Goodbye 2016

I have spent some time this morning decluttering the house. While I packed away Christmas decor, tossed out old files, and loaded the car with boxes of the latest donations, I started to reflect on this past year. It went by in a flash, but I am truly humbled by the last 365 days.

Highlights of the past year remind me of more good times than bad, which is something I haven’t always been able to say every December 31.¬†What I have always been able to say, regardless of the ups or downs, is that God is good. He is faithful, and He continues to bless me with undeserving goodness and mercy.

This year, we welcomed two new family members — Michael David (born May 23) and John Carter (born September 12). Both of these handsome boys are my great nephews, born to my two oldest nieces, Jessie (Carter’s mom) and Katie (Michael’s mom). Being an aunt is an honor that I do not take for granted. I’m certainly not the best aunt, but I love all of my nieces and nephews (and now great-nephews) with all of my heart.


Michael (above)


Carter (above)

I ran a few races over the past 12 months. Six to be exact. With each 3.1 miles completed, my back felt better and I became both stronger and faster. After the struggle that I had last year with my back injury, I was happy to end the year at the same pace that was once my fastest.


I spent a few days in Myrtle Beach at one of my favorite conferences – Women of Joy. It is nice to get away for two nights and soak in some Vitamin Sea. I am most as peace where the ocean meets the sand. Between the sun, sand, and salty air… and the wonderful worship that fills the conference center over those 72 hours… I always come back rejuvenated and restored.



Author and speaker, Lisa Harper at Women of Joy 2016

I finally made it to Chicago this year. Five of my friends and I took an extended weekend girls’ trip up to the Windy City. We laughed a lot, we bickered a little, and we made lifelong memories over the course of five days. We ate great food. We saw historical landmarks. And we even caught a game at Wrigley Field. Little did we know we were watching the World Series Champs in action.

Shortly after returning from Chi-town, I received my biggest blessing of all — turning 40. Some people dread getting older but to me, it’s a privilege. When I say that I am grateful for my days, I seriously mean that I am grateful for every.single.day. As y’all know, I’m on a mission to make the most of this life that I have been given, and embracing every second is the best way to ensure that!

I took Mom to see Dolly Parton in concert this year. Dolly is someone that she has listened to as long as I can remember. I grew up to Mom playing Dolly albums on the record player… Here You Come Again, Jolene, and Two Doors Down are just a few of the Dolly songs that are part of my Life Soundtrack. It was really awesome to get to see Dolly perform them live with Mom sitting beside me. So much fun!

As I look ahead to the new year, one word comes to mind and sums up my goals for 2017:

Focus

Focus on the good.
Focus on what matters.
Focus on my health.
Focus on my family.
Focus on new distances.
Focus on making dreams a reality.
Focus on fun.
Focus on staying on budget.
Focus on staying on track.
Focus on my mission!

I admit that I can easily be distracted. As a matter of fact, I should still be in the office decluttering but I stopped to write this post. ūüôā I don’t want to lose site of my ultimate goal… my mission to make the most of life. I want to live minimally, eat clean, travel places that I’ve never been. I want to push past the comfort zone of 5Ks and train for a 10K. I want to spend more time on this blog, sharing life with y’all. I want to give freely, bless others, and be creative. I want to finish projects that I’ve started. (Boy, does THAT require heavy focus!! haha) I want to dream bigger than I ever have before, and not lose sight of all that I am capable of… and all that God wants me to experience.

What are your plans for the new year? Will you make resolutions for 2017? Do you have certain goals that you would like to accomplish? Comment below and share YOUR dreams with me. Let’s join together and encourage one another as we focus on a mission to make 2017 the best year yet! Happy New Year, friends!

Motivation Monday: Start Small

Life is overwhelming. From our every day To-Do lists to our goals and dreams, the anxiety of stepping out to tackle all that life has to offer can stop you in your tracks. No one knows this better than me. Just in the last week alone, I have been overwhelmed five times. Seriously! Cleaning the house put me in a tailspin because I worried over what room to start first. Creating a meal plan for my new color-coded diet took me two hours because I felt like I had too many meals to categorize. And don’t even get me started on this website. Do you know how many blog ideas I have in my head? I have started them all, but finished none. It is often paralyzing, and results in unfinished chores and missed deadlines. (Yes, this Motivation Monday post is officially a week late!)

