray more often for them. I am a work in progress but I think this is going pretty well most of the times. 
  • Greg. Last year, I often chose productivity over quality time with Greg. I'd choose reading a book or writing a blog post over watching an NBA game together on the couch or scrolling through social media rather than having deep conversations on a road trip. This year, I wanted to be more intentional about eliminating distractions while he is at home or when we are in the car together, finding new ways to have quality time together, and showering him with love in the ways he receives it best. I want to cultivate our marriage in these early years so it can become sturdier amidst the changing circumstances (like having kids one day!).
    • How it is going: I still get distracted at times so I am trying to keep my phone off whenever we are together so I can give him my undivided attention. This has allowed more opportunities to have both deep and silly conversations and to share experiences we enjoy. We are having more dates (and take turns planning them, which has been fun!) and use Beating 50 Percent's marriage questions about once a month to aid in connecting emotionally and reflecting on what's going well, what's hard, how we can help and pray for one another, and how we have been feeling loved recently. We are absolutely loving marriage.  He is my best friend and beloved, and I want to show that more than just with my words, but also with my actions and the ways I choose to prioritize him. 
  • Friendships. The first year of marriage was a hard season for cultivating friendships. I had moved halfway across the country from a lot of close friends. I wanted to get to know the girls in our Young Marrieds church group better, but I often had social anxiety in this season, often embarrassed I'd say something stupid or worrying I was boring. I think I put up a bit of a shield, not truly getting to know too many girls in early 2016. It started changing later that year as I started a book club with single and married girls at church but I still wanted to be more intentional about getting to know this community of ladies better as well as reconnecting with old friends.
    • How it's going: My heart just swelled with joy writing this. I am surrounded by compassionate, hilarious, inspiring, and fun women this year. I have been meeting ladies from our Young Marrieds group for lunch and tea as well as getting to know ladies in different life seasons, such as a few single gals from church I considered friends but wanted to get to know better and also several older women. I feel much more connected and planted in Texas because of these vibrant friendships and am happy to report the social anxiety has gone away. I can be myself around them and not worry about saying something stupid. I have also been fortunate to visit several friends from Oregon during a recent visit as well as connecting more through texting and hand-written letters. And several close friends visited Texas when our sweet friend got married last month, so it was fun catching up while also showing off Texas. Being married does not replace friendships with ladies and I am grateful for having time and opportunities to deepen these friendships -- new and old -- with these women.
  • My creativity. I used to be pretty creative back in the day, particularly with scrapbooking. Then grad school, a a career, and marriage happened. All good things  but time-consuming things for sure. Social media was also a culprit for taking time away that could be used in being creative. My creative outlets fell to the wayside at times. I wanted to find new ways to express myself through writing and art specifically.
    • How it's going: I am making time for creativity while Greg is at work so that I am not hyper-focused on a project when he is at home. I have been Bible journaling at times to process what I am learning in specific passages. I am using watercolors and color pencils to color adult coloring books filled with encouraging Scripture. And I am learning to watercolor flowers! Greg bought me a ticket to a watercoloring class for my birthday in June so I have been eagerly testing out my new skills and tools, which has been a blast. I have also been working on a children's picture book I am excited about! I have been reading books about writing and trying to grow in my writing skills this year. And I have been buying flowers to arrange around our apartment because I love making bouquets to beautify our space! It has been a creative year thus far!

There you have it. Some things that have been hard as well as a little update on how I am doing at cultivating a few things I want to prioritize this year. How is your year going? Are there accomplishments you are proud of? I would love to hear! 

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Elle Alice