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. 🙂 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!

Women of Joy

I recently attended the Women of Joy conference in Myrtle Beach, SC. It was held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on May 4-6, 2012.

Women of Joy, hosted by Phil Waldrep Ministries, is designed to offer an exciting, spiritually fulfilling, experience for Christian women. It began in 2004 in Gatlinburg, TN and has grown to now seven locations across the country with world-famous speakers, concert artists, and worship leaders.

When I arrived on Friday, I was thrilled to learn the hotel I had selected on my own (I decided against the preferred conference accommodations) was affordable, friendly, and had many nice amenities. I headed over to the convention center around 6:30pm. Charles Billingsley took the stage promptly at 7pm for a phenomenal praise & worship session. Author, Carol Kent, followed with her inspiring story of facing her son, Jason, after he was convicted of murder. (Jason, a Navy officer, shot his wife’s ex-husband to protect his step-daughters from their abusive father.) Jason is currently serving a life sentence in a Florida maximum penitentiary. Carol shared her family’s struggles and triumphs, from forgiveness and compassion to now spending every holiday inside the prison. Despite a discouraging clemency hearing, Jason and his family continue to find joy in each day. Jason actively teaches Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course to fellow inmates, and oversees the prison ministry. Carol closed with this:

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:13-14 NIV

Saturday morning began with more praise and worship from Charles Billingsley. Then Mrs. United States 1994, Sheri Rose Shepherd, shared her testimony. She encouraged us to Dance on the Battlefield… explaining that, if we would change our attitudes during trials, we could help ourselves and others see the hope of God. Having struggled with practically raising herself, battling an eating disorder, and overcoming addictions to drugs and alcohol, Sheri Rose stated “God didn’t pull me out of the dark to not share Him with others. He will pull you out of the darkness too.”

Sheri Rose created an acronym for the word DANCE to serve as an encouraging reminder of God’s love during our battles.

D – Dream everlasting dreams, bigger than our own personal goals.

A – Accept His grace.

N – Never forget who you are!

C – Come out of hiding.

E – Embrace life’s battles.

After a short mid-morning break, comedian Anita Renfroe stormed the stage with whimsical renditions of songs covering every topic from motherhood to neat-freaks. Anita’s performance was very entertaining, but incredibly difficult to explain in words… so I’ve included one of her videos, In Tha Muthahood, for your viewing pleasure. 🙂

One nice thing about the Women of Joy conference is the extended break at noon. Most conferences are packed-full of sessions on Saturday. Although that isn’t always a bad thing, having a break allowed all of the out-of-town guests time to enjoy the many area attractions. I don’t really consider myself an out-of-towner in Myrtle Beach. It’s an area that my family has frequented for years. I have spent more time in Myrtle than any other city outside of my hometown. I also have friends who live there. Instead of shopping or sightseeing, I used the break to have lunch with friends, and to relax on the beach.

Saturday night was my most anticipated part of the weekend. I headed back over to the convention center around 6pm to ensure I scored great seats for the Mandisa and Brandon Heath concert. I ended up with 7th row, center… thanks to a group of girls who allowed me to join them. Mandisa was extremely energetic and inspiring. Her soulful worship had the crowd on our feet the entire time. Brandon’s performance was one of the best I’ve seen, not only because he is my favorite Contemporary Christian artists but because he is an amazing songwriter. His songs are comforting, encouraging, and compassionate… like an old friend. I have always enjoyed his music, but finally seeing him perform live was icing on the cake! (And icing has always been my favorite part!! haha)

The Women of Joy conference ended on Sunday morning with a final praise & worship from Charles, followed by Thelma Wells. Thelma has overcome segregation, abuse, and even stomach cancer. I loved that her ultimate message was “The bottom line is that people need to know that Jesus loves them and there is nothing they can do about that.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for the entire Sunday morning session… something I will have to work on next year. (The session ended at 11am, the same time I had to be checked out of the hotel.)

If you’re looking for a great Christian women’s conference, I encourage you to attend Women of Joy. There are several locations throughout the USA but Myrtle Beach is a beautiful getaway spot, especially in May. Registration is $99 per person, or $89 for groups of 10 or more. A deposit of $25 will reserve your spot. Hotel rooms vary in price depending on their location. Join me May 3-5, 2013!