I tend to focus on the big picture. I want to see the end result. I want to reap the benefits. Who doesn’t? But if we’re so focused on looking ahead to the finish line that we stop taking steps forward, we’ll never complete the race.

There is one common factor that can help us in achieving all of our aspirations, no matter the goal. START SMALL.

bigthingssmallbeginnings
It has been said that one of the top habits of a successful person is their ability to start small. Katie Ledecky is an Olympic swimmer from the US, who holds the current world record for the 400-, 800-, and 1500-meter freestyle. She began swimming at the age of six. Although she was born into a family of swimmers, Katie couldn’t swim the length of the pool at such a young age. Although she was determined to get to the other side, she often had to hold onto the rope for help. Did that make her less of a swimmer? No. She knew that in order to reach her destination, she had to continue forward even if it meant slowing down, reassessing her focus, and occasionally reaching out for help. Her small, yet persistent beginning has taken her to her second Olympics, where she continues to succeed.

Like Katie, I also want to reach the other end of the pool, so to speak, on several goals. But the difference is that I seem to always ungracefully jump into the water and then flail around somewhere in the middle. There is no forward movement, no focus outside of the end results, and I never reach out for help.

In order to overcome the sense of being overwhelmed by our goals, we must think on a small scale. What plans to you have? Do you want to start your own business? Do you want to better your health? Do you just want to get your house clean and organized? Let’s think about how we can ‘reach the other end of the pool’ in these types of scenarios.

Most small businesses start with brainstorming. Many of us can dream up ideas. But did you know that there are steps forward in the brainstorming process that we should take BEFORE we advance to the ‘next section of the pool’? When we’re in this initial phase, we should slow down and take the time to focus on questions like, “What could go wrong with this business and how would I solve it?” and “What are the main things I want my customers to know about me?” After you have considered all of the questions that may arise about your business in general, then move onto to the next step… gathering resources. This may be your opportunity to ‘grab the rope’ by reaching out for assistance. See the pattern? Small, slow, and steady progression forward.

When it comes to my health, I don’t want slow and steady progression! I saw a quote yesterday that read:

“Two days into my diet and I’m still not skinny? This is bulls#!*”

Right? I want immediate results. Don’t you? And that is the number one reason why most diets and exercise plans fail. We jump in… all-in… with no small steps planned. We would be better off setting smaller goals. Want to lose 30 pounds? Your first goal should be 10, and only 10. Interested in a 5K? Your first goal should be one mile. Once you’re comfortable with that distance, then you can focus on two. Need to change your eating habits? Pick one thing to slowly remove and replace it. Cookies to fruit. Chips to carrots. Don’t try to give up everything at once. And most importantly, reach out for help! Have an accountability partner. Download an app to use. Join a group in your community with similar goals. All of these things are small steps toward your ultimate goal.

For me, instead of looking at how unorganized my entire house is, I have decided to focus on one room at a time. I am not going to rush. I am allowing myself one week per room. I will start small and take the slow and steady forward approach, beginning with the room that I use the least and work toward my busiest, most cluttered space. Being able to finish one room will not only give me the satisfaction of completing a small goal, but it will also motivate me to tackle the next, more unorganized, area of the house.

Let’s make a promise that the next time we’re feeling overwhelmed by our big dreams and lofty goals, instead of abandoning them, we’ll continue forward, slowing down from time-to-time to reassess our focus on smaller steps, and reaching out for help when needed. Big things are in our futures!

No Boundaries

I did it!! I just signed up for the No Boundaries 5K Training at my local Fleet Feet. I’m so excited!

I have participated in many charity 5Ks over the past 5 years. I’ve never had the intention of running them. I would occasionally jog but I was primarily there to have a leisurely stroll with friends, while raising awareness and funds for the nonprofit hosting the event.

For the last 12 months, I have had an unsettling desire to become a runner. Yes, me… the girl who once said I’d only run if something was chasing me. Since my dad’s heart attack, I’ve looked for ways to become healthier internally. Of course, losing a few pounds on my outward appearance would be nice too, but I really want my heart to be in top shape. In all the research, and in all of the prayers, the only answer I only received one answer — RUN! Of course, I laughed it off the first few months. Me, a runner? I have bad knees. I don’t have the time. I’m not disciplined enough. I can’t find good running shoes at an affordable price. You name it, I had an excuse.

Recently, I acquired a brand new pair of Nike Air Max Ultras – a $160 pair of shoes – for a mere $45. How? Long story… but in a nutshell, there is an undisciplined teenaged boy who isn’t getting to play basketball because he can’t keep his grades up. His parents were so serious about not letting him play until he did better academically, that they sold his new kicks. I was the lucky recipient.

I also have a friend who committed to running. She has done so well that, on her third 5K this weekend, she finished 3rd in her class with a under a 9-minute mile. She looks great and has become a huge source of inspiration for me. She invited me to join her in The Color Run this coming March. I accepted the challenge, then panicked.

I have become a terrible abuser of my time. I have gotten slack about prioritizing. How would I ever get caught up to her speed by March? What have I gotten myself into?

In a random conversation with my hairstylist… she brought up the training sessions at Fleet Feet. I had no idea that literally, around the corner from work, was a company who specializes in training runners. This is exactly what I need. A coach, and fellow beginning runners, to run alongside me and encourage me… in a location that is extremely convenient to me, at a time that is perfect for my schedule. Hallelujah!!

Could it be? My dream of becoming a runner – a full-fledged, determined, goal-oriented, healthy-hearted runner – are literally withing my reach now? This is big.

I’m not one for making new year’s resolutions. But I am one for grabbing at every chance to change, re-evaluate things, and if need be… start over. 2013 is that for me. A chance to be more more positive, healthier, stronger, and more focused. It’s time to take charge of my schedule again. It’s time to prioritize life. This training will help me, in every aspect. No restrictions. No regrets. No boundaries!

Ch-ch-changes!

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
Turn and face the strain
Ch-ch-Changes
Pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older
                                        РDavid Bowie

My life has been a whirlwind lately. Ok… I guess that isn’t anything new. I usually run at full speed 99% of the time. But lately, I’ve been trying to run wide open while battling a sinus infection and nasty cough. Although they were slow to kick in, it seems the antibiotics I took for two weeks have finally worked. Or maybe I just finally got some much needed rest.

So here I am… re-evaluating things yet again. Why do I always pack my schedule so full? Why do I say I’m going to slow down for good, only to find myself still running mach speed? It seems to be a never-ending cycle. But one that I think I manage fairly well. I overload my plate but somehow always get by. It isn’t easy though. And I usually bring on a lot more stress than I should.

Last month I had decided to go back to school. I had my application filled out and ready to submit. I was lining up financial aid.¬†But in the midst of my grad school preparation,¬†I made plans on top of plans and¬†overlooked¬†my niece’s and nephew’s birthdays altogether. How terrible! I felt awful. Without hesitation, I put a hault on¬†grad school. It will have to wait… and that’s perfectly okay.

Realizing that I need to amend my schedule yet again, I¬†considered¬†putting this blog back on hiatus and focusing solely on On A Mission. I am so frustrated, I even want to cancel my social media accounts. Don’t panic. I’m not planning on doing that just yet. (But the thought has crossed my mind!) After thinking carefully about how to recify this chaos better known as my life, I have come up with two things:

  1. A friend of mine suggested that I adopt a “daily schedule” where I select one day to focus on one task. For example; Mondays will be writing for this blog, Tuesdays will be for nonprofit work, Wednesdays will be writing for On A Mission, and so on. As rigid as this may sound, I think it may actually work. It’s worth giving a shot anyway!
  2. Perhaps I should remove several apps from my phone. I once attended a Social Fresh event in Charlotte where DJ Waldow confessed to removing his email from his phone. This allowed him to focus on his emails while he was in the office, and remove himself from work when he wasn’t. Maybe social media is too accessible to me right now. I waste too much time unfocused on things that shouldn’t be occupying my time during certain hours of the day.

I¬†still struggle with this blog’s content. Right now it truly is a conglomeration of several different ideas. As frustrated as I get trying to make sense of this website, it would be easy to shut it down and walk away. But I enjoy writing. And I’m coming up on my second anniversary with this blog.¬†So I just can’t fathom¬†throwing in the¬†towel right now. Bear with me. I am bound to streamline this website at some point. ūüôā

All that said… I would love your input, your thoughts, and/or your suggestions. I’m in need of some changes!! Has anyone else struggled with reigning in your to do list? Do you have any scheduling tips for me? Is my blog enjoyable as it exists? Or should I work on narrowing my topics? Please comment below. I would love to hear from you